Many years ago when you were travelling to a foreign country and going through customs, it was common to hear a uniformed officer ask you “Do you have anything to declare?” If you said, “Yes”, you knew you were in for some questioning! Many people who had some illegal product to declare actually said, ‘No’, to save themselves the trouble; some got away with it, and some didn’t.
Today I often wonder if the world is unconsciously asking this question of the Christian Church: ‘Do you have anything to declare?’ In other words, in the face of all the pain in the world, do we have a message from God to declare, a message that will make a difference, and bring hope to people’s lives? Because a church with ‘nothing to declare’ has no reason to exist, except to be a kind of spiritual country club for its members. A strong church needs a strong message to declare to the world.
What is our strong message? As I listen to people in the Anglican Church talking, I sometimes get a sinking feeling about this. I sometimes get the sense that our message is ‘We have beautiful worship that dates back to Henry VIII, and a nice loving community where you can get a sense of acceptance and belonging’. Well, I’m sorry, but have you noticed that not too many people are interested in Henry VIII these days? And if all you have to offer is a sense of community, there are lots of offers on the market that don’t require you to volunteer and tithe! So we’re going to have to do better than that.
The story of the Ascension can help us with this. What is the message of the Ascension? It’s simple and provocative: Jesus Christ is Lord of all. That’s what Ascension Day means.
This was the beginning of my sermon for today. You can read the rest here.