The spiritual journey is punctuated by peak experiences and glimpses of the numinous which mark the highs in our lives, brief and brilliant moments of truly feeling our proximity to the Holy. As much as these moments of wonder, bliss, and transcendence, we are marked and shaped by the depths of pain, deprivation, and terror, too. Those highs and lows seem to mark the bounds of our spiritual universe, while the bulk of our lives is spent in the quotidian, the mundane: the unremarkable ways we live out our faith, and slowly grow and change.

It is the slow work that knits together soul and body, and that prepares us for the profound and the puzzling, the glorious and the brutal. Without some kind of spiritual foundation, the highs and lows are impossible to make sense of, maybe even impossible to tolerate; or perhaps instead, we miss that there is anything of the Holy to be found in those moments at all, and experience them as meaningless, fleeting, and strange.

So it is that Jesus prepares his disciples to really, truly understand something of those who have gone before them in the faith. He knows that for them to continue as apostles, as leaders, as teachers of the faith and even martyrs, they first must really come to know Moses. To understand the kind of love which he wishes to impart, they must wrestle with the nature of the Law.

Christ did not give his disciples a one-day workshop on leadership and then fling them out into the wilderness; instead, he lived with them and walked alongside them, knowing that as they had to come to understand Scripture, so they also had to come to understand life.


We tend to look backwards rather than upwards. We tell ourselves that the most meaningful events of our lives are in our past: the things that have shaped us, scarred us, and inspired us, rather than that meaning comes out of how we live right here and right now, and our spiritual lives are in living into the unfolding reality of the Kingdom of God here and now, even if it only ever seems to make sense in retrospect.

We try to repeat things which are, actually, unrepeatable. I think of how much it challenged and transformed me to say some portion of the Daily Office early in my practice of faith: I would go out under the night sky in rain and snow and anything-else to stand on my own in a little furnished room at one end of a barn and say the office of Compline, and read aloud a few chapters of Scripture. It was a wonderful practice at a time in my life where to intentionally spend time in the presence of God at all was overwhelming, and where taking any waking hour away from working away at a job I hated seemed impossible.

I no longer live in that place. The room, the barn, and the apple trees outside are no longer my home. Many of the struggles of that time in my life have changed, mostly for the better. It might well be a good practice for me to venture out into the darkness to say my prayers, or to read aloud a bit more Scripture day-by-day, but it would be different, and I am different, and its fruits would be likewise. If I tried to reproduce that practice in my life now hoping for the same transformation to repeat itself, I would only end up disappointed and discouraged, and perhaps miss out on the other opportunities for transformation here-and-now that abound.


I spent this past Friday night, like so many around the world, gazing up towards the heavens at the marvellous display of Aurora borealis that completely filled the night sky. I have seen a lot of auroras in this part of the world, but none like that display. It was like flying, like being at home in the universe in a new way. I thought I knew something of auroras from a distance, hanging faintly shimmering over the horizon, and I found out I knew nothing.

We all awoke on Saturday morning to stunning images from friends and family and newspapers and everywhere else, and many who missed the display declared that they would go out on Saturday night to see it. Perhaps even more people gazed upwards on Saturday than on Friday, but the geomagnetic storm which produced the polar lights was in remission.

If you want to see an aurora, you have to look where it is, not where it has been. Another Coronal Mass Ejection may kick off another brilliant display early this week, but it’s more like spotting orcas should they happen to be around than going out to view the camas that blooms across years and years and remains in glorious blue and purple for weeks and weeks.


Jesus was born into the ordinary lives of real people who knew joy and pain and frustration. Christ formed his disciples by walking alongside them, day by day by day. He came to know and encourage their strengths and their gifts, and taught them what they needed to know in order to grow and change and to carry on his work to the ends of the Earth. He worked for their transformation, for the transformation of the World, with love and companionship.

We have repeated this process on down through the generations. The Church has developed organically in response to the changes and challenges that inevitably come with the reality of life, human development, social transformation, technological advances, and perhaps even the movement of the Holy Spirit. We have, in fact, become witnesses even to the ends of the Earth, and countless lives have been marked and supported by the faith Christ taught, and the faith we have inherited.

That inheritance is a great gift and a blessing. It has shaped us and made us who we are, and it has prepared us for the lives we lead here, and now, and has equipped us to venture forth into the unknown place where God now calls us, that ever-unfolding future in which we will again be changed, challenged, and transformed, and on, and on, and on.

When I hear this congregation spoken of as a “Church beyond walls,” I hear a place which has embraced the calling to live in the here-and-now. I hear those two mysterious figures in white who appear and remind the apostles that as Jesus first found them as they were living out their lives in the midst of everyday things, so he will be with them again. They do not need to look where he has been, but to go out and live their lives, and let God’s presence unfold in their ministry, their fellowship, and their relationships with one another, and all humanity.

A Church beyond walls is one that is equipped to bear witness to the God who is everywhere present, and who was never limited and contained by what the institution thought it knew in the first place. We look backwards and upwards in hopes of seeing that which we saw before, and we miss out on the opportunity to be surprised once again by the new things God is doing.

The Feast of the Ascension is the feast for all those who, having seen where God has been, are prepared now to go out and meet God in all things, everywhere, and always. This is a feast which sets its hope on the Kingdom of God here-and-now in the flesh-and-blood lives of many.

It is a great gift to share this feast with you all, and to get to hear your story in this story.


May you know that God is with you in all things, and may you bear witness to the God you have known. May you renew those old things which have shaped you, carrying them onwards to those who need them, and be transformed by the unexpected things which await you. May you know the extraordinary Grace of God, and the extraordinary peace of the Kingdom. May you venture boldly into the world, knowing that you are the Body of Christ, which nothing can destroy, in “the fullness of him who fills all in all”. Amen.