The challenge of the message of the ascension is to realize that God's healing and redemption of humanity has begun. Our humanity has been brought into the presence of the glory of the almighty God in Christ's ascension, and by virtue of this all humanity has been validated. For this reason all human beings having been created in the image of God, have had their humanity validated.
Those of us who bear the mark of Christ by virtue of our baptism must continue this ministry of validating the humanity of all people. This has direct implications on how we minister to other people. Poverty, human trafficking and slavery, genocide and all of the other realities that dehumanize people in our world, directly contradict that value and glory that God has bestowed on all people. How can we respond when the problems are so large and complex?
This week we are invited simply to gather. . . as the community of [the] faithful, whoever we may be, and cling to the hope and promise of the risen and ascended Christ, awaiting the giving of the Holy Spirit which will empower and gift God's people to respond to the needs of the world, all to the glory of God. –– Todd E. Johnson
GOSPEL READING: John 17:1-11
Year A (this year, vv 1–11) emphasizes Jesus' prayer for himself and his disciples; Year B (vv 6–19) emphasizes Jesus' prayer for the disciples; and Year C (vv 20–26), what might be called the whole people of God. All three, however, bring together, in glorious though penultimate conclusion, the first reading we all heard on Easter Day, namely that God shows no partiality and that Jesus, ascending to glory on the throne of the cross, is precisely concerned that his disciples live that nonpartiality out (as they will be empowered to do on Pentecost). . . .
Both the prayer and the energy for responding to the prayer are properly the work of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ, work that has been fulfilled for us already. The task of disciples, and of the universal church, is not to effect or confect this, but to live it. –– Amandus J. Derr
FIRST READING: Acts 1:6-14
St. Irenaeus famously wrote in the second century that the glory of God is a person fully alive, or as one translator interpreted, “humanity at full stretch.” Today's texts are about our humanity as much as they are about Christ's divinity. They invite us to consider our glory as well as Christ's. Jesus Christ, fully human and fully divine, has been resurrected and glorified; now we humans by virtue of Christ's ascension have had our humanity glorified as well. To consider the incarnation is to consider the reality of God joining with humanity in Christ. Christ's ascension should not be understood as the separation of Christ's divinity from his humanity, returning each to their appropriate place. Instead, Christ's humanity was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven, and with it all humanity ascended. The glorification of our humanity has begun. –– Todd E. Johnson
EPISTLE READING: 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
In keeping with the thrust of the Epistles –– which is to help the church look to its furthest goals, its ultimate calling –– this passage tells the church to expect struggles and, in the face of them, to rejoice. The church is to endure hardships with humility, casting anxiety on God, for after a time “God of all grace, who has called you into eternal glory in Christ, will restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.”
Amandus J. Derr is senior pastor of St. Peter Lutheran Church (ELCA) in New York City.
Todd E. Johnson is associate professor of worship, theology, and the arts at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California.
Homily Service 41, no. 2 (2007): 172-182.