PartingThis Thursday was Ascension Day, the day that remembers the moment that Jesus left to be with God in heaven and promised that someone would come in His place to help the disciples and believers as they started to share the Gospel message. You can read all about this is Acts 1:1-11.

But in reading that account you can almost feel the anxiety of the disciples. Their beloved Jesus, who they thought lost on Good Friday, who then returned, is now leaving again. They watched him go, they heard his words… and then they just stood there rooted to the spot. And it is this thought that made me think of the quote from Romeo and Juliet, ‘Parting is such sweet sorrrow’, where the thought of being apart induced a sorrow only matched by the hope and joy of seeing each other again. Yet in this scene laid out before us in Acts 1:1-11 I do wonder if they had actually got to the hope and joy part.

 

I guess they were feeling a loss of security blanket, Jesus who had guided them, taught them and shaped them was no gone. There would have been a huge set of emotions. There would certainly have been awe at what had just happened but also a deep and troubling question…what next? The familiar is going, has gone and they may well have been quite anxious about what takes its place in the time that follows. The normal patterns of behaviour would need to change, who would lead these people? How would the one that is to come work with them to share Jesus with anyone who would see and listen? It’s a bit like securing the promotion you always wanted, then realising that you are the person in charge, all eyes are on you and that you don’t feel as ready as you thought you might.

And that is a bit like how we, as the church, maybe feeling right now. The world has changed, questions about what makes life worthwhile are being asked, spiritual searching is awakening for many. The knock-on effect is that the ‘new normal’ won’t be, can’t be, shouldn’t be like what was before… the way we ARE church is likely to change, the way we DO church is likely to change, the way we are PART of the community will change… change is coming whether we want it or not, and to stand staring into the sky waiting for the ‘old normal’ to come back will get the same response those disciples received ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky?’. Yes, Jesus is coming back but not know and not quite in the way you expect either.

Here's the point… God is dynamic, so should His church be… The world has is changing, has changed, and God is now finding new ways to connect to people. He is the God ‘I AM’, not ‘I WAS’… he is the present, the now, the here… and we need to keep up with Him, the Son and the Holy Spirit. They lead a merry dance and we are called to follow – do we have the courage? God is dynamic but He doesn’t change, God is dynamic but always consistent in character, so should His church, us, be the same. New normals ask new questions… what will our church services look like when lockdown eases but is not totally lifted, are our buildings, should our building be, the centre of everything we do? What is the place of the ‘online church’ in the world after COVID 19? What changes, what stays the same? I don’t know yet, but I know a God who does… and only when we get on our knees and pray will we ever find out.

Parting is such sweet sorrow, yes it’s true… but after the old has changed and the new is being shaped there is always hope and joy in being part of the new dance being made around us. Stop looking back, stop looking up, starting looking forward asking God to teach us new things for a new day.