On this day of Christ’s ascension, we are invited to join the disciples in awe as Jesus takes his leave from earthly existence. For forty days, the resurrected Christ has been appearing with comfort and challenge. Now it is time for him to ascend to his father.
Lectio divina, the practice of reading and meditating on scripture, enables us to read even familiar passages in new ways. The practice helps us ask ourselves, What may God be inviting me to find in this passage? What is the living word for me today? One phrase that shimmers off the page is as simple as it is profound. Jesus tells his disciples: “You are witnesses of these things.” The life of faith includes joyful and dry times. Yet 2,000 years later we too experience the risen Christ among us. We have felt Christ's presence in the grace of conversion and in hands raised in heartfelt praise. We have felt like vessels of Christ to others. Can you remember a time when the words came right through you, and you knew they were not yours but those of the Christ within you?
My father’s time to leave this life caught me by surprise. We thought he had a lot more time. Rushing to his bedside, I thanked him for all that he had given our family. Then, I felt the Spirit say through my voice: “Go toward the light, Dad; go toward the light.” His hand dropped, and he took his last breath. My sister, brother-in-law, and I watched in awe. These words were not planned or intended; rather, they were given. The three of us bore witness to the work of Christ among us.
And so we return to join the disciples in this moment as Jesus leads them out of Jerusalem to neighboring Bethany. We stand with them as Jesus lifts up his hands and blesses them and us before ascending to the heavenly light.
Jesus, we join generations of witnesses to your great love, forgiveness, and wisdom. Enliven us as we bear witness to you in our daily lives. Amen.
Though Jesus has taught his disciples that God’s kingdom is not an earthly one, following the Resurrection some are still expecting him to set up a kingdom on earth. Instead, Jesus ascends into heaven in front of them, being taken up in the clouds. The scene recalls Psalm 68, where the Lord is described as one who rides on the clouds across the expanse of the heavens. In the Gospel reading, Jesus anticipates his coming departure and prays for his followers. Peter talks about a trial—literally a “fiery ordeal”—that is testing Christians. The reference to fire may be specific, for the Roman historian Tacitus records that Nero killed Christians in Rome by burning them alive. The author may therefore be speaking about suffering that is not just metaphorical.
Read Acts 1:6-14. When have you experienced the power of community?
Read Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35. Recall a time when you recognized God’s power with fear and joy. How might that have been a foretaste of God’s kingdom?
Read 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11. How have you walked with faith through suffering?
Read John 17:1-11. What does it mean for you or your congregation that Jesus prayed for unity among his followers?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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