Thy Kingdom Come’ on Ascension Day, Thursday 21 May:
‘Our Father who art in Heaven’
The Ascension Reading: A reading from the Acts of the Apostles 1.1-11
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. ‘This’, he said, ‘is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’ So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’
Ascension Day marks the first day of Thy Kingdom Come – an annual invitation to prayer called by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. Lasting for eleven days, the focus is specific prayer in churches, households and as individuals for friends, families, communities and countries to come to know the saving love of God in Jesus Christ, and for ourselves that empowered by God’s Spirit we would grow in confidence to show and tell of God’s love. This year the focus is Prayer and Care particularly in view of the time in which we find ourselves, when our church buildings and other public buildings are closed and many people are feeling the strain of isolation and physical distancing.
From now until Pentecost, during our Morning Prayer Zoom sessions, our short Reflections will be considering the Lord’s Prayer line by line. So today, we think about ‘Our Father who art in Heaven’. We are reminded that we are part of a family which extends through earth and heaven – the community of the Church. Isolation and loneliness are epidemics in our modern world. The more we are connected, the more alone we can feel. The Lord’s Prayer reminds us daily that we are not alone in the universe. We are called into a deep relationship with our Father in heaven. We are called into a meaningful community: a universal fellowship.
Today especially, we are reminded of Jesus’ ascension into heaven. Having completed his Father’s mission on earth, he was taken up to be reunited with His Father, to sit at His right hand, far above all earthly rule and authority. Today, like the disciples in the Acts 1, we can wait and pray for the Holy Spirit to empower us to be Jesus’ witnesses to our family, our friends and in our Parish community. May each of us be willing to ask God how we can share the love of our Father in Heaven with the people we know.