Thursday 18th May 2023
Today is Ascension Day in the (western/Gregorian calendar) Christian tradition. The fortieth day after Easter, on which Christ’s Ascension is celebrated. The story is told in Acts 1:1-11.
The disciples – watching Jesus disappear from view, no longer physically present with them. They had work to be done ‘to the ends of the earth’. They would be alone, and yet not on their own. There would be a Spirit to guide and guard them. The Spirit would come on the day of Pentecost as tongues of fire. The Spirit would embolden them and strengthen them in times of fear. Strengthen them in times when words failed to come. It would abide with them to the ends of the earth.
A poem from Maren Tirabassi for Ascension Day
They seem petulant, those disciples,
looking up, as if
demanding a map of Google Heaven,
with the coordinates
for where the Teacher is going,
“if you see this, you’ve gone too far.”
Mostly our hearts ache for Jesus,
who already misses talking to people,
touching them, breathing in their faces,
putting mud on their eyes,
feeding them his personal recipe
for broiled fish on the beach.
The whole Incarnation
defined God as “in-person,”
from manger-straw to stone-rolling.
Then this day comes with a new message
about masking clouds
and the physical distance guidelines
of “right hand of God,”
a Zoom away from all the boxes
which are our lives.
And we, who are just as petulant
as disciples long ago, say,
“what’s not in-person isn’t real,”
need this ascension day story,
so we realize the Holy Spirit must arrive
in just those virtual or outdoors,
pre-pack communion, name-tagged-pews,
masks with the church-logo…
places where a wind can blow
and we sit tentatively
at God’s left-hand,
carefully offering to be the Body of Christ
in every possible way for others.
(by Maren Tirabassi, Gifts in Open Hands)
Painting “Look Toward Heaven” by He Qi
We read in Luke that as Jesus ascended into heaven, He was blessing the disciples. Spend some time imagining that blessing. What might Jesus have said? What might have been the content and call of this blessing? Place yourself in the image. What word of blessing might Jesus want to speak over you today?
Notice that Jesus is absent from our image, just as He is when Luke concludes his Gospel. Yet the disciples are recorded worshiping and blessing God. There are smiles on their faces in our image. How can Jesus’ absence be seen as love and not abandonment? Do you ever feel abandoned by God, like Jesus has left the building and is no longer with you? Allow this image to help you. Allow the story of the Ascension to encourage you in those times of feeling abandoned.
Can you hold in your heart that God is both transcendent and immanent – that God is closer than your breath while simultaneously being higher than the stars above? What the significance of this paradox to you?
Finally, receive the promise Jesus speaks of in v. 49, the promise of the Father that we know to be the Holy Spirit. Pray for fresh awareness of that promise in your life, fresh power from that promised Spirit, and increased opportunity to be that witness Jesus spoke of.
(Source: Global Worship)