Thursday, May 21

Ascension Thursday

And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way (Ephesians 1:22-23).

It has been forty days since Easter. There were hopes then that the lock-down would be very short, and that churches could celebrate Easter like normal. Normal still has not arrived, even though things are beginning to open up again. Since anyone who has been out and about could have contracted the virus and could be pre-symptomatic but already shedding the virus, there is a new normal that involves wearing face masks, keeping safe distances, and sanitizing like crazy. It's not like it was, when hugs and buffets were normal.

But forty days after Easter marks a more significant new normal—the ascension of Christ Jesus to the right hand of God. God’s plan had Jesus going through forty days of temptation in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry, and forty days of resurrection appearances to wrap up his ministry on earth. Normal in this era was for Jesus to limit himself to space-time realities. He would show up in one place at one time like any normal human being. His new normal, from his ascension until his return, is to be present to all space and all time, albeit, as human. 

The shift in normality is implied in a shift in terminology. While he walked on earth he was called rabbi, or lord (as in human master, leader), or he was referred to as Jesus of Nazareth, or Jesus the Nazarene, because he had grown up in that village. When he was glorified, he left space-time limitations behind and took over ruling the universe as the Father’s ‘right hand man,’ and this is the connotation of the title, Christ, which means, the King of Israel. It is also the full manifestation that he is not just a lord, but the LORD, Yahweh, the God of Israel, and Savior of the Nations—“the fullness of him who fills all things in all ways.” He is our head, our leader, and we are his body, the Church, baptized into his relationship with the Father.

To mark this shift today, let us pray for ourselves a paraphrase of what Paul prayed for the churches around Ephesus:

Father, I thank you for the gift of faith which you have given me through the Gospel and sealed to me in baptism by the Holy Spirit. Through your glory please give me and my fellow believers the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation so that we might know you better. Enlighten the eyes of our hearts to fully appreciate the hope to which you have called us and the richness of eternal glory which is our rightful inheritance as your children. Since you have made us holy through Christ, help us to more fully appropriate the immeasurably great power you want to work in us who believe, which is just like the great might which you demonstrated when you raised Jesus from the dead and inaugurated him to rule as Lord and Christ, seated at your right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. We praise and thank you that you have put all things under his feet and have made him head over all things and especially over the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.