Don’t forget the Ascension
Christian discipleship has a lot to do with locating yourself in the story of God. One of the ways that the Church has done this is through the Church calendar–taking time to place ourselves in the narrative of God’s redemptive work in Christ. There are other stories of which we are a part, but none is deeper or more important than the story of God’s reconciling the world to himself.
For low church evangelical protestants the temptation is to reduce this redemptive story to two movements, or even one as we’re pressured by the culture in which we live to mark time according to a different calendar–one where some of the holidays have the same name, but have very different meanings poured into them.
The Christian calendar (outside of strictly liturgical churches) often gets reduced to Christmas and Easter. If we’re honest, Christmas edges Easter out. Easter itself is often reduced to Maundy Thursday (if you’re lucky) and Easter Sunday, rather than the Triduum that the Church has historically celebrated (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday). True reflection on the work of Christ on the cross seems quite difficult absent three days to consider in community.
We rarely pause moreover to consider the significance of the Ascension to the story of God. In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells his disciples that unless He leaves them the “comforter” (“counselor,” “advocate”) cannot come to them. He is speaking, of course, of the Holy Spirit.
Were it not for the Ascension, we would be without help and without a deep and living connection to the Godhead through the Holy Spirit.
Christine Sine offers a reflection on the Ascension by guiding us through the words of several liturgies used to celebrate this important day in the life of the faith.
Consider preparing for Ascension Day by reading and reflecting on the word of God.
From the Acts of the Apostles (9.11f., Phillips):
When he had said these words he was lifted up before their eyes till a cloud hid him from their sight. While they were still gazing up into the sky as he went, suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them and said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing here looking up into the sky? This very Jesus who has been taken up from you into Heaven will come back in just the same way as you have seen him go.
And Jesus’ own words in the Gospel of John (16.7):
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you.
Consider this liturgy from the Reformed tradition:
Our God goes up with shouts of joy!
Our Lord ascends to the sound of trumpets!
All: Sing praises to our God, sing praises!
Sing praises, sing praises to our King!
The Almighty rides in triumph.
The Almighty leads captivity captive.
Who shouts for joy? Who blows the trumpet?
The hosts of heaven sing the honor of his name;
they praise him with an endless alleluia.
-David Diephouse, Calvin College
Thanks be to God! Amen.