Archive for the ‘Ascension’ Tag

Faithful Community, Part IV   Leave a comment

Above:   Enoch, by Theophanes the Greek

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Sixth Sunday after Easter, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty God:  your Son Jesus promised that if he was lifted up,

he would draw all men to himself.  Draw us to him by faith,

so that we may live to serve you, and look toward life eternal;

through Jesus Christ the Lord.  Amen.

The Worshipbook–Services and Hymns (1972), 150

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Genesis 5:21-24

Acts 1:1-11

Luke 24:36-53

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Two of the assigned readings for the Feast of the Ascension are predictable; we read the two accounts of the Ascension of Jesus from Luke-Acts.  That is logical, given the occasion.

The reading from Genesis 5 (the assumption of Enoch) fits thematically.

I no more affirm the extremely advanced ages of people in the early chapters of Genesis than I think that Jesus literally ascended.  After all, I know that the cosmos is not three-tiered, with the Earth between the underworld and Heaven.  The story of the Ascension is correct, however, when it insists that Jesus departed bodily, however that happened.  The language of ascension functions as a prose poetry.

Genesis 5:22 tells that Enoch walked with God.  That is the mandate for every human being in every place and at every time.  Not one of us has to attempt to walk alone; God is with us.  We may experience persecution because of our walk with God, but God will remain beside us.  We may lead quiet, even prosperous lives of service; God will be with us then, too.  Circumstances beyond our control will determine much of what we will experience.

Nevertheless, acting in accordance with divine love–living the Golden Rule as nearly as humanly possible–will stir up opposition.  Ironically, many opponents will consider themselves pious followers of God.  We may even be among the opponents of those living according to the Golden Rule.  Each of us has spiritual blind spots, learned and otherwise.

May God cure us such blindness, so that we may serve Him faithfully and support each other in doing so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN AMOS COMENIUS, FATHER OF MODERN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF THE CONSECRATION OF SAMUEL SEABURY, FIRST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROMANIS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Empowered by God, Part VI   1 comment

Above:  Ascension.  Olivet With Clouds, Between 1934 and 1939

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-12383

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The Collect:

Almighty God, your only Son was taken up into heaven and in power intercedes for us.

May we also come into your presence and live forever in your glory;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Acts 1:1-11

Psalm 47

Ephesians 1:15-23

Luke 24:44-53

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The Feast of the Ascension celebrates the enthronement of Jesus as the King of Heaven.  Ascension is an ancient commemoration, one nearly universal in the Church by the 300s.  On some calendars it falls on a Thursday, on the fortieth day of Easter, to be precise.  On other calendars it transfers to the following Sunday.  On still other calendars Ascension is absent, thrown out with the proverbial bath water of Roman Catholic tradition.

For many the rejection of tradition has become a tradition.

The departure of Jesus from this realm placed a great responsibility on the surviving Apostles, whose number did not yet include St. Matthias.  They were to have divine assistance, however.  So they did.  The Apostles’ responsibility to be witnesses of Jesus has passed to we Christians of today.  Fortunately, God’s assistance in fulfilling this mission has never ceased.

People have different abilities and personality types.  I, for example, am an introvert.  People who knock on my door with the intention of converting me always fail.  One reason is that I dislike that interruption when I am at home.  Annoying me is a bad first step.  Besides, I have always been uncomfortable while engaging in excessively extroverted activities for too long.  I will not, therefore, knock on anyone’s door with the intention of evangelizing him or her, but I feel at ease sitting at a computer keyboard.  What I do there can reach people I will never get to meet anyway.  There are many useful roles for introverts in the Church.

