Summary: What is the significance of celebrating the 7th Sunday of Easter, after we celebrate our Lord’s Ascension?
7th Sunday of Easter, May 20, 2007, “Series C”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Almighty God, we give you thanks for revealing yourself to us through your Son, Jesus the Christ. We confess our faith in his saving power, and acknowledge him as our risen and ascended Lord. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, empower us to be his truthful disciples, help us to discern your will for our lives, and give us the courage to proclaim the Gospel to those we encounter. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
This past Thursday, according to the Church’s liturgical calendar, marked the Ascension of our risen Lord, his return to the right hand of his heavenly Father. It is an important aspect of our Christian faith for many reasons, two of which I would like to briefly mention.
For forty days, beginning on Easter morning, our risen Lord appeared to his disciples, and then vanished – appeared and then vanished again. And I’m sure that each time the disciples experienced the presence of the risen Christ, their hearts and spirits were lifted, as they grew to understand the significance of his death and resurrection for their redemption, giving praise to God for Jesus’ victory over sin and death.
But after our risen Lord had revealed himself on numerous occasions to his disciples, and they came to understand the gift of God’s redeeming grace, his mission on earth had been accomplished. It was time for the risen Son of God to return to his heavenly Father, to receive the glory, which he truly deserves. And as the disciples witnessed his ascension, it left little doubt, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
But in addition, the ascension of our risen Lord, which the disciples witnessed, marked the end of their expectation of having him appear to them again, as they lived out the rest of their lives here on earth. Thus, the ascension of our Lord tells us that the risen Christ is not simply some spiritual being floating around somewhere in the atmosphere, which, if we are lucky, we might someday be lucky to have appear to us. It tells us that our faith is not one of seeking to gain a glimpse of God in some mystic encounter with our risen Lord. Our risen Lord has returned to the Father.
Thus, the ascension of our risen Lord tells us that rather than looking into the stars in order to try to determine God’s will for our lives, rather than seeking to find God’s presence in some state of spiritual oneness with our inner self, look to the life of Christ. For Jesus truly is the incarnate Son of God, who through his life here on earth, revealed God’s Word for our lives, and through his death and resurrection, grants us forgiveness of our sins, and the ability walk in newness of life, through God’s grace.
Quite frankly, I wish that the Ascension of our Lord would generate a lot more attention in the life of the church, at least as much as Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, or Thanksgiving, which are all national holidays. But the truth is, many congregations today have ceased to celebrate this important festival of the Church. But, as I have learned from some of the commentaries that I read this week, some denominations have begun to celebrate the Ascension of our Lord on this last Sunday of Easter.
This, perhaps, may bring some needed recognition to our risen Lord’s Ascension, but then, what do we miss, in celebrating this last Sunday of Easter. Perhaps is does seem a bit odd, that following our Lord’s Ascension, that we should return to the message of Easter, prior to our celebration of God’s gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. And yet, I believe that the church, through the Spirit’s guidance, has given us this time for one last reflection upon the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection.
And what better way to celebrate our crucified, risen, and ascended Lord, than by recalling his last words for us, his disciples, which John tells us is comprised in Jesus’ parting prayer, for us. As I mentioned last Sunday, these final words of our Lord, recorded in John’s Gospel take place during his last supper with his disciples, prior to his arrest and crucifixion, reveal to me our Lord’s complete love and compassion for us all.
According to our Gospel lesson for this morning, Jesus, on the last earthly night with his disciples before his death, prays, “Father, I ask not only on behalf of these, [his disciples with him in that upper room] , but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they all may be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”