I just got done leading the Ascension Day Devotional. Not many celebrate this event anymore, which commemorates when Jesus ascended into heaven after his resurrection. I find it to be a meaningful time every year. About 14 people showed up last year, and I had 7 tonight. Each time I find it to be an intimate, personal, and moving time.
We gathered in two pews in the sanctuary, with only a few of the lights on, which let us appreciate the setting sun shining through the stained glass windows in back. I played some meditative music on CD as we gathered, but found that we didn't need it. Everyone was so merry, glad to see each other, and happy to share about the events of the day, it was like a family coming together at the close of the day.
We read aloud the verses of Psalm 47, which are bursting with joy,
"Clap your hands, all you peoples; shout to God with loud songs of joy....God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet....sing praises to our King, sing praises."
I read the account of Jesus' ascension from Luke 24:44-53, and shared some thoughts about the meaning of Ascension. What I have found especially interesting and meaningful in my studies on the text this year is that Jesus' ascension took place in Bethany, which is the town where Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived. I made the connection between the words and events surrounding Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, and the purpose and meaning of Ascension, now taking place in the same town. It gave me goosebumps to read about the Lazarus story from John 11:21-27, especially verse 25-27.
"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?' She said to him, 'Yes, Lord, I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.'"
We shared a time of prayer, and then closed with the sharing of the peace. It is so wonderful to see people's faces light up when they get to share the peace! I think on some level we all yearn for such a positive and lively connection with others, and at its best, sharing of the peace shows what it means to be the body of Christ, the family of God.
Some left quickly, to enjoy the last few hours of sunlight on such a beautiful day. Some lingered for a "Scandinavian goodbye," which almost lasted as long as the devotional had!
As I locked up the doors and turned out the lights, I thought, this was so good. This was a little slice of of the Kingdom, right here. In this life, contentment can be fleeting, so I take a moment before going back home to the chaos that awaits, to jot down the joy and contentment of this night. It is a gift of God.
"Do not forget that you serve
that neither you nor your father's father
nor your mother's mother began.
And the laughter and the tears
that accompany your labor
are not born
of your cleverness
or your holiness,
but are reflections of the Mystery of God
in the still waters
of the eternal lake
The God you serve is like an eternal lake
whose waters are always calm and clear like glass
reflecting truth to all who gaze upon them.
A million million reflections
and the lake remains the same.
It is not your job to stir the waters
but to show the way to the lakeside."
p. 4, The Art of Pastoring: Contemplative Reflections, 1994 by William V. Martin, published by CTS Press, Decatur, GA