Ascension & Psalm 24

Today's post: Rev. Julia Fenn shares her thoughts on Psalm 24. Messiah and art by Tim Mietty.

Thursday was Ascension Day – the day we celebrate Jesus’s return to heaven after his physical ministry on earth was completed. His death and resurrection were 40 days prior and Pentecost is a week away. When we think of the things Jesus did for us, we often gloss over the Ascension. It doesn’t seem as important as the other key moments of Jesus’s life: the Incarnation – God becoming human, Jesus’s work teaching and healing, his gruesome death, and his victory over death at the resurrection. But it is. Without the Ascension, Jesus does not send the Spirit to us to teach, encourage, comfort, and guide. Without the Ascension Jesus does not become our Priest – where he physically represents all it is to be human before God’s throne in heaven, interceding for us, mediating the divide between humanity and divinity. Without the Ascension, the redemption of humanity would be incomplete.

So what does this have to do with Psalm 24?

Psalm 24 describes a triumphant King returning victoriously from battle. Ascending the temple mount in Jerusalem and the people are lining the way to celebrate – demanding the doors and gates to the temple be opened to receive their King. Psalm 24 also imagines what it might have been like to be in heaven on Ascension Day. The disciples saw Jesus leave earth, but they did not see him arrive even though we affirm in our creeds that he did. Psalm 24 provides the framework for us to join with the angels in heaven as they celebrate the victorious return of Jesus. As you read this Psalm, picture with me: the whole heavenly host gathered in praise.

They call out to open the gates and the doors for the triumphant King.

They are answered in this call-and -response cheer: Who is this triumphant King?

It is Jesus, he is strong, and mighty, he has defeated the enemy, he is victorious over sin and death!

So open the gates and the doors! The King has returned.

Click HERE to read Psalm 24.

Messiah is an English-language oratorio composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel, with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens from the King James Bible, and from the Coverdale Psalter, the version of the Psalms included with the Book of Common Prayer. It was first performed in Dublin on 13 April 1742 and received its London premiere nearly a year later. After an initially modest public reception, the oratorio gained in popularity, eventually becoming one of the best-known and most frequently performed choral works in Western music. The chorus “Lift Up Your Heads” includes excerpts from Psalm 24.

Art: "Psalm 24: The Earth is the Lord's" by Wellshire staff member Timothy Mietty.

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