1 In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2 until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 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.” 9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 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.”
Churches that follow the Christian Year will be either observing the Seventh Sunday of Easter or the day of Ascension (which does not fall on Sunday). In either case the first reading comes from Acts 1. The text for Ascension is the first eleven verses, while the Seventh Sunday texts come from Acts 1:15-26, which contains the call of Matthias to replace Judas Iscariot as the twelfth Apostle. The Matthias story is an intriguing one, but it is here in verse 8 of Acts 1 that the foundation for the Book of Acts is laid. So, I will address the first reading for the Day of Ascension.
Luke invites us to imagine gathering with Jesus after forty days of post-Easter appearances for final instructions prior to Jesus’ physical departure from the disciples, which opens a new phase of Luke’s Gospel story. Chapter one of the Book of Acts marks a point of transition from Jesus’ earthly ministry to the Spirit-empowered mission of the church. The message for this moment in time is to “wait.” Now is the time for the Spirit of to come down upon the believers, so that they might bear witness to the Gospel, from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. While it was good to be with Jesus in the flesh, it is time to leave the womb and enter the world, bearing the message of salvation.