Ascension Day used to be one of the major days people came to church and as a young child it was the only time I can remember the small village school I attended marching us down to the church for a service, which delighted us as we missed our morning lessons, but were back in time for play!
With all the business of Holy week and the festivities of Easter Day there can be a sense that the journey is over and ordinary life can be resumed.
However, Ascension Day acts as a reminder that Christianity is a journey and an ever maturing relationship with a loving God, rather than a static set of rules and rituals. This means our Christian journey, like any relationship, should have moments of fresh discovery, variation and growth.
Once the disciples had got over the shock of Jesus’ death and resurrection, they tryed to go back to their old pattern of life. Mary tried to cling to Jesus and the fishermen went back to their boats. This is normal and healthy behaviour as our minds and emotions try to make sense of all that has happened, and search out the way forward. The danger comes though, when that old life or the old patterns of behaviour become firmly re-established again or too comfortable to leave behind.
Ascension Day reminds us that God has a purpose and plan for each one of us. Plans to bless us and not to harm us, but plans that at times will cause us to let go of our preconceptions and prejudices, to let go of our comforts and even our rules and rituals, so we can prayerfully step out into the new thing God is doing.
On that first Ascension Day, as they walked along with Jesus, the disciples had little idea of what God was planning for them in 10 days time at Pentecost, nor how much their lives and ministries would change. They simply walked along listening to his teaching and puzzling over his disappearance, until angels jogged them back to remembering God’s bigger plan,‘ Why are you gazing blankly at the sky?’
Ascension Day wasn’t the end of the disciples’ journey or the Christian story, it is only part way through God’s plan, Jesus is coming back!
The disciples didn’t know what was next, so took time to meet together, pray, and put things in order, so when Pentecost came they hit the ground running and were not overwhelmed.
Ascension Day can act as the stepping stone where one leaves behind both the despair and euphoria of the Easter season, and the ordinary routines and rituals of everyday life, and begin instead to take extra time to pray and prepare for the next step ahead, always aware that the Holy Spirit will help us, equip us and guide us as we journey on together.
Rev'd Fiona Hall, Team Vicar, St George's