This Sunday, we will have a guest leading Worship Circle who will bring their own amazing ideas to our young worshipers’ time together. However, I wanted to still share the Lectionary Scripture, as well as some ideas about how to reflect on it in the coming days as it is such an important part of Jesus and the Church’s story… the Ascension of Jesus.
New International Reader’s Version
Jesus said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you. Everything written about me must happen. Everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms must come true.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written. The Christ will suffer. He will rise from the dead on the third day. His followers will preach in his name. They will tell others to turn away from their sins and be forgiven. People from every nation will hear it, beginning at Jerusalem. You have seen these things with your own eyes. “I am going to send you what my Father has promised. But for now, stay in the city. Stay there until you have received power from heaven.” Jesus led his disciples out to the area near Bethany. Then he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them. He was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him. With great joy, they returned to Jerusalem. Every day they went to the temple, praising God.
For some of us, this is a challenging text. In an age of vectors and space exploration, the story of Jesus ascending up into the sky asks us to set much of what we know about the laws of physics and the universe aside. And yet, I think this story still has powerful truths in it. The reality is that Jesus’ followers, both 2,000 years ago and today, no longer have a physical experience of Jesus’ body and yet his presence remains with us. In the words of a hymn I grew up with,
“Without seeing you we love you. Without touching you we embrace. Without knowing you we follow. Without seeing you we believe.” (David Haas)
Though we cannot hear Jesus singing or feel his tears on our cheek as he embraces us in sorrow, we continue to know his presence through his Body the Church and in the movement of the Spirit among and within us. And we can be the presence of Jesus for the world as we seek to follow in his footsteps, proclaiming the Good News of God’s Realm for all people, that vision of a day when all will have enough, when power will be shared among rather then exerted over, when a peace which surpasses understanding will prevail over the ways of violence and death.
In the Chapel of the Ascension in the Holy Land, there is a mark on the floor which is said to depict Jesus’ right foot, a point which marks his last physical step on earth (I have trouble seeing it, but that’s not really the point). This week, as we prepare for Worship, I invite you to reflect on the following questions. “I wonder… what might have been going through the disciples hearts and minds as they realized they were never going to see Jesus again? I wonder… what were Jesus’ last words of blessing to his friends? I wonder… since Jesus is no longer physically present on earth, how might be be Jesus Body for one another and for the world?”
Last year our youth group spent some time with these questions and each of us added our own foot (and crutch, Tommy was recovering from a Tennis injury) prints to the black footprints which represented Jesus’ on the paper above. We then wrote down around our footprints the ways we follow Jesus and can be his Body on earth… It is a fun and messy project for any family… I invite you to give it a try!