A friend of yours says, “You have got to read this book! I’m halfway through it, and it is amazing. The drama, the plot, the unexpected surprises. It really is out of this world . . . but I’ve decided to stop reading it.”
Or you’re in the theater watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The General of the First Order is about to launch “The Array” which you know will destroy all the fighters in space including the General’s fleet—and the lights go on. “That’s all folks,” the usher says. “We’ve decided to call it a night.”
Hard to imagine these scenarios? Maybe. But they’re not that much different from what we Christians do with the greatest story ever told.
We get to the resurrection scene, and then we close the book. The baby is born, dies, rises from the dead . . . and then we are left hanging. The world is turned inside out, death is defeated, but then what? What difference does it make? What is significant about the resurrection?
There is a reason why Scripture doesn’t end with the resurrection. There is a reason why the Christian year doesn’t conclude with Easter. That may be the climax of the story, but we need to hear the conclusion in order to understand the significance of that resurrection event. Without it we are left with a half-baked story. We need the Ascension and Pentecost, followed by the return to our awaiting Christ’s second coming in Advent, in order to get the full story.
This issue is filled with compelling resources and articles that plumb the depths of answering the “So what?” question of the resurrection. The ascension of Christ assures us of Christ’s place in heaven. It assures us that because Christ has risen, we will too. It affirms that the risen Christ is not inactive but continues to rule as our Sovereign Lord. Christ’s sovereign reign, his “session,” has many implications, including for how we preach (see “Preaching under the Session of Christ,” p. 14), for our relationship with creation (“Singing the Sovereignty of Christ” p. 17), and for how we pray, worship, and live our daily life.
And while Christ is absent from us physically, he sent the Holy Spirit to us at Pentecost to be our comforter and guide. The events of Pentecost themselves teach us much about how we are to live between Christ’s resurrection and his second coming (see “Reconciliation and Pentecost,” p. 3) and how we are to worship (“The Power of Language: The Implications of Pentecost for Global Worship,” p. 28).
We may never know how the Star Wars saga will end, but we do know the end of our own stories—that one day we will rise from the dead and live eternally. But until that day, we need the message of Ascension and Pentecost to help us live with hope and boldness in the here and now.
Dear worship planners and pastors, I implore you—this year, do not gloss over or neglect to teach the rest of the story.