Ascension Day 9
Flower: Zenith Rising by Cody Wood
Good News or Best News?
♱ Opening Reflection
Artist Reflection on Ascension by Cody Wood
The church of my childhood didn’t say much about The Ascension. Reflecting, I would have said its importance was only twofold: the context for The Great Commission, and the necessary subsequent event of The Resurrection. That is, Jesus had to go-- he wasn’t going to die and be buried again. He wasn’t going to just hang around until present day. So… he had to leave, but The Ascension itself didn’t seem to have much meaning in itself. Wow, were we wrong.
We put so much emphasis on Good Friday that even Easter Sunday (let alone the 40 days that followed leading up to Ascension) was just a happy footnote, a triumphant P.S. It was the epilogue to let us know that Good Friday turned out OK after all.
But the good news isn’t just Good Friday; it’s the whole story-- a story that we’re still living in as it continues to unfold. The annunciation, the incarnation, Jesus’ baptism, his ministry, his passion, burial, and the resurrection, his ascension, Pentecost, and his return-- one story of the best news!
This passage from John’s Gospel happens before Jesus’ arrest. He talks about “going away,” but he’s not talking about his crucifixion. He’s talking about his Ascension! The Father sent him, and now he’s returning.
God came down for us. Now he goes up for us.
In the incarnation God, the Son came down and became human. In the ascension, God goes up for us. A human returns to the Father. There is a human on the throne of Heaven. One of us has conquered the grave and escaped gravity, the downward pull to the earth that we are all subject to. And Jesus, having returned, now sends God, the Spirit for us.
♱ Scripture Reading
“I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.
“I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
As you read the passage and reflection, notice what words or phrase stands out to you.
Jesus recognizes the sorrow that fills the hearts of his friends at the news of his departure. Have you ever experienced a bitter good-bye or abandonment? How does it inform your reading of this passage?
How is the departure of Jesus good news?
Have you considered the ascension story as part of a bigger best news story? What does the artists statement stir in you? The annunciation, the incarnation, Jesus’ baptism, his ministry, his passion, burial, and the resurrection, his ascension, Pentecost, and his return-- one story of the best news!
♱ Contemplate with Art:
As you look at the art, spend some time reflecting on the words sent and return.
Take a moment to picture Christ “seated at The right hand of the Father.” In whatever way you imagine, picture yourself seated with him (Eph 2)
♱ Embodied Response:
Stand and embody the posture of Jesus ascending in this painting. Hold the pose and notice how it feels in your body? What emotions or vulnerabilities reveal themselves?
How does God receive you? What do you receive from God in this posture?
Apolytikion (Fourth Tone)
Troparion — Tone 4
O Christ God, You have ascended in Glory,
granting joy to Your disciples by the promise of the Holy Spirit.
Through the blessing they were assured
that You are the Son of God,
the Redeemer of the world!
Kontakion — Tone 6
When You had fulfilled the dispensation for our sake,
and united earth to heaven:
You ascended in glory, O Christ our God,
not being parted from those who love You,
but remaining with them and crying:
“I am with you and no one will be against you!”
~Orthodox Hymns for the Feast of Ascension