On Thursday we will celebrate Ascension Day – a day of ending but not quite of clear new beginning.
Ascension Day marks the end of the story of Christ’s life on earth, and then comes a period of waiting, of wondering, of prayer. Once again there is unexpected change and disconcerting uncertainty, but this time it is lived with expectation (Acts 1:1-14).
Unlike those first followers of Christ, we know the story and we know exactly when we will mark the Feast of Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit in power as the Church is born, but rather like those first followers of Christ we do not know how the Holy Spirit will work in us and through us in the coming days, and what this will mean for the future shape of the Church. What those first disciples knew is that they were called to wait prayerfully and attentively, and that the Holy Spirit would come upon them and that they would be witnesses – storytellers – locally and beyond, even to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8).
As we live Ascension Day this year, it is my hope and prayer that we will live these coming weeks with expectant hearts and with a sense of watching and waiting – praying for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit as we seek to discern what it will look like to be and do church in our local context in the next season.
Over this past year I have repeatedly spoken about that paradox of living fully in the present whilst also being attentive to shaping the future, and always rooted in prayer. These days between Ascension Day and Pentecost bring that sharply into focus as we continue to reflect on all that we have lived and experienced in the past; what is going on around us and within us in the present; and what we are called to be and do as the next season gradually emerges and the story unfolds in new and different ways.
As we arrive at Pentecost I will be encouraging us to reflect further on how we grow as communities of story tellers among the people and places of our daily lives, and amid the different experiences of loss, struggle, joy and delight.
It begins and continues with prayer, and as in previous years the days between Ascension Day and Pentecost are being marked with a global wave of prayer under the title ‘Thy Kingdom Come’. There are details of resources in this Bulletin.
Let us live with expectant hearts as we continue to watch, lament and hope. Our story might be unfolding in new ways as we desire to share and discover more deeply what it means to live life in all its fullness, but the transforming gospel of Jesus Christ is unchanged.
This comes with thanks and continued prayers,