Tonight I attended my first ever Ascension service, and also happened to give the homily at this one. This has caused me to think a lot more about the ascension than I would usually do. The Ascension is not something the churches I have been part of have really ever marked or celebrated; I guess this is something to do with Ascension always being on a Thursday. We celebrated tonight in the cathedral with the Eucharist and a bubble machine …. I would explain, but maybe it will entice more people to come next year!
I was struck that Luke pays little attention to the actual Ascension itself – in 11 verses he devotes 1 and a half to what actually happened. Instead, I think Luke is saying what is far more important is what is said. It’s easy to get into discussion of whether this really happened, what is a cloud, is this symbolic … and if we do that we are in danger of losing the point of all of this.
First, I think it marks a change – Jesus ministry on earth is over and the church’s ministry is to start. First, however, there needs to be a pause while the disciples await the empowering of the Holy Spirit.
Tonight I spoke about pausing, I drew parallels between Alan Sugars apprentice and the Jesus apprentices. Sugars Apprentices wait in fear of being fired by the ominous finger point; the Jesus apprentices on the other hand wait in excitement to be fired by the fire tongues of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.
I think Ascension is all about being ready to wait for the Holy Spirit. It’s above living in the present and not gazing into the clouds of the future. It’s about making ourselves ready to be used by the Holy Spirit as we swap between tasks, whether they be major tasks or normal everyday activities.
It’s amazing to me that this just follows a long line of waiting stuff in the Bible … the wait of Advent, the wait of Lent, and now the wait between Ascension and Pentecost.