Now What? The Church Gets to Work

A Homily for the Seventh Sunday of Easter

Text: Acts 1:15-17, 21-26


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Risen Lord, who has ascended into heaven and sends us out as apostles. Amen.

“In those days,” our reading from Acts begins.

What days? The days immediately after the Ascension. On Thursday, we read the tail end of Saint Luke’s Gospel – forty days after the Resurrection, Christ leads the disciples out to Bethany where he blesses them as he ascends to the right hand of the Father. The disciples go back to Jerusalem where, as Luke tells us, “they were continually in the temple blessing God.” And Luke begins his sequel, the Acts of the Apostles, with the same scene – Jesus ascending and the disciples staring up in amazement – as if to say, “Well now what?”

Continue reading “Now What? The Church Gets to Work”

The Ascension of our Lord and the Tension of Mid-Week Liturgies

Ascension_from_Vasilyevskiy_chin_(15th_c.,_GTG).jpg

There are holy days in the Church that we always make sure to celebrate on the day itself. Who among us would go to an Ash Wednesday service on a Tuesday morning, or a Maundy Thursday service on Good Friday? There are other feasts that are easy enough to observe precisely because they always fall on a Sunday: Easter and Christ the King spring to mind. And there’s one feast that we mark the night before: in most Protestant congregations in the US, Christmas Eve has become the principle service of Christmas, and few parishes assemble on December 25th.

There exist, though, some feasts that are important to the life of the Church but which are rarely observed on their proper day. Epiphany (the Sixth of January) rarely falls on a Sunday;  Reformation Day (the Thirty-first of October) and All Saints’ (the First of November) face a similar problem.* When these feasts fall on a weekday, they are most often observed the following Sunday.

Then there’s the Ascension. Following Saint Luke’s dating in the Acts of the Apostles, it falls forty days after Easter Sunday. Like the observances in Holy Week, the Ascension is pegged to a specific day of the week: it always falls on a Thursday. As with Epiphany, the Reformation, and All Saints’, and unlike the observances of Holy Week, the Ascension is almost always celebrated the following Sunday. In his brief commentary on Acts 1:1-11, New Testament scholar Brian Peterson writes:

Continue reading “The Ascension of our Lord and the Tension of Mid-Week Liturgies”

An Incarnate Ascension

A Homily for the Ascension of our Lord

Texts: Acts 1:1-11; St. Luke 24:44-53


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus, the Risen Lord, who ascended into heaven and will return again on the last day. Alleluia. Amen.

Forty days after the Resurrection, after having walked the earth – an assurance that the Resurrection is a physical, bodily event, that we too shall be raised not just as disembodied spirits floating in the air but in a real, fleshy way – our Lord ascended. And this too was a physical event; just as he stepped down from heaven and became Incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Virgin Mary, taking on humanity in its fullness, so too did he ascend in his incarnate body.

It must have been quite a sight to behold, the Son of Man taken away on the clouds.

If this were a movie, the music would swell. We’d get tight shots of the apostles’ faces as they watch. John would have a serene look of contentment, Peter would cry a little, Thomas would look on in wonder. And then, just as the score reached its crescendo, Christ would disappear into the clouds and we would have a hard cut to black, a title card, and the credits.

The end.

But this isn’t a movie, and this isn’t the end of the story. Continue reading “An Incarnate Ascension”

Well Now What?

A Homily for the Feast of the Ascension, Transferred

Texts: Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:15-23; St. Luke 24:44-53


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Risen Lord, who has ascended to the right hand of the Father. Amen.

Kimbell_Ascension_Rabbula_Gospels.jpg

Have you ever had one of those moments where you’re not sure what to do? Maybe just after starting a new job, or right after graduation, or you’ve just retired, and you’re not really sure what comes next. A time when you were left a little stunned, a blank expression on your face, with a sense of anxiety just beginning to creep in?

That’s sort of how I picture the disciples after the Ascension: craning their necks, heads tilted back looking into the sky. And one of them – let’s be honest, it’s Peter; it’s always Peter – says, “Well now what?” Continue reading “Well Now What?”

Feast of the Ascension: The Tension of Mid-Week Liturgies

Ascension_from_Vasilyevskiy_chin_(15th_c.,_GTG).jpg

There are holy days in the Church that we always make sure to celebrate on the day itself. Who among us would go to an Ash Wednesday service on a Tuesday morning, or a Maundy Thursday service on Good Friday? There are other feasts that are easy enough to observe precisely because they always fall on a Sunday: Easter and Christ the King spring to mind. And there’s one feast that we mark the night before: in most American congregations, Christmas Eve has become the principle service of Christmas, and few parishes assemble on December 25th.

There exist, though, some feasts that are important to the life of the Church but which are rarely observed on their proper day. Epiphany (the Sixth of January) rarely falls on a Sunday;  Reformation Day (the Thirty-first of October) and All Saints’ (the First of November) face a similar problem.* When these feasts fall on a weekday, they are often observed the following Sunday.

Then there’s the Ascension. Continue reading “Feast of the Ascension: The Tension of Mid-Week Liturgies”