Today, forty days after Easter, we come to the holy day of the Ascension. In the book of Acts we read that Jesus appeared for 40 days and then this:
“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. 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.” Acts 1:6-11 NRSV
How do we say goodbye?
Ascension Day is one of the principle holy days of the church year (along with Easter Day, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, Christmas Day and Epiphany). These days pass more or less unnoticed by watered-down Protestants like us. Only when the culture provides some commercial muscle (Christmas) or seasonal agreement (Easter) do we feel that our Christian festivals are special days.
The meaning inside of Ascension Day, to my mind at least, is farewell. I’m leaving you. The world will not be the same again. How do we say goodbye to people, things, places we love? As Jesus leaves he blesses his disciples. A blessing is like a parting word and an important part of Christian devotion.