Ascension of Jesus
My husband Fritz’s father-in-law from his first marriage, Bunker Hill, will be getting up pretty early tomorrow. He lives in Brighton at an Assisted Living facility called the Landing. He will put on his old Army jacket and be picked up and taken over to Webster where he will be the grand marshal of the Memorial Day parade. He will ride in a convertible and wave to the crowd. Bunker is 93 years old and is a World War II Veteran. A number of years ago, he and his granddaughter, Aimee, went on an Honor Flight, a trip to Washington, D.C. designed for World War II veterans that gives them a chance to see the War Memorials and be honored for their service. It was a wonderful trip for both of them. Warren Shaddock of our parish, another World War II vet, has also been on an honor flight with Marlene.
I’m sure while Bunker is in the parade, he will be remembering people that he knew while he served in the military. He will remember those that he came to know as friends. And he will be especially remembering those who didn’t make it home while they were serving in the military. He will be remembering those who gave their lives in World War II.
Memorial Day weekend is a day for all of us to be thinking about those who gave their lives while in service to their country. We remember those who died during wars, those who died in training mishaps and even those who have taken their own lives in connection to the stress of being in the military. We remember all of them today. We feel, too, for their families who continue to mourn their loss.
Today many of us are also thinking about the tragic bombing that occurred in Manchester, England in the beginning of the week. Twenty two people killed in a suicide bombing outside of a rock concert. Fifty nine people wounded. Children, teens and adults. The largest bombing in England in many years. A nation now on high alert. We continue to pray for the injured. We pray those who have died and their families.
We also think of the 25 who were injured and 29 who were killed by gunmen on a lonely stretch of road in Egypt. Coptic Christians en route to a monastery. Men, women and children who had their lives cut short.
In the midst of it being Memorial Day weekend and still being in shock over the bombing in Manchester and the shootings in Egypt we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension today.
Thursday was the feast of the Ascension but we are celebrating it today. How can we celebrate as we think today about suffering and loss?
Today we celebrate that Jesus, after his suffering, death and resurrection, returned to God in heaven. Jesus is now in the presence of God.
Death was not the end for Jesus. Death could not bind Jesus. Death could not stop Jesus. Jesus rose, spent some time with his disciples and then ascended to God in heaven. It must have been hard for his disciples to see him go, but they also rejoiced in the Temple after his leave taking.
Jesus ascension can be a source of comfort to us today. As we remember those who died in service to our country and those who died in Manchester and Egypt we don’t have to think about their still being in the grave. Just as death was not the end for Jesus so their deaths were not the end for them. The soldiers who have died in all the wars past and in other ways while serving our country live on with God in heaven. The children, teens and adults who died in Manchester and Egypt live on with God in heaven.
If Jesus has ascended, so shall we also.
Yes, death can seem horrible and tragic and senseless. War and violence are terrible things. Terrorism must be stopped. Yes, we mourn the deaths of people we read about in the newspaper or see on television. Yes, we mourn the deaths of our loved ones when they die. But we are given the promise of life after death.
We don’t have to live in fear of the deaths of our loved ones or our own deaths.
Through the Jesus who ascended into heaven, we, too, will triumph over death. We, and those we think about and remember will live on with God in Paradise.
We don’t really know what heaven will look like or feel like but we know that in heaven we will be in the peace and joy and presence of God forever and ever. That is something that we can look forward to, not fear. Nothing will separate us from the love of God.
So as we celebrate Ascension Day today let us celebrate that those who have died live on forever with God – in the light and love and presence of God.