Rev. Andrew Cunnington
14th May 2015
Does The Ascension Make a Mountain out of a Molehill

I get the feeling that Ascension Day is being down graded and maybe that’s because we don’t really know what to do with it.

I can remember the time when at my Church of England Secondary School we would be given the day off and I would be able to sing in the choir back at church at a well attended 4pm Evensong, followed by High Tea.

When the day off idea was put a stop to, we had an early morning Communion at school where you would be expected to observe the Eucharist fast and come to school with your stomach empty and after the service there would be hundreds of ham rolls piled up outside the chapel door for us to dive into, and that was seen as a rare old treat.

But now we’re left with little more than an event that doesn’t really connect very easily. Jesus trekking up a mountain side with his disciples and blasting off like a rocket into the sky. Leaving us with two highly questionable conclusions. His Ascension suggests that after all heaven is up there beyond the clouds, and secondly Jesus is not with us, rather, he is gone.

So I have to ask in all seriousness, does the feast of the Ascension literally make a mountain out of a molehill?

Perhaps there are two ways we can make sense of it and the first requires us to forget about the mountain completely and bend our ears low to the ground and listen to the words that were spoke on this day.

For Jesus whispers to his followers in Matthew’s version of the Ascension “Lo! I am with you always to the end of the age, or as I like to think, to the end of time”

And our first reading from Acts tonight indicates that this presence will take the form of the Holy Spirit going with the disciples as they take the good news “to the end of the earth”

So is this why Ascension Day used to be worthy of such acclaim, because it is God’s promise to be with us whatever the time or place we find ourselves in.

One of my most favourite Psalms is No 139 and these inspiring words” Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to heaven, you are there. If I make my bed in the grave, you are there also. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand will guide me and your right hand hold me fast”

It is on this day of Ascension that those beautiful words echo round disciples then and disciples now, so they are not just poetry to us, but practice too.

Time and place become obsessive things to us. Where do I need to be and what time do I need to be there. Is this the right place? Is this the right time? Who is there who can be my wisdom and my grace as we get gathered up into the whirlwind of living.

Hours of the day feature strongly in the Gospels.

At twelve O’clock – he was nailed to the cross. I will be with you till the end of time in your suffering and scarring.

At three O’clock – he breathed his last – I will be with you till the end of time, when all around you feels like death and there is no hope.

At six O’clock ( give or take) women made their way to the tomb early, discovering his body gone for he was risen – I will be with you till the end of time – bringing fresh hope to despairing places, crossing your path when the way is rough.

At nine O’clock the disciples receive the Holy Spirit and take their new found energy out into Jerusalem’s streets – I will be with you till the end of time – giving you confidence, giving you strength, so that in your life you can make a difference. You can be a blessing.

The feat of the Ascension shows us that no matter the hour, the day, the mood, or the place, He has been there. He remains there. He crosses our path with his love and grace.

The minute and the moment we receive the bread and wine, we say is sacramental. The promise of Ascension Day is His presence in all minutes and all moments, meaning that our whole lives are sacramental.

All time and eternity is yours O Lord, we proclaim on Easter morning as the flame is lit on the paschal candle and it spreads like wild fire.

But the mountain is important too. Each time biblical action takes us to a high place, do not read or listen casually, for like as not something momentous will happen.

There are three mountain top experiences that sit literally head and shoulders above the rest as far as I am concerned, and they may help us make sense of the Holy Trinity.

Moses climbed Mount Sinai and there receive the law on tablets of stone from His Father God. The essence of a way to live, where God feels remote and distant, but wants to send down blessings and love upon his closely defined chosen people. That law given by God the Father.

Jesus climbed the Mount of the Beatitudes and there preached about what would make the people blessed. He preached the Sermon on the Mount and showed us how those teaching might look in practice, through the incarnation. Through God the Son.

And here on the Mount of Olives, Luke tells us that Jesus passes this ability to show the love of God, in the most intimate way possible, by the promise he give us on Ascension Day, to give us his Holy Spirit, to mould us in the likeness of God. Through God the Son.

It is on this day then that the essence of Father, Son and Holy Spirit becomes drawn together as one for the church to take hold of.

It is on this day that the promise that God will never desert us, no matter the time or the place, is given its fullest substance.

This makes today a day of great rejoicing and of Holy Festival.

I’m not sure I understood that when school gave us a day off, or we were treated to unlimited ham rolls and sweet tea.

But I think I see now that we have a greater response to make on this day. Hearts and minds. Bodies and souls, which from now on live without fear and are full of rejoicing because of it.

LUKE 24:44-END ACTS 1: 1-11