Whatever God is calling you, O reader, to do, God also empower you to do.  May you do it, for the glory of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, CHRISTIAN APOLOGIST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN-WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/06/01/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-ascension-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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Christ, Ascended   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Ascension, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE FEAST OF THE ASCENSION AND ASCENSION SUNDAY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended

far above the heavens, that he might fill all things:

Mercifully give us faith to perceive that according to his promise

he abides with his Church on earth, even to the ends of the world;

through the same your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 122

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Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14

Psalm 8 (Ascension Day)

Psalm 29 (Ascension Sunday)

Ephesians 1:15-23

Luke 24:44-53

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The Ascension of Jesus (Acts 1:6-11) is one of those events I file under “You Had to Be There.”  I read the account (not assigned for these occasions, oddly enough) of it as prose poetry.  I do not assume, after all, that Heaven (as God’s abode) is on the other side of the sky and that the cosmos has three tiers, the middle level of which is the Earth.  What I do take literally is that Jesus was physically present at the beginning of the day and gone by the end of that day.  I also notice that the importance of the departure of Jesus for the Apostles was that they had they had to assume their responsibility, with the aid of the Holy Spirit.

The assigned readings, taken together, emphasize the sovereignty of God.  The lesson from Daniel 7 is part of a longer passage.  In a dream are four mighty beasts, representing, in order, the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians, the Medes, the Persians, and the empire of Alexander the Great.  From the latter arise ten horns, representing Seleucid successors of Alexander.  One of these horns is the arrogant and violent Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164 B.C.E.).  “One like a Son of Man,” a heavenly being often identified in Jewish tradition as Michael the Archangel, crushes Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

We know from the passage of time that events did not unfold that way; history did not culminate in the Hasmonean period.  We can, however, affirm the sovereignty of God, a theme prevalent in Psalms 8 and 29 also.  The sovereignty of God is also evident in the resurrection of Jesus.

Various Christian traditions emphasize different aspects of the life of Christ.  Anglicanism, with its incarnational theology, is the church of Christmas.  Roman Catholicism, with its ubiquitous crucifixes, fixates on Good Friday.  The Jesus of Eastern Orthodoxy is the ascended and glorified Jesus in Heaven, as their iconography indicates.  Each emphasis has its virtues, but the ascended and glorified Christ is the version of Jesus to ponder on the Feast of the Ascension.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIULIA VALLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ISAAC HECKER, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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The In-Between Time   1 comment

Above:  Jeremiah Lowered into the Dungeon

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 38:1-13

Psalm 142

Revelation 21:15-21

John 7:32-36

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This is Ascension Sunday.  For this date David Ackerman schedules an interesting set of readings.  The lives of Jeremiah and Jesus are in peril.  Certain officials arrest the prophet.  Other officials seek to arrest Jesus.  One might imagine Jeremiah uttering Psalm 142 while in the muddy pit on the prison grounds.  As Ackerman writes, in Jeremiah 38 we have a story about

a righteous Gentile raising a faithful Jewish prophet from the mud of death to new life.

Beyond the Lectionary (2013), page 60

Opposite the ascension of Jeremiah is the descent of what the Gospel of Matthew usually–not always– called the Kingdom of Heaven (not out of piety but for other theological reasons; see the germane works of Jonathan Pennington) to the earth.

The imagery of the ascension of Jesus and the descent of the Kingdom of God/Heaven comes from a three-tiered cosmology in which the realm of dead is the underworld, God lives above the sky, and we mere mortals reside in the middle.  I know that this cosmology is scientifically inaccurate yet recognize that the ancient world view informs the narrative.   To quote Galileo Galilei, my favorite theologian,

The Bible tells us how to go to Heaven, not how the heavens go.

Thus I interpret the ascension of Jesus and the descent of the Kingdom of God/Heaven as metaphors.  I accept that Jesus, for lack of a better explanation, went home, not necessarily upward.  I suppose that one might file the event under the heading of

You had to be there,

so even the best words prove inadequate to describe the event adequately.  As for Revelation 21, the entire book is replete with imagery, given its genre (apocalyptic writing).  To read the Apocalypse of John literally is to miss to point and to read the text in a manner in which the author did not intend.

Hang in there, the Book of Revelation tells persecuted Christians.  God will win eventually, the last book of the New Testament says, even if the victory follows one’s martyrdom.  The Bible opens with God creating order from chaos then with people ruining paradise.  The sacred anthology concludes with God’s creative destruction of human-made chaos and the restoration of paradise.  We live in the in-between time, with those, who like Jeremiah, long ago, suffer for the sake of righteousness and do not necessarily meet happy ends in this life.  But we must hang in there.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HANS ADOLF BRORSON, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2017/06/14/devotion-for-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter-ackerman/

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The Idol of Public Respectability   1 comment

home

Above:  Odd Fellows Widows’ and Orphans’ Home, Corsicana, Texas, 1910

J149681 U.S. Copyright Office

Copyright deposit; Jno. J. Johnson; 1910

Copyright claimant’s address: Ennis, Tex.

