In May the Church celebrates the curious story of the Ascension, a story of ending and beginning as our Christ rises to the heavens at the close of the Gospels. And the good news of His risen life begins in the Acts of the Apostles, the Letters of the Early Church and the Revelation to John.
As Ascension falls two days after my Installation to the benefice, this seems a fitting episode on which to reflect at this beginning of a new episode of shared Ministry and Ministry amongst the villages of Bansfield Benefice. I hope our thanksgiving for our new beginning together will be an expression of such hopeful enthusiasm as captured through the telling of the day of Ascension.
Each Gospel has its own expression of this Hope filled account. John has Jesus speak enigmatically of ‘Where I am going..’, matching Matthew’s curio ‘I am with you always, to the close of the age.’ Mark has Jesus ‘taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God’, leaving it to Luke to offer us the scene of Ascension ‘While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven’.
Well I’ve not seen any movie show an instructive account of this scene. The Millenium film title ‘Jesus’ has the viewer ascend above the clouds with Jesus looking down on the disciples. But our eye just can’t be convinced and all we picture is a camera carried in a juddering helicopter as its rotor blades batter the caste, trying to keep their eyes open against the wind, rising into the heights. We’re not convinced.
It’s almost like Peter trying to walk over the water to his Christ, or wanting to make three tents to give substance to the Transfiguration, or Mary Magdalene’s holding onto the resurrected form of Christ, to give substance is to change the account.
But our reality is among the substance of our day to day endings and beginnings, how do we convey the revelation of new beginning in this story’s end. Cultures the world over convey hope at the ending of a goodly life by the assurance of being ‘taken up into heaven’. How much more so do we attest to the heavenly realm for one who spoke of His coming from heaven. And here is then the gospel truth, just as for Elijah, for Enoch, just as was spoken of Abraham, Moses and Isaiah, so for Jesus the Christ, Son of the most high God. The Ascension pictures Jesus’ true nature, as angels announced his birth, as God’s Word is heard at his Baptism, as he is joined by Moses and Elijah at his Transfiguration.
Luke’s account of Jesus’ earthly life reveals the promise of His risen life through the Ascension, outward sign of inner spiritual grace. So it is, we who live His risen life, walk this world in hopeful enthusiasm through knowledge of He who is with us to the end of the age.
‘Alleluia, Christ is risen – He is risen indeed Alleluia!’
Yours in Christ
Rev'd Brin Singleton