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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Ascension Day, Year A
South Sydney Uniting Church
May 21, 2020


Today is Ascension Day, traditionally celebrated the 40th day after Easter Sunday. The day commemorates Jesus’ ascension into heaven and the promise of the Holy Spirit. As he ascends/departs, we read in Luke 24, Jesus blesses the disciples.

The reality concerns the absence of Jesus, a certain abandonment. One mode of revelation concluding, something new happening. We might reflect on letting go, starting again, seeing and feeling again. 

Meeting online, we can relate to this. The absence of familiar signs, loss of contact with sandstone, plaster, hardwood, marble, cushion, flesh … Quarantine as a time for praying and waiting. 

Holding fast to the promise, absence signifies a presence – possibility (through tears of sadness, relief, joy; tears in response to beauty). For the Easter season, ultimately, is about re-embodiment – the Spirit of Christ inspiring a body of believers.

The Christ story continues according to new modes of presence. The church is the re-embodiment of Christ. The stranger (neighbour, self, river, Earth) is a holy stranger. The water and oil, bread and wine sacramental.

The Christ story takes a certain path, follows a pattern: from body to spirit to body. Some theologians call this “spiritual materialism” and offer various examples: Logos and Sophia incarnate in the flesh, in everyday language (little words), the last and the least; the Eucharist as “source and summit of the Christian life”.

On this day of abandonment, we are invited to imagine heaven, then, as a real place (near or far away?), a gathering of souls “clothed with the power from on high” – making and mending things, eating and drinking, sharing and serving. 

At the centre of the Orthodox Icon for Pentecost we see either an empty seat where Christ may be imagined or the Mother of Jesus as ideal Christian. 

Spiritual materialism will mean responsible freedom (to re-imagine, to love), masculine and feminine beauty, equality, diversity. We might reflect on letting go, starting again, seeing and feeling again. Amen.

Homily