I don’t do ‘goodbyes’ very well. I find them too emotional, too painful.
When I left, after 7 years, my first teaching post, I could not bring myself to be present in the staff room for the traditional ‘saying goodbye’. I had enjoyed the 7 years and had made good friends, and the thought of the emotion and the pain was too much for me.
On Ascension Day, we stand with Jesus and His friends as they say goodbye… a painful, but necessary parting of friends.
In that moment of ‘goodbye’ (or God be with you), Jesus is making it possible for His friends to experience the emptiness of bereavement, and that sense of ‘what happens now?’
The anxiety of facing the unknown… alone.
And it is into this anxiety and emptiness that Jesus offers them hope… and a presence to be with them… HIS presence.
‘Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of time.’
Now, His friends can have the courage to ‘let go’ and ‘bring to completion’ the past, without feeling the need to cling on to it.
Before he ascends, Jesus points them to what their future will be, ‘Making disciples of all the nations.’… and adding, ‘Remember I will be with you, always.
Ascension Day then, is for all those who have known painful goodbyes, who have known bereavement, and who wonder about how to keep going.
Today is for them to hear the kindness of Jesus’ promise, ‘Behold, I am with you ALWAYS, even to the end of time.’