Ascension day meditation

Ascension day.

Today.

One of the great feast days of the Church.

But what’s it all about?

I remember at theological college celebrating ascension day by processing out of chapel and having 3 rockets set off.

I must admit it felt a bit naff. A bit confusing. A bit like a poor man’s festival.

Yet its one of the great feast days of the Church.

I noticed on twitter this morning a clergyman going off for the day fishing.

Then you read the account.

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 worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy (Luke 24:50-52)

The supposed place of the Ascension of Jesus in Bethany near JerusalemAt the top of the Mount of Olives is the traditional place of the Ascension, Bethany. The supposed site of the Ascension is marked by a small chapel (run and owned by muslims). Its small and can only contain a few people.

Yet the Ascension is one of the great feast days of the Church.

They lose their Teacher and Rabbi and have yet to receive anyone in His place and yet they return with great joy.

And did He really “go up” to heaven as if heaven is above us?

There is so much more happening in the Ascension than the picture painted in Luke. In the Ascension we see the final consummation of humanity into the God-head.

Jesus takes humanity, our frail broken humanity, and takes it with Him. He does not throw it away. Certainly, its a transformed humanity, but humanity it still is. This is vital in our understanding. No longer is God totally remote and alien. Rather now humanity is raised. Now humanity is made divine.

This bringing of humanity into the Godhead shows that matter matters to God. It is not merely made spiritual. It is not the old docetic heresy that says that matter doesn’t matter that the Spirit of Jesus leaves matter behind.

Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father intervenes for us. Jesus, no longer constrained, is present to everyone who seeks Him everywhere.It means that at our lowest ebb when we believe that we have been forgotten and left by God that we can know that this is not true.

The disciples glimpsed some of this. They were rejoicing because Jesus was alive – more fully than they had ever realised. He promises them yet more of Himself poured out through the power of the Spirit.

The Ascension is the culmination of His incarnation. The Ascension is the day we celebrate humanity’s welcome into the very heart of God. The Ascension is the day that we recognise not only His first going but we look forward to His coming again.

Yet we look forward in a few days to the day of Pentecost and the outpouring of the Spirit and the launch of the Church. But this could not have happened without the Ascension.

The Ascension a poor man’s festival overlooked by many but one of the great feast days of the Church.

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4 comments on “Ascension day meditation

  1. Esther Somerson
    June 3, 2011 at 8:58 pm #

    DId He really go up to Heaven ?!

    You need an experience to show you, or maybe it was a ‘gauntlet’ for debate – of course He did!
    One does not just have to read about it but must test the spirits. Paradise is above us… one can expect miracles..we stop expecting them but Christ many times tells us to expect more than he was able to do before He left us his Holy Spirit.
    Trouble is – if ‘trouble’ is the right word one never again feels totally belonging here on earth after a miracle. I met a lovely Methodist woman and a fabulous Bretheren minister plus attended Christian Woman witness breakfasts shortly after my experience over 20yrs ago and found I was not alone in experiencing a miracle( a relief to meet them.). Perhaps I need to share it with the woman in my church who said to everyone ‘ what about those born again Christians.. they’re a bit strange aren’t they.’

    It must be a great privelege to sit in the garden to work in the sun…green has always been a favourite colour of mine!!! I have now learned what docestism is and who Catalans were. To be honest – there was so much of it I got bored..got the essence of it. Someone told me I should do Theology. Prefer reading the Bible, prayer and listening/talking to interesting people about it.

    Yours sincerely : a strange person!
    P.S I loved the art at the top – that kind of art I do not find boring and it says more than many words.. blest artists to be able to depict the sentiments.. they are so gifted…green again!

  2. Esther Somerson
    June 4, 2011 at 11:00 am #

    …..and Jesus said to this matter, via another matter, ‘look, where do I sit ? At the Father’s right hand ‘… previously a second other matter had said to this matter ….’yes we will all be there sitting on a bench at His right hand, it will be a very long bench. The left has always been seen as something sinister ‘….then Jesus said to this matter, watching her puzzling,losing sleep over it, ‘my love if I am sitting at the right hand of the Father, then at which of My hands is the Father sitting?’ Sincere prayer has shown the matter The answer – equality and THS running through all.

    Zech 3,8 4,9

    ” Matthew is saying quite simply that “although the Jews themselves did not believe it, Jesus was the one whom God had sent; the fact is proven by the correspondence between his life and the Old Testament prophecies.” John Fenton.

  3. Will Cookson
    June 7, 2011 at 7:00 am #

    Esther, sorry I didn’t get back to you.

    I think that it is great to share experiences of all that God has done in your life. We certainly encourage it in our Church – my wish would be to see more people sharing – but people are often too shy.

    Must admit that it is lovely to work in the garden when I can! Not often enough for me but there it is – its still more than many others are able to do!

  4. Esther Somerson
    June 7, 2011 at 6:46 pm #

    Oh, no need apologise, Will – didn’t expect you to reply, most of us have busy lives and sad when people do not have some interests and satisfying careers. It is good to witness and share and hope it does encourage others. As for sharing ‘all’ that God has done in my life – not meaning to be picky with words, I just haven’t – not ALL – and wouldn’t put some in the public domain. I do, however, look forward to what is to come.

    Maybe some readers might do this but for those who don’t : was so gratified and praising of OBL – I do not keep a diary but sometimes record my prayer thoughts on paper and mostly destroy but happened upon a page or two from about 4 yrs ago. How lovely because I saw that God had answered every single question and invocation to THS, not in the way I had asked but He had always answered with love and protection. 1 or 2 points were major life changes, which would affect others too…and here I am to tell of it… lots happening in my new church and very exciting too. Can’t believe He is using me in the way He is – my failing – mustard seed, etc ! Thanks for replying and pray more will share in your church and mine. I’m rather mischevious – deciding which point to tell the woman mentioned in an earlier blog that am ‘born again’…

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