Yesterday (Thursday) was Ascension Day on the Christian calendar. Luke (who wrote both the Gospel and the Book of Acts) tells us that for 40 days after Easter Jesus appeared to his followers. Then on the 40th day he “was carried up into heaven” to be seen no more. You can read the accounts at the end of Luke (24:44-53) and at the beginning of Acts (1:1-11.).
I know, some of you modern skeptics might be asking, “Where did he go?” We now know that the world is not flat and that simply going “up” will not take you to heaven. This is one more instance in which we should not look to the Bible as a science book, which was never the intent of its authors. Luke is looking to tell a truth about God and God’s dealings with people.
And what might be that truth? Luke is setting the stage for the day of Pentecost, 50 days after Easter, which we’ll celebrate NEXT Sunday, May 24 (wear something red that day). Jesus came to this earth, lived and died on this earth, appeared as the Risen Christ to his followers, left this earth, and then the Spirit came to, in essence, take his place among Jesus’ followers. The Book of Acts is all about the work of the Spirit in giving birth and growth to the church.
We’ll read the part of the Ascension story this Sunday (Acts 1:6-14), which also includes a description of the disciples waiting together in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit, “devoting themselves to prayer” as they waited. This will set the stage for next Sunday’s celebration of Pentecost, one of the three original great festivals of the church, along with Easter and Epiphany—yes, the celebration of Pentecost is older than the celebration of Christmas!
And we’ll hear from Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer” for his disciples in John 17. As he anticipated leaving them on the last night of his life, he prayed that God would protect them that they might be “one.” What does it mean to be “one?” This is what I want to explore on Sunday, this powerful truth that when Christ is among us, we are “one.”
I think this might have something to do with what we heard last week from Jesus, words spoken at the same Last Supper as this prayer: “Love one another as I have loved you.” Let’s ponder the scriptures together and see what God has to say to us. It might be challenging, it might be comforting, it might be both.
See you Sunday where we are “one!”