Message from Bishop Rachel, 7 May 2024

Published: Tuesday May 7, 2024

Bishop Rachel smiling‘..You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

 (Acts 1:8 Words spoken by Jesus before his ascension)

On Thursday, we will mark Christ’s Ascension, and I’m always reminded of an Ascension Day service at theological college at which a guest speaker was preaching. We eagerly awaited his words knowing that in years to come we would all need to be preaching on this profound mystery and so we hoped we would glean some wisdom from his theological reflections. Instead, with a great sense of unveiling, he announced that ascension means ‘to go up’. He proclaimed this as if he was revealing some previously unknown truth, and all I remember was our sense of bemusement and even some stifled laughter.

The remembrance of that amusement also reminds me of the first time I visited the Ascension Chapel at Walsingham only to look up and see two feet protruding from the ceiling. Yet perhaps all this points to the fact that we cannot explain such mystery as Christ’s ascension, but we are invited to lift our eyes, physically and metaphorically, to the signs and presence of the Kingdom of God in our world in which people are yearning for mystery and to be taken beyond what is temporal and immediately visible.

Sadly, too often it seems that Ascension Day gets lost in the calendar, yet it is the profound sequel to Easter day, and the prequel to Pentecost and the growth of the worldwide Church.

As Jesus Christ leaves the earth, he leaves the group of followers who are to be witnesses and ambassadors: A group of followers who are to be Christ’s feet and hands on earth, and living pointers to the signs of the Kingdom of God, as Christ continues to live within them, around them and between them through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Over two thousand years later we are invited to be part of this life-transforming story, and that means entering ever more deeply into the mystery of prayer.

Last week I wrote about the worldwide ecumenical movement of prayer, ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ (TKC) and the invitation to Christians of all ages to pray from Ascension (9 May) to Pentecost (19 May) for more people to come to know Jesus Christ. You may want to use some of the resources produced by TKC and there are still free copies of the Novena and the Prayer Diary available from the Bishops’ office (first come first served). More details about this can be found here.

This year I am particularly encouraging us to use these days of prayer as we approach the Big Mission Weekend of evangelism across the Diocese (May 24-26). The Archbishop of Canterbury will be in the diocese, participating in a number of different events in different contexts, and a number of different worshipping communities are creating spaces and events to share and speak of the love and hope of Jesus Christ in a place of relationship.

Bishop Robert and I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at the celebration diocesan Eucharist (Holy Communion) in the Cathedral on Sunday 26 May at 3pm (please click here to sign up) when we will be together with Archbishop Justin. We will give thanks for the weekend and pray for our ongoing witness to Christ as we join in with God’s transforming work among the people and places of our daily lives and contexts, rooted in prayer.

Today, I will be in a primary school for their collective worship focused on Ascension Day, and I suspect I will be struggling to respond coherently to their questions. I will most definitely be telling them that ascension means ‘to go up’, but my prayer is that I might excite them to enter into mystery and to look up in ways that are more than just physical. I will be praying for those little people to discover yet more of the mystery of God’s love and Christ’s life in all its fullness.

With my thanks and prayers

+ Rachel

One thought on “Message from Bishop Rachel, 7 May 2024

  1. The Ascension is the culmination of God’s wonderful plan of redemption. Because Jesus rose to such heights in the ascension He became King of Kings.

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