Ascension Day

A sermon by Father Mark Battison

Acts 1: 1 – 11, Ephesians 1: 15 -23, Matthew 28: 16 – 20

In the 1970’s I was a policeman in the UK and every day we received news on a ticker tape machine. It was sent from a central point to all stations at the start and end of each day with any news that we needed to know.

We fed the tape into a machine which in turn printed the message.

A little later we started using fax machines which were amazing. You fed a printed sheet into the machine and somewhere else it immediately printed out by using a telephone line.

Recently I was in Sydney looking at one of the huge liners in the harbour and dropped a small pebble into the water – it sank yet this machine weighing hundreds of tons in metal floated.

When I fly I sit in a metal tube again weighing hundreds of tonnes of metal, fuel and people and it rises 35,000 feet into the air and stays there for over 14 hours.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I have no idea how any of this works, from the humble ticker tape to airplanes today and don’t get me started on mobile phones and satellites. It is all too fantastic to believe.

In today’s readings we are told in Acts that Jesus was taken up into the sky on a cloud. Now here is something from 2000 years ago that I simply don’t understand.

We know Jesus had risen from the dead as a physical human being not as a ghost or spirit and yet we are supposed to believe that he could be taken up into the sky by a cloud – a bit like our airplanes of today but very much higher and for much longer.

There are some people today who want to accept the literal truth of everything written in the bible and for others some of the stories are just a beautiful way of describing the indescribable to those who were in attendance. Remember the disciples who were there did not actually write these stories – they inspired them.

Whatever your view of this event the key, for me, to Ascension Day is actually what is recorded in our reading from Matthew.

It is called the Great Commission.

What that means in reality is that Jesus was instructing his disciples and everybody from then and till now who have come to know him to spread the Good News.

This is also the commission to everybody who comes after us – it’s a never ending commission until, we are told, God decides it is time for Jesus to return and this will be a time we do not know when will come.

And what is this Good News?

Well, simply put, the Good News is Jesus himself.

And the challenge to you and me is to spread this Good News in every part of our lives and our world – in other words to spread Jesus into every part of our lives and our world.

At the end of our services we always finish with ‘Go in peace to love and serve the Lord’ followed by ‘In the name of Christ’.

But do we really do this? Don’t most of us go out from church individually nourished, or sometimes annoyed or challenged, but as soon as we are back into our normal lives we forget what we have just promised.

At some point I will change the timing of this final commission in the service I am leading to demonstrate its importance over and above the signifying of the end of the service so look out for this but, please, don’t stress about it.

But for today let’s forget about how Jesus ascended into heaven and let’s focus on the Great Commission.

We all know the prime two commandments but they are mostly accepted as being instructions for us to monitor our behaviour through our thoughts, words and actions.

But I am going to add one more.

I invite you to gossip. Yes gossip.

I am sure we have all heard about the damage that gossiping can, and does, do but how about we gossip about Jesus.

How about when we leave church we set ourselves a target of speaking about Jesus to one person every day until we are back in church again.

How about we tell one person, and it does not need to be a new person every day about the love and peace we get from accepting Jesus into our lives.

How about we tell one person every day how our life on earth is so much better because we worship, we pray and we share love with those we meet in church.

How about we tell one person every day how death does not frighten us because we know we will be with God and with those whom we have loved after we die because Jesus showed us this is true through his own death and resurrection.

I think you get it.

It is vital we follow the 2 commandments but it is equally vital we follow the Great Commission of sharing the Good News.

I dare you to try it for a month and see what happens – faith means having trust in God so do you have enough trust to gossip for God? Amen

Leave a Reply