40 Days - Reflections for Ascension Day - 5/13/2021

Ascension Day
May 13, 2021

Acts 1:1-11
Ephesians 1:15-23
Luke 24:44-53

Most Sundays during worship we say together, in either the Apostles’ or the Nicene Creed, that we believe that Jesus ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God. Today, Thursday May 11, 2021, is the day in the church calendar when we celebrate that event in Jesus’ life. Ascension is always 40 days after Easter Sunday, so it is always on a Thursday. Typically, it doesn’t get big billing like Christmas and Easter (or even Epiphany).

When I lived in Davenport, Augustana College in Rock Island would host an early morning Ascension Day worship service for local Lutheran clergy followed by a tasty brunch and fellowship time. I am not keen on services that start before 8 am, but the brunch was a nice reward for my effort. I think they chose this celebration because their chapel has a big stained window of the Ascension. I think they chose beastly early to be done before the work day began at 8 or 9 am.

Since I left Davenport, I continue to take note of the day. I usually do that over a cup of coffee with my husband in our morning devotions after a bowl of Cheerios.

Luke reports the ascension twice; he ends the Gospel of Luke and begins the book of Acts with the story.  Jesus’ departure is implied in the gospels of Matthew and John but not specifically ascended. Mark, of course, just ends his Gospel abruptly at the mouth of the empty tomb.

The ascension offers Jesus’ final words to his disciples. It’s like a review section before the final test - topics include Kingdom of God as well as the history of God’s people and how my life fits in the big picture of it all. Or maybe, because of the close relationships, it is more like a parent leaving a child on the first day of college - hold close to your heart these things I tell you.

One thing that is clear is that the ball is now in their court. Jesus' gives 
a promise of the Spirit to disciples who just need to sit tight another 10 days then be ready to set the world on fire. You are witnesses to the ends of the earth. Tell the story, take my love out to every corner and live it. And you are not alone. My spirit will be with you every step. The two men in the Acts reading help emphasize their marching orders. Stop looking up and look out instead at God’s beloved world. You are in that world. Pay attention to your neighbor, stop injustice, share forgiveness.

Another thing the Jesus’ ascension gives to the disciples (which includes us) is a new way of seeing God. Now, we cannot think of God without thinking of Jesus… in the flesh, teaching, healing, dying, rising. God has been in our skin. God has been vulnerable and has felt fear, pain, exclusion…. In other words, God has experienced the joys and challenges of being human.

God is not unknown and far away; God is as near as our next breath.

How to Find Us

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245