God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
This week we celebrate Jesus’ ascension into heaven. It’s a story we read in the first chapter of Acts, seeing that Jesus appeared to the disciples “over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.” After these forty days, Jesus “was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.”
And so as we make our way through the church year, we remember Jesus’ return to heaven each year on the sixth Thursday (forty days) after Easter or on the Sunday that follows.
Ascension has traditionally been a time when we especially focus on Jesus’ deity–his glory, power, magnificence, holiness. Yes, Jesus as God incarnate, as human being, is also friend, teacher, and many other things. But this ascension is one of the few times when the disciples see the godliness of Jesus.
Yet as we remember the Ascension this year, I think this story has something extra for us at Edgebrook to consider, given our current phase of transition. Because in this story, the disciples are also in transition.
Jesus was with them, teaching and healing, doing life alongside them. And then he was killed. And then resurrected! And now gone again.
The disciples are left in a waiting mode. They had actually been told by Jesus, before his departure, to wait:
On one occasion, while Jesus was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (vv. 4-5)
And so after Jesus departs, they return to Jerusalem (v. 12)–although they do need some prompting:
The disciples were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? (vv. 10-11).
They return and wait.
We see the disciples in this story awaiting two promises:
- the coming of the Holy Spirit, the advocate: Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (v. 8)
- Jesus’ return: “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (v. 11)
The first promise was fulfilled at Pentecost, which we’ll celebrate at Edgebrook this year on May 28. The second promise remains.
Here at Edgebrook, we’re looking forward to our next phase as a church with new leadership. And we’re always eagerly awaiting Jesus’ return.
During this season of the church year, between Ascension and Pentecost, I invite you to reflect on the disciples’ experience of transition as a way to see our own transition from a new lens:
- When has there been despair? When hope?
- What are the joys? What sorrows?
- Where is there loss? Where new life?
Consider these questions from the perspective of your own personal experience, as well as that of our whole church community. Let them guide your prayers in these days as we approach Pentecost, as you speak as well as how you listen. As the disciples waited and prayed, we wait and pray as well, glorifying our God who hears us all.