Eastertide draws to a close with significant events that constitute the Church and establish how we will live in the resurrected life of Christ until his coming again. The next three Sundays we will remember and relive these events. This Sunday, the Seventh Sunday after Easter, recalls Ascension Day, which was Thursday of this week. Next Sunday will be the Day of Pentecost, and the following Sunday will be Trinity Sunday. Then comes the long season of ordinary time after Pentecost.
Our collect for the day reminds us of Jesus’ ascension to the Father—“you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven”—even as it looks forward to the Day of Pentecost—“do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us”—and anticipates our own ultimate gathering to God in the unity of the Trinity—“exalt us to that place where our Savior Jesus Christ has gone before.”
The reading from the Acts of the Apostles carries us through the events of the days following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, as the disciples, under Peter’s leadership, reorganize themselves to carry out the mission Jesus has entrusted to them. Part of their first business is to choose a twelfth disciple to replace the traitor Judas Iscariot. This person must be one from among those who followed Jesus during his time of ministry on earth. Two candidates are presented, and following ancient religious custom, the disciples entrust the choice to the Lord’s will by casting lots. The lot fell on Matthias, who then joined the other eleven and is never heard from again. We can only assume that Matthias fulfilled his duty faithfully; he played his part by offering himself for serve with the disciples as a witness to Jesus’ resurrection.
The epistle lesson from I John is an appeal to the young Church to keep the true faith, which is based not only on human testimony but also on God’s. This is the testimony of God: “God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.” The life we continue to live in this “in-between” time after the ascension and before Christ’s coming again should be spent in keeping the Lord’s teaching so that, in the words of our Psalm this week, we can be “like trees planted by streams of water, bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither.”
Jesus prays for his disciples in our gospel lesson from John, interceding for them (and us) with the Father, asking that God will make us one, as the Son and the Father are one. Jesus here anticipates his coming to the Father in the Ascension, and he acknowledges that we, his followers, will remain in the world. While Jesus was here, he protected and guarded his loved ones from evil. After Jesus has returned to the Father, he asks that his Father will take on that protection.
In our unity, in our community, bound together by the love of Jesus Christ, we are one—and we live in God’s protective care. We are not without comfort; the Holy Spirit strengthens us. We live in the world joyfully and obediently as we await the coming of God’s Kingdom while sharing its Good News with everyone we meet.