7th Sunday of Easter / Ascension Sunday

Thursday, May 29 – or Sunday, June 1, 2025

Lectionary Texts

Ascension Day

Acts 1. 1-11 — The ascension.

Psalm 47 — God has gone up with a shout.

Ephesians 1. 15-23 — May God give you a spirit of wisdom… with the eyes of your heart enlightened… the immeasurable greatness of God’s power, by which God raised Christ from the dead

Luke 24.44-53 — Jesus’ final instructions. Proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins. The ascension.

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Acts 16. 16-34 —Paul and Silas choose not to escape from prison, and convert the jailer.

Psalm 97 — God rules the world… light dawns for the righteous.

Revelation 22.12-14, 16-17, 20-21 — “I am coming…. I am the Alpha and Omega”…. let everyone who is thirsty come…

John 17. 20-26 — Jesus prays “that they all be one.” “May the love with which you loved me be in them.”

Preaching Thoughts

       The story of the Ascension, like that of the Transfiguration, is highly and purely symbolic. Treating it as a historical fact that proves a certain point (like that Jesus is divine) is not as fruitful as letting it be a story that invites our wonder. The story offers layers of “meaning” and significance.
       It’s the opener of Season Two of Luke’s series Jesus and His People. It begins as so many episodes do, with “Previously, in the Gospel of Luke,” and then does a little recap to bring us up to the present moment. (There’s also a little teaser for the next episode: “You will be baptized by the Holy Spirit not many does from now…” ) “Theophilus” could be a real person, or a symbolic name. It means “God-Lover.” Just like, yes, “Amadeus.”
      Jesus appears during 40 days, the Official Biblical Gestational Period. Scripture’s way of saying something holy is unfolding. Then the disciples want to know the old Messianic question: will you finally throw off Roman occupation and set Israel free? As usual Jesus changes the question, as if to say “My kingdom is not of this world.” Then he turns the focus from himself to the disciples: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” A foreshadowing of Pentecost. And of the work following that. The disciples (we) are to be Jesus’ witnesses, both to behold him and to “bear witness,” to show him forth in our living, in an expanding world from there in town in Jerusalem, across the country and even the “enemy country” of Samaria, and out into all the world. Jesus lays out a plan for a community that is radically expansive, not in conquest but in inclusion.
        We still cling to the ancient worldview that God is “up” (NFL players point to the sky when they score. Why not point to the ground, or their hearts?) Given that geography, for Jesus to ascend implies he’s gone”up” to be with God on the throne—that is, to rule over all Creation. Love is actually sovereign, even if it’s unseen.
        For those concerned with the physical body of Jesus after the resurrection, this seems to present a puzzle: now where is Jesus? But he has told them: In you. In Luke 24.48-49 and Acts 1.8 Jesus has charged them to continue his ministry and promised the Spirit (in John 20.22 he has already breathed his spirit into them). And in John 17 he prays “that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” So it’s not just a story about Jesus: it’s a story about us. Jesus is the spirit; we are the body. On Pentecost the disciples will discover that gift with amazing power. The Ascension makes way for the community to become the physical body of the risen Christ.
         “This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Hm. Maybe that’s in reference to the scriptures depicting God coming
“in the clouds:” Jesus is going to come back through the sky? Or maybe it means he’ll come in a way as unexpected as this? Or maybe it simply means “You really saw him go, didn’t you? When he comes, don’t worry, you’ll see it.” As usual,. There’s no one right interpretation of this saying. Let it entice you.
       This is also a story about grief and transition: the disciples now have to live without Jesus in separate physical form. It reflects a lot of the change, grief and uncertainty in the early church, and in the church these days.
       And it raises the question of how we live out our faith without the reassurance of Jesus’ physical presence with us. Much as we might wish he were ”here” in that way, we have to learn to accept his presence in a different form.

What a rich vein. Pray your way through this slowly. Here is my paraphrase of the book of Ephesians. See also a couple readings below.
      Ephesians wasn’t written by Paul. Maybe his less anal sister. If you’re ever down, just read Ephesians., It’s stuffed with one blessing after another. The writer really cared about her congregation and believed in them.
      The prayer in this passage is for wisdom and enlightenment but it doesn’t mean being smart or knowing the right answers. It means the enlightenment of our hearts, the way our soul knows things our minds can’t comprehend. Like what it’s like to be loved. The writer wants you to hope, and to trust in the power of God, the power that raised Christ, power that is greater than any other power.