Photographer = John J. Johnson

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-133853

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 1:1-7

Psalm 119:145-176

Mark 12:35-37 or Luke 20:41-47

1 John 2:3-29

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The term “fear of God” should be “awe of God,” for the latter translation conveys the concept accurately.  Certain distractions can draw our attention away from God and the awe thereof.  Among these are suffering (not necessarily a distraction, per Psalm 119, yet a distraction for many), worldly appetites (also not necessarily distractions inherently, but distractions for many), and false teaching (always a distraction).  The issue is idolatry.  An idol is an object, teaching, philosophy, or practice that draws attention and awe away from God.  Many idols for many people are not idols for many other people.  If someone treats something as an idol, it is an idol for that person.

One can seem to be holy and free of idols yet be disingenuous.  In the parallel readings from mark (extended) and Luke Jesus condemns those who put on airs of righteousness yet crave public respectability and devour the property of widows, in violation of the Law of Moses.  The spiritual successors of the scribes Jesus condemned are numerous, unfortunately.  Some of them even have their own television programs.

Public respectability is not a virtue in the Gospel of Luke:

Alas for you when the world speaks well of you!  This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.

–Luke 6:26, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

That saying’s companion is:

Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, then your reward will be great in heaven.  This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

–Luke 6:23, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

This is a devotion for the Feast of the Ascension.  The selection of these lections seems odd, I admit, but one can make the connection.  After the Ascension Jesus was no longer physically present with his Apostles.  Afterward, however, the Holy Spirit descended upon them and empowered them to do much to spread the word of Jesus and to glorify God.  Of the original Apostles (including St. Matthias, who replaced Judas Iscariot) only two did not die as martyrs.  St. John the Evangelist suffered much for God and died of natural causes.  Those Apostles (minus Judas Iscariot) did not crave and did not receive public respectability.  They did, however, glorify God and change the world for the better.

May we resist the idol of public respectability and, by grace, live so as to glorify God and benefit our fellow human beings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN DOBER, MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER; JOHANN LEONHARD DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; AND ANNA SCHINDLER DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDITH CAVELL, NURSE AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENNETH OF SCOTLAND, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT NECTARIUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, ARCHBISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-ascension-year-d/

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The Passed Torch   1 comment

elisha-eliseus

Above:  Elisha

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God of glory, your Son Jesus Christ suffered for us

and ascended to your right hand.

Unite us with Christ and each other in suffering and joy,

that all the world may be drawn into your bountiful presence,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 35

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 2:1-12 (41st Day)

2 Kings 2:13-15 (42nd Day)

Psalm 93 (All Days)

Ephesians 2:1-7 (41st Day)

John 8:21-30 (42nd Day)

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Some Related Posts:

2 Kings 2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/week-of-proper-6-wednesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/proper-8-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/devotion-for-september-4-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Ephesians 2:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-b/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/devotion-for-the-twenty-ninth-and-thirtieth-days-of-lent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/week-of-proper-24-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-24-tuesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/devotion-for-september-1-2-and-3-lcms-daily-lectionary/

John 8:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/26/devotion-for-february-25-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirtieth-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-28-29-and-30-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Your testimonies are very sure,

and holiness adorns your house, O LORD,

forever and forevermore.

–Psalm 93:5, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The account from 2 Kings 2:1-15 is a story of the passing of the torch from Elijah to Elisha.  The transfer of a double portion of the former’s spirit to the latter, per Deuteronomy 21:17, marked Elisha as having the status of an elder son, therefore Elijah’s legitimate successor.  And, as a careful reader of 2 Kings knows well, stories of Elisha’s mighty deeds abound.  Some of these stories resemble incidents from the Gospels, down to a feeding of a multitude (with little food available) and to restoring dead people to life.

