The feast of the Ascension marks a crucial moment of transition for the followers of Jesus. Up until this point they had Jesus with them.
“… for forty days Jesus had continued to appear to them and tell them about the kingdom of God.” (Acts of the Apostles 1.3)
They had learnt from everything …
“Jesus had done and taught from the beginning until the day he gave his instructions to the apostles he had chosen.” (Acts of the Apostles 1.1-2)
But from this point on, they had to continue on without him. They were charged with continuing Jesus’ life-giving mission of hope, love and peace, and put into practice everything they had learnt.
The angels, in the opening passage of Acts of the Apostles (1.11), challenge the apostles after the Ascension, “Why are you standing here looking into the sky?” Your old world has gone, they seem to saying. Move on. Find a new way of doing things; a new way of being.
The Church ,and those of us who have inherited the same challenge given to this small group of apostles so many years ago, have recently experienced a similar moment of transition. With the closing of our churches and our inability to gather physically as a community, we have, like the early follower of Jesus, been scattered to our own unique part of the world.
We could be tempted to, like the apostles did, look nostalgically back to what once was. But this past way of doing things is no longer our reality. Like the earliest followers of Jesus, we have been asked to find new ways of sharing Christ’s vision of the Kingdom to our own unique part of the world in which we individually find ourselves.
The Feast of the Ascension does not mark the end of the story, as it is used to conclude the Gospel of Luke. Rather, it is the beginning of a new story, a second chapter,as the author of The Acts of The Apostles uses it.
But in this chapter, we become the central characters of the story. It is now our turn to move beyond our churches and our traditional places of gathering, and be the presence of Christ in our words and actions to people where we find them and as we find them.
We’ve heard all the stories of how Jesus lived a life of compassion and peace, acceptance and forgiveness of everyone as he found them. The Coronavirus has challenged us to renew our commitment to embody this eternal message of life and hope in new and exciting ways.