Prayers, Readings and Reflections for Easter 7, 24 May 2020

The Ascension

Readings

Acts 1:1-11; Luke 24:44-53

Reflection

At first it seems a bit strange that Luke ends his gospel with an account of Jesus’ ascension into heaven, and then begins his second book – the Acts of the Apostles – with the same story, though not word for word. But on reflection, it’s what a lot of authors might do at the beginning of a sequel so that their readers are reminded of what happened at the end of their last book. I think, though, that Luke is doing more than that here: it’s a way of saying that the end of his gospel is not the end of God’s story, but that the ascension marks the turning point for something new.

During the Christian year we rehearse the key moments of Jesus’ life, from his birth at Christmas, through the events of Holy Week, Good Friday and the resurrection at Easter. There is a sense in which with the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry at the Ascension we have yet again come full circle. Except that we haven’t. There are another 6 months to go until we start our Advent preparations again. What happens in those in between times?

When I think of the Ascension it’s hard to get away from the mental image of those classical paintings of the disciples on a hilltop gawping up at the heavens as Jesus vanishes in a cloud with just a pair of feet dangling below it. We’re left with the feeling that Jesus has left to go to a place where we cannot be with him. But it’s really not helpful to think of the Ascension in terms of space and place. These days we are perhaps very conscious of those things, as shops mark out 2m spaces for us to stand in queues and when the places that we are accustomed to go to, especially the churches, are still closed to us.

It’s more helpful to think of absence and presence. It’s true that Jesus is physically absent from earth now, but nevertheless he is eternally present, though in a different way. In our creeds we say that Jesus was made man, suffered, died, rose again and ascended – all in the past – but that he sits, is sitting at the right hand of the Father. Our humanity is forever raised to be part of his Divinity.

The whole book of Acts is about how the disciples come to realise the unendingness of the reign and power of God and presence of Jesus in their lives in a new way. The stretch of time now between Pentecost and Advent is for us to discern the reign and power of God and presence of Jesus in our lives too. Life wasn’t going to be the same for the disciples. Neither is it for us. This time of pandemic with church closures and physical distancing is a time to discover new ways of worshipping and new ways of being the church, the living body of Christ in our community.

Painting of Jesus ascending with angels As Jesus finally withdrew his physical presence from the disciples, they were still vulnerable, perhaps frightened, lacking direction. But they stayed together and prayed and worshipped together until the Holy Spirit came upon them with transforming power – more about that next week at Pentecost!  We too might feel vulnerable as we wrestle with unfamiliar technology, worship in a different and distanced way and wonder what will happen next. As we celebrate the Ascension in this time of pandemic, I wonder if it could be a turning point for something new in the way in which the ongoing presence of Jesus is made known within the community as the church becomes recognised as not merely a building, but a body of people living out God’s love, justice and mercy.

Prayers

Collect for Ascension Day

Risen Christ,
you have raised our human nature to the throne of heaven:
help us to seek and serve you,
that we may join you at the Father’s side,
 where you reign with the Spirit in glory,
now and for ever. Amen

Letting Go  (by Janet Morley)

Christ our lover
to whom we try to cling:
as you have reached into our depths
and drawn us to love you,
so make us open, freely to let you go;
that you may return in unexpected power
to change the world through us,
in your name, Amen.

Notices

Distribution of this document to those not on email

We are in the process of arranging to get these reflections and notices sheets to those members of the Electoral Roll who are not on email.
In doing this, we are aware that there may be others in the community of St James who may wish to receive these (preferably by email). If you are aware of anyone we may have missed from the circulation list, please can you let me know here in the office, or ask them to let me have their details? Will have copies available at the food bank collection points each Thursday. Many thanks

Parish Office – update

Just a reminder that Monday is a bank holiday – so I will have  day at home …. and the office will be closed.
Whilst we are all still in lock-down (or partial!) I am in the office Monday -Thursday. The times may vary a little to my normal hours though the phone will always be answered between 9.30 am and midday on these days. Outside these hours please contact me on 01531 633561 or 07850892559.  Many thanks
Joy (Parish Administrator)

A request for the Sunday evenings act of worship - Every Sunday at 6:30pm

We shall need volunteers for the psalm reading, the bible reading (liaise with Anne), and intercessions so that an order of service can be circulated. Please contact Marian & Mike (540108)            

The Zoom link for the on-line services was emailed to Parishioners, but is also available from the Parish Office (see Contacts page).

Daily Hope

Daily Hope offers music, prayers and reflections as well as full worship services from the Church of England at the end of a telephone line.
The line – which is available 24 hours a day on 0800 804 8044 – has been set up particularly with those unable to join on-line church services during the period of restrictions in mind.

Food Bank

A huge thank you to everyone for their generous donations for the Ledbury Food-bank - a reminder that collection points (Station car park and Wisteria House, 7 Colwall Green) will be open every Tuesday & Thursday from 2-4pm