Despite being one of the most secular countries on earth, cultural religion still has a significant role in Swedish society not least in their national holidays. Today the nation is busy having a day off courtesy of the ascension of the saviour of the world.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of preaching on the ascension at Barnabas Community Church in Shrewsbury, UK. Yet the ascension has often been a slightly odd event, this apparent levitation of Jesus into the sky. As I reflected on this, the following example came to me:
“Let me give you a very recent illustration of how I felt about the ascension. It has been a long, cold winter in Sweden. Cold enough in fact to go for a walk on a lake which, coming from the UK is not something I’m used to. Right at the end of March we went for a family walk on a nearby lake. The sun was shining and it had been above zero for a few days and the snow was beginning to melt. As we walked on the lake we saw a few cracks here and there, a few places looked thinner than others and not being used to walking on frozen lakes we were a bit nervous, walking a bit gingerly. We didn’t feel at all confident in our surroundings.
Until that is, we looked up and saw….
A tractor driving on the lake clearing snow for the skaters and skiers. A tractor on a lake at the end of March. Apparently you can drive a car on ice when it’s at least 10cm thick and this winter the ice had frozen to nearly 30cm thick. We felt a bit silly, breathed a bit easier and walked a whole lot more confidently out onto the lake.
For me if I look and think about the Ascension in isolation, I feel a bit nervous about whether it can hold the weight – I feel if this is what my faith is resting on then it’s not really strong enough, I don’t trust it enough to put the weight of my life upon it. However if I look up and consider instead the evidence for the Resurrection I realise it can take my weight, it’s like a tractor driving past on the lake. It’s still an act of faith but I can walk much more confidently now.
It is not thin ice, it takes the heavy weight of all that we put on it – Christ is not dead, He is risen and ascended.”
For more on the significance of the ascension here’s a good post from Desiring God.
Tim Chester has also recently co-written a book, which although I have not read yet looks like a good read, on The Ascension.