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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Thursday, May 30, 2019              

Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 24:44–53

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God. (NRSV)

Reflection
Today Christians across the world are celebrating Ascension Day—a celebration of Jesus’ triumphal going up into heaven, ankles and all. Early Christians seemed to think this day was pretty important: it received a starring role in the ancient creeds of the church, where it is placed along-side Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection. Early Christian called the ascension “the crown of Christian festivals.”

But unlike Christmas or Easter, we do not have many traditions built up around this day. There are no awkward ascension pageants with an unlucky youth playing Jesus lifted up by rope and harness. You won’t find cards or decorations. No parties have been planned. Which is bizarre, as this narrative is just as imaginative and dramatic as the virgin giving birth or the stone rolling away from the tomb. Yet, the ascension of Jesus is different; it’s stranger, a harder sell.

Perhaps it’s because, unlike Christmas when we celebrate a birth, or Easter when we celebrate life over death, the ascension asks us to contemplate the in-between time of life. We all know what it is like to experience times in which our lives feel like a difficult passage from one world into the next. Waiting can be lonely and feel helpless. The disciples were about to lose Jesus for a second time, and their hope could have been dashed as he again withdrew and was carried into heaven.

But with the promise of the coming Holy Spirit, the disciples draw their attention away from the sky and back down to earth, to each other and to their present life. Jesus calls us to do the same: to lean and live into the wait—together. Not denying the raw and wanting in-between time, but shifting the gaze, tilting our heads, fixing our eyes on the present moment given to us. Calling us to live now, here, with great joy.

Prayer
O God, you alone understand the mystery of our human lives and give us the promise of your presence to sojourn alongside us. Thank you for your companionship as we wait and wade through the unknown. Amen.

Written by Shawn Fiedler, Ministerial Associate for Worship

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