Speaking of Jesus, his Ascension passed the torch to his Apostles, some of whose subsequent stories we read in the Acts of the Apostles.  And each Christian generation has passed the torch to the next one.

The task of serving God in a wide variety of circumstances is a challenge–one which we have grace to help us accomplish.  This grace liberates us from spiritual death and other obstacles to glorifying and enjoying God forever.  By grace we can do more  for God’s glory and the benefit of our fellow human beings than we can imagine.  By grace members of previous generations have challenged (and eventually) ended race-based chattel slavery, for example.  That multi-generational task was daunting, but that adjective describes many worthwhile efforts.  Fortunately, many other tasks from God play out within a shorter timeframe.

What, O reader, is God commanding and empowering you to do?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 19, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE NINETEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF LARS OLSEN SKRESFSRUD, LUTHERAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/devotion-for-the-forty-first-and-forty-second-days-of-easter-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Ascension of Jesus as Theological Poetry   1 comment

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Above:  Ascension.  Olivet With Clouds, Between 1934 and 1939

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-12383

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The Collects:

Almighty God, your Son was taken into the heavens

and in your presence intercedes for us.

Receive us and our prayers for all the world,

and in the end bring everything into your glory,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

or

Almighty God, your blessed Son, our Savior Jesus Christ,

ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things.

Mercifully give us faith to trust that, as he promised,

he abides with us on earth to the end of time,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 35

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The Assigned Readings:

Acts 1:1-11

Psalm 47 or 93

Ephesians 1:15-23

Luke 24:44-53

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Some Related Posts:

Acts 1:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/fortieth-day-of-easter-feast-of-the-ascension/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/forty-third-day-of-easter-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/forty-third-day-of-easter-seventh-day-of-easter-year-b/

Ephesians 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/second-sunday-after-christmas-years-a-b-and-c/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/fortieth-day-of-easter-feast-of-the-ascension/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/proper-29-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/week-of-proper-23-thursday-friday-and-saturday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/devotion-for-september-1-2-and-3-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Luke 24:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/fortieth-day-of-easter-feast-of-the-ascension/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/fifth-day-of-easter-thursday-in-easter-week/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/devotion-for-the-twenty-eighth-day-of-lent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/devotion-for-trinity-sunday-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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God reigns over the nations;

God sits upon heaven’s holy throne.

–Psalm 47:8, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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You, O LORD, are Sovereign;

you have put on splendid apparel;

you, O LORD, have put on your apparel

and girded yourself with strength.

–Psalm 93:1, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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I file the Transfiguration, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus in the same category:

Too Marvelous and Mysterious for Words to Describe Adequately.

Something like what accounts describe happened, but one had to be there to grasp the full flavor of the event.  The words we have–the best ones possible–impart tantalizing hints of that full reality.  Thus may we not be so literal-minded as to discourage healthy religious imagination.

In the Ascension Jesus returned to God, assumed in our Lord’s culture to live above the sky.  Thus his return was metaphorically an ascension.  I have no idea how the actual mechanics worked, but they are unimportant anyway.  The mystery of clouds, long associated with God since at least the Book of Exodus, is beautiful; I have no desire to quench it.  The number forty–also a metaphor–recalls forty days of the Great Flood in Genesis, forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness, about forty years of King David’s reign, forty years in a generation, et cetera.  The number indicates a significant period of time, not necessarily more than thirty-nine and less than forty-one.

The Ascension accounts invite us to think like poets, not writers of historical accounts or technical manuals.  They tell us that Jesus is back in Heaven and that he will return someday.  They set the stage for another event in the

Too Marvelous and Mysterious for Words to Describe Adequately

category:  Pentecost.  They tell us that God is with us spiritually yet not physically, as God once was, and indicate that we have great responsibilities.

May we be good and faithful servants of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 19, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE NINETEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF LARS OLSEN SKRESFSRUD, LUTHERAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/devotion-for-the-fortieth-day-of-easter-the-feast-of-the-ascension-years-a-b-and-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted January 20, 2014 by neatnik2009 in Acts of the Apostles 1, Ephesians 1, Luke 24, Psalm 47, Psalm 93

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