Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Ascension of our Lord

Fifth day of the sixth week after Easter.  Read this week's lectionary readings here.

The Revised Common Lectionary often includes alternate readings.  The idea is that churches can select which readings they want.  Sometimes this is as simple as a choice between an Old Testament reading that goes with the Gospel reading, or an Old Testament reading that follows a program of reading through the Old Testament roughly in order, called lectio continuo.  Sometimes there are alternate choices of Psalms to read.  Sometimes there are several complex choices.

As an individual, I try to just read all the readings for each day, including each choice.

For Ascension Day, I am glad to have read both Psalms.  I would never have noticed how well these two Psalms (47 and 93) go with the Ascension on my own.  It talks about how the Lord has "gone up" to sit on His throne and reign.  In the context of just reading about the Old Testament, I would have found that exciting.  In the context of reading it in conjunction with the New Testament, suddenly the passage appears to be about Jesus Christ!

47:5 God has ascended with a shout, The Lord, with the sound of a trumpet.

I don't know if there was a literal trumpet at the ascension, but the angels said He will come back in the same way as He ascended, and in I Thessalonians we learn there will be a trumpet sound.

7-8 For God is the King of all the earth ... God reigns over the nations, God sits on His holy throne.

That's Jesus.  The one that Thomas proclaimed to be "my Lord and my God!" in the Gospel of John.  The divine Messiah "whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting" (Micah 5:2).  "Thy throne is established from of old; Thou art from everlasting." (Psalm 93:2)

God was the original King of Israel, you know.  Gideon (Jerubbaal) knew this and rejected a chance to be king (Judges 8:22-23) .  Samuel knew this and rebuked Israel for requesting a human king (I Samuel 8:7; 10:17-19; and all of chapter 12).  But God permitted their foolishness to go forward, and they were given a human king, and later a dynasty of human kings through David.  But in the person of Jesus Christ, the son of David, finally God has returned to His throne.

At His ascension, as He goes up to the Father to receive His throne, all that has been witnessed about Him has been fulfilled: "Thy testimonies are fully confirmed; Holiness befits Thy house, O Lord, forevermore." (Psalm 93:5)  The Lord reigns and is clothed with majesty, and the earth is firmly established under His rule (93:1) and thus His kingdom will never be shaken.

So "Clap your hands, all peoples; Shout to God with the voice of joy. ... Sing praises to God, sing praises; Sing praises to our King, sing praises." (47:1, 6)  Let's assemble (verse 9) and have a coronation celebration!

And amazingly enough, we will reign with Him (II Timothy 2:12).  So read 47:3 and see how our Lord delights to honor us: "He subdues peoples under us, And nations under our feet."

By the way, again I recommend the Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood's sung Psalms.  I have been listening to Psalms 47 and 93 for over a week now which gave me a lot of time to think about how they relate to the other readings today.

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