5/22/2020 12:41:44 PM
Message for Ascension Sunday, May 24
Posted under: Eastertide 2020
These texts will not match what is listed for the 7th Sunday after Easter because this Sunday, the 24th of May is Ascension Sunday. It is the day when the entire church celebrates Jesus rising into heaven where he, according to the Apostles' Creed, "is seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead."
Quite properly, Jesus' ascension occurred on Thursday, the 21st, the 40th day of Easter. There's a kind of Holy Symmetry to the 40 days of Lent then the 40 days to the Ascension. Most United Methodists don't find themselves gathering on that specific Thursday to celebrate Jesus rising to heaven, so we delay this glory until the following Sunday (as if humans had that kind of power.)
This event is so significant, St; Luke records it twice; first, in our Gospel for the day and secondly, in the first verses of Acts. According to St; Luke, Jesus rises from the tomb, walks about for 40 days, and rises into heaven. Make no mistake about this Jesus of Nazareth: he's very special.
As he finishes eating some broiled fish, showing his disciples he is a flesh and blood reality, Jesus recounts his ministry with them: the words he spoke concerning his being reveled in the Hebrew scriptures; how they must be fulfilled as proof to all of his being the Son of the Living God.
In a kind of subtle way, Jesus is saying, "If you don't believe me, believe your scriptures; believe what Moses said and what is written in the prophets and the psalms." At the very last of his earthly ministry, Jesus is still teaching and revealing the truth about what God wants all of the human family to know.
Jesus promises the Holy Spirit and encourages them to wait for it. Receive it with courage, because they will need it for the days that follow. What's more, Jesus empowers them by that Holy Spirit to do a kind of ministry that only the Church can perform and embody in its living: preach repentance and forgiveness in His name to all the nations across the world.
Jesus says for them to begin in Jerusalem and by that I take it Jesus means in the Temple. The promise of salvation that comes from the Jews, begins with the Jews, and it spreads out like a wave to all the nations. Even after having suffered shame and death and the tomb, the loving goodness of God is eternally manifest in the Chosen People.
In Acts we have the record of how Jesus has embodied in his living the promises of God for our benefit. He encourages them to wait for their empowerment and their spiritual baptism by the Holy Spirit. That baptismal power comes upon them so they can do the repentance and the forgiveness that is their ministry in his physical absence.
Once again, Jesus reminds them their Jewish faith and traditions and covenants are not made void by the new thing he has done. When they ask him about when he will restore the kingdom of Israel, he replies a bit obliquely;" It's not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority."
The restoration of the Kingdom of Israel has been fixed in God's eternity. It has not been replaced with a different kingdom. It has not been relegated to a hoped-for memory. Its time and season God has determined. In the meantime, teach and tell and bestow peace and forgive sin and wait for the God of your salvation to keep all the ancient promises.
On Ascension Sunday, in the Year of Our Lord, 2020, what more glorious message could the world receive than a resurrected Jesus ascending into heaven to the voices of angels promising he will come again? Amen