Bishop Schnase on Reopening Churches
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Our Forgotten Church Celebration/Observation: Ascension Day?
If you’re reading this today ( May 21st) when this newsletter is sent out, how are you observing Ascension Day? This is the day when most of the churches around the world observe that day almost 2,000 years ago when Jesus ascended into heaven. The story is told in two places in the New Testament: in the gospel of Luke, chapter 24, the last 4 verses 50-53, and in the book of Acts Chapter 1 verses 9-11.
Today, Ascension Day doesn’t seem to be as important or celebrated as much as it used to be. Ascension Day is officially celebrated on a Thursday on the 40th day of Easter (or 39 days after Easter Sunday). In some countries it is a public holiday.
Ascension Day is one of the earliest Christian festivals dating back to the year 68 CE. According to scripture, Jesus Christ met several times with his disciples during the 40 days after his resurrection to instruct them on how to carry out his teachings. It is believed that on the 40th day he took them to the Mount of Olives, where they watched as he ascended to heaven. Before he leaves them and before they go charging off into the world, Jesus wants them to wait and make sure they have read all the directions. And what were those directions?
Luke tells us. At the end of his gospel, Jesus’ primary instruction to the disciples was grounded in Scripture, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with
you — that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” (Luke 24:44) Jesus uses the whole story of Scripture to place his ministry, death and resurrection into context.
The Ascension is both an ending and a beginning for us. A happy ending for what once appeared to be a disaster and a glorious beginning of new life in Jesus as he reigns in heaven at the right hand of the Father. The disciples did not leave the scene heart-broken; they left it with great joy because now they knew that they had a Master from whom nothing could separate them anymore.
Let’s remember on this Ascension Day and the days following that not only are we never separated from our Lord, but are even more closely joined to him. If we’re going to follow Jesus, that is, be people who announce the presence of the kingdom of God, then we have to be willing to be students of Scripture, and also be immersed in it every day as Jesus was.