   This is the end of Volume 1 of Luke’s gospel, Acts being volume 2. Here’s a shorter version of the story that’s repeated in Acts 1. In this version it’s late on the day of the resurrection. In Acts it’s 40 days later. Notice how Luke doesn’t mind telling two contradictory versions. They’re stories, not history.
       Jesus says scripture says the Messiah is to die and be raised. Well, Luke says it. Most scholars think Jesus never said that. But no one, Christian or Jewish, has ever been able to find scriptures that actually say that. It’s only through our Christian lens that we can overlay Jesus’ story onto Hebrew scriptures and see how they look similar. Take Isaiah’s servant songs. They’re not really about the Messiah (or even a person at all; they could be about the whole nation of Israel), and they don’t really describe resurrection. It’s not fair to pretend Isaiah had Jesus in mind in those songs. But we can see Jesus in them. The early church saw the resurrection as consonant with the way scripture shows us God, and their way of saying that was “scripture says this.” Let that be good enough.
       Jesus probably also didn’t say ”repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations.” But again it encapsulates the sense of mission of the early church. This is Luke’s version of a Great Commission, like John 20.22-23 and Matthew 28.18-20. This is what the early church believed they were about. The Jesus Seminar translates it: “All peoples will be called on to undergo a change of heart for the forgiveness of sins.” The root of this, the action we need to take, is not so much preaching but forgiving. It’s often assumed that people need to repent to be forgiven, but that’s not what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is the wounded person letting go of the hurt regardless of the hurtful person’s behavior. People will experience a change of heart when they receive forgiveness. We forgive, and that changes them; then they repent.

   Jesus’ prayer that we all be one is almost laughable, except that it’s so sad that we aren’t. How hypocritical is it of us to keep repeating his prayer when we’re also busy separating, dividing, leaving denominations, and continuing our polarization? Well, I think it is hypocritical. Clearly what Jesus meant was not that we all think alike, or worship alike or have the same doctrine or politics. What he was praying about is that same thing his whole ministry was about: love for everybody, without exception. His prayer is that we all love one another, regardless of our religion or politics, and that we be engaged in loving our neighbors, especially those who are most un-loved. He prayed “that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” Christ is in us all, and loving through us, equally and alike, no matter what our style, doctrine, practices or structures are. We are one in Christ’s love. In everything else we’re doomed to fracture into ever more microscopic splinters. It’s God’s love, not anything we believe, hold or practice, that makes us one.

Call to Worship

Leader:  Eternal God, you have raised Christ to rule over the universe!
All:  We sing your praise in awe and wonder. Alleluia!
You have raised Christ to reign over all human history.
All is taken up in the grace and Christ. Alleluia!
You have raised up Christ to rule over our hearts and our lives.
We bow in humility and gratitude,
and give our lives to serve in love and wonder.  Alleluia!

Leader: Christ, crucified and risen, you come to us in love.
All: We welcome you with gratitude, and we give you our thanks.
Christ, eternal Word of God made flesh, you ascend to rule the universe.
We worship you with awe, and we give you our obedience.
Living Christ, you breathe your Spirit into us.
We receive you with open hearts, and we give you our love. Alleluia!

3. [from Revelation 22.12-21]
Leader: Christ says, “See, I am coming soon!
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
All: Blessed are those who wash their robes,
who are given access to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates.
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”
Let everyone who hears say, “Come.”
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.
The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints.

