Feast of the Ascension - Eucharist
The Dean - The Very Revd Andrew Nunn
Acts 1.4-11, 12-14 ; Daniel 7.9-14; Ephesians 1.15-23; Luke 24.44-53
It’s not an easy lesson to learn, this whole business of staying put
I have the reputation of always travelling, here, there and everywhere and whilst I always object when people say to me, ‘You’re always off somewhere’ deep down I know that there’s some truth in it. It’s not that I’ve got itchy feet, it’s just that I like being out there, travelling, being a pilgrim, seeing new things, meeting new people. But we’ve all had to learn to stay put over these last nine weeks of lockdown, to stay at home, me included.
Of course, it’s easier to do that when you’re told that’s what you have to do, when you’re given no real choice in the matter but to stay. But it hasn’t been easy.
The disciples had been in lockdown. The Upper Room had become their home, their church, their world. They were still in fear of what lay outside their doors and so they hunkered down for safety. Jesus broke into their fearful space with words of peace and reassurance but nevertheless they were spiritually and physically locked in, locked down.
And then Jesus takes them out of that place and to the top of the hill outside of the city. But as he leaves them, finally leaves them, he gives them the instruction to ‘stay in the city’, to go back to that locked down room, that closed down space and to wait, to wait for the right moment, to wait until they ‘were clothed with power from on high’.
We’re not told how they took the news that they were to stay – perhaps at that moment they were relieved, still frightened. But according to St Luke that is what they did – and as we’ll discover on Pentecost Sunday, in just ten days time, they were in the room, waiting, when that clothing from on high happened and with the power of the Spirit they were sent out into a waiting, expectant world.
But whilst we’ve been stuck at home many of us have also learnt new things, or relearnt old things. The time hasn’t all been wasted. I’ve been reminded how good it is to cook proper meals rather than just rely on something convenient. Others have turned to crafts; others to study; others to new forms of exercise; others to the joys of staying in touch with people with whom they’d lost touch. We’ve learnt as a community how important a pattern of prayer is, how gathering, morning and evening, to pray gives structure to the day and meaning to so many of the things we’re facing. This time hasn’t all been wasted.
At the end of this Eucharist we’ll be reminded of that again. The disciples went back to the upper room and as we’re told
‘They were constantly devoting themselves to prayer.’
They became this community of prayer, waiting, hopeful, expectant. And they didn’t have that long to wait.
These ten days between Ascension and Pentecost we’re called upon to be part of this community of stability, finding our stability in prayer, as Paul said to the Christians in Ephesus in our Second Reading, knowing
‘what is the hope to which he has called you’
And that hope is around the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray and which we pray day in, day out, ‘thy kingdom come’.
The release from lock down is already beginning, the bolts are loosening on the doors, we’re preparing to get out and about as we did before – or maybe not like we did before.
But whilst we wait we pray about what kind of world, what kind of kingdom, what kind of city we should be re-entering, we want to be re-entering. Everything changed for the disciples when they finally emerged. What do we want to be different when we finally get out and how will it mirror more closely the kingdom for which we pray?