Let me be the first to wish you a very happy Ascension Day. In fact I am probably the only one who is going to wish you a happy Ascension Day today. Ascension Day is rather a cinderella festival in the church calendar, but I believe it is one we should celebrate and make a big fuss about. And if you are not joining us tonight, 5th May at St Michael’s at 7.30pm, why not? Let’s make this a real service of praise and celebration as we focus on Jesus our Lord and Saviour.
So what’s the big deal with Ascension Day?
Well, today 5th May is election day. Up and down the country there are elections being held for local councils, regional assemblies, police commissioners and mayors. The fortunes of political parties and their representatives will ebb and flow as the votes are counted. Elections remind us how fleeting are the fortunes of those who rule over us, and how even the greatest leader will one day leave office.
Yet by contrast Ascension Day points us to the fact that Jesus reigns over us forever with love and truth and justice. His kingdom is one that will never pass away or sink into obscurity – no matter how many or how few choose to follow Him. So Ascension Day asks us to decide whether we are going to live with our focus on the things of this world or on the eternal reality of Jesus exalted at the right hand of God.
And for those who do not have the freedom to choose who rules over them, for those living under brutal dictatorships or amid the chaos of war, the fact Jesus reigns over us forever is a massive source of comfort and hope. The ultimate power lies not with the state or the army, but with Jesus the risen and ascended Lord, and one day He will come to put all things right and do away with all oppression.
Today has also been the occasion of a large funeral at St Michael’s. It was a real privilege for me to lead the service, and it seemed more than appropriate for me to refer to the fact it was Ascension Day. Because Jesus’ Ascension has something to say us on an individual and personal level, as well. Jesus is seated at the Father’s right hand interceding for us (Rom 8:34) which means that in whatever situation we find ourselves we always have access to our Heavenly Father in prayer (Eph 2:18). And surely there is no greater comfort or peace than the knowledge we can talk with our Heavenly Father and hear his voice – all thanks to Jesus our King, who pleads for us and gives us of His Spirit (Acts 2:33).
So this Ascension Day take some time to read these words from Psalm 47 and why not use them in your own act of praise and worship?
1.Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.
2 How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth!
3 He subdued nations under us, peoples under our feet.
4 He chose our inheritance for us, the pride of Jacob, whom he loved. Selah
5 God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.
7 For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise.
8 God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne.
9 The nobles of the nations assemble as the people of the God of Abraham, for the kings of the earth belong to God; he is greatly exalted.