24th May Sunday Sermon
The chosen hymns for this week, All hail the power of Jesu’s name and Through the love of God, our Saviour can be found below along with a transcription of the sermon for those who prefer to read.
May the words of my mouth
And the meditations of all our hearts
Be acceptable to you
Our Lord and our Redeemer.
In the rural county of Norfolk, England, there is a small town called Little Walsingham. Inside the town’s church, there are a number of altars -- one of them dedicated to the Feast of the Ascension.
It’s an unremarkable shrine, just a small table and few candles, but above it is a sculpture of clouds, carved in wood. From the midst of these clouds, there are two feet protruding, looking rather like the remains of the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz.
As silly as it sounds, that’s the ascension: the resurrected Jesus is lifted up, and is taken into heaven.
This is the witness of Holy Scripture - of the very apostles themselves: while they were watching, Jesus was taken up, out of sight.
They may very well have seen the bottoms of his sandals - as imagined at Little Walsingham - as he disappeared into heaven.
And, as improbable as it seems, the Ascension is a witnessed event,
As they were watching, Jesus is lifted up, and is taken out of their sight.
Not even a lowly midwife tells of Jesus’ birth, and no one witnessed the moment of resurrection, but the Ascension is the aspect that people observed and documented.
The Ascension is important to us not because Jesus could only have entered into glory by this means - but because God chose to reveal that glory to those people of Galilee, who stood there, looking up in amazement.
The Ascension reveals God’s glory to us.
What a difference a few weeks can make. Here we see the disciples reacting to Jesus' Ascension with celebration and joy,
whereas after the crucifixion, they had scattered in disarray and fear, fleeing for their lives.
When they did come together, it was to huddle in a room with a locked door. Their fear totally disabled them; they were frozen in time.
Now they knew not which way to turn or what to do. Without Jesus, they were lost.
But then Jesus returned. After three short days they had seen him again, their risen Lord! He came back to them just as he had promised.
There is a wonderful mystery play from the Middle Ages about the Ascension.
It is said that after Jesus was lifted up from the earth and was ascending to heaven, the two men dressed in white follow after, straining to catch up with Him.
These angels cry out: “Jesus! Jesus! Wait for us!”
Jesus turns to greet them, and as they continue to ascend together, says: “Yes, my friends! Well done!”
One of the angels replies: “That is what we should say to you, dear Lord, for you have done all that has been asked of you! But what will happen next? Isn’t there more to be done?”
Jesus answers: “Well, of course! There is always more to be done! But weren’t you paying attention down there?
Didn’t you hear me give them what they will come to call ‘the Great Commission’? Now they will go forth and baptize all people, reconciling the whole world to myself!”
The two angels look at one another somewhat hesitantly, and then look back at Jesus.
One of them cautiously says: “Well, certainly we heard all that. But haven’t you been paying attention to them? Do you really think you can count on that lot?”
“He’s right, you know,” the other angel says. “Honestly, what’s your Plan B?
What will you do if those you have left behind don’t continue your work?”
Jesus pauses for a moment and then says, simply, “There is no Plan B.”
There is no Plan B.
There is no Plan B because the grace set free by the Incarnation, the Resurrection, the Ascension, and ultimately the gift of the Holy Spirit is enough to bring about God’s plan
The question is whether we will choose to join in that work.
Will we participate fully in the mending of creation, or will we choose to stand back and watch from a comfortable distance?
It is a gift of love, this calling we have received to be as Jesus was and do as Jesus did, as members of Christ’s body.
We are challenged to receive the love God offers us in Jesus, and then to move out to share that love unconditionally.
We can choose not to move with God.
We can choose to turn inward and cling to what we have previously recognized as signs of God’s presence among us.
Or we can turn and face outward, rejoicing to recognize and celebrate where God is present and active, even with many who will continue to serve God’s purpose while totally unaware of it.
In these most challenging and difficult times, with great change underway in our way of living due to Covid-19, and our finances, our culture, and our global relationships, due to Brexit
-it would be tempting to steer life back to our personal comfort zones,
- to hold on dearly to life as we’ve always known it.
It would be tempting to go back to church life as we have always known it too.
But the Risen and Ascended Lord, beckons us to step out of our comfort zone and discover new ways to celebrate life and love, and to share boldly in the work of reconciling the whole world to God.
We have already begun this in the church – both locally and nationally – perhaps some of you watched the remote installation of the new Moderator last Saturday, or the celebration of Heart and Soul last Sunday afternoon?
Both were moving and inspiring occasions – doing old things in a new way.
And of course – you are experiencing worship in a different way already!
All of creation is being filled again and again with the life and healing power of God.
When we remember this, it changes how we experience everything.
For then we will have confidence that whatever we are called to endure now will lead us in God’s time and in God’s way to be raised and lifted up with Jesus to draw the whole world into deeper companionship with God and one another in Christ.
This truly is grace.
There is no Plan B.
Are we ready for the challenge?