Leader: Holy One, Heart of Heaven, your grace enfolds us.
Your Word creates us, and we rejoice in you.
You are in us, and we are in you.
Risen Christ, you have been raised to rule all things.
You reign over us in love, and with grace you embrace us.
You are in us, and we are in you.
Holy Spirit, you live in each of us, giving us one shared life.
With your people in all nations and traditions, languages and lifestyles,
we are one. And we praise you as one people.
Alleluia! You are in us, and we are in you.
Come, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Leader: We gather from many different lives and places.
All: But, God, we are one in you.
We have many different hopes and beliefs.
But, Jesus, we are one in your love.
We have many different gifts.
But God, in your Holy Spirit, we are one body.
Your love is supreme over all the world.
We worship you, to be claimed by your love,
transformed by your love, and sent in your love
for the healing of the world,
and the name, and the Spirit, and the love of Christ. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

Infinite God, the Christ who has walked among us you have raised up from death. The love Jesus embodied you have set on the throne of the world. In humility we open our hearts to your Word. Speak to us and re-point the very compass of our hearts, that they may point to you alone, and to your love. We pray in the name of the crucified and risen and exalted Christ. Amen.

Eternal God, you sent us Christ who lived among us, located in time and space. Give us faith to behold in every time and place Christ, whose love raises us from death, whose presence gives us life. Resurrecting God, lead us onward. Amen.

God of mystery, Christ cannot be contained—by a grave, or by a body. Love is above all things, all desires and all powers. Christ risen and ascended, reigns from the throne of our hearts. We give you our thanks and pledge allegiance to your Reign, in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Listening Prayer

(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)

Risen Christ,
you are no longer in one time or place,
but in every time and place.
You are here. You are in us.
We are in you.
We open our hearts to your loving presence.

Prayer of Confession

God of grace, we confess how small we imagine you;
yet you are infinite, your presence mysterious.
We confess we pretend to understand Jesus;
yet he exceeds our grasp.
We confess we want Jesus for ourselves;
yet he has ascended, enlarged beyond our time and place.
We confess how small our faith is.
Open our hearts, God, to your infinite greatness, and your mystery.
We repent of our certainty. Give us faith instead.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

1. ( Ephesians 1.17-23)
Leader: We pray that the God of the beloved, Jesus Christ, the God of glory, may give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation as we come to know the Creator so that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened.
All: We give our hearts to God, who calls us to hope,
who gives us a glorious inheritance among the saints,
and who shows immeasurably great power for us who trust.

God has shown that power in raising Christ from the dead
and seating Christ beside God in the heavenly places,
far above all rule and authority and power and dominion,
and above every name that is named,
not only in this age but also in the age to come.

God has put all things under Christ’s feet
and has made Christ the head over all things for the church,
which is Christ’s body,
the fullness of God who fills all in all. Alleluia!

2. (Ephesians 1. 15-23)

Leader: O God, God of our Lord Jesus Christ, Mother of Life and Father of glory, All: Give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation as we come to know you.
May the eyes of our hearts be enlightened.
May we know the hope to which you have called us.
May we behold the riches of your glorious inheritance among the saints.
May we know the immeasurable greatness of your power for us who believe.
Your great power is at work in us, the same power you put to work in raising Christ
Christ is far above all rule and authority and power and dominion,
and above every name that is named,
not only in this age but also in the age to come.
You have put all things under his feet
and have made him the head over all things for the church.
We, the church, are his Body, his real Presence,
through which he fills the world.
Bless us that we may be filled with Christ,
and fill the world with his love. Amen.

            We trust in God, the Source of all being, sovereign of all Creation, who in love continually creates all that is and all that is to come
            We follow Jesus, God’s Anointed One, who embodied God’s love in word and deed, giving his life in love. Christ was crucified and yet raised to new life, and ascended to reign over all Creatgion. Christ, the flesh of God’s love, walks among us, accompanying us toward God’s reign of peace and justice. Christ, the love of God, rules over our world, occupies all places and times, and leads us toward God’s New Creation.
            We live by the Holy Spirit, God’s love in us, and open our hearts to her guiding. We trust in the power of forgiveness, the reality of resurrection, the unity of the Body of Christ, and the mystery of eternal life. We devote our lives to love, mercy and justice in the name and Spirit of Christ, our ruler and our companion. Amen.

Eucharistic Prayer

[The body of the prayer may be read responsively or by the presiding leader(s) alone.]

God is with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your heart.
We lift them up to God.
Let us give thanks to the Holy One, our God.
It is good and beautiful to give God our praise.

We thank you, God, for in the beginning
you spoke your Word and all Creation came into being,
all things, all living beings, one in your Word.
You have claimed all your children in love
and made us siblings;
you saved us all together on one ark;
you set us all free, judging all powers of oppression;
we have all passed through the same Red Sea.

