Apparently Rome is thinking of ditching having Ascension Day on Ascension Day and moving the obligation to the Sunday that follows, the Sunday AFTER the Ascension. Officials fear that unless the change is made, nobody will attend. “Church officials in favor of a change contend that pressures of modern life have made it increasingly hard for people to keep up with religious obligations during the week.” But that is surely the issue, isn't it? The same folks who cannot get to Ascension Day cannot find the time for Sunday either. We cannot beat up Rome on this since many Lutherans have already beaten them to the punch on this one.
It is not that we have some great and profound problem here. It is a matter of priorities. Let us be honest. It is not the time or day but the fact that many of us Christians have put other things before the things of God and His house. It is not confined to Ascension Day worship but extends to reading Scripture, finding time to pray, serving in ways that fit our gifts for God's purpose and for His glory, supporting the work of the Kingdom with tithes and offerings, etc...
Will the world fall apart if Ascension Day or Epiphany are forgotten (unless they fall on a Sunday)? Probably not. But will the work of the Kingdom be magnified by this loss -- of course not! We are under radical pressure to give people a break from Sundays, from holy days that don't fall on Sundays, from their work for the Kingdom within the life of the Church, and from their support of this work with stretched budgets and many priorities. Yet when we constantly minimize the demands upon us from the church side of things, the signal we send to them, and, perhaps more importantly, to the world, is that none of this is all that important. So what is next? Eliminating Advent or Lenten or Holy Week services? Fixing Easter to a calendar date from its floating date? Fixing Christmas to a specific day of the week to support commerce, travel, and family? You name it. The proposals have been floated.
As for me, I am convinced the answer does not lie in trying to reduce the burdens of the faith (from worship to Bible study to prayer to witness to service). Perhaps we should jump the distance and mail people a communion cup hermetically sealed with a crumb of cracker and some Welch's and let them believe what they will about it all while they wake up at their favorite time and tune into a podcast of a service while lifting their private communion set up as words stream across the digital divide and then they can fall back asleep or head out to do what they find meaningful. Surely God will be glorified. Because what makes us happy is what makes Him happy, right? Yeah.... riiiiight!
The average American’s life is compartmentalized. There is the work or school compartment and the hobby compartment and the favorite sports team compartment among others. We’re taught from an early age to divvy up our 168 hours carefully and fit it all in. Think of all the extracurricular activities that vie for a piece of our time and tend to elbow out church year feasts and festivals. When people (even Christian people) have the luxury of many options, they will vote with their feet running away from a routine message behind church doors and in the direction of other more immediate pursuits of higher priority. To some, church is in one compartment among many. To some, church is a Sunday happening not to be confused with Netflix night or company softball night. Church, for too many, is all too often optional. If things get too hectic church is often the first to go as in some shortsighted downsizing. After all, the church will be waiting with open arms when it becomes quite convenient again. And that is how many who call themselves Christian thank, praise, serve and obey the living God who holds their lives in His hand.
You will also see that many LCMS, WELS, ELS churches are dropping Maundy Thursday services as well.
Though curious in the United States your are more likely to have a Thanksgiving Services than an Ascension day service.
What’s amazing is that there are still some employers that recognize Good Friday as a holiday and it is a purely Christian holiday! How does that happen in this day and age? Remarkable.
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