He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
Once again today, as we look at the Ascension of Jesus, we are drawn to words. But along with the words we are given explanation of them by Jesus and guidance on understanding them. ‘Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.’ We are taken one step further as we now have something visual to interpret. ‘While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven.’
In every sense as 21st Century Christians we find ourselves in an in-between zone. We are people who live in space and time with our feet on the ground, while recognising that there is more than ‘this’.
We are also, in Christ, redeemed people who know eternal truths and have our eyes set on the Kingdom.
Normally we like to know where we are. We enjoy that stability of at least being able to convince ourselves that we are in control. This page of history that is being written now, today, is our current living state. Many are feeling somewhat short of any sense of security. Never mind security for tomorrow; families and single people, those with some wealth and those with none, from our youngest children to our oldest members of our communities, all are wondering what next as we live through this in-between zone.
Our reading may help us to stop putting our sense of security in things that we have influence over and allow us to understand better that God’s underpinning is the only security that we have, or that is worth having.
The other day when on a conference call with some minister colleagues it was said that this moment in time was more of an Exodus than an Exile. For most of us ‘Exodus’ is a ‘going out’, being on a journey that will lead to a different place. Whilst Exile is more about being away from the normal for a while before returning to the same place from where you set off. I think in the main I go along with that but there also that tensions of taken with you to the new place that which is of value and worth and dear to you. In essence taking with you who you are as a people. Therefor in both things there is a going out and also a coming in. Perhaps we could and should, speak of ‘coming into’ the wilderness where the relationship with God is strengthened and a people’s identity is formed. Maybe it is not so much about the leaving but more about the arriving, although leaving has to happen, if we don’t leave somewhere we will never arrive anywhere. Across the generations many have been fearful of all and any change, whether that be journeying out of the comfort zones or journeying into those unknown as yet unseen new places. This is equally true of life’s journey in general terms but increasingly as we journey further through this pandemic I am tying more threads onto the tapestry of a faith journey too. Over the past few weeks I have been reassured greatly of God’s presence with us in all of this and how his word has a place in this season of change and this in-between zone we are witnesses to.
In our going out there is always also a coming in. Coming in to another realm or zone or environment.
We were taken into virus lockdown but there are plans being made that will lead us out of lockdown.
We go out of the darkness and come into light. We go out of the cold and into the warmth.
We go out of the house and into the street. Jesus is taken out of the physical world, as he is taken from them but in that taking out so too Jesus is taken in, into his Eternal Home of Heaven, were once more all of us will be at home. I read a story the other day about a woman who as a result of the virus was facing financial hardship. “I’ll just have to battle my way through it” she said. A friend suggested she should speak to a debt advisor. “Oh I am a survivor I don’t need others to fight my battles” she declared.
Another friend added “a member of the local life-boat crew once observed that most of the survivors he knew were folk who grabbed a lifeline when it was thrown rather than deciding to keep swimming!”
Living in an in-between zone with our feet on the ground, there is more than ‘this’.
In Christ we are a redeemed people who know eternal truths and have our eyes set on the Kingdom.