Ascension of the Lord, Year C 2019: The Gospel, Substituted Acts, & Psalm Passages – The Divine as the Divine always was and always will be

Then he said to them, “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.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:44 – 48)

I have heard the word “Bible” presented as an acronym “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth”, and it has stayed in my memory. The reasons I remember it is because it uses each letter, and I was amazed that such a complicated collection of writings can be called “basic.” There is really nothing basic about it! And in a way it does a disservice to the disciples (who even after living with Jesus for his entire ministry had to have their minds “opened”), and the hundreds of male and female commentators and theologians who have wrestled with the holy word. The message of Jesus Christ, beloved reader, is a simple statement to love the Lord God the Divine who sent Jesus Christ, to believe in the Lord God the Divine, and to follow that guidance, direction and example that was set out in Jesus Christ. Yes, that is basic. But the way the books in the Old Testament come together to support Christ’s ministry and under gird it, and the way the Old and New Testament are to be understood and intertwined – that is complicated!

“And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.” (Verses 49 – 53)

The ascension of the Lord was the first part of what was to come. The physical presence of Jesus Christ returned to the Divine, and the spiritual/Spirit Presence of the Divine was then able to come to earth. The reason why it had to be this way is probably one of the “complicated” issues that humanity has found to be far from “basic”!

In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:1 – 5)

Some days back I had written about the switch in narrative perspective that we find in Acts – around the time that Paul was called to Macedonia. I mention this because the writer of the gospel of Luke (which we read just above) and the writer of the book of Acts are thought to be the same person. I find delight that the RCL pairs these two passages together. On to the balance of the passage.

“So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” (Verses 6 – 9)

And interesting question – does the coming of the Holy Spirit signify that the time of Jewish tribulation is coming to an end? A parallel thought for us might be – does our coming to faith & the blessing of the Holy Spirit mean the end of difficulties in our lives? I think, beloved reader, we know the answer to that. As did the disciples discover when their ministry begain. The end of one thing, but the beginning of quite another.

Interesting too that this account in Acts has something added to Jesus Christ’s ascension.

“While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Verses 10 – 11)

What do we make of that? What can we make of that? And most importantly, what have the generations since Christ’s ascension made of that??

“Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy.
For the LORD, the Most High, is awesome, a great king over all the earth.
He subdued peoples under us, and nations under our feet.
He chose our heritage for us, the pride of Jacob whom he loves. Selah” (Psalm 47:1 – 4)

I made note earlier/above concerning the intertwining of the writing of the Old Testament – that is, Jesus spoke of the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms being fulfilled. The implication is that they were fulfilled through him, or he is the fulfillment, or they point to Jesus and how he will reign – or something like that. It is complicated. My point is that the psalm passages are written quite often from a Jewish perspective. And that perspective, I think, is quite evident when keeping in my the disciples asking if “the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel” is close at hand. But there is also an openness to the psalms that allows both earlier and modern believers to enter into the songs of praise.

“God has gone up with a shout, the LORD with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the king of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm.
God is king over the nations; God sits on his holy throne.
The princes of the peoples gather as the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God; he is highly exalted.” (Verses 5 – 9)

In all of this – and we have covered much ground, concepts, and theologies – I want to remind you beloved reader that at the ascension Jesus Christ and the Divine hold the same traits and intent that they did when Jesus Christ first came to earth. One of the hallmarks of the Divine is consistency. And one of the struggles of humanity is to understand that. May the Spirit who came when Jesus ascended teach and inspire you to greater understanding. Selah!