Today is Ascension day, if you have been following the blog my apologies as we skip back to Acts Chapter 1:1-11 to think about what this day means and what it means for us in a COVID 19 world.
Ascension as we follow the reading seems to be all about power and victory – but what does that mean as the death rate has soared and families have been torn apart by loss and grief?
The disciples are hearing words about power that is to be given to them but the power that comes with Ascension is to be given away not hung onto.
Jesus never clung to power. He was not surrounded by public adoration, he trod a difficult path that involved significant sacrifice. We have already seen in our studies of the Acts of the Apostles that the church still grew, despite opposition and suffering. We see that the disciples who seemed selfish and foolhardy were willing to lay down their lives, confident in the victory of Christ.
Ascension is about power and victory – but not as the world sees it. The outcome of life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus is that do not have to be trapped in the despair and disease of our world any longer. It means that there is only one inevitability: the promised return of Jesus
The Christian path is a path of suffering because the path of Jesus was a path of suffering. Not miserable suffering, but a path that is full of the presence of Christ and also the presence of suffering and difficulty
So many have been taken by COVID19 the daily briefing bring their agonies to us direct, yet this need not to be a path of lonely suffering, for the church is a family of witnesses to the reality of Jesus. People staying at home has saved people’s lives, and people have done so much to support communities, foodbanks, neighbours because suffering is healed by being part of community, by supporting one another and for us that means in the name of Jesus Christ.
What next? Well what could be more important than the message Jesus’s followers are left to proclaim?
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
It seems that ascension has set our destination, and our mission to change our world; we are never to despair, we are always to endure, we must not forget to rejoice and remember to celebrate while still patiently enduring suffering – knowing that the victory of Jesus the Christ is certain.
Today sees the beginning of Thy Kingdom Come a time of prayer from Ascension to Pentecost where we pray that more people will come to Jesus – so here is the challenge: think of five people that you want to know Jesus and pray for them – pray that they may know the light his presence and promises sheds on this harsh and difficult world.
I leave you with a hymn as usual, this time from the early 1700s by hymn writer Isaac Watts:
Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
does its successive journeys run,
his kingdom stretch from shore to shore,
till moons shall wax and wane no more.
To him shall endless prayer be made,
and praises throng to crown his head.
His name like sweet perfume shall rise
with every morning sacrifice.
People and realms of every tongue
dwell on his love with sweetest song,
and infant voices shall proclaim
their early blessings on his name.
Blessings abound where’er he reigns:
the prisoners leap to lose their chains,
the weary find eternal rest,
and all who suffer want are blest.
Let every creature rise and bring
the highest honors to our King,
angels descend with songs again,
and earth repeat the loud amen.
Your friend and vicar