Well, I don't think I have ever before preached at just gone six in the morning! And, although I am happy to be here, I suggest we don't make a habit of meeting so early. As Sallyanne will tell you I am not a morning person; I can be a just a tad grumpy first thing.
But, I am really glad we are here. I think it is really important that we celebrate the Ascension and, for two reasons:
First, it reminds us of Jesus' real status as both fully human and divine. The God made flesh, becomes the one that goes to sit at the right hand of His Father. And in doing so reminds us – because we have a common Father – of our eventual destiny. This is good news indeed. The Ascension validates Jesus claims that we may also get to dwell in the House of the Lord forever. The Ascension also makes sense of the Resurrection. Without the Ascension it would be very hard to see the point of the Resurrection.
But, secondly the Ascension reminds us that the baton has now been passed on to us. The mission of the Church and the spreading of the Gospel, is now, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, our responsibility.
Jesus through his earthly life characterised for us the Kingdom of God; he showed that the kingdom is concerned above all else with with justice, peace, love and joy in the Holy Spirit.
He showed us through parables how to live the Gospel in the here and now.
For some living the Gospel, bringing something of the Kingdom of God, to 'earth as in heaven,' may mean doing something really big and significant; just like Desmond Tutu has done in leading the reconciliation process in South Africa, or Mother Theresa through her works of charity amongst some of the world's poorest people.
But, for most of us, it will simply mean being Christian, or as Christ, in the place we find ourselves in; this is the genius of the parish system.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it like this:
'One's task is not to turn the world upside down, but to do what is necessary at the given place with a due consideration of reality.'
And, if enough of us do this our all the individual acts of love will 'converge to form the mosaic of charity which can change the task of history.'
The Ascension reminds us to remember that our task, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, is to be the contemporary representatives of Christ, 'risen, ascended, glorified.'