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Ascensiontide: Tasting the Sky – Canon Victoria Johnson, Precentor

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Title: Tasting the Sky

Preacher: Canon Victoria Johnson, Precentor

Date:  Ascensiontide 18 May 2023  5.30pm

Once you have tasted the taste of sky, you will forever look up.  Have you tasted the sky recently?

These are said to be the words of Leonardo da Vinci, who with his brilliant imagination designed machines that could fly and take us up from the earth to touch and taste the sky.

He was obsessed with flying, he studied birds, he drew pictures of contraptions that he hoped would one day take humanity into space. Though few of his drawings became reality in his lifetime, these ideas gave him a glimpse into another world. Leonardo was forever looking up.

On the feast of the Ascension, our vision is drawn from this earth into the firmament. As we see Christ ascend into heaven we are beckoned to change our perspective, to raise our gaze, to see things differently, to be inspired to think differently and let our imaginations take flight. We are called to look up too!

We look upwards and outwards, away from our sins and sorrows and we are drawn out of our self. As St Paul says in his letter to the Colossians we are to set our minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. We are given the freedom to soar through the air, with the wings of a dove. 

We need these glimpses of heaven, every now and then, we need to look up at the stars even if it feels like we are lying in the gutter, we need to fly and taste the sky, but not many of us have flying machines or rockets to hand to take us there.

As Jesus ascended into heaven, it was natural that the bystanders looked up in wonder- but we are told in the Acts of the Apostles, that two men in white robes appear and quickly ask ‘Men of Galillee why do you stand looking up into heaven?’ Just in case we are tempted to be so heavenly minded as to be of no earthly use, Christ will not let us leave our heads in the clouds.

This Jesus will return we are promised, and it appears that this taste of the sky is actually needed, not to remove or protect us from the challenges of our earthbound existence, but instead to sustain us in our calling to manifest the Kingdom of God on earth, as it is in heaven.

Jesus does not ascend into heaven and leave us alone. The Ascension does not represent Christ disappearing out of our lives and out of our reach- it is an event which weaves his life, death and resurrection into our earthbound humanity and Christian vocation.

The Ascension empowers us to ‘come back down to earth’ not with a bang but with a purpose, we are witnesses to the truth, and called to share that truth through our prayers, and through our worship, and also through our works.

To grasp something of the meaning of the Ascension, to taste the sky, as it were, we must return to the incarnation:

God in Christ became flesh and blood, and on the night before he died, at supper with his friends, Christ took bread and wine and gave it to his disciples, This is my body he said, this is my blood, and through this food, he gives us a taste of heaven, he calls us to lift up our eyes and hearts to see the world differently, change our perspective and fire our imaginations. Through this food, he takes our humanity into heaven, and puts the taste of heaven into our hands.

We may not have a flying machine to hand, but we are given this sacred feast so that we may taste the sky; the bread of angels becomes our food and our stay, and through this food we are drawn into the heart of God.

In the midst of challenge and change, through this eucharist we set our minds on things above so that we may be empowered to transform the life of this earth.

From a small group of bewildered men and women, gazing up into space, grows an earthbound community of transformation and hope.

Wherever prayers are said, wherever peace is proclaimed, wherever love is given, and wherever bread and wine are shared, we get a glimpse of the stars, we are given the means to fly and a taste the sky. And once we have tasted the sky, we will look up forever, and have the imagination to bring heaven to earth, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, to him be glory forever.


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