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Reflection for Sunday 24th May 2020
On Thursday we celebrated the Ascension of our Lord into Heaven. The mood of the day is celebratory and triumphal. Jesus has achieved all he set out to do; he has shown everyone what God is really like; dealt with sin and reconnected the whole of fallen creation with the Source of Life; defeated death and offered eternal life to the human race. This is certainly worth a few metres of bunting and some (restrained) cheering.
But if you engage your imagination and think about what happened as if you were there, Ascension Day is not without its difficulties. You can read Luke’s description in Acts chapter 1. One minute Jesus is chatting away and the next he’s defying gravity and heading into the clouds. Did Jesus ascend like a rocket or did he appear to step onto an invisible escalator? Whatever the detail, the message is clear: “Mission accomplished; I’m coming home.”
But for the disciples it was different. They stood between what had been and what was going to be. Ascension Day marked the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next; their training was finished and the real adventure was about to begin. With the help of the Holy Spirit, whose official arrival we will celebrate next week; the disciples were to carry on the mission that Jesus had started. Now they were in the driving seat. The responsibility to build God’s Kingdom in the world was theirs.
In Britain in May 2020 we seem to be standing between two chapters. The number of deaths from COVID-19 is falling; the “R” number is low – the infection rate is slowing. We are beginning to emerge from the lock-down. Politicians promise us a gradual return to normality, but what will the new “normal” look like? More importantly; what do we want it to look like? There is no “they” when it comes to decisions about the kind of community we want to live in; the kind of nation we want to be part of. The decisions have to be made by “us”; “we”; you and me thinking and working together. The decisions that will shape the future are ours to make.
So what do “we” want? It’s not an easy question to answer but it’s not impossible. We can think things through and work out our goals and dreams. I find it easier to identify what I don’t want; list the negatives and work through to the positives. Here’s a few of my “don’t wants” to start the process. You’ve probably got many more of your own.
In the new “normal” I don’t want:
Thousands of people in work but having to rely on Foodbanks every week
Zero-hours contracts and minimum wage rates of pay
Ways of living that demand so much that people are exhausted and fraying at the edges
Under-resourced and poorly equipped hospitals that suck the life, hope and enthusiasm out of people who work there
Cities congested with traffic so that thousand die each year from air-pollution
I could go on… I usually do, but I won’t. But we could all join the conversation; start dreaming and planning so that the old “normal” doesn’t just drift back.
In the Lord’s Prayer we ask God to do things:
“Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven”
As we decide what we want and don’t want in our lives and communities we make this prayer become a reality.
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