Music: Phil Wickham "The Ascension"
Yesterday, May 5, the Christian world celebrated the feast of the Ascension.
The Feast of the what?!
Simply put, Ascension Day, which occurs forty days after Easter, celebrates when Jesus was taken in bodily form into heaven. It is one of the earliest celebrated traditions, in some cases followed by seven days of devotions. Some of the festivities observed include the blessing of the “first fruits,” especially grapes and beans. Other churches rig a statue of Jesus from the altar and heisted it up through a trap door above. Other churches have outdoor processions and banners. In some areas it is considered unlucky to work on Ascension Day; in other parts, gifts to the blind or lame are sure to make the giver lucky in the next twelve months.
For most of us, Ascension Day barely registered a blip. While we may not start a procession or lift a statue of Jesus through a trap door, it is good for us to reflect on Ascension Day. Jesus left his disciples and ascended into heaven for a purpose. Jesus wanted his disciples to be filled with the Holy Spirit and be witnesses to the gospel throughout the world. Through the Holy Spirit, the spirit of Jesus, could be poured out on all peoples and spread throughout the world. Ascension Day marks the end of Jesus' earthly life and the beginning of something greater: the gospel made known and more importantly, lived, throughout the earth.
Sometimes something good ends so something new and greater can eventually begin. Many young people will be finishing high school or college so they can embark on a new phase of their life. Sometimes we leave a good job to start something better or truer to our values. Sometimes we leave one place in order to go someplace where God is calling us. When something ends something else always begins. We may not know what the “something” is. It may not be obvious. Before Jesus left, the disciples were still waiting for Israel to be rescued from the Romans. Jesus, however, showed them another way. They would be filled with the Holy Spirit and become witnesses until the ends of the earth. All our endings and beginnings call us to witness to Jesus, who taught us how to love one another. In all our endings and beginnings we are given new opportunities to act like Jesus: who stood up against hypocrisy, falsehood and greed and instead showed us how to love, pray and care for others.
So on Ascension Day and during this week of devotions, let us reflect on our exalted Lord. However, let us also lift up and exalt the good, the truth, and justice, at every opportunity given to us. In all the daily endings and beginnings, let us seek to be faithful witnesses to the One we call the Way the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). Let our prayers and good deeds ascend to heaven, to bring the gospel paradise here on earth.
Prayer: Exalted Lord, Fill us with the Holy Spirit so our lives might become good news wherever you may send us. May all our endings and beginnings witness to your love, peace, justice and mercy. Amen.