50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53 and they were continually in the temple blessing God. – Luke 24:50–53 (NRSV):
Ascension Day is the annual remembrance of Jesus’ return to heaven and his last moments with his disciples. And of course it happened in Bethany. The home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. The place of Jesus’ resurrection of his friend and his anointing for burial by another. Bethany is literally the Cape Canaveral of Christendom. The place of great activity and even greater significance of opening up the final frontier of the church age. In God’s economy, significant movements often happen on the margins. The Bethany’s of the world and not Jerusalem.
John’s gospel in chapter 14 says that Jesus told his disciples he would leave. And as a result he takes up the ministry of reconciliation on behalf of humanity to the Father. The ascension also makes sending the Holy Spirit possible which allows Jesus’ ministry to be universally present. Addition by subtraction at its finest!
Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind ascend, and with him continually dwell, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.