I am writing this on the Feast of the Ascension, which is always the Thursday before the last Sunday of Eastertide, 40 days after Easter, 10 days before the Feast of Pentecost. It’s a major feast of the church, on par with Easter, All Saints’ Day, and so on, but since it falls on a weekday, few churches “keep the feast” on the day itself. So, this Sunday, the seventh Sunday of Eastertide, we will hear the readings of the Ascension.
Now, I’ll be honest, this is a strange feast. I think we all understand Christmas as the Feast of God joining us in Jesus, Easter as the Feast of the Resurrection, Pentecost as the coming of the Holy Spirit, and All Saints when we remember all who have gone ahead, but the Ascension? Well, it’s kind of weird, Jesus is . . . lifted up? Flies away? Disappears?
There are lots of icons, paintings, and stained glass depictions of the Ascension, and they are all weird, but my favorite are those that show everyone looking up at clouds that have two little feet dangling from them—Jesus stuck between heaven and earth, back when we assumed heaven was “up.” Those images can seem funny to we modern folks who know how the universe works and that there is not so much an “up” as there is an “around” and we’re surrounded by galaxies and the universe, not heaven in the clouds.
But the longing is the same. We look towards God, we catch glimpses, we long towards God, and sometimes we wonder where God has gone. All those years ago Jesus ascended and for 10 days his followers, the world, were left alone until the Holy Spirit arrived on Pentecost.
So much of our lives are lived in the “between time”—between being certain of God’s presence and then waiting for God to act, between the promises of God in scripture and the ways of the world. But Jesus promised before he ascended to his Father that he would not leave us comfortless, and we know that the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives and in the world.
See you in church!