Reflection for Sunday after Ascension Day 2021

A reflection for the Sunday after Ascension Day from Martin Brown, 16 May 2021

Holy Spirit amongst the disciples imagery












We have arrived at the Seventh Sunday of Easter, otherwise known as the Sunday after Ascension Day and next Sunday will be Pentecost (or Whit Sunday). We have paid witness to Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and glorious ascension. We now look forward to an uncertain time, wondering what God will do among his people.

Just imagine how the disciples must have been feeling. Jesus had physically left them, leaving an instruction that they had to wait in Jerusalem where God would come to them in a new way.

A few years previously the disciples were living normal lives, then this man, Jesus, told them to follow him and so they followed and saw, heard and experienced things they could hardly believe.

The disciples’ love for Jesus was undeniable and all the disciples at some point or another said they would be willing to die for him and yet all of them failed him at some time or another.

The disciples lived through the tension, danger and crucifixion of their Lord in Jerusalem. They lived with a terrible sense of loss and grief when life had no meaning or purpose, and with heavy hearts they were deeply concerned about the bleak future ahead of them.

Then the light of the resurrection dispelled their gloom. Jesus was alive again, talking and eating with them, and teaching to them. Jesus’ appearances were unpredictable and sometimes very brief but after the initial shock none of the disciples doubted the reality of his resurrection.

Now Jesus had left them again and they were living with a renewed sense of loss. Not as deep as the first but still hard to bear.

The disciples did not know what was going to happen. They did not know about the great mighty wind which would knock them off their feet. They did not know about the flames of fire that would fill them with courage and conviction. They did not know about the Holy Spirit who would breathe new life into them, transforming them. At this moment the disciples were in a no-man’s land of time. We have probably all experienced similar times - times that can be filled with uncertainty and anxiety. Times when we have lost someone, or left something behind but are not yet ready or able to move on into the unknown. I come across such experiences so often in the work I do with bereaved families.

Perhaps you are in one of those times now and do not know where God is going to lead you.

Someone wrote that we can never be ‘nowhere’, we are always in ‘now’ and ‘here’, or the here and now, a positive place where God can work with us to create new realities and where we can begin travelling on the new paths God is showing us.

This may be such a time as we seemingly come to the end of the current pandemic. So many things have changed in our lives, and perhaps we could spend this next week reflecting on thinking about what is ‘now’ and ‘here’ for us.

I know from experience that very often we cannot move forward until we have put the past behind us and made the decision to move on. Just as the wind and fire of Pentecost descended only when the disciples knew that Jesus’ time on earth really was over, so God can only lead us forward when we have stopped trying to hang on to things from the past which may be unhealthy for us.

At Pentecost if we were to give ourselves fully to the ‘now’ and ‘here’, whatever that means for each of us, then we will ready to move go forward again; ready to say yes to God’s plan for us. We should not be afraid of saying yes to God since God cares for us and protects us and will not ask us to do anything he knows we are not yet ready and able to do with his help and guidance.

God also knows about our need for time: time to grieve; time to summon up courage; time to make big decisions; and God will allow us that time; although he also knows at times we need a bit of a nudge to call us into action and he will do that for us in ways and at a time we might least expect.

God may speak to us through a mighty wind, or in the tongues of flame, or in the still small voice in the depths of our being. God will speak and when he does it will always be for the fulfillment of his loving purpose for each one of us and it will always lead us deeper into his eternal life.


Church of England worship texts relating to Ascension Day



Text (c) Martin Brown

Images above courtesy of Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

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