Ascension Day is one of those dates on our Christian calendar that is easy to miss. Like the story of the Ascension of Christ, it doesn’t command the attention that other big dates and events do such as Christmas and Easter. Falling on a Thursday might be part of what keeps it off of our collective calendars but it should remain in the forefront of our minds.
This week I hope we will recognize that the ascension of Christ serves to remind us that while he may be the Lord of our hearts (as well he should be) he is the Lord of the Universe. His ascension points to his sovereignty over all.
“Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.”
I confess, gladly, that I’ve been reading a lot of N.T. Wright of late. Several years ago Wright wrote what most scholars consider to be the finest study of Christ’s resurrection currently available, The Resurrection of the Son of God. For an academic work it is remarkably readable. It’s pleasant and not filled with unnecessary jargon but concerned with getting the important points across clearly. It’s been praised by everyone from Anne Rice, the vampire author, to John Piper and Tim Keller.
Wright has another somewhat smaller and less technical book called Surprised by Hope where he explores the ramifications of Jesus’ resurrection and the reasons why we should anticipate our own. In Surprised by Hope Wright makes a clear and powerful connection between the resurrection of Jesus and the fulfillment of his Kingdom. Rather than relieving us from responsibility, the resurrection of Christ enjoins us to the good work of participating in God’s creation and taking joy in the presence of his Kingdom. It’s neither legalism nor self-help but an inspiring, joyful call to action, a call to participate in God’s good world.
“… love is not our duty; it is our destiny. It is the language Jesus spoke, and we are called to speak it so that we can converse with him. It is the food they eat in God’s new world, and we must acquire the taste for it here and now. It is the music God has written for all his creatures to sing, and we are called to learn it and practice it now so as to be ready when the conductor brings down his baton. It is the resurrection life, and the resurrected Jesus calls us to begin living it with him and for him right now. Love is at the very heart of the surprise of hope: people who truly hope as the resurrection encourages us to hope will be people enabled to love in a new way. Conversely, people who are living by this rule of love will be people who are learning more deeply how to hope.” ~ N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, pg. 288
Prayer for the week:
“O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
“Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, on God, for ever and ever. Amen.”