While I was talking with someone the other day, she spoke of the “time collapse” of the Christian year. “Every year, Christ is born, then dies, and rises again. The next year he is born, then dies, and rises again. . . .”
Why do we rehearse the entire gospel message year after year? We do it because we are people who forget. We need to be reminded of the truths the Christian year contains. We need to be reminded of the grace of God’s story and of the fact that we are God’s beloved, saved, and redeemed children.
The trouble is that we often emphasize Christmas and Easter while ignoring the rest of the story. Without the Ascension and Pentecost we would be left with some very interesting questions: “Where is Christ now? Is he still on earth? Is he getting older?” Without the Ascension and Pentecost we would be left wondering, “Now what? What is our role as Christians? Under what power and authority do we live our lives?”
It is the Ascension that gives us the courage to say “Jesus is Lord!” in a world that claims lordship over us in both obvious and subtle ways. It is Pentecost that gives us the courage to go out and proclaim the gospel message and to establish God’s kingdom in this world. We can do this only because the Holy Spirit is at work, moving ahead of us, in us, and through us.
Without the Ascension and Pentecost we might as well close our churches, since Christ’s work wouldn’t be complete. We wouldn’t be able to pray to him and be assured that our requests through the power of the Holy Spirit are being presented and perfected by Christ to God the Father. We wouldn’t be reminded to look for the coming Second Advent when Christ returns.
Yet despite the importance of Ascension and Pentecost in the Christian year, in many churches their message is not getting out to the person in the pew who seems to think that Easter is the end of the Christian year, Christ’s story, and the gospel message.
To help us highlight these vital seasons, Erica Schemper has prepared a great worship series (p. 3) and accompanying prayer stations that can be used in conjunction with corporate worship (p. 9). Even if you don’t use the full series, she offers good teaching on the important theological impact of these days. I also encourage you to read the reflections by Dale Cooper (p. 13) and explore the songs for Ascension and Pentecost offered by Joy Engelsman (p. 16). This issue also contains articles on other aspects of our life together, including thoughts on praying for your pastor, resources for weddings and evening worship, and more.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.