Sermon for Sunday before Ascension
Thursday sees us celebrate Ascension Day.
When I was at school we always had a day off on this day but now even the church seems to walk light over anything that happens mid-week!
Having said that let us examine what we may be feeling as Easter once again comes to a conclusion.
Last week at St Magnus we were invited by our children to think of things which came to our mind when thinking of Easter and the events recorded around that time. Someone had written, and drawn a picture in fact, of the time Thomas was invited to touch Jesus.
I remembered the time Jesus told Mary “do not touch” !!
Why did Jesus give two apparently opposite instructions to his disciples when they encountered Easter?
Well in fact I had got it wrong! Well missed the point in fact.
Thomas was being invited to confirm something and Mary was being told that she could no longer “hold on to the old way of knowing Jesus”
For Thomas touching was confirmation and it led to him making a huge proclamation of Faith, For Mary not clinging on to the old ways enabled her response to be going out and proclaiming that Jesus was with them all in a new and exciting way.
Ascension is another way of expressing this for all of us in the church. Ascension tells us That “Jesus is”, in the words of the Eucharistic Prayer, “with us now in every place for ever”
It is perhaps also saying that this presence is not some airy fairy sort of feeling , this presence has been described throughout church history as a real presence and as in the experience of Thomas one that can indeed be felt and touched. We can all recognise him in the breaking of bread, this is something we also do together.
In our reading from the Acts of the Apostles today we hear that magic word “we” again. The whole of the passage speaks of we being called, we hearing God, and we doing things.
I do not think there is anywhere else in the New Testament where we get the first person plural being used in this way.
We are the body of Christ, The Christian faith is a corporate (bodily) experience. The response of all the disciples of the resurrection was to share it, not to hide it or be embarrassed by it.
In the book of Revelation today God himself is the Temple, and God himself is the city’s light. We see the nations gathered to this and even perhaps cleansed by it.
Johns Gospel also has the third person plural being used but this time it is the image of God himself that is a “we”.
Richard Rohr points out something that I know others have found interesting,
“If the Trinity reveals that God is relationship itself, then the goal of the spiritual journey is to discover and move toward connectedness on ever new levels. The contemplative mind enjoys union on all levels. We may begin by making little connections with other people and with nature and animals, then grow into deeper connectedness with people. Finally we can experience full connectedness as union with God. Remember, how you do anything is how you do everything. Without connectedness and communion, we don’t exist fully as our truest selves. Becoming who we really are is a matter of learning how to become more and more deeply connected. No one can possibly go to heaven alone–or it would not be heaven.”
We see and experience God as “we”, we see and believe the church to be a “we”. It is in the we that we more fully understand the self, and it is certainly in the we that we gain support for the self. The self alone is lonely and unloved; the self alone is both insignificant and insecure.
The only time perhaps we should think of the singular is when we are able to sing, “we are one in the Spirit”. Here we find Christ and here we find peace and fulfillment.
Note: The Lord’s prayer is also a we prayer… try saying it as an I prayers and it loses most of its meaning.