June 2018 – Ever Upwards


I write this letter in the middle of Ascensiontide, a festival and season we often overlook between the more glamourous Easter and Pentecost.


At Easter we celebrate the glorious defeat of death by our risen Lord, and at Pentecost the tongues of flame shooting around the disciples; the day of birth of what we now know as the church.


By comparison, the Ascension can seem a bit low key, Jesus leaves the disciples, and gently floats up into heaven.


On my way home from taking the Ascension Day service at Holy Trinity, I happened to hear a live broadcast on the radio from St Martin in the Fields.  The Vicar, Sam Wells, described Ascension Day as the other book end sitting opposite Christmas, and I think it is an interesting way of looking at it.


At Christmas we celebrate Jesus coming to earth to live among us, to be Emmanuel - God with us.


But at Ascension, we don’t really celebrate him going, rather we celebrate that his early ministry was finished, and that he trusted us enough to leave that mission to us.


And that is quite a responsibility.  In our lives, our words and our actions, we have to show that Jesus’ time on Earth made a difference to us, and will make a difference to those we meet; that is the task he left the disciples, and continues to demand of us.


Our lives should be, and can be, a never ending attempt to walk ever closer to the God who came to walk alongside us, and calls us all by name. We may find it difficult, we may not always succeed, but we are called never to give up trying.


On the afternoon of the day I wrote this letter, I received an email from the Bishop’s Chaplain, informing me that I had been adjudged by the panel to have fulfilled the learning objectives of my curacy, does that mean my training is complete, am I a fully finished Priest now?  The formal learning and form filling may be over, but we can never stop learning, never stop searching for that closer walk alongside our Lord.  I very much see this as a beginning, not an end; the beginning of the real ministry I was called to, serving those in this Team to the best of my ability.  There will always be new challenges, new things to learn, and hopefully new and deeper glimpses of God’s purpose for us.


And each of us, in different ways, will hit milestones on our journey of faith, when something seems to be reaching completion, to be finished at last.  But these are just like milestones on the road, there will be another and another and other, were should never stop, never give up on that road.


But back to the Ascension, other than the closing of the window opened at Christmas, and the great charge that left us with, what else can we learn from that momentous event?  


Perhaps that by ascending into heaven, Jesus showed the disciples, and us, that there was a road for us to walk along to Heaven, and that with perseverance and faith that road could lead us there too.  


I was lucky enough to go to a concert a week ago, a wonderful blues singer, whose faith shone through much of his work.  One of the songs that night, Don’t let nobody drag your spirit down, struck a chord.  In it are the lines:


Remember you're walking up to heaven

Don't let nobody turn you around


It is so easy for us to be turned around, or rather to turn ourselves around.  Jealously, anger, or just too much love of the things around us, can stop us keeping our feet on that path which lets us walk alongside Jesus, towards our home in heaven.


By the time you read this letter, Ascentiontide will be gone, the summer will lie ahead and we will have celebrated the spirit coming and filling the church at Pentecost.


But in all we do, I think we should take a few moments to sit back and think, and be always be careful that we don't let nobody (but especially ourselves) ever turn us around.


Best wishes,     Malcolm Wearing