You make a home for us, a promised land,
a fertile planet for all living beings.
In the Spirit of Christ you gather us as one people, one Body;
we are part of one another, and made whole in one another.
And so with all your children we gather at this table.
With all Creation and the whole company of heaven
we sing your praise with one voice.

            [Sanctus, spoken or sung:]
        Holy, holy, holy One, God of power and might,
        heaven and earth are full of your glory.
        Hosanna in the highest.
        Blessed is the one who comes in the name of God.
        Hosanna in the highest.
               [or alternate version]

Blessed are all who come in your name,
and blessed is Jesus, your Christ,
who embodied your love for us:
in his teaching and healing he made whole
bodies that were sick, families that were broken,
communities that were divided.
He gathered all around one table—
the powerful and the outcast, the esteemed and the condemned,
and fed us from one loaf.

        [Blessing and Covenant]

Jesus invited us to share in the baptism of his death and resurrection.
Crucified and risen, he ascended from one time and place
into all times and places.

He gave us all his Spirit, making us one body in him,
promising that we would be in him, and he in us,
so that we would be one in you.
Whenever we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection until he comes again.
Remembering these, your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving
as a living and holy sacrifice,
in union with Christ’s offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of our faith:

             [Memorial Acclamation, spoken or sung:]
        Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
        Dying, Christ destroyed our death. Rising, Christ restores our life.
        Christ will come again in glory.
             [or alternative]

Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ.
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ,
redeemed by his blood and made one in his Spirit.

Christ is no longer in the body of a Galilean peasant
but, through his Spirit, in his community.
Receiving the Body of Christ, we become again the Body of Christ,
one with Christ, one with each other,
and one in ministry to all the world.
Through your son Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit in your holy church,
all glory and honor is yours,
eternal and loving God.

     [Spoken or sung]

* The Blessing and Covenant
[I usually don’t print the words. I want people to be looking at the bread, not their bulletins.]

On the night in which he gave himself for us
Jesus took bread, blessed it,. broke it, and gave it to his disciples,saying,
“Take and eat; this is my body.”
In the same way, after the supper he took the cup,
blessed it with thanks and gave it to them, saying,
“Drink of this, all of you. This is my blood,
poured out for you and for many, in a new Covenant,
which is the forgiveness of sin.”
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.

Prayer of Dedication / Sending

Gracious God, we give you our lives, symbolized in these gifts. Receive them with love, bless them with grace and use them according to your will. You are our sovereign; your love, embodied in Christ, reigns over all the world. Send us in humility and awe, in love and courage, to serve you, for the sake of the healing of the world, in the name and the Spirit of Christ. Amen.

Prayer after Communion

God, we thank you for this mystery in which you have given yourself to us. As wheat is gathered and made into one loaf, so we have been made on in Christ’s love. As bread rises, Christ has risen into a new form, and is alive in us. Send us now as the Body of Christ, moved by the Spirit of Christ, to join in the loving work of Christ, for the healing of the world. Amen.


(Click on titles to view on the Music page)

Offering song (Tune: HOLY MANNA or Joyful, Joyful)
(Included in Offering Songs, one- or two-verse songs
for dedication of offering or communion elements, set to familiar hymn tunes.)

Christ is risen, but no longer in firm flesh that we can hold.
Christ is risen far beyond our thought or power, forms of old.
As a fire can’t keep its light but shines it out; it travels on,
Christ has risen and ascended: love to rule the world has gone.

Christ is risen, and has named us witnesses to all the world.
We are now the risen Body, hands outstretched and grace unfurled.
So we bring our lives to God, that God will bless them, shining bright,
and we pray the Spirit lead us radiating love’s pure light.

Christ Has Ascended     (Tune: Morning Has Broken)

Christ, you have gone now into all Being,
into all people, all time and space.
Open our eyes, then, that we may see you
risen and living, shining with grace.

Christ you have changed now, hidden in daylight,
always before us, here in plain sight.
We look not skyward, but to our neighbor,
every face shining with God’s pure light.

Christ, you expanded, so that your Spirit
is not yours only, but with us all.
Still our companion, you will be with us,
no matter where we follow your call.

