Part of the trick of reading the Bible is knowing what to read literally. The ascension, if by that we mean Luke's picture of Jesus zooming off on a cloud and on this cloud reaching heaven, is a case in point. It is not necessary to believe this happened literally. Ascension, like resurrection, is on the edge of history as we usually think of it. The resurrection and ascension are history-like in the narratives, but are not of the same historical character as the crucifixion. This is not meant as a way to wriggle out of the bodily resurrection and ascension of Jesus. Rather, it is to recognise that resurrection (and ascension) is beyond our usual experience. Like the resurrection of Jesus, the account of the ascension tries to communicate what is beyond our usual experience with language and experiences within our grasp. Resurrection is like becoming alive again (the resuscitation of Lazarus as a symbol of resurrection); resurrection is not literally coming back to life, it is a new and transformed existence. So too the story in Luke-Acts of the ascension of Jesus. It is like he was lifted up, but not exactly. God is 'up there', but not literally. God is within us, but not literally. Jesus really is raised and ascended; he departed 'on a cloud' in the same way that he 'came back to life' like Lazarus.