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Thursday, May 14, 2015
Ascension Day traffic in Lancaster County
This family is heading toward the city from Willow Street
Ascension Day traffic in Lancaster City
This couple is driving right through the city on Lime Street, just east of downtown
"Now Is Ascended, My Lord Evermore!"
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"And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God" (Luke 24:50-53).
Yesterday we drove through eastern Lancaster County stopping at several roadside stands and old-order greenhouses. Along the way we saw a common sign, "Closed For Ascension Day". The Amish and old order Mennonite groups will have special services today in commemoration of one of the lesser recognized events in the life of Christ, His ascension back to heaven. These communities of faith in our area place great emphasis on this special day.
There are several very specific events in the life of Christ and the church that we commemorate. At Christmas we celebrate the incarnation and birth of Christ. On Good Friday we focus on His sacrificial death and on Easter His glorious resurrection. On Sunday, May 24, we will observe Pentecost. But for some reason Ascension Day doesn't get nearly as much attention in most church traditions, including mine.
Today's Scripture portion gives us the account of the Ascension found in Luke's Gospel although the more well-known account is found in Acts 1.
This account describes the place of the Ascension: "He led them out as far as Bethany". John 11:18 informs us that "Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off." So during the period following His resurrection Christ travelled to Galilee but was now back near Jerusalem for His great departure from earth.
"He lifted up His hands and blessed them." That must have been a remarkable experience! I can think of several deeply memorable blessings I have received through life. Bill Shibilo and his wife Veda were a great support to us during our years in New England. They were steady and loyal, which any pastor will tell you is a great blessing. About fifteen years ago as Bill's time of departure neared we gathered in a hospital room at New England Medical Center in Boston and sang hymns, read Scripture and prayed. Bill had a respiratory illness and had great difficulty speaking but I will never forget when he mustered enough physical strength to look directly at Brooksyne and me and proclaim, "God bless your ministry." We stay in touch with his wife through these daily messages who remains steadfast in her walk with the Lord.
Likewise I am sure each of the disciples remembered this special blessing all through the remainder of their lives. But I wonder if they had any idea what would happen next?
"While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven." An ancient creedal statement of the early church is found in 1 Timothy 3:16, "He was taken up in glory."
The account in Acts states, "He was taken up before their very eyes." This was important for the disciples to witness and is an essential part of the Biblical record. It reinforces that Jesus Christ is God and that He returned to His home in heaven 40 days after He was resurrected from the dead.
"And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God." This worship experience sets a pattern for the Church. Christ was no longer visible nor was He in their midst physically. At this point their worship was similar to ours.
Peter expressed it this way many years later in his epistle, "Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8).
The Acts account provides this additional detail, "He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven."
These two angels of the Lord dressed in white assured those early disciples that "This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven."
The angels' promise of His return is reinforced and elaborated on throughout the New Testament. Paul calls it the "blessed hope". One day, soon, perhaps even today, this glorious event will take place. In the meanwhile let us faithfully serve the Lord, and look to Him who now sits at the right hand of the Father, until that great day is fully realized!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, though we don't know the day nor the hour, You already have the blessed event of Christ's return on Your divinely appointed calendar. Even as the Son of Man ascended into heaven He will come again, but this time we have the blessed hope of ascending with Him and joining with those of like precious faith. Thank You for loved ones and witnesses of the truth who have repeated this glorious life-transforming message to us over the years preparing our hearts for this major event. May it be the resounding message from our own lips as we anticipate the glorious moment when we will all be changed in the twinkling of an eye. Help us to be faithful and watching eagerly for the blessed hope of Your second coming where those of us on earth will take up eternal residency in heaven. In Your name, Jesus, we pray to You as we look for Your reappearing. Amen.
Here's the more familiar account of Christ's Ascension as recorded in the Book of Acts: "After He said this, He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as He was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. "Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:9-11).
Several days ago we shared some photos of an ordination service we attended last week in Reading Pennsylvania. Here's a photo of my nephew Patrick who was ordained that evening, with his parents, Pat and Laverne Weber. Pat is my older brother.
We had a delightful evening on Saturday at our Women & Girls Banquet. Elva Hurst, a very popular chalk artist and author in our area, drew this serene setting as we listened to her message. Her devotional type messages touch your heart while she draws. This summer she has scheduled nearly 100 tour busses stopping by her barn to watch her chalk art. She takes advantage of these opportunities and shares the gospel through music and words while she draws on her large tablet. Her books are wonderful for those who enjoy Little House on the Prairie type stories, but they're based on her large Mennonite family's upbringing.
For any readers who may have some old tractor tires just laying around here's an idea. These are being used as planters along Donegal Springs Road not far from our home.
Yesterday we stopped by Spooky Nook Produce & Greenhouse, an Amish home business near Mount Joy and observed the extremely well maintained place. Doesn't this photo look like a postcard?
Local readers: Spooky Nook Produce & Greenhouse is located here.
We enjoy their fresh asparagus!
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
Songs with an explicit reference to the ascension are not as common as other events in our Lord's life.
"Glorious Day (Living He loved me)" Video Casting Crowns A single line in this grand old hymn by J. Wilbur Chapman states, "Now is ascended, my Lord evermore!"
"I Cannot Tell" Video Congregational singing by all ages!
"Rejoice The Lord Is King" Video Tommy Walker and the Generations Gospel Choir
The Blessing Challenge A great concept to consider.
David Short, a British reader, commented on yesterday's haircut message with a recollection of a story when Martin Luther got a haircut.
You can watch Elva Hurst, chalk artist at work here.
Finally today: Ester is doing a great job of capturing candid poses such as this one from Sunday as Estella gave thoughtful consideration as to which flower to take home out of an assortment offered to our church ladies on Mother's Day. I know just what she's thinking: "Hmmm, do I want the petunia or the alyssum?" That's a big decision for some of us gardeners.
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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."
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