The pain of being separated or cut-off from a loved one is incalculable. We never get over it.

On this Sunday I am particularly aware of the anguish and the heartache of those indigenous mothers whose children were snatched from their arms by authorities whose intention was to separate these kids from their Aboriginal communities and assimilate them into white society.

Then there are those mothers in the United Kingdom whose children were taken at birth, institutionalized and then secretly shipped to Australia as part of a post-war child migration scheme.

Being separated, cut off or torn apart from those we love is an experience that can never be underestimated, trivialized or ever forgotten.

We all experience such loss and its one of those massive contradictions in life where the bond that sustains and nurtures us most is the thing that leads to an often overwhelming sense of sadness and grief.

With these things in mind, I wonder how Jesus’ followers felt when he was separated from them on that mountain outside the city of Jerusalem. The tumultuous, heart-wrenching events of Easter and the intense, mind-boggling joy the apostles must have experienced as their risen Lord stood among them is severed. It is cut-off as Jesus is lifted up and a cloud takes him away.

But we are not left bereft or forgotten. If you read the text carefully you will notice Jesus promises he will become present to his people in a new way as the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, is unleashed in the world. Moreover, Jesus’ followers are assured this will not be the last time they will see Jesus for he “will come in the same way as you saw him go”.

Today we acknowledge what we call the Ascension of Jesus, the time when Jesus was raised up to heaven and was no longer physically present to his followers. But with this comes the assurance that Jesus will be fully present to us in the Spirit that is so freely given to all. And this truth is celebrated in a few days’ time at Pentecost which is next Sunday.

The pain of separation impacts on us all. But, today we can be assured – God never leaves us, God never abandons us. God never walks away from us.

Friends, there is much to celebrate here – for Pentecost is coming!

Rev John Barr