Today’s feast follows the Lukan picture of the exaltation of Jesus. Only Luke has a 40-day schema followed by Pentecost, and while the day is called the Ascension of the Lord, the focus of the readings is on the exaltation of Jesus, who commissions his followers to carry on his mission. The church, like the disciples, is not to stand looking at the sky but is to carry on Jesus’ mission to the ends of the earth.
This appears dramatically in the reading from Ephesians, which begins with the ringing exhortation to the seven unitiesone body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of allthat have motivated ecumenical movements from the beginning.
The ascension of Jesus is the reason that the exalted Jesus, like an enthroned monarch, can dispense gifts. These gifts are then the different offices and ministries given to the church, which Ephesians expresses in an important manner: And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ, until we all attain the unity of faith.
In contrast to some earlier translations, the work of ministry is the mission of all the saints, and the function of the offices, prophets, etc. is to equip them for this work. This section of Ephesians should permeate all discussion of mission and ministry today.