Today is the day we remember the Ascension — when Jesus, after his resurrection, left earthly life to return to God the Father.
Readings from the Revised Common Lectionary for this coming Sunday
Between resurrection and ascension, Jesus spent over a month with his people, “speaking about the kingdom of God,” as he always did (Acts 1:3). N. T. Wright has written a lot about the kingdom and what it means. I am reading his Simply Jesus at the moment, for one example. The gist is that Israel was still waiting for the end of their exile; they were in the land, they had a Temple, but it did not seem that God had returned to dwell among them. What’s more, they were still ruled by foreigners. Jesus came into this situation speaking as one with authority to announce that God’s kingdom was at hand. Even at this point, after all the parables and sermons and conversations about the kingdom, some asked, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) We still don’t know exactly how the kingdom is to come, exactly how to anticipate and implement it now.
The Psalm mentions the nations — in the beginning as being subdued, in the middle as being subject to God’s kingship, and in the end as assembling with the Jewish people. All along in the story of Israel, God has been known as sovereign over all the earth, including all people and nations. What has been a bit muddled is what God’s sovereignty over the nations would look like — conquest? or adoption? Some passages speak one way, some the other way. I suppose in a way we can see it as both. God conquers not through violence or coercion, but through self-sacrificial love, the undoing of evil, the removal of sin and falsehood, the making available of reconciliation and new life.
The Ephesians passage is about the kingdom of God and our growing into it.
The end of Luke, not surprisingly since Luke authored both, basically echoes the beginning of Acts.