We are acknowledging Christ’s Ascension on Sunday. Traditionally, Ascension would be celebrated in a midweek service: it falls on Thursday, May 13 this year. Like the Resurrection and Pentecost, it is an important hallmark of Christ’s earthly work and the institution of the Church.
The story of the Ascension of Jesus, found in the first chapter of Acts, describes the ascent of Christ from the Earth to the Heavenly realm. According to Acts, the Ascension of Jesus takes place 40 days after the Resurrection in the presence of his disciples. Christ is risen up after advising them to stay in Jerusalem until the arrival of the Holy Spirit. As he arises, a cloud obscures him from their view, and two men in white arrive to tell them that he will return "in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." In Christian doctrine, the Ascension is correlated with the deification of Jesus, meaning that through his Ascension, Jesus took his seat at the right hand of God: "He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty."
This Sunday, our opening hymn is taken from the Lutheran Service Book, entitled “See, The Lord Ascends in Triumph.”
1 See, the Lord ascends in triumph:
Conqu'ring King in royal state,
Riding on the clouds, His chariot,
To His heav'nly palace gate.
Hark! The choirs of angel voices
Joyful alleluias sing,
And the portals high are lifted
To receive their heav'nly King.
2 Who is this that comes in glory
With the trump of jubilee?
Lord of battles, God of armies,
He has gained the victory.
He who on the cross did suffer,
He who from the grave arose.
He has vanquished sin and Satan;
He by death has crushed His foes.
3 While He lifts His hands in blessing,
He is parted from His friends;
While their eager eyes behold Him,
He upon the clouds ascends.
He who walked with God and pleased Him,
Preaching truth and doom to come,
He, our Enoch, is translated
To His everlasting home.
4 Now our heav'nly Aaron enters
With His blood within the veil;
Joshua now is come to Canaan,
And the kings before Him quail.
Now He plants the tribes of Israel
In their promised resting place:
Now our great Elijah offers
Double portion of His grace.
5 He has raised our human nature
On the clouds to God's right hand;
There we sit in heav'nly places,
There with Him in glory stand.
Jesus reigns, adored by angels;
Man with God is on the throne.
By our mighty Lord's ascension
We by faith behold our own.
John Donne (1573–1631) was an English poet and cleric in the Church of England. He is considered the pre-eminent representative of the metaphysical poets. His poetry is noted for its vibrancy of language and inventiveness of metaphor, especially compared to that of his contemporaries.
By John Donne
Salute the last and everlasting day,
Joy at the uprising of this sun, and son,
Ye whose true tears, or tribulation
Have purely washed, or burnt your drossy clay;
Behold the Highest, parting hence away,
Lightens the dark clouds, which he treads upon;
Nor doth he by ascending, show alone,
But first he, and he first enters the way.
O strong Ram, which hast battered heaven for me,
Mild lamb, which with Thy Blood, hast marked the path;
Bright torch, which shin’st, that I the way may see,
Oh, with thy own blood quench thy own just wrath,
And if thy holy Spirit, my Muse did raise,
Deign at my hands this crown of prayer and praise.