“See, I am sending upon you what my Father promised”
Over the past few weeks the news has shown us that people are complicated things.
We have seen examples of greed and selfishness where people panic buy and deny others the most basic of items, we’ve seen an increase in refugees trying to get to the UK across the Channel, themselves victims of people smugglers.
But we have also seen the best of people; the kindness of neighbours and strangers, the pulling together of communities.
The love and care that people are showing when looking after others.
We see what it is to be human.
Today is the feast of the Ascension, a day when we celebrate humanity.
The story of the Ascension relates what happened to Jesus after the resurrection.
Jesus rose from the dead as a fully human person, recognisable as the same Jesus as He was before His death; yet clearly, He did not stay in Palestine forever.
There came a time when God’s presence with the disciples was experienced differently, in the form of what they came to call “the Holy Spirit”, and Jesus was no longer seen walking on earth.
But the doctrine of the Ascension is very important for our understanding of what it means to be human.
The picture language about Jesus disappearing up into the clouds tells us that Jesus, the man, returned to God.
Humanity has become part of God forever.
After the Resurrection and Ascension, Jesus did not stop being human; all they He was, all that we are, was taken into the nature of God.
It is miraculous enough that the bible tells us that we are made in the image of God our Creator.
The Ascension shows us that we are even closer to God than that, taken into His very being.
Human beings were always God’s creation, God’s children, but the Ascension casts us in a different light; now we are truly in God.
That means we share God’s responsibility for the world; but also, that all our struggles, all our weaknesses, are acknowledged and affirmed.
So, quite rightly, we are encouraged to value humanity.
We are not perfect; we are capable of the utmost cruelty and violence.
But at the same time, we are infinitely valuable; because God is in us and we are in God.
We are worth redeeming, worth sending the Spirit to, worth taking up into the Godhead.
Valuing humanity rightly has huge ramifications. If humanity is part of God, we are not entitled to deny humanity to any of God’s children, no matter what they have done, no matter what crimes they have committed.
And we must take the hard-ethical questions extremely seriously, because they concern the humanity that God has taken into Himself.
We can be realistic about human nature, but we can be optimistic about it too.
Our future is bound up with God’s future, and the possibilities are endless.
In fact, for humanity, the sky’s the limit.