9th May 2024

Ascension Day

A sermon for Ascension Day, preached by The Reverend Ijeoma Ajibade 

9 May, 5:30pm

Acts 1: 1-11, Ephesians 1: 15-end, Luke 24:  44-end. 


In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit

For many people Ascension Day is just another day. When you compare it to Easter or Christmas, it is   quite low key, but it is of vital importance to us because it is part of the story of our Lord’s redeeming work. We should be astounded by the fact that Jesus is alive in eternity, or the glory, or heaven. However you wish to describe it, Jesus is there, and he is alive. Ascension Day should therefore empower us, capture our imagination, and inspire us to live differently. It should inspire us to be Christ like.

The Ascension is a bit like a victory lap after winning a marathon. It is a vindication or a response to all that Jesus suffered. Together with the Resurrection the Ascension is a response to his birth, and ministry and it is an astounding and life-giving response to the horror of his crucifixion.

The Ascension is celebrated in our readings today with images that have a dignified and stunned nature about them. The disciples are stunned into silence as Jesus disappears before them and they gaze up into the clouds looking for him.

Because we are so familiar with the story, we do something similar. We sit here and we listen quietly, and there is nothing wrong with that, but I think Ascension Day should be louder because it requires more from us than quiet gazing.

The Ascension is not just another day in the church calendar. It is a call to action, and it calls us to respond with our lives.

In Jesus, God becomes human and lives amongst us and then Jesus who is fully human and fully divine takes that humanity back with him into eternity and so we too are with him in eternity. We are with him on that victory lap, despite the pain and sorrows of our world and personal challenges and struggles of many kinds.

We are with him, and because of his humanity, we are taken into the relationship that Jesus has with the Father and with the Holy Spirit. We are drawn into that eternal relationship through him and of course we will experience this on Pentecost Sunday.

In our busy and noisy world, the Ascension calls us to imagine and to respond. It also reminds us that as human beings we each have significance. Each one of us is important to Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Jesus is the true human being who shows us how we should be, so each one of us needs to grasp that vision and understanding of our own human dignity and worth.

We can witness to all of this in the way we live our lives, in the way we worship, and in the way we respect the humanity of others. Our church history is a story of struggle, of learning how to respect the humanity and differences of others and many times failing, but we need to continue learning and seeking, imagining and responding.

Our differences should not divide us, but instead  should enable us to flourish because of who Jesus is and because of where he is.

The Ascension also reminds us that God still rules in our world today even though it often doesn’t feel that way. God the Father works in Jesus the Son to bring us eternal life and to open the way to heaven and eternal life for all of us. This eternal life starts right here right now because we have hope, and we can begin to dream and imagine something different for our world. We are deeply loved, we are deeply forgiven and set free from the pressures and strains that the world and its pain seek to place on us. We have an identity that exists and lives in eternity.

The Ascension reminds us that a different world is possible and so as we quietly celebrate this day of victory, we need to make the Ascension louder and make it part of who we are. This is a daily challenge, but all things are possible and because of Jesus we can face our world and our personal challenges with courage recognising where we are with Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

We are not going to achieve Ascension Day living overnight but we must not allow fear to shrink our imagination, or shrink our prayers, or limit how we live, or limit what we can do in our world to bring life to others. The Ascension gives us that permission to work for abundant life in the everyday.

In our own little corners of the world, we need to imagine what this looks like. Small acts of love, of kindness, of joy, of sacrifice. Learning to love, to care, to see, to be present to others. Sometimes the Asension day difference that we make will be small and unseen, sometimes the Ascension Day difference will be the loud victory lap but every difference we make for better in our world is touch by the human being who is in eternity today.

So, we can gaze up into the clouds with the disciples, but we must also gaze out into our world and imagine something different and work for it.

And as we do this one day Jesus will descend from heaven in the same way he ascended, and he will complete the work that we are doing and make it perfect. There is a human being in eternity and in him and through him a different world is possible.

And so today we pray that 17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation as we come to know him, 18so that, with the eyes of our hearts enlightened, we may know what is the hope to which he has called us...