The previous Wednesday I did a lesson with my 4th-5th-6th grade students on the ascension of Jesus. We heard from Acts 1:1-11--ending with the angels' promise to the disciples that Jesus would one day return to earth in the same manner that He left.
While the liturgical church celebrates the ascension, the evangelical church rarely does. In fact, the evangelical church doesn't observe many fixed dates on its calendar besides Christmas and Easter. I think that's a mistake (you can blame it on my Lutheran heritage). We who are Christians have a new way of life. The Christian calendar helps us remember and celebrate our story.
So why is the Ascension important? Basically, the act of the resurrected Jesus going up into heaven affirms that Jesus' home is heaven, not earth. Jesus is God who came down to earth and took on human flesh. His ascension completes the "circle" of His ministry to us, a circle apparent in the song, "Lord I Lift Your Name On High":
You came from heaven to earth to show the way,To illustrate Jesus' going up into heaven, I brought into class some helium balloons. As I was putting the balloons in place before class time, it dawn on me that balloons typically mark happy occasions, but here I am using them to reinforce Jesus' time of leaving us. How often do you use balloons to celebrate someone leaving you?
From the earth to the cross, my debt to pay,
From the cross to the grave, from the grave to the sky,
Lord I lift your name on high.
After our classroom discussion, the kids and I went outside to launch our balloons--and imagine what it must have been like for the disciples to see Jesus slowly disappearing from sight. The balloons flew off quickly to the south, unusual for Kansas because the wind typically blows north.
As the balloons were on the brink of disappearing, one of my students--a kid who comes from a tough background and hardly came to club this year--said to me, "Wouldn't it be neat if on the day that Jesus comes back, he brought with him the balloon I let go, and gave it to me?"
Indeed, that would be neat.