This coming Sunday is “Ascension Sunday” when the church remembers Christ’s ascension on the 40th day after his resurrection (which is technically this Thursday. It is also the Seventh Sunday of Easter AND it is Mother’s Day!
The readings for Ascension Sunday are:
Acts 1:1-11 – In the first five verses, Luke writes his friend Theophilus that the first letter he wrote, the Gospel of Luke, he told the story of Jesus’s ministry, death and resurrection. In the resurrection Jesus appeared for 40 days to many people and with convincing proofs. In verses 6-11, Luke recounts the last meeting Jesus had with the disciples. They want to know when God and Jesus will restore the kingdom of Israel. Saying that know one can know that time he send them to be witnesses in “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth.” Jesus then rises into the air and disappears in a cloud. Two men in white robes (angels?) then tell them that Jesus will one day appear in the same manner as he left them. We, the followers of Jesus, must still remember the charge he gave us: to go and be witnesses in Long Prairie, Grey Eagle, Todd County, Minnesota, and all the world. Even if we can’t go into all the world, are we being witnesses where we are?
Psalm 47 – The psalmist praises God who is the Ruler of all Nations.
OR Psalm 93 – The psalmist declares that God is the king over all creation and even the crescendo-ing sound of the floods and the crashing thunders of the waves do not compare to the majesty of the Lord.
Ephesians 1:15-23 – Paul gives thanks to God for the church and people of Ephesus. He prays that God will give them a spirit of wisdom and revelation so that they should know the hope of God’s calling, the riches of God’s inheritance, and the greatness of God’s power for believers. The connection to Ascension Sunday is in verses 20-23: God raised Jesus from death, gave him a seat in heaven above all authority, power, rulers, dominion, and every name here on earth.
Luke 24:44-53 – This is Luke’s first version of the disciples’ last meeting with Jesus and it actually begins in verse 36. (In verse 41 Jesus asks for some fish to eat.) It is not exactly the same as the Acts 1 version. The meeting with Jesus is longer here in Luke and the ascension portion of the story is longer in Acts. Once again, we hear Jesus command the disciples, “Repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations beginning from Jerusalem. You are my witnesses of these things.” Are we being witnesses for Repentance and of Forgiveness? You don’t need to go to “all the nations” but are you witnesses where you are (and where God has put you)?
The readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter are:
Acts 16:16-34 – Paul and his co-worker Silas are working in Philippi. A young girl, a slave, who can fortune-tell, follows them for many days telling people that Paul and Silas are proclaiming the way of salvation. Now it seems to me that Paul and Silas would like the free publicity because she is not saying anything false. However, Paul gets annoyed and casts out a demon that gives the girl her power. The owners of this girl were making a lot of money off of her power and when she lost that power their revenue stream suddenly ended. (Note, never mess with a person’s revenue stream.) They complained and the authorities threw Paul and Silas into prison. Around midnight, while singing and praying, a mighty earthquake opened the prison doors and broke their shackles. The jailer, thinking that Paul and Silas escaped, feared for his life because he would be blamed. Paul and Silas did not leave and they reassured the jailer that everything would be OK. The jailer wanted to know how he could be saved. “Believe in the Lord!” they answered and the jailer and his entire household believed and were baptized. Does it take a dramatic event to bring people to the Lord? Sometimes. But we can’t wait for those events. We must be declaring God’s salvation to all people.
Psalm 97 – Once again the psalmist declares that the Lord is king. Using imagery of earth, coastlands, clouds and darkness, fire and lightning, mountains and heaven, the psalmist declares that all of creation praises the Lord God. And the Lord will look after those who oppose evil, are faithful, and are righteous. Rejoice and Give Thanks!
Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21 – As is typical of the Lectionary, it skips those verses that prove to be problematic. Verse 15 is one of those verses. Verses 18 and 19 are warnings to the readers that no one should add to or subtract from what is written. This was a common practice for documents that were circulated amongst many groups so that the author may have some assurance that other readers will not receive defective documents. These are the final words from Jesus and God and they end with a blessing.
John 17:20-26 – In the Gospel of John Chapter 13, Jesus gathers with his disciples for their last meal together and where Jesus washes his disciples feet giving them a new commandment. Jesus then teaches them about getting through the next several days. This teaching, along with the disciples’ questions, are recorded in Chapters 15, 15, and 16. Jesus finishes the teaching with a prayer that is recorded in Chapter 17 where our reading comes from. In verses 1-5 Jesus prays for himself. In verses 6-19 he prays for the disciples. In our verses this week Jesus prays for future followers; us. He prays that we may be one together in him. In being one together the world will know God’s love. Over the centuries the Church the Jesus established has splintered into thousands of pieces: Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant; Reformed, Lutheran, Anglican, and Anabaptist; Fundamentalist, Evangelical, Mainline. How can we claim to be the One Church that Jesus prayed for?
I pray you have a blessed week serving God by serving the neighbors in need.
Peace in Christ,
Pastor Gary Taylor