Thursday, 9 May 2013

With you alway

For Ascension Day St James has its own giant and wonderful visual aid.

The Ascension picture that so dominates the interior of St James Church is very greatly loved by local people. Only today a man who has often visited the building  the came into the church to look at the picture during our open church time. When he heard his visit coincided with Ascension Day he was doubly pleased.

Earlier this week a member of our own church told me how the picture spoke to her at troubled moments in her life, especially with its attached text 'Lo, I am with you alway,' taken from Matthew 28.20 in the King James Version.

Today for our Ascension Day service I took as our text Hebrews 4.14 'therefore since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.'

The real point of the ascension is not Jesus absence from earth, but his presence in heaven; not so much his departure from this world, but his triumphal entry into heaven and his reign from the throne. Charles Wesley gets it about right in the hymn we sang this evening:

Hail the day that sees him rise, Alleluia!
to his throne above the skies; Alleluia!
Christ, the Lamb for sinners given, Alleluia!
enters now the highest heaven! Alleluia!

There for him high triumph waits; Alleluia!
lift your heads, eternal gates! Alleluia!
he hath conquered death and sin; Alleluia!
take the King of glory in! Alleluia!

Lo! the heaven its Lord receives, Alleluia!
yet he loves the earth he leaves; Alleluia!
though returning to his throne, Alleluia!
still he calls mankind his own. Alleluia!

 Still for us he intercedes, Alleluia!
his prevailing death he pleads, Alleluia!
near himself prepares our place, Alleluia!
he the first fruits of our race. Alleluia!

I particularly like the last verse: 'his prevailing death he pleads' speaks of Jesus the great high priest who sacrificed himseld for us, praying for us; and that last phrase 'first fruits of the race' reminds us of the great biblical principle of first Christ, then those who belong to him. He is risen and has ascended. We shall raise and we shall we reign.

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