Risen and ascended.

We’re an Easter people – you’ve heard me say that before.

The resurrection is our meeting place

and our identity is found in Christ’s dying and rising.

But the Easter season is coming to an end – and there’s a change in the air.

Jesus has been hinting to his disciples for weeks –

even before they gathered for their last meal –

that everything would soon be turned on end.

The meek would inherit the earth – the poor would seem rich

and yes, the dead would stand among them.

That was the Easter promise – the mighty miracle.

So what could be more astonishing…?

Risen, yes – and ascended!

Taken from their sight – gone in a wisp of cloud and a blaze of glory.

Their new-found courage can hardly stand it,

as they are left staring skyward,

and wondering what it all means…

Their time with their Risen master must have been pure joy;

for the one they thought was lost had returned.

They may have been tempted to think

that this was the point Jesus had come to prove;

that having overcome death, the lessons were finished,

and now the kingdom life could begin.

The kingdom life, however, is just beginning,

and the learning will continue…

for you see – Jesus cannot stay.

The point that God has made

through the life and death and resurrection of Christ

is simply this: God is both willing and able

to live, suffer and die as we do…

and as a result, we are invited

to experience life in all its fullness;

life as God intended.

God’s great lesson is wasted if Jesus remains – ageless, tireless –

an eternal traveller in life beyond death.

That resurrection glory would eventually seem ordinary.

“blessed are those who believe and yet do not see..”

Jesus has been honest with his friends and seeks our honest faith –

hinting even to Thomas that his triumphant return was only temporary;

and so stories and memories and the witness of the faithful

will have to carry the message as the kingdom comes.

We need Jesus at Easter – full of new life and God’s Glory.

We need to be reminded that our ancient enemy – death –

has no more power over us.

But believe it or not, we also need Jesus ascended:

removed from our sight, off into the great unknown

because that absence; the earthly absence of those whom we love

also holds fear for us, and that fear needs to be overcome.

Our promised eternity – our new life in Christ –

does not consist of an endless repetition of the same old thing:

our journey with Christ, beyond death, and in this life

continues full of surprises and new sensations,

moving from wonder to wonder,

delighting in the gracious presence of God

and so through Christ, God offers us a path to follow

beyond what we can see, and touch, and taste.

Our joy comes at the defeat of death – at the empty tomb –

in our Risen Saviour.

Our hope comes when we understand

that not even this life –

a short season lived in the brilliance of Jesus risen presence –

can contain the new life we now share in Christ.

And while we wait – staring into the sky in silent wonder –

we would do well to remember that there is work to be done.

Our lessons as God’s people continue,

and we welcome the opportunity

to live out our wonder, our joy and our hope –

gifts that are ours to share.

Our apprenticeship in Jesus approach to life,

in God’s way of truth, continues.

We are distracted in our waiting;

by the needs of our neighbours,

by the condition of Creation,

by the cry for justice and the pursuit of peace,

but these distractions are signposts –

evidence that we are entering ‘God’s territory’.

“This Jesus, who has been taken from you”,

promise those mysterious strangers,

“ will return in the same way…”

in the meantime, there is work to do –

a story to share – a gift of power to receive.

And so we wait, knowing that even those first frightened disciples

found purpose in their waiting.

Like them, we  reluctantly turn our eyes back to earth,

bringing our attention back to this life

that, thanks be to God, will never be the same again.

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