This Thursday is known as Ascension Day when we celebrate the day, according to Luke in Acts 1:1-11, that Jesus was lifted up from this earth. This happened 40 days after the Resurrection. Sunday is the Seventh Sunday of Easter and is the last Sunday in the Easter season.
The readings appointed for Thursday, Ascension Day, are:
Acts 1:1-11 – In verse 1, the writer of Acts, usually identified as Luke, addresses his reader as Theophilus. This is the same person identified at the beginning of the Gospel of Luke. In our passage, we are told that Jesus appeared to the disciples over a 40 day period after his resurrection. When they gather for the last time (at Mt. Olivet, vs. 12), Jesus tells the disciples that they will receive the power of the Holy Spirit. With that power, they are to go to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and all the world. Jesus is then lifted up and he disappears in the clouds. Of course, the disciples stand around with their mouths agape. Two men in white robes ask them why they are staring at the sky. They tell the disciples that Jesus will return in the same manner as he left them. Verse 12 tells us the disciples then returned to Jerusalem.
Psalm 47 – God is the God of all peoples and nations. Sing praises to God!
Ephesians 1:15-23 – Paul prays to God that those who believe in Jesus will have the spirit of wisdom, enlightened eyes, and that they will know the hope to which we are called.
Luke 24:44-53 – Jesus opens the minds of the disciples to understand the Scripture and is then carried away to heaven. This story is similar, but not the same, as the story Luke recalls in Acts 1. The disciples are sent to all the world beginning at Jerusalem to witness to all they have seen and know.
The readings for the Seventh Sunday of Easter, are:
Acts 1:15-17, 21-26 – The eleven remaining disciples decide that they should have a twelfth to replace Judas. They set up the criteria, narrow the choices to two, and then throw dice (trusting God to decide) to choose Matthias.
Psalm 1 – Those who delight in the law of God will know happiness and they will bear much fruit. Those who do not delight in the law of God will not know happiness for they will blow away like dried leaves.
1 John 5:9-13 – This is the final reading in the first letter of John and there are some summary statements within the reading. “Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony [of God] in their hearts . . . [which is] God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” “I write these things . . . so you may know that you have eternal life.” The glory and beauty of 1 John is simple: God is Light, Life and Love. In love, God gave his son Jesus to humanity to be Light, Life, and Love. To those who believe in Jesus, that Light and Love are in them and they have his Eternal Life. We, in turn, become and are the Light, Life, and Love of God for the rest of humanity.
John 17:6-19 – The entirety of chapter 17 is Jesus’ prayer to God. Verses 1-5 are a prayer for himself. Verses 6-19 are his prayer for the disciples. Verses 20-26 are his prayer for future disciples. Jesus’ prayers in John can seem convoluted and redundant. I think the one key verse for understanding the second section, our reading, is verse 11b: “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” At the beginning of chapter 18 Jesus is arrested and will soon be dead. They need God’s protection.
I pray that you will have a blessed week. Be witnesses to the Love, Light, and Life of Jesus Christ with all the people you meet this week.