I've been thinking about the text attached to the great ascension picture in St James Church: 'Lo, I am with you alway.'
It comes from the very last verse of Matthew's Gospel, chapter 28 verse 20. It comes at the end of what we call the Great Commission and that seems significant.
Matthew doesn't describe the ascension as such - he leaves that to Luke - but what he does instead is to record the Lord's Great Commission to his church before he ascends to heaven: go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
That, in sense, is what the church is for. This is what the church is supposed to do. (Incidentally, that is the reason why I have never felt the need to get the local church to dream up a some kind of mission statement - for the very reason that we have one already).
We already know what we are supposed to do because Jesus told us.
That brings me to 'Lo, I am with you alway.' Lots of commandments in Scripture have a promise attached to them, and the great commission is no exception
'Lo, I am with you, alway' is the promise attached to the commandment 'go, make disciples.' It seems to be saying to me that where a church is fully committed to and absorbed in the worldwide disciple-making work that Jesus commanded, it can especially expect the presence of Jesus to be with it.
Jesus may have left the earth bodily on the first Ascension Day but Jesus promise is that the church will never be without Jesus: 'Lo, I with you alway.'