O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven:
Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.Reading from the Revised Common Lectionary:
First Reading: Acts 1:6-14
Psalm: Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35
Second Reading: 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
Gospel: John 17:1-11
Jesus looked up to heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
"I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. "Lectionary and Feast of the Ascension Reflections:
Ekklesia Project: Passages.
A crucial insight, gained from hard and painful experience, is that the beginning question white congregations most often ask – “What does it mean to be one in Christ Jesus?” – subtly but almost inevitably shifts to “What does it mean for us to appreciate another cultural expression of Christianity?” When that shift occurs, he says, it’s hard for white folks to imagine that there is any more to be done for the sake of reconciliation.
The work of the Paraclete (John 14-17) goes leaps and bounds beyond Enlightened multiculturalism and worship style preferences. Therefore, a more costly passage is demanded. Says Jonathan [Wilson-Hartgrove], “I never stopped to think about what might have to die in me for me to enter into the world from which [Dr. Barber] spoke.” For white Christians, he states, that passage calls for us to embrace the conviction “that our life together in Christ mean[s] a fundamental rejection of the Enlightenment story that [has] so shaped our American experience.”
These texts offer all of us a passage into a world, a kingdom, in which the status of everyone is transformed through the gift of the crucified, risen, ascended Lord. One might think that John 17 would be read only on Maundy Thursday; but here is the prayer on the eve of Pentecost, “that they – we – be one.”The Brazos Blog: Lectionary Reflections in 1 Peter 5:6-11.
Without humble trust in “the mighty hand of God,” how would we be able to follow the way of the Messiah, who did not do any of those things, but rather, “entrust[ing] himself to the one who judges justly” (2:23), walked the journey from divine glory to the cross?
All messianic life must, therefore, be other than a mere imitation of Christ carried out by the sheer power of human will. It must be a participation in Christ whose own life of trust (which is the root of his sinlessness) precedes, defines, bears, and completes ours.
The Messiah is the Alpha and Omega of the messianic life. He humbled himself under the mighty hand of God, entrusted himself radically into God’s hand, and endured shame, suffering, and death, in order that in him we might also humble ourselves and trust God.
Ascension is a profound demonstration of the deep eschatological claims and anthropological implications of the Christian witness to the resurrection. The Ascension of Jesus closes down the incipient gnosticism of otherworldly and escapist notions of Christian faith even as it deploys images of departure and supernatural power. It does this by describing the taking up the corporeal reality, the body, of the Son into the Godhead. In so doing, Ascension certifies our confidence in the salvation that comes through God’s generative acts of Incarnation and Resurrection.
And while the Ascension points to these weighty theological concerns, the significance of this day is by no means an esoteric intellectual exercise rising from some fragment of equally esoteric biblical literature. For the full flowering of salvation proclaimed in the Ascension is to be embodied in the life of the Church as a continuing act of proclamation: The absence of Jesus makes room for the possibility of his presence through his people. So the liturgical and devotional function of Ascension day is not primarily about the enthronement of Jesus as Lord, but should be regarded for its capacity to hold forth a vision of the role of the Church in the world as the “Body of Christ” which still remains on earth. This vision is distilled in the tangible signs of Eucharist as the central formative act of our worship: the Bread that is the Body of Christ sustains the Body of Christ that is the Church who bears witness to the ascended Christ as healing Lord—the one who affirms and redeems our embodied existence. Furthermore, God’s embrace and reception of our materiality via the person of Christ becomes the pattern of our total acceptance and affirmation of the self-organizing complexity of the material realm in all its forms and expressions.Allan Bevere: The Meaning of Christ's Ascension.
It is because he ascends that we can receive the promise of the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Spirit is the sign of our inheritance as children of the Father, brothers and sisters of Jesus. It was only after Jesus ascended that the church received the Spirit (John 7:39; Acts 2:1-11). Therefore, the ascension demonstrates that the risen Lord lives in heavenly communion with the Father and that he takes an active part, through the Spirit, in the working of God in the world.
