By the time you sit and read this reflection, Easter Sunday and the school holidays will probably feel like a distant memory and hopefully the weather will be blessing us with some warmer sunshine as we head on into the summer months.
In the church calendar following Easter Day we begin to look towards the Ascension, where the Gospels report Jesus as having ascended bodily into heaven with his disciples left behind in praise and worship. Ascension Day this year falls on Friday 26th May, however we will celebrate this significant event on the Sunday following in church.
Jesus’ ascension into heaven falls 40 days following Easter Day.
Numbers in the Bible always hold great significance, with the Israelites having been in exile for 40 years following Moses to the promised land. Moses himself went up the mountain for 40 days and nights before receiving from God the 10 Commandments.
Jesus, following his baptism went into the wilderness for 40 days before beginning his earthly ministry, and today the number 40 in the church calendar is significant in that we begin Lent on Ash Wednesday and 40 days later celebrate Easter Day.
The number 40 in biblical times actually meant ‘a really long time’ and for those of us when we reach our 40th birthdays, if you are like me, can feel we have been around for a rather long time….!
The Ascension itself on my trip to the Holy Land a couple of years ago was said to have taken place in the same landscape where Jesus had given his disciples instruction in prayer, with the words of the Lord’s Prayer. A rather wonderful connection here with prayers rising up towards heaven, as our Lord had once arisen bodily into heaven itself.
The great significance too of this season is that in the 40 days prior to this event, the post – resurrected Jesus had been seen by a significant number of people in different situations, where we hear in the gospels of Thomas doubting until he physically saw the risen Christ, to the event on the road to Emmaus when the people only recognized Jesus when he broke bread and shared this with them.
This season is a truly remarkable time, as we look back at events long ago, but holds great significance with us today in that it is a period of watching and waiting. Watching for the signs that God is among us, and preparing ourselves for the major event of Pentecost (Whitsun), when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples with what was described as tongues of fire – how amazing these things must have been, and how amazing they are to us in this day and age, because all of these events give us hope, in what can seem a really challenging time in our world, especially when we hear of events like that of the Westminster bridge tragedy and the way that humanity can be so cruel to one another.
But the Christian faith in all its seasons gives us hope, that our Saviour Jesus Christ is right there with us in the midst of it all in the gift of grace in our prayers.
With love and blessings, your parish priest, Zoe
Revd. Zoe Ferguson (Priest in Charge Mundford Group Benefice & Assistant Priest to Hilborough & Oxborough groups) Day off Monday.
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