Service for Ascension Day

21st May 2020

On Ascension Day, Thursday 21 May 2020, St Oswald’s Worship Leader Matthew Wyllie led a short service which was broadcast by the Scottish Episcopal Church.

You can watch the service here and the liturgy for the service is available here.

Here is the reflection that Matthew gave:

The accounts of the first Easter that we read in Scripture go to some length to emphasise that when Jesus appeared to his disciples following his resurrection, he really stood before them in body. He bore the marks of his suffering and even tells his disciples ‘touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’

In today’s readings we hear another extraordinary account. Jesus ascending into the sky, to the heavens, disappearing among the clouds. Just as Jesus was resurrected in body, he ascends bodily, physically, to heaven. And his last act before he ascends is a blessing upon his disciples.

Before his ascension he tells his disciples to wait in Jerusalem where they will receive the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.  And when he gives his Great Commission instructing them to go and make disciples, he also tells them: “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

So how is Jesus still with us if he physically ascends? Often when we talk about our faith, we talk about our heart. We describe it physically, viscerally, in and of our own bodies. In this way he is with us as followers of Christ. And in this way, we are the body of Christ, the universal Church. In Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians he says: ‘And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.’

At this time, many of us are trying to find how best to follow the teachings of Christ; to show his love, his compassion, and to let others know something of that feeling we experience inside us. Of that presence. For some, they are doing just this by staying at home. By picking up the phone and letting someone know that they’re thinking about them and praying for them.

As we consider the words of Jesus and of Paul, my prayer is that we can follow the commission given to us and that in our own way live to be more Christ-like each day. I am reminded especially of these words, written by St Teresa of Avila:

Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world,
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world.