I know it’s a little early but I have been thinking about the end of the Summer Term. Every year a new generation of students step out from school, college or university to enter the world of work. For most, school in all its many forms, provides security; we know the rules, know what’s expected, know who to turn to when life gets difficult. Heading out of the front gate for the last time, we may relish the prospect of more freedom. At the same time, stepping into the unknown on our own, also brings a degree of nervousness.
As this reflection goes to print, we celebrate Ascension Day (this year, Thursday 13th May). The story of Jesus’ ascension (Acts 1:6-11) can be difficult to visualise. Images of Jesus precariously balanced on a cloud, or levitating gently skywards don’t help. I do sometimes wonder what actually happened. St Luke merely tells us that as the disciples were watching, ‘he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight’ (Acts 1:9). What is clear is that at that moment they were stepping out into the unknown. After 3 heady years with Jesus, school was over, the world of work beckoned. Jesus had gone. The promised Holy Spirit had not yet come. For the moment, the disciples were on their own.
For more than a year now we have lived in that strange place called Lockdown. Despite the many frustrations it has, for many of us, brought its own securities. We may have worked hard, struggled with so many constraints, missed our old routine but at the same time so many decisions have been taken for us; our security, for better or worse, has become someone else’s responsibility. Now we are about to step out once more, into the big wide world. As freedom grows, our own responsibilities will grow with it. We relish the prospect of freedom, but view an uncertain future with nervousness.
As Jesus faded from view for the last time, the disciples returned to Jerusalem to await what would happen next. While they waited, they prayed. Pentecost is a week away. Beyond lies a summer charged with exciting prospects but also with more uncertainty than normal. While we await the fresh coming of his Holy Spirit, let us, like disciples in every age, pray.
Rev Philip Payne
Ascension Day 2021
The Pew Sheet for 16th May can be found here