Thought for the Day - Ascension Day (May 21st)

Published by Michael Topple on Thu, 21 May 2020 08:50
Church Without Walls

Thought for the Day - May 21st

‘’Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God’’. (Luke 24:50-53).

On the day of the Ascension Jesus’s followers might understandably have reacted with dismay at him leaving them forty days after his Resurrection. Instead they were filled with great joy. They had hope, hope based on all they had experienced with him and had been taught by him, culminating in his miraculous transportation out of their sight. Today as we celebrate the Ascension, perhaps we could reflect on the nature of hope. It is a topical subject at St Albright’s:  hope was the theme of the first Stanway Café Church 4 All  service on 10th May, when some of our church family shared their thoughts on hope in their own lives. 

During the forty days between his Resurrection and the Ascension, Jesus at various times and in various places talked, walked and ate with his followers, explained everything written about himself in the scriptures, told them about their future mission and reminded them of the imminent arrival of the Holy Spirit. Thus it was a time of further preparation. It was this process which gave the disciples hope for the future and caused them at the Ascension to react with joy. The Ascension marked an ending but also a new beginning, one in which through the Holy Spirit Jesus’ presence would not be limited by time and space.

Paul too emphasises that for followers of Jesus hope is the end result of a process, grounded in experience. In Romans 5: 3-5 he says that tribulation produces patience, and patience experience and experience, hope. There is a solid foundation to hope, faith in action in our lives. It is not a vague wish for happier days. Paul goes on to say that hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.

Our current tribulation in the shape of the Coronavirus and the consequent lockdown challenges us to be patient and embrace change. As with all change, even if it springs from suffering, there is the potential for new experience which can engender hope. Reduction in levels of pollution, healthier modes of getting about and signs of a more cohesive and caring community spirit are well publicised but small changes in our everyday lives are also indicative of hope. In my own experience, lockdown - related telephone conversations have led to a deepening of relationships and immediate neighbours are now looking out for each other as never before. We have more time for each other. So let us look to the future with hope and thankfulness based on the good experiences from our present tribulation rather than dwelling on its losses and sorrows. In the words of the following prayer, Christ’s Ascension is our glory and our hope. 

Prayer

God our Father, make us joyful at the Ascension of your son Jesus Christ. May we follow him into the new creation, for his Ascension is our glory and our hope. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, before your Ascension into heaven you told your apostles to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth upon receiving the Holy Spirit. May we be similarly inspired to spread your Gospel message in word and deed, according to your will for us. 

(based on Catholic Ascension Prayers)

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