News from the Executive Presbyter/Stated Clerk
Perhaps many of you are making plans for the last Sunday of May, the 28th. Not only is it Memorial Day weekend, it is the Day of Pentecost, the next event on the church calendar (although not quite what Christmas and Easter are). However, before we get to that date, there is another day that just might slip by us – Thursday, May 18. May 18 is forty days after Easter. That makes it Ascension Day.
We do not make much of a big deal about Ascension Day, at least not like the Amish did in my first church community of McVeytown, Pennsylvania. I may have shared about this previously, how from early morning, the Amish would come over the mountain from the next valley and set up a picnic beside the railroad tracks across the river from our little village. They would spend the day there, believing that it was not proper to work the earth on the day that Jesus rose from it. Late in the afternoon, a steady stream of buggies would make their way back home.
For us, we may make note of Ascension Day, perhaps in a daily devotional, or in some other way. But much of the day may be like any other work day leading up to another weekend.
We all can envision the scene on Ascension Day, from the book of Acts. Jesus’ appearances to the disciples come to a definite end as he rose from earth to heaven. The scene is spoken of in the Apostles’ Creed, which many of our churches use regularly: Jesus “ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.”
Still staring into the sky, the disciples are challenged by two angels as to why their gaze is still fixed in that direction. In the same manner, Jesus will return – but for now, there is work to be done. First, the disciples are instructed to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit to be given, taking us to Pentecost.
In a sense, Ascension Day is about the direction of our vision. Ascension Day reminds us to:
· Look upward, where Christ is seated at God’s right hand;
· Look inward, seeking the presence of Christ within us, through the power of the Holy Spirit that he sends forth; and
· Look outward, to the witness and work to which we have been called, living in the confidence that Jesus intercedes for us, and because of that, whatever challenges we face in this life can be overcome by his power and presence living through us.
Upon what is our vision focused this Ascension Day? On the myriad of problems and challenges we face: the continued presence of COVID, war and conflict in places like Ukraine and Sudan, natural disasters (tornados, earthquakes, flooding, and coming soon to our neighborhood, another hurricane season), human-created disasters, etc? To these, we may mix in the “usual suspects” of disease, hunger, poverty, intolerance and hatred. There is a lot to capture our line of sight.
Ascension Day reminds us that we first need to look up, to Jesus Christ seated as Lord, and then look inward, to his presence in our midst. Then, we can look outward, and make a difference within a hurting world.
Executive Presbyter / Stated Clerk
Rev. Dr. Dan Williams