So it was in the Baptist churches in which I was raised. The church calendar had been discarded long ago, tainted with Romanism. And so it is in many contemporary congregations that seek to remove barriers to the unchurched.
But the Ascension can't be jettisoned without losing an essential part of the Christian story. Yes, there is the great triumph of the Resurrection, the victory over sin, death, and the Devil. But the Ascension is not to be conflated with the Resurrection, and to celebrate the former is not in any way to diminish the latter.
Christ "was made known in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, beheld by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in this world, taken up in glory," we are told in 1 Tim. 3:16. The Ascension marks the beginning of the church—and anticipates the Second Coming. It requires us to think in Trinitarian terms, as Christ ascends to sit at the right hand of the Father, where he is our high priest, and promises the Spirit to the church.
In "The Call to be Formed and Transformed by the Spirit of the Ascended Christ" (a chapter in The Unnecessary Pastor: Rediscovering the Call, published by Eerdmans last year), Marva Dawn urges us "to restore Ascension Day as a major church holy day." A good first step would be for each of us to work for such restoration in our congregations.
But that is a first step only. "Ascension," Dawn writes, "is a deep symbol that people ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 63+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more