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Ascension Day Message– Thursday, 21 May 2020
Acts 1: 1-11
In recent times Ascension Day has been one of the more neglected dates in the Christian calendar. And yet some of the older residents in our villages can still recall how it was celebrated each year by their local Church of England primary schools – often with a special time of worship at their local church building.
This is such a pity because with the loss of this celebration it has created a gap in our understanding of Jesus. Our reading from Acts Chapter 1 is a reliable historical record of the way in which Jesus ascended to heaven. Following Jesus resurrection and numerous appearances to many people, “Jesus was taken up before their very eyes and a cloud hid Him from their sight.” Acts 1 v 9. In short, Jesus returned to heaven. One of the main reasons that Jesus returned to heaven was to pray for his disciples, past and present. Jesus is praying for us.
For me personally I have found this to be a great help over the years, and especially in February/March this year (2020). On February 16th this year I was struck down by a respiratory virus which may or may not, have been Coronavirus. For eighteen days I had what I can only describe as a dead feeling behind my eyes, a complete loss of energy – as though I had been knocked out by a boxer – and other flu like symptoms. I was off work for three weeks and I self-isolated for over two weeks because I did not have the strength to see anyone or do anything. The medical advice was to take vitamin D, drink plenty and wait for my body to fight off the virus. As Paul McCartney wrote in his song “Let it be”.
During that time I prayed, but found prayer hard going when weak. However, when I was lying on the settee, or on the bed, there were times when I remembered that Jesus was praying for us. “Jesus lives for ever to plead with God for them” Hebrews 7 v 25. Not much else would bring me comfort, strength, consolation or a smile, but confidence in Jesus’ prayer.
What else did I learn during this time? Perhaps the most important sense was hearing. I loved to hear quiet music that was calming and soothing. I loved to hear the voices of those I loved. I also loved to hear that three-word question “How are you?” That experience changed my life and then the Coronavirus lockdown came. I now spend a lot of my time asking people “How are you?”
Finally, Ascension Day has been revived in recent years as the first day of Thy Kingdom Come. This is a call to pray for the ten days leading up to Pentecost. It has grown rapidly internationally over the past few years. Please join with me, and millions of others worldwide, in prayer over the next ten days, and in so doing, join in with the prayers that Jesus is praying for the people of the world that He loves.
Rev Mick Norman Rector