25th May 2017
Revd. Cheryl Collins
Ascension Day can get lost in the middle of the week. Blink and you miss it and the next thing you know, it’s Pentecost as it will be next week. In an age when the geographical location of God is no longer so obviously above, the idea of the Ascension can seem like a bit of an embarrassment. What is the point of it?
For me the significance lies not just in Christ ascending, but in the two angels who at the beginning of Acts ask the disciples who are still staring upwards open mouthed why they are standing looking up into the sky? What do they expect to achieve by it? A good question and the chastened disciples hasten back to Jerusalem to discover as we shall be reminded next week that, far from leaving them, the Spirit of God was to bring Jesus to them in a new and more powerful way. Their immediate response was to get up, go out and share the good news.
Ascension then points us away from focusing too much on our relationship with Jesus to the detriment of our relationships with the rest of the world. As John puts it how can we love the God whom we cannot see if we are incapable of loving the brother or sister there in front of us. Faith in Jesus Christ invites into a new relationship not just with God but with each other.
In the Easter stories the disciples are understandably focused upon the person of Jesus, upon the physical reality of his risen body. It is as if the light of the risen Christ both transfixes and dazzles them. But now the light of Christ is not what we see, but what we see by. We move from seeing Christ to seeing through Christ’s eyes. Through the words of the angels we are directed back to the world, which God loves so much. And now our commitment to Christ is to be reflected in our commitment to the world, which Christ has saved. Jesus is the power in us, setting us free to love the world as he loves us.
In practice, this means that nothing in the world that God has made: no person, no thing, is too little or mean to deserve our attention. There are no surplus people, and indeed no surplus creation.
So, the ascension becomes the point at which the work of Christ becomes our work- we are to carry on, not where he left off, because he works through us, but quite literally in the same spirit.
But just as the ascension anchors us more firmly to the world in which we were born and in which we will die, it also reminds us that there’s another country to which we belong. For our life is hid with Christ in God, and as the outward pattern of our lives happens on the surface so the spiritual pattern is being shaped by the way we let the spirit of God work in us, both in our work in the world and also in re-shaping us into the people God created us to be.
For in the risen Christ humanity is glorified, Jesus doesn’t lose his humanity when he becomes the risen Christ, nor is his humanity subsumed into his divinity even when he ascends into glory. Instead the presence of his humanity right at the very heart of God becomes the promise of our place in the life of God through our incorporation into him.
The ascension of Jesus demonstrates God’s faithfulness to us and gives us renewed faith in God’s ultimate purposes for us. It invites us to lift up our hearts in worship and praise and adoration for what God has already done for us and for what God promises to do in the future of which this is the pledge.
As we lift up our hearts let us pledge ourselves anew to the service of Christ in the world and to the shaping of our lives by his spirit for his purpose.