The Sunday after the Ascension of our Lord is sometimes also called the Expectation Sunday.
This is because the Sunday marks the expectation of the Holy Spirit by the disciples. The expectation is based on the promise of Jesus, even before his death, that when he returned to his Father, he, together with his Father would send the Spirit to indwell those who believe in him, and be with them forever (John 14-16). Subsequently, just before his ascension, he charged his disciples: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised’ which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit’ (Acts 1:4-5).
Hence the disciples of Jesus expected the Holy Spirit as promised and as well looked forward to going up to be with the Lord. Next Sunday, the Pentecost day, we will be marking the anniversary of their receiving the Holy Spirit.
The Lord has promised the Holy Spirit to be in us as we continue to live in the earth. It is the Lord who out of love and concern for us promised the Holy Spirit. Therefore, as he is willing and able, every disciple has every reason to desire and anticipate the gift. We need unction to function. It is with the enablement of the Holy Spirit that we will ultimately go to be with Him where He has gone ahead of us.
This is our hope consequent on the Ascension. The Collect for the day expresses this as it petitions God who exalted his Son to heaven not to leave us comfortless, but to send his Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to the place where Christ is gone before. Paul prayed that a Christian:
may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. (Eph. 1:18-21).
The Ascension of the Lord shows the way which his followers should go – Passion, death, resurrection and eventually, heaven. We should therefore learn to set our minds on the thing above and work towards heaven because that should be our ultimate destination.
The 1st Lesson (Isa. 65:17-end) is a prophecy of the new things the Lord would do as anticipated in the book (42:9; 48:6); which shall be so glorious, that the former state shall not be remembered. The people would no longer have anything to cry about. Diseases and calamities that robbed people of life prematurely would be no more. Terror and danger would be eliminated.
The 2nd Lesson (Rev. 5) portrays the Lamb that was slain saving the situation and inaugurating a new phase of life in the most critical and helpless situation.
No situation is irremediable, including the Nigerian situation. The darker it becomes the nearer it is to dawn. Our hope is in the Lord who can overcome the old order and make all things new. By the mercies of God, it shall be well.
The Venerable Dr Princewill Onyinyechukwu Ireoba, FIMC, CMC
is the Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State. https://ibrucentre.org