“While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.” Luke 24:51-53
Dear Redeemer Family:
The verses above are the last verses in Luke’s Gospel. They, of course, describe Jesus’ Ascension into heaven, and the disciples’ reaction. Ascension Day is one of the most important days on the Church Calendar. It is also one of the most ignored. That is probably because it always falls on a Thursday, forty days after Easter Sunday, and ten days before Pentecost. Thursday is not traditionally associated with Christian worship days, at least not in this country. “Wednesday, okay; Thursday, are you kidding?” Why is the Ascension important?
Well, one reason is given in the alternate prayer of the day for Ascension of Our Lord, which proclaims that, Christ “ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things,” yet nevertheless “abides with us on earth to the end of time.” Rather than get caught up in the cosmology of this paradox, we should delight in its implications for the Church: Christ’s mission has been entrusted to us, and though we cannot see him as before, he continues to live among us in Word and Sacrament.
The reason is the Incarnation. In Jesus, God becomes a human being. The divine nature of God is bound to the mortal nature of a human being. So, being divine, Christ is, like the Father, everywhere (omnipresent, and we also should throw in omnipotent and omniscient). Sharing our human nature, Christ is also with us. Indeed, what makes the Ascension important for us is really quite simple. When Christ ascends into heaven, he takes his human nature with him. He does not leave it behind. Translation: In the Ascension humanity is glorified! (Humanity is also glorified in the Incarnation. But everyone tends to celebrate Christmas)
We have been glorified! Now, that’s not the way that most people tend to think about things. Rather most tend to think of themselves as sinners. And, we are. But, thanks to our baptism into Christ, and our faith in Him, we are at the same time “saints and sinners.” Now, with the Ascension, we are glorified saints and sinners. That’s a big change in the human situation. More than that, but also because of that, St. Paul writes that we have now been made co-heirs with Christ, Children of God! How is that for being glorified by God?! As Jesus is both divine and human, we are now saint and sinner. I think that most people have been conditioned to think more about being a sinner. I think that it is time that we should think more about being a saint. We are currently in the Easter Season. Part of that means, and again, St. Paul writes about it, we are declared righteous now! It is time to think about those implications now. We are Christ’s ambassadors in this world now. As ambassadors, we reflect Him who has sent us. We are children of God! Dwell on, and in, that thought.