Ascension Day

This coming Thursday marks Ascension Day in the Church calendar. It is often neglected day in the church in general, but we celebrate faithfully and will be celebrating it May 12, along with Mother’s day.

As a child, I remember going to extravagant Easter plays each year in a large local church. The entire congregation worked together to present the life of Christ in drama form. The big finish, after Jesus presented himself risen, was him being hoisted into the rafters with some sort of pulley system while the disciples watched on and the choir sung a powerful hymn. Then the curtains were drawn. The drama was over.

In my early understanding of Jesus and his relationship to us this never seemed like a very good ending to me. Here was God in flesh and He’s leaving the disciples. “Don’t leave!” I would think. “You just came back from the dead!” It seemed like a powerful ending for Jesus, but a sad ending for the disciples.

Thankfully God has shown me a little more about the story since I was a little boy! The ascension wasn’t the drawing of the curtains for the disciples, but the opening of a whole new life with God.

First, Jesus did spend considerable time before and after the resurrection explaining what was to come and why he had to leave. In Dr. Luke’s explanation of the early churches activities in the book of Acts he recounts:

He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. Acts 1:3 (ESV)

The disciples were continued to be taught about the kingdom, but I’m not sure they fully knew the importance of this season before them. He also told them in the upper room, before he was crucified, that it was good for them that he leaves. He said,

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:16-18 (ESV)

This was the piece that I was missing as a child, that now I fully appreciate and I hope you do too. Without Ascension day there is no Pentecost. The coming of the Holy Spirit means he isn’t leaving us as orphans, but then God “will be in you’.

This is the power promised when Christ gathered the disciples for the last time just before he ascended. The last words Jesus told his disciples in flesh were:

”But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.“
Acts 1:8-9 ESV

God has entrusted us now with his message, but has also empowered us with His Spirit. As we contemplate His ascension and anticipate Pentecost, let us pray for this amazing opportunity to share His Love and shine His Glory through the power of the Spirit to Detroit and beyond!

Blessings and peace,

Rev. Todd and Dr. Christiane