How did he do that?

Each year the Walsingham Youth Pilgrimage has a catchy title. Last year was Double O heaven, based on a James Bond theme, this year it is Lord of Time which will delight fans of Doctor Who.  I find science fiction very confusing, I’m even more confused when people try to explain it to me, so I tend to switch off. But I do find the way in which people move about in science fiction rather interesting. Take Doctor Who's tardis for example.The tardis (time and relative dimension in space) is supposed to blend in to its surroundings without being noticed, however it always appears as a 1960’s police telephone box, because its chameleon circuit is broken.  The tardis is a space station capable of transporting the Time Lord to any time and place in the universe. How he does that I do not know. All I know is that when the grinding sound starts the tardis disappears and appears somewhere else. No doubt serious Doctor Who fans could try to explain it to me, but I hope they don’t.

If aficionados of Doctor Who can explain the physics of the tardis you might expect that I would be able to explain to you how Jesus ascended from this world to heaven. But alas I can not.

This moment of great intensity was witnessed by the apostles, and recorded by Mark and Luke. Mark says simply that the Lord was taken up into heaven and sat at the right hand of God. Luke records the episode twice, at the end of his gospel and in greater detail at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, where he says that Jesus was taken up before their very eyes and a cloud hid him from their sight. The cloud is a sign of the presence of God. A pillar of cloud went before the people of Israel in their journey through the wilderness proof to them that God was with them. When Jesus went up the mountain and was transfigured a voice from the cloud affirmed him as the beloved son of God.

Hemsby church  has a glorious,  stone-vaulted porch. The bosses of the porch were carved by the same craftsmen at work on those of Norwich Cathedral, and fortunately they escaped the vandalism of the reformers. In the central boss is the carved figure of Jesus his hands together in prayer going up through the clouds around his waist to heaven.

I cannot explain to you the Ascension of Jesus any more than I can explain to you the Resurrection. It is a question of faith. I believe it, in order to understand it. How it happened is not important. What it means is what is important. For it means that by leaving this world and returning to the Father, Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is able to commune with everybody in this world; not just with the people of one time and place, but with everybody everywhere until the end of time. Not even The Doctor could do anything as amazing as that.

And furthermore when Jesus returned back to heaven he took his scars with him. For it is the Christ first crucified and then resurrected, the Christ who told Thomas to touch his wounds, who ascends to heaven. The Jesus who suffered, is the Christ who is risen, ascended and glorified. This means that he understands and shares our suffering.

The singer Joan Osborne asked the question, ‘what if God were one of us, just a slob like one of us, just a stranger on a bus, trying to make his way home?’ That is just what Jesus was, one of us. That is what he is still, one of us. He came to this world to live as one of us. He comes to us now, to meet us where we are, to raise us up to where he is, from drudgery to glory. He keeps on coming through the Holy Spirit, lifting us up. He does this over and over again, often when we least expect or hope for it. 

David Holly a Cistercian monk once described how our days can be so different from another, for no apparent reason. Whatever state we are in, we must keep looking up to God, that we might be raised up: 

Today perhaps we are brought to the mountaintop; tomorrow we may be calling out from the depths.

Today we look upon the Lord and radiant are our faces; tomorrow we may again have to call darkness our friend.

Today we luxuriate in the source of all life; tomorrow the hand of death may lie heavily upon us.

Today we know why the Lord is mindful of us; tomorrow we may question why he even troubles to visit us.

Today our joy cannot be contained; tomorrow our sorrow may be more than we can bear.

Today we see how good it is for us to be here; tomorrow we may wonder with Job if it were better for us never to have been born.

Let us now ascend this mountain of God which his right hand has won, and ponder in his presence the seemingly conflicting truths in which is to be found our unending happiness.’