May is blessed with two bank holidays, early and late spring bank holidays. It gives many people a few days off work. This can lead to a holiday week being taken. Holidays are important in breaking our usual routine. This allows us to set what we want to do at a time of our choosing. For me not looking at the diary and clock, worrying what and where I should be is important to me. Holidays were originally connected to religious festivals. As you may be very aware, Easter was celebrated much later than usual this year. This means that Ascension Day is also very late this year, Thursday 30th May. It only just makes it into the month of May and sits at a time when you might expect Whitsun. You will have to wait a couple of weeks for Whitsun. If you can wait till 2038 Easter will be at its latest date. Then both Ascension Day and Whitsun will both slide into June.
Ascension Day is a mixed blessing. Having thought that Jesus was dead he suddenly returns from the dead on Easter Day. It was a moment of great joy and celebration although there was still plenty of confusion and doubt. Then for him to leave again forty days later and not return again, you might think that people would be really upset again, it might feel like a second bereavement. Yet what is recorded in the Bible, is quite the opposite. We are told that the disciples are going to the temple praising God each day. We need to ask what has changed for the disciples from being completely lost and dejected. You have to believe that the big change was what Jesus did to restore the disciples. The most obvious thing to realise is that Jesus meets the disciples in their greatest point of need. It is often the same experience for people when they have almost nowhere else to go they find they can find strength and support from God. After Jesus’ death, it seems that people wanted to go back to their old life. Jesus finds them and brings them back together. He is not critical of them for lack of faith and understanding. It is very clear that he told them many times what would happen to him. Yet the disciples chose not to listen or not to believe. You might think that this would be held against them and exclude them. Jesus offers restoration and new hope. This is not often our experience as we are often easily condemned and rarely feel forgiven. Jesus also gives the disciples a purpose, to go and tell people about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
We sometimes lose direction and feel alone and forgotten. Jesus reminds us that God never gives up on any of us. God can help restore and redirect us to where and what we should be doing. The hardest part is to admit we need help and ask for it.
Rev. Martin Wood. The Rectory, Church Lane, Cheriton Bishop EX6 6HY 01647 24119 (Tuesday to Sunday) firstname.lastname@example.org