Barbara Rossing is professor of New Testament at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.
Each year the Gospel reading for the Seventh Sunday of Easter is taken from Jesus’ great prayer in John 17, the conclusion of his farewell discourse. Jesus invites us into what Raymond Brown describes as a "heavenly family conversation" between himself and God. This prayer, like Jesus’ other prayers (John 11:41-42 and 12:27-28), is meant to be overheard by us.
The preacher faces several challenges in these Ascension texts. How can we present Jesus’ departure from the earth as an occasion for not sorrow but celebration? How to translate the kingship and hierarchical language into imagery that speaks to a world no longer governed by kings and monarchs? Feminist biblical scholars note a third challenge: How can we counter Luke-Acts' use of the Ascension to exert a degree of social control?