Insights on the Lectionary
The Ascension of Our Lord
May 17, 2012
Almighty God, your blessed Son our
Savior Jesus Christ,
ascended far above the heavens
that he might fill all things.
Mercifully give us faith to trust that…he abides with
us on earth to the end of time…Amen[i]
The Gospel according to Luke and the Book of Acts were written to “Dear Theophilus”; Theophilus means “friend of God” or lover of God”. Was it someone’s name or merely a salutation– “most excellent Theophilus (most excellent friend of God)? How wonderful to be considered God’s friend. Jesus said to his disciples (and to us) “I have called you friends”? Friends stand by us and support us as we struggle for justice or when we just plain struggle, usually within ourselves.
The lections for today stress the Sovereignty of Jesus. He ascends into heaven and sits at the right hand of God. In the ancient Near East, the right hand signified power and authority. [ii] So does this mean we’ve a friend in high places? Yes, but not in the usual sense. An old hymn says “what a friend we have in Jesus all our sins and grief’s to bear, what a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer”.[iii] We are very privileged indeed to lean upon our sovereign Lord. But friendship is reciprocal; how does the ascension define our role in this divine friendship?
Acts 1:1-11 summarizes the post-resurrection appearances and says there was ample proof that Jesus rose from the dead. In vs. 4-11, when he was in the company of his disciples sharing a meal; he told them to wait for their baptism by the Holy Spirit and then to bear witness, to spread the Good News throughout Judea, Samaria and to the very ends of the earth. He was then lifted up into heaven. The disciples stood gazing up as he ascended. Then two white-robed beings appeared beside them (angles or saints perhaps) saying “why do you stand there looking?”
So as friends of God, we are not to just hang around waiting for Jesus to return. We are to bear witness through our words and deeds. We are to love as Christ loves. But we are not alone in this venture; we are guided and led by the Holy Spirit. How do we do this? Well, we look to Jesus’ ministry: he and his disciples walked all over Galilee, bringing comfort, hope and the reality of a living and lively God to others. Although many people are called to global ministry, it isn’t always necessary to literally go to the ends of the earth. We can go to the homeless shelter, the food pantry, tutor at the local school or be kind to friends and family. Just remember to leave room for the Holy Spirit in our plans and actions.
In Ephesians( 1;15-23) Paul states that through the “eyes of a heart enlightened” and “a spirit of wisdom and revelation” believers will discern the hope, power and sovereignty of Christ Jesus.[iv] As God’s friends we are to look at things differently and come to new understandings. I find this to be an ongoing process. We constantly need to seek out guidance and wisdom to discern how we are to act in a given situation, and/or where and when our help is needed. When we do this, we feel both empowered and at peace able to do that which is set before us.
In the Gospel reading (Luke 24:44 -53) Jesus affirms that “while still with you“ he proved he was the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. Then while blessing them with hands uplifted he ascended. The disciples’ last glimpse of their dear friend Jesus was the act of blessing. He didn’t bless them and then leave; it was (is) continuous. That is the memory they carried with them; that is the story they shared.[v] That is what we are called to do as friends and witnesses. We are to remember. We remember our living Lord by what we say (or not say) do (or not do) and by how we remember.[vi] We remember in the Eucharist. We remember in worship. We remember in fellowship. We remember with service and hospitality. As friends of God we live in Christ’s ongoing blessing.
The risen Living Christ calls us by name; …
renews that which feels drained within us;
empowers that which is newborn within us;
consecrates and guides that which is strong within us;
restores us to this world that needs us (and)
reaches out in endless love through us[vii]. Amen