Jesus' ascension marks a pivotal day for the disciples and for us

Columnist Emily Carson says whether you celebrate on Ascension Day or the following Sunday, reflect on how Jesus' ascension changed all our lives.

Holy Everything — Emily Carson column sig
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Ascension Day is an opportunity to reflect upon the significance of Jesus’ post-resurrection earthly departure. Every year, 40 days after Easter and 10 days before Pentecost, we celebrate Jesus’ ascension into heaven. This year Ascension Day happens on May 26.

This special day always occurs on a Thursday, and since most congregations don’t gather for worship services on Thursdays, it is sometimes honored the following Sunday.

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The first time I ever celebrated Jesus’ ascension was during my pastoral internship year in 2008. I was living and learning among the people of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in the southern Illinois town of Marion. That faith community had a long-standing tradition of gathering every Ascension Day at a park for a time of prayer and singing. We hiked up to a spot with a beautiful lookout and worshiped there together before enjoying a picnic under the shade of the trees.

The story of Jesus’ ascension is described in two places in the Bible — Luke and Acts. These books were very likely written by the same author; Luke is part 1 and Acts is part 2.

At the end of the Gospel of Luke, the author describes, “When Jesus had led the disciples out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven” (Luke 24:50-52). More details about the ascension are mentioned at the beginning of Acts where we read that Jesus was “taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight” (Acts 1:9).


What an experience that must have been for the disciples. Just before he ascended, Jesus blessed and encouraged his friends, and he opened their minds to the deeper meanings of Scripture. Jesus also reminded his friends that they were direct witnesses of incredible things sent out to proclaim the good news. Then he departed with a promise that the power of the Holy Spirit would be with them.

Jesus’ earthly departure marked a time of significant transition for his community. Day to day life would be different for the disciples. They would need to support one another in new ways. They would also need to learn to trust in the Holy Spirit, the mysterious power that Jesus promised would be working through them.

Like the disciples, we, too, face transitions and seasons of change. On Ascension Day, we give thanks that throughout the many plot twists we experience in life, the wisdom of the Holy Spirit remains accessible and steadfast.

Ascension Day is an opportunity to read and share stories from Luke and Acts. It’s also an ideal day for mountain climbing, picnics and time spent outdoors. You may even consider incorporating the Swedish tradition called Gokotta where people wake up at 4 a.m. on Ascension Day to go out into the woods to listen to the birds sing as the sun rises.

Whether you celebrate on Thursday, Sunday or any other day this week, may your remembrances of Jesus’ ascension be full of rejoicing, revelation and curiosity.

"Holy Everything" is a weekly column by Emily Carson. She is a Lutheran pastor. Visit her website .

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