Easter 7: Ascension Day (Trans.) 2021
16 May 2021
Acts 1.1-11; Luke 24.44-53
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone

Loving God, you sent your Divine Son to earth in human form, that he might gather up all of humanity and present us to you, faultless, through the King who is above all kings, and who sits at your right hand, enthroned forever. Amen.

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the English word threshold has been in use for a thousand years, and describes the boundary between two different spaces. The most common thresholds are those horizontal pieces of wood, metal, brick, or concrete that we cross over on a daily basis by going from one room to another, or when entering or exiting our homes. Thresholds can also be located between geographical areas, periods of time, and even metaphorical to describe “the places we are at in our lives.”

Prior to crossing over a threshold, we are in an “in between” place, we haven’t left the spot we are standing, and we haven’t crossed over to the new place. Today we are all together in an “in between” place. We stand ‘in between’ the end of the pandemic, and the start of the new normal that will occur once we have left the virus behind and stepped over the threshold to what’s next. We have been living through a strange and unsettling time like none of us has ever experienced before. After navigating life under stress for over a year we now find ourselves with restrictions starting to loosen up. We can be uncertain of what to do with the mask that has been our constant companion. “Is it ok not to wear it when you are far enough away from someone? What about when outside, can we totally take them off and simply put them in our pockets?” The rules are changing and what the new normal will be, we haven’t quite got there yet. Navigating all of this can be tricky.

In our worship today, we find ourselves at a liturgical threshold. We have been in the season of Eastertide for the past 40 days, and are just ten days away from the Feast of Pentecost. In between these high Holy Days slips in another holy day that appears as barely a blip on the Church calendar’s radar. Since it always happens on the Thursday, ten days before Pentecost, it often isn’t even observed; unless it’s transferred to the closest Sunday, like we’re doing. But it’s a highly significant threshold in the life of Jesus and the disciples that we shouldn’t skip over. The author and speaker, Esther de Waal notes:


“A threshold is a sacred thing…But in our fast-paced modern world, this wisdom is often lost on us. She says, “It is important for us to remember the significance of the threshold. While it is certainly true that thresholds mark the end of one thing and the beginning of another, they also act as borders-the places in between, the points of transition.”[1] These transitions can be places of wonder, and transformation.


The Ascension is a liturgical threshold in between Easter and Pentecost, that is worth pausing for. Like the second of two bookends, Ascension marks the conclusion of all of Jesus’ earthly activity and mission. What began with his coming to earth in human form, continues through his experience of human life, in a family, as a son, and a brother, as a student, as a carpenter, as a rabbi and teacher, it is here that the incarnate son experiences life on the human plain. This all culminating in his Passion, where he experienced intense physical, emotional and spiritual suffering, the very abandonment of God, and by his Resurrection defeating evil and death, and buying salvation for the whole world by giving up himself for our sakes.


On Ascension Day, Jesus stands and pauses (on the ground) at a threshold with his disciples, this was the last time they would be together quite like this. For this was the place where Christ gathered up all of his human experience and earthly life and prepared to take all of this up to heaven in bodily form and to fill all things with himself.


The Irish Anglican priest, Herbert O’Driscoll puts it this way:


“Jesus tasted humanity in a thousand ways…heat and cold, hunger and feasting, joy and sorrow, desire and loathing. He carried it to the cross, brought it to the encounter with death, and then, in a mystery beyond words, he lifted it beyond death and swept it to a level of reality beyond description…When Jesus ascended, he took with him part of the humanity of each one of us. To know this about our Lord’s ascension, to realize that in his ascension we ascend, is to capture the essential message of Christian faith…” [2]


Christ’s ascension will happen, Pentecost will come, and a new day will dawn for the Church as the Message is taken from Jerusalem, Samaria, Asia, Europe, to the shores and the boulevards of America.


The pandemic will end, and a new normal will finally begin, and we will remember that the Light of the Gospel has been passed on to us. We, dear friends, stand on the threshold, in between Easter and Pentecost, in between the life that has been, to the New Life we will be given – are you ready?

[1] De Waal, Esther, To Pause At The Threshold (Morehouse Publishing: Harrisburg, PA, 2004)

[2] O’Driscoll, Herbert, Prayers for the Breaking of Bread: Meditations on the Collects of the Church Year, (Cowley Publications: Cambridge and Boston, 1991) pp.90-91