Reading Ramblings – May 17, 2015

Reading Ramblings

Date: Seventh Sunday of Easter (Ascension Day observed) – May 17, 2015

Texts: Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47; Ephesians 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53

Context: While this is technically the Seventh (and last) Sunday of the Easter liturgical season, I’ve opted to swap out the texts for this Sunday with the texts assigned for Ascension Day, which is technically Thursday, May 14. Ascension of Our Lord often gets overlooked in the liturgical cycle, yet is an important piece in our Christology – what we say about the Son of God. And what we say is that the Son of God does not wander our world still intangibly, spiritually; that He is not in our hearts, but rather that He has bodily ascended into heaven and will bodily return from there again according to God the Father’s perfect timing.

Acts 1:1-11 – Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and then the Acts of the Apostles, detailing Jesus’ life and ministry in the first book, and the early church in this second book. As such Luke overlaps with the Ascension, ending his Gospel with it and beginning his history of the Church with it. Note that even after the resurrection his disciples are still expecting that the culmination of salvation history is going to happen immanently. Jesus makes it clear that this is not to be the case, because the Gospel must reach the ends of the earth. In the meantime, Jesus as well as we await God the Father’s perfect timing for his Son’s glorious return.

Psalm 47 – The sovereignty of God is emphasized in this psalm. His dominion is the entire earth, all of creation, not just the limited domain of his people Israel. Verse 5 is undoubtedly why this psalm is chosen for today. The Lord has gone up is a beautiful description of Jesus’ bodily ascension into heaven. Our king still reigns, but his reign is not fully revealed as yet. The fact that He is not bodily with us does not negate his authority and dominion. Rather, He reigns over all dominion still, from his heavenly throne (v.8).

Ephesians 1:15-23 – Paul concludes his opening remarks to the church in Ephesus with this beautiful thanksgiving. He is thankful for the faithful in Ephesus and for their prayers on behalf of believers everywhere. For Paul, who has experienced hardship for the sake of the Gospel firsthand, these prayers are beautiful and essential to his own mission. He prays that the Ephesians may continue to be blessed with growing wisdom and knowledge. He prays also that they might more fully comprehend the power available to them through their prayers, the selfsame power that raised Jesus from the dead (v.20). But this power extends beyond Jesus’ resurrection to the seating of Jesus in glory and honor in heaven as the one true and final and ultimate king of all creation. His dominion is complete and total – there is nothing in heaven or earth outside of his authority, but the church is to be his firstfruits, the place within creation that acknowledges his authority here and now, before it is finally and irrefutably revealed to all creation. The church exists to testify and live according to the reality that Jesus is not merely resurrected, but remains resurrected and remains active as the King of all Creation.

Luke 24:44-53 – Luke concludes his account of the life and ministry of Jesus with his post-resurrection appearance to his disciples. He opens their minds to be able to see in their Scriptures (our Old Testament) the work and intention of God, the prophecies concerning the future and how Jesus fulfills those prophecies. As witnesses of the unfolding of these events, the Apostles are to bear witness to the rest of the world of what they saw and experienced. Luke was not one of the Apostles, but was a companion of Paul in his missionary journeys.

There is a small chapel at the top of the Mt. of Olives, just outside of Bethany, just outside the walls of Jerusalem. While the site dates back to at least Byzantine times, it has changed hands often, and is currently part of a Muslim mosque. It is unique in that it is the only mosque in the world that allows Christians to worship as Christians in it. Once a year, on Ascension Day, Christians are allowed to worship in this spot. The spot is where Jesus ascended into heaven, and there is a stone in the floor of the small building that allegedly has the footprint that Jesus left on his ascension, almost as though He thrust himself up into the heavens by a powerful kick-start.

Whether it is his footprint or not is by and large secondary to the eye-witness account of his ascension. Jesus lives. He lives corporeally, physically, but not with us for the time being. But He will return physically, corporeally, to inaugurate his physical and corporeal reign, to reunite heaven and earth as the places where God the Father’s will truly is sought and done.

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