Tomorrow (May 29) is Ascension Day in the Christian calendar.
This is exactly 40 days after Easter and marks the end of the time during which the disciples met with the risen Christ face to face.
For 40 exciting and unexpected days, the closest followers of Jesus had encountered the resurrected Jesus, and walked with him and talked with him.
It had been a thrilling time for them, during which they were transformed from a fearful, cowering group, hiding behind locked doors, to the bold, confident apostles who were to start the church and carry the good news of him to the ends of the earth.
On Ascension Day, they parted from Jesus in this world, knowing they were not to meet with him in the same manner as in the past.
However, this didn’t make them sad or downcast. On the contrary, they were joyful and uplifted. A new chapter in their relationship with Jesus Christ was about to begin.
So what had brought about this change? Well, their meetings with Jesus after he had risen had given them not only a new perspective but also greater trust. They had now lost their fear and had an increased faith in the purposes of Jesus.
For a start, they weren’t afraid that he was going from them and they wouldn’t see him again.
This was because Jesus was being released from mortal constraints and would be available to them in a new and exciting way.
Their relationship was entering a new era and nothing would be the same for them again.
It’s because of the Ascension that we are able to be in relationship with the risen Christ, a real relationship which has been the mainstay of millions of people through the past 2000 years, including me.
Jesus is no longer confined to time and place but lives on, not least in the hearts of his followers.
It is possible to have a real and vibrant relationship with Jesus today.
No-one should ever imagine that an insurmountable distance separates them from Jesus.
His love and strength is available today to all who turn to him and trust in his promises and allow his grace to change them.
Through the worship of the Church; through prayer addressed to him and through him; through an awareness of all the stories that have come down to us about him through the Gospels; through the example of so many faithful people who have given their lives to him and lived by his teaching, we are able to get to know Jesus.
When we are familiar with him we will find a strength and a peace which nothing else on earth can give us and a confidence similar to that of those first apostles who knew him and were his friends on earth.
The Ascension may seem to be an out of date story, hard for us to imagine today.
The truth is it’s the key to letting us be part of him today.