“Galileans, why are you standing here, looking toward heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way that you saw him go into heaven.”

Ascension of Christ - GBOD

The Ascension of Christ. Late 6th century illuminated manuscript (c. 586). Public Domain. via GBOD of the UMC

Talk about a cliffhanger! “This Jesus…will come…” Some TV shows do a good job of leaving you on the edge of your seat at the ending of a season finale. One of mine & Carrie’s favorites is ‘How I Met Your Mother,’ in which the character Barney is notorious for saying, “It’s gonna be LEGEN… wait for it… DARY!” In fact, they ended one season just as Barney said, “…wait for it…” The purpose of the “…wait for it…” or the “…to be continued…” is, of course, to hopefully increase ratings, but in terms of the story, it’s to pique your interest and heighten your sense of expectation of what is still to come.

Today is the Feast Day of the Ascension (for we who are in the Western Roman Catholic/Protestant traditions of the Church), in which we remember that, as the Creed says, “…he [Jesus] ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead…” In terms of the holy days remembered throughout the Church year, Ascension Day is for many Protestants among the lowest on the totem pole, if it’s even present at all. But Christ’s ascension is a vital part of the story of God’s redeeming us and the world. Christ’s bodily departure prepares the way for the Holy Spirit to fill Jesus’ followers, empowering them to be the heralds of this new king whose heavenly reign is breaking in on earth.

And in this, for those of us who wish to be aligned with Jesus the Christ, we are beckoned to bear witness to God’s coming kingdom, that we are still waiting for in its ultimate fulfillment. For now, the remnants of darkness and death still plague the creation, but the rays of light and new life have shown through and we have a confident hope that the good work that has begun will be brought to completion.

So as we herald this news of greater things still to come, we face the (often) gut-wrenching task to “…wait for it…”; to, in patience, work for the kingdom until Jesus comes in final victory. Happy Ascension Day!

“Everliving God, your eternal Christ once dwelt on earth, confined by time and space. Give us faith to discern in every time and place the presence among us of the One who is head over all things and fills all, even Jesus Christ our ascended Lord. Amen.” (from UM Hymnal, #323)