If the birth of Jesus Christ is the beginning of the story, is the Ascension of the Lord the end?
Well, perhaps. The Ascension is the end of Jesus’ earthly life, but it is most certainly not the end.
From last Sunday’s gospel:
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. (John 14:16-17)
And from this Sunday’s gospel:
And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. (John 17:3-5)
Oprah would call this a “full-circle moment.” And I find full-circle moments comforting.
Thursday (May 25) is the Feast of the Ascension, and this Sunday is the Seventh Sunday of Easter: Sunday after the Ascension. In the liturgical tradition, the Ascension may be celebrated on the day and the Sunday following, as the lectionary readings for Easter VII always point to the Ascension.
The hymn texts this Sunday will be “lofty” as you can imagine - with rising, lifting, entering, triumphant, radiant, unclouded and with many Alleluias. And the Parish Choir will sing “Lift up your heads” from Handel’s Messiah.
One of the Communion hymns, a contemporary text written in 1980 by the famous English poet and writer Brian A. Wren (b. 1936) is especially appropriate for Ascensiontide and the world today:
When Christ was lifted from the earth, his arms stretched out above through every culture, every birth, to draw an answering love.
Still east and west his love extends and always, near or far, he calls and claims us as his friends and loves us as we are.
Where generation, class, or race divide us to our shame, he sees not labels but a face, a person, and a name.
Thus freely loved, though fully known, may I in Christ be free to welcome and accept his own as Christ accepted me.
We will close the 10:30 a.m. Sunday liturgy by singing:
See the Conqueror mounts in triumph; see the King in royal state,
riding on the clouds, his chariot, to his heavenly palace gate!
Hark! the choirs of angel voices joyful Alleluias sing,
and the portals high are lifted to receive their heavenly King.
Hold your head high as you come to church this Sunday!