Ascension Day

Cape Fisterra

Two years ago today I was sitting at the edge of the earth or at least this is what pilgrims call the cape that we were on at the end of our long journey.  I had no idea what would come up in the next days, months, years.  I had just put someone I had fallen in love with on a bus to return to her life and I wasn’t quite ready to return to mine.  A group of other pilgrims and I hiked out to the edge of the cape and waited for the sun to set over Fisterra, Spain.  We waited and waited and thought about how we should have brought food and wine.  We told stories and finally we were rewarded with the most amazing sunset. It was then that I knew that I had to keep walking until Muxia where I knew my journey of walking would end for now.

Ascension Day is the 40th day after Easter.  In the church world we say that this is the day that the risen Christ gives a final “in person” blessing on the disciples and then he rises up into the heavens. He ascends past them and into the clouds.  He leaves them and they stick around thinking…ok, now what?  This is just a few days before Pentecost when the Spirit rushes through and compels the disciples back out into the world.  In the meantime, there is this sense of the end of one journey before the next one takes hold. It gives us space to reflect on what now…and what rises up before us and leaves us standing here to think of what next.

I now live in a country that acknowledges Ascension Day with a public holiday.  It is fascinating to me that a city like Berlin that is so incredibly unchurched takes such great delight in Christian holidays and yet they are celebrated mostly with hanging out and not really talking about the holiday itself. I was just reading articles about how this holiday is traditionally celebrated with drinking beer…surprise, surprise.  And yet I find it kind of cool to take this chance to create a marker for me to reflect on the holiday itself.  Rarely do we spend much time in the US to talk about Ascension Day..that moment that marks an in between time. Sure, we get excited about Pentecost but in order for Pentecost to occur, Luke tells us about this moment of Jesus leaving them.

Luke even tells us that Jesus chooses to leave from Bethany, and we should remember that this a beloved place for Jesus.  This place is where is best friends and chosen family live. Remember Mary, Martha and Lazarus? From this place, Jesus invites them to enter into a new relationship with him. They have to take steps to the next journey. In this moment there is a leave taking full of joy, love, grief…all of it.

Perhaps today you are on the brink of the in between. One journey has ended and the next begun. I so often feel as if I live in that precipice, that threshold and perhaps the day is to celebrate that moment. In the meantime here is a blessing from my friend Jan Richardson…

In the leaving
in the letting go
let there be this
to hold onto
at the last:

the enduring of love
the persisting of hope
the remembering of joy

the offering of gratitude
the receiving of grace
the blessing of peace.

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