Bible references for this poem: Matthew 28:16–20, Acts 1:1–11.
When I was still at school, perhaps still at primary school, a friend asked me why Jesus couldn’t have stuck around. Immediately, I piped up about the Holy Spirit and Jesus’s Spirit can be with everyone, everywhere, simultaneously in a way that an embodied, physical Jesus couldn’t.
As I look back at my younger self, I’m a little surprised at how bold I was – but in a good way. The Holy Spirit is just as much a person of the Trinity as Jesus is.
I often suspect that because we can’t see her/they/him, we often down-play or even ignore the Spirit’s part in the grand history of salvation. Yet we should be challenged to relate to God beyond the visible and tangible – and we should definitely be challenged to meet people’s needs through our physical presence in their lives.
All that said, get me on a low day and I’m hankering for a physical Jesus I can sit with and ask questions of. Maybe I assume that if he was in the room, I’d get a straight answer – though when I think about it, the gospels should teach me otherwise.
As you might have guessed, today’s poem focusses around Jesus’s ascension, 40 days after his resurrection; it is, after all, the Sunday after Ascension Day. The accounts are recorded in Matthew 28:16-20 and Acts 1:1-11.
I still think my younger self was pretty close to the mark when I talked about the work of the Holy Spirt and the importance of being able to experience God everywhere, anywhere.
However, Ascension Day also represents a marker of dissatisfaction for me. To be frank, I’d like to know Jesus in person. Or perhaps, it’s less about experiencing Jesus in person, and more about experiencing God in general. Ascension Day has come to represent God being absent – or rather, the feeling that he is absent. I want to accept God’s plans and purposes but I also want to kick against the feeling that he might not really hear and might not really respond.
And when you doubt the presence and responsiveness of God, it’s so, so easy to get cynical.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t got this all figured out. In some areas of my life, I feel God day-to-day; in others, I feel met by relentless silence. This means the faith I strive for is one that has a bit more experience than my younger self, that knows cynicism, and yet is able to laugh.
When the chips are down, I do believe God is with me, that he loves me, that he hears me, that he’ll respond to me. Though I am discomforted by feelings of God’s absence, I don’t believe they’ll endure.
It’s with that mixture of emotions that I wrote today’s poem.
I think I’m living in a comedy.
But is it cruel or kind? I’m yet to see.
He told us, “I will always be with you.”
Then moments later, he was gone from view.
He will restore the kingdom—but not yet!
He said we weren’t to know what times are set.
But in Jerusalem we’ll testify,
Which sounds profound—assuming we don’t die.
And yet he also said that for this hour,
His Holy Spirit will baptise in power.
And if I saw him rise and then ascend,
My cynic’s not so easy to defend.
Elijah, Daniel, Moses could discern,
So who am I to doubt? He will return.
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