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Forward Today: Don’t look for a magic elevator

Dear friends in Christ,

Tomorrow is Ascension Day. It’s one of the Principal Feasts of our church right along with Easter and Christmas, and most churches won’t even celebrate it. It’s a pity. Ascension Day is worth celebrating for lots of reasons, and not just because our prayer book tells us to.

On Ascension Day, we celebrate the day that Jesus left us to carry on his earthly ministry. As he was departing, he blessed his followers to carry on. Instead of sorrow, they were filled with great joy.

I think Jesus blesses us, too. Jesus trusts that you and I will carry on his earthly ministry of proclaiming the kingdom, teaching, healing, truth-telling, and reconciliation. We should be filled with joy at the honor to do this work.

So why don’t we celebrate Ascension Day? I think people get hung up on the physics of it. Too many bad teachers have undercut the faith by saying this feast day is an intellectual embarrassment, an old-school way of looking at the world. Jesus can’t go up, they say, because heaven isn’t really “up”.

So don’t look for a magic elevator. To do so misses the point of this day. It’s all about Jesus trusting his followers to carry on, and that includes us. It’s all about joy. It’s all about the promise of the Holy Spirit.

If your church isn’t celebrating Ascension Day, find one online. Or you can at least say prayers of the day on the Forward Movement prayer site.

A blessed and joyous Ascension Day to you.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director



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Forward Today: Ascension Day


Why is Ascension Day, a critical moment in our Church calendar, so often ignored or dismissed? In this week’s edition of our weekly newsletter, Scott considers this day that we sometimes “reduce to special effects,” and what important lessons it can teach us.

Dear friends in Christ, ScottBlog

Today is Ascension Day, the oft-neglected Principal Feast. I’ve heard people dismiss Ascension Day as quaint, if not pointless. After all, this thinking goes, we know that science doesn’t work that way. Never mind that we’re talking about Jesus after the resurrection. That is, the non-zombie back-from-the-dead defying-every-law-of-science Jesus. But we reduce Ascension Day to special effects, and then they become merely a distraction.

When I say the special effects are a distraction, what I really mean is that it’s the wrong way to frame the question. The right question is not how, but why? Several years ago, I read a meditation by, I think, Sam Portaro, that highlighted the blessing aspect of Ascension Day. Jesus offered a blessing that day in at least two ways. First, he lifted his hands and blessed them. Even more than this, his very departure is a kind of blessing. You see, when Jesus left his followers, he showed a great deal of trust. Jesus’ departure demonstrated that he trusted them–and us–to continue his ministry. Jesus trusts us. And trust is a blessing.

Perhaps the point of Ascension Day is that the burden of ministry shifts to us to carry on Christ’s work, equipped and inspired by the Holy Spirit. We can’t do this on our own, of course, but by God’s grace we can.

When we celebrate Ascension Day, we are not celebrating special effects or dramatic departures. Rather, today we are celebrating the fact that Jesus has given us the gift of trust and the joys of carrying on his ministry.

Yours faithfully,

Scott Gunn
Executive Director

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