June 1 2014: Sunday after the Ascension.
Here we are gathered for worship in church. Our physical bodies are in this beautiful
physical church in this particular place and this particular time. In this space and time we are having
communion with each other and with a God beyond space and time who is in all,
through all, and above all. God is
spirit and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. The spirits of each of us are eternal and
come from God. That is why we are called
children of God. The spirit part of each
of us is beyond space and time. And that is why we can sometimes have dreams that correctly foretell the future;
why we sometimes know when something bad has happened to a loved one in a
distant place. I am sure I have mentioned how when I was very young, a pine
plantation fire threatened to destroy our house in Mount Somers. Kind neighbours had come to fight the fire, and I understand that one of them
died from a heart attack, and that his body had been laid on the dining room
table. Imagine the distress! Imagine the terror! It is 1932 and the telephone rings. It is a $20.00 toll call from
Christchurch. My grandmother has sensed
that something is terribly wrong; “tell me what is happening!” She cries. In this way she showed us that our minds and
spirits are not separate, that they are together in the world of spirit, the
world beyond space and time. It is quite
likely that many of us here today can tell similar stories. There may be one or
two of us who have had what are called Near Death Experiences and now see the
world of spirit in a different light.
It is because our spirits are beyond space and time and
are one, that we can pray, and that our prayers
can be truly helpful to distant friends. Because, in spirit, they are
Often, consciously or unconsciously we have communion
with those we love in this physical world or the world of spirit, because we
are children of God, are spiritual beings, and therefore inheritors of the
kingdom of heaven. And it is for this
reason, that when we are with a person that we find difficult to love, who
torments us, exasperates us, when we are with such a person, and then there is
the greatest need for us to remember that such a person is also a spiritual
being and a child of God.
But I haven’t forgotten that today we are celebrating the
ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ into heaven.
For me, the Easter season in church is the most important time, because
it tells how our Lord was crucified and died, and rose again from the dead. Whatever the story of the empty tomb may mean,
the fact must be that the Jesus who appeared
and disappeared in locked rooms, who appeared and disappeared on the Road to
Emmaus, who appeared and disappeared in the presence of St Paul on the road to
Damascus, the Jesus that was seen in those circumstances, must have been Jesus
in his spiritual body.
It was because of these resurrection experiences that we
now have Christianity as we know it.
Paul’s experience with Jesus changed him utterly, and drove him in his
missionary journeys for the rest of his life.
So when we are talking about the Ascension of Jesus, we
are simply to think of him finally
withdrawing his spirit from the sight of his followers. As spirit nevertheless
he was and is everywhere present.
If we find this hard to imagine, then we can think of the
internet, where many millions of computers are linked in such a way that we can
email people in any country of the world, and through Skype and telephone to
people in any country at all, as if there were no distance between us. The
internet does give us a picture, how we can both be separate and non-separate
and one, and how the world of spirit can guide us.
The story of the Ascension, when Jesus seemed to have
ceased manifesting himself to this or that person in this or that place, is
significant. It sets the stage for the experience of Whitsunday, the coming of
the Holy Spirit. In the world of Spirit all is interconnected, all is one. On
Whitsunday, we remember the time, when people recognised that what they had
received face to face from Jesus, they could, when focusing in the Spirit,
become conscious of the action of the universal Spirit, in all, through all,
and above all.