Traditionally, the ascension has meant 1) the exalted Christ is the priestly advocate who intercedes on our behalf. 2) Christ shares in the sovereignty of the Father. 3) No earthly authority can exhaustively represent Christ since he is free.Apprentice Institute: When Presence Seems Like Absence.
Heaven is the created order that God resides in. And Christ is there, obscured by the cloud and a little white space on a screen or page, but there nonetheless.
In the words of Karl Barth, “The point of the story [the ascension] is not that when Jesus left His disciples he visibly embarked upon a wonderful journey into space, but that when He left them he entered the side of the created world which was…[temporarily] inaccessible and incomprehensible, that before their eyes He ceased to be before their eyes.” (Church Dogmatics, III.2, 453-54).
it’s all about the absence, which is really presence, which is an obscure way of saying: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.Internet Monk: Jesus' Ascension and Life as Gift.
Eugene Peterson: Paul lays out the conditions in which we are to grow up, namely, in a profusion of gifts: “When he ascended on high . . . he gave gifts to his people.” The ascended Jesus, Jesus at the right hand of the Father, Christ the King, launched his rule by giving gifts, gifts that turn out to be ways in which we participate in his kingly, gospel rule. This kingdom life is a life of entering more and more into a world of gifts, and then, as we are able, using them in a working relationship with our Lord.EerdWord: "Heaven and Power": N. T. Wright on Jesus' Ascension (part 1 of 2).
Paul introduces his Ascension text with the phrase: “each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph. 4:7). Grace (charis) is a synonym for gift. And this gift is not given sparingly, not a token gift, but “according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” I take “measure” which he later expands to “that he might fill all things” (v. 10) to carry a sense of extravagance and exuberance. If we are to become mature, we must gradually but surely realize ourselves as gift from first to last. Otherwise we will misconceive our creation as self-creation and end up in some cul-de-sac or other of arrested development.
The Christian hope is not, then, despite popular impressions, that we will simply ‘go to heaven when we die.’ As far as it goes, that statement is all right; after death those who love God will be with him, will be in his dimension. But the final Christian hope is that the two dimensions, heaven and earth, at present separated by a veil of invisibility caused by human rebellion, will be united together, so that there will be new heavens and a new earth. Heaven isn’t, therefore, an escapist dream, to be held out as a carrot to make people better behaved; just as God isn’t an absentee landlord who looks down from a great height to see what his tenants are doing and to tell them they mustn’t. Heaven is the extra dimension, the God-dimension, of all our present reality; and the God who lives there is present to us, present with us, sharing our joys and our sorrows, longing as we are longing for the day when his whole creation, heaven and earth together, will perfectly reflect his love, his wisdom, his justice, and his peace.
The ascension of Jesus, then, is his going, not way beyond the stars, but into this space, this dimension. Notice what this does to our notion of heaven. The Jesus who has gone there is the human Jesus. People sometimes talk as if Jesus started off just being divine, then stopped being divine and became human, then stopped being human and went back to being divine again. That is precisely what the ascension rules out.
...the ascension is the affirmation that God has taken that fully human, deeply and richly human being Jesus, and has embraced him to himself within his own dimension, his own space, making him indeed Lord of the world. God always intended that his human creatures should inherit the world, the created order, to rule over it with wisdom and gentleness, to bring it order and to enhance its beauty. In the ascended human Jesus that vision is in principle realized.EerdWord: "Heaven and Power": N. T. Wright on Jesus' Ascension (part 2 of 2).
The great empires of the world, as Napoleon said in a moment of candor, depend on force. They have come and gone; and the ones that now exist will follow in their turn. They make fear and death their weapons, and they themselves die when the fear they have generated turns into violent rebellion.
Jesus, at his ascension, was given by the creator God an empire built on love. As we ourselves open our lives to the warmth of that love, we begin to lose our fear; and as we begin to lose our fear, we begin to become people through whom the power of that love can flow out into the world around that so badly needs it. That is an essential part of what it means to follow Jesus. And as the power of that love replaces the love of power, so in a measure, anticipating the last great day, God’s kingdom comes, and God’s will is done, on earth as it is in heaven. We will not see the work accomplished in all its fullness until the last day. But we will, in following Jesus, be both implementing his work and hastening that day.