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As we confess in the Apostle’s Creed we believe that after Jesus rose from the dead, he did not die a second time. Instead, 40 days after his resurrection, Jesus left the Earth by being taken up, body and soul, to Heaven to re-join God the Father. This event is called the ascension (it falls on 21 May this year), and it was witnessed by Jesus’ eleven remaining apostles.

Now it came to pass, while he blessed them, that he was parted from them and carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Luke 24:51-52

The idea that Jesus ascended to God "up there" is just as strange as Harold Camping's image of corpses flying up to the sky along with today's believers. As a fundamentalist evangelist, though passed away some years ago, I am sure, he would have seen coronavirus as the beginning of the end times. I think differently. I think it is a sign for us to be kinder and more supportive towards each other, and a wake up call for the world that science should take priority over politics, not the other way round. Some Christians still live in a three-story universe: heaven above, earth between, hell below, but few people believe that if you get into a space ship and fly far enough, you'll find a place called "heaven."

Of course, it's not out of the question that Jesus defied gravity, but is that the real point? I don’t think so. Ascension is more about spirituality than gravity. The disciples asked about the restoration of Israel on the day of the Ascension. Jesus' response is purposely vague, and still remains good counsel for those who seek a precise date for judgement day or the fulfilment of history. "It is not for you to know the times or periods." Rather, we are to await the coming of God's Spirit and his power that comes from being filled with the Holy Spirit, be it in the 1st or 21st centuries.

Finished with his counsel, Jesus is lifted up, and the disciples are left gazing into the heavens until an angel admonishes, "Why do you stand looking toward heaven?" The angel promises Jesus' ultimate return, but it cannot make us lazy stargazers. Not even during the time of coronavirus lockdown! We have a lot of work to do here on earth and how much more work will have to be done when the lockdown restrictions are lifted to catch up with things!

I think the main point of Ascension is getting a perspective. Rising to the clouds gives us a broader perspective on our lives and the planet. Let us rise above the clouds and problems that coronavirus, social distancing, disruptions to private and church lives have caused for us and see life differently. We should appreciate what we`ve got and each other more. Value food, clothes, clean water, shelter, medical care, freedom of movement and speech, freedom of religion, as it is not long when the lockdown will be over and life cannot be the same again. Rather than individualistic images of salvation and personal well-being, Ascension challenges us to bring heaven to earth, that is, to live Jesus' values in our world. Maybe capitalism is finished as a way of life based on greed and exploitation. I wish. As the Lord's Prayer proclaims, "Thy kingdom (or realm) come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." When we live from a higher perspective, we can transcend our own self-interest to embrace the well-being of our community and the whole earth, including strangers, our society and the whole world suffering from coronavirus and its dire consequences, furloughing masses, job losses, limited stock, price rises, churches struggling financially, exhaustion and fears of the caring and medical profession as they are overworked and still lack PPE.

Heaven is not up on the third floor of the universe, but it is where God is – everywhere. In the world. In the midst of this global pandemic. In our hearts. The ever-present God is right here, giving us all the guidance and inspiration we need, if we but look beyond ourselves. Our mission is to heal, to save lives and protect creation, to keep in touch and love each other. We don't need to wait for a far off day of perfection and rapture. If God is always with us, then right here and now can be the day of transformation and fulfilment.

God Bless, John