Year A, The Seventh Sunday in Easter
May 21, 2023
Year A: Acts 1:6-14; Psalm 68:1-10; 1 Peter 4:12-14; John 17:1-11
Imagine that today is the final Sunday of Easter. Next week we celebrate Pentecost, and today’s reading from Acts and the Collect of the Day expresses our yearning for the Holy Spirit. This yearning for the Spirit is a part of the Resurrection faith we celebrate this season.
But on this 7th Sunday of Easter, we find ourselves reflecting on the glorious event of the Ascension. As we ponder this significant moment in our faith, we ask ourselves, “Where do we go from here?
The Ascension can be a difficult concept for us to grasp. It can seem distant and mystical, a moment of finality rather than a beginning. However, in the Ascension, we see not an end but a promise – a promise of Christ’s ongoing presence, his enduring love, and the promise of the coming Holy Spirit.
The first thing to get clear about the Ascension is that it is about God. It is not about gravity, or the physical location of heaven. It is about God.
And though it comes at the end of Eastertide, the Ascension is most closely related, in meaning, to Christmas. At Christmas, we celebrate the Incarnation, God becoming flesh and living among us. The divine becomes human. What began at Christmas is brought full circle and proclaimed again in a different way at the Ascension.
As Jesus ascended, he did not leave his disciples – or any of us – behind. In fact, he made space for the Holy Spirit, empowering his followers and us today to live out our Christian faith courageously and compassionately.
Today’s Gospel reminds us of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples. Jesus prays for their protection and unity and for them to know the glory of God that He knew. He prays this not just for those disciples then but for us, His disciples today.
And therein lies our call to action. As Episcopalians, we are tasked with being the hands and feet of Christ in our world today. We’re called to take up the mantle of our faith and step into the spaces where love, justice, and peace are needed.
This can be a daunting task. But remember, we are not left to do this work alone. Just as the disciples gathered together in prayer after the Ascension, so do we gather together in prayer and community.
In the Ascension, Jesus shows us that the work of the Kingdom is now in our hands. The disciples, who once were learners, are now leaders. And so it is with us. In our baptism, we are initiated into the Body of Christ, called to live out the Gospel in word and deed.
Easter isn’t just a singular event; it’s a profound truth about God’s desire for life, healing, and transformation. It speaks to God’s power to bring forth life where there is death, light where there is darkness, and peace where there is violence.
So, on this Seventh Sunday of Easter, as we look towards Pentecost next week, let’s remember the promise of Ascension. We are never alone. Christ has not left us. Instead, He has filled us with His Spirit, empowering us to fulfill the work of His Kingdom here on earth.
In the Book of Acts, we witness the Ascension of Christ and hear his promise of the Holy Spirit. This Spirit empowers us to become agents of change, to stand against violence, and to work for a world where every person can experience the abundant life that Jesus wishes for us.
We are a part of the story of Ascension. Let’s embrace that responsibility, that honor, and that promise. Let’s live as a people filled with the hope of the Resurrection, the love of Christ, and the power of the Spirit.
The Ascension was not an ending but a beginning. It was a declaration to all humanity that the confines of our earthly existence are not the boundaries of our spiritual potential. Christ did not merely ascend; he beckoned us upward. He beckoned us not towards a distant heaven but towards heaven that is here, now, within us and among us, if only we have the eyes to see it and the hearts to welcome it.
This is the eternal message of Easter. Resurrection does not signify death but transformation. Ascension does not denote separation but unity. Our Savior, in his rising, has not abandoned us. He has instead widened our horizons, extended the realms of possibility, and invited us to join him in that higher plane of existence where love overcomes hatred, peace quenches conflict, and hope forever banishes despair.
As we walk away from this sermon today, let us carry this Ascension spirit within us. Like the Apostles gazing at the ascending Christ, let us not stand idly looking up at the sky. Instead, let us look forward to our own Ascension, our own transformation, and move forward with renewed faith, uplifted spirits, and invigorated hearts because Christ’s Ascension is our destiny and calling. Amen.
May God bless us as we continue this journey, empowered by the Ascension, to love as Jesus loved, to serve as Jesus served, and to unify as Jesus prayed for us to be one. Amen.