Christ, in your love you rule all creation;
justice and mercy shine as you rise.
We are your Body, breathing your Spirit,
light of your rising clear in our eyes.

Christ, Ruler of All Things       (Tune: Fairest Lord Jesus)

Christ, Ruler of all things, what is seen and unseen,
your love reigns; your grace is sure.
Beneath our fear and strife, death fails to conquer life:
your tender mercy still endures.

Christ, Ruler of our hearts, come and reign within us.
Make us comrades, siblings, friends.
Your love be our life, our only power,
that gives us life that never ends.

Christ, Ruler of the earth, bring your gentle justice:
your Realm come, your will be done.
Heal all oppression; fill us with mercy,
as faithful as the rising sun.

Christ, Ruler of all things, of what is and is to come,
Risen One, our song we raise.
Rule in our living; guide us with tender love.
Your grace in us will be your praise.

Love Is Enthroned      (Tune: Finlandia)

O, risen Christ, who once appeared among us,
you have ascended! Loud we sing your praise.
Though we may see no shadow of your nearness,
you have not gone; your loving presence stays.
You are no longer in one time or place,
but in all things, to radiate your grace.

Christ has ascended, reigning now above.
Love is enthroned at the Creator’s side.
All powers on earth are subject to Christ’s love,
who is our history’s unseen, gentle guide.
Though evil try to make this world its home,
Love is its Lord, and love shall overcome.

Go in the peace of Christ who is our Lord,
and gently heal, amid the fear and strife.
For we who eat and drink the living Word
are now Christ’s Body, and Christ’s earthly life.
We may not see the journey or the end,
but Christ still reigns, our ruler and our friend.

O Faithful God (Tune: Finlandia)

O faithful God, whose steadfast love is sure,
O Loving Father, Mother kind and strong:
your Covenant forever will endure;
you bind us to your heart our whole life long.
No matter how rebellious is your child,
in you we are brought home and reconciled

You hold us, God, in kinship with each other.
We have been loved and held when we would run.
We all are siblings, all born of one Mother;
though we would flee, you join us all as one.
Our deepest wounds come from our deepest love,
and so our highest hope for life above.

So teach us God, to bravely love each other,
for all belong within your house of grace,
to give our enemy, who is our brother,
our steadfast mercy, and a wide embrace;
for in our love, though we be right or wrong,
we know the grace to which we all belong.

Risen Bread
(Tune: Be Thou My Vision)

You laid your life down like sowing a seed;
once dead and buried, from death you are freed,
rising like wheat in the warmth of the sun!
Christ you are risen! New life has begun!

Christ, you are risen, but not far above:
you live among us in each act of love,
in every deed of compassion you rise,
living in flesh we can see with our eyes.

Christ, we are blest as we gather to dine,
strengthened for love by the bread and the wine.
This is your Body, now entering ours,
strong with your loving, miraculous powers.

Gathered like wheat from the fields in the sun,
once we were scattered but raised we are one.
We are the body of your love and grace,
your blest community, your real human face.

Jesus, you feed us, then bid us to leave,
sharing with others the love we receive.
We are your Body, sent by your command,
making love real as the bread in our hands.

Third verse may be omitted if there is no communion.
Final verse may be included with other verses
or as a blessing at the end of the service.

You Are the Nerve      (Tune: Finlandia)

O God, your Christ is risen in your people.
On earth Christ has no body now but ours.
We are the flesh and blood of your compassion:
moved by your Spirit, with its loving powers.
God be our heart, and we will be your Body,
serving in love in all our days and hours.

We are your feet, that go with joy to others
to share your love, the gospel we confess.
We are your eyes that see what is and may be,
that see each person’s need and loveliness.
We are your hands, that work with strength for justice,
your hands that shelter, heal and feed and bless.

Love, move in me, and guide me by your Spirit,
even when I don’t see or understand.
My life is yours, to be your living Body,
that I may love and serve at your command.
This is my life, my purpose and my power:
you are the nerve, and I your willing hand.

Your Holy Feast (Tune: “Londonderry Air,” Oh Danny Boy)

Oh healing Christ, you bring us to your table here,
to share with you, and all the ones you love.
We come as one, alike forgiven, healed and dear.
Oh come and bless us, Spirit, tender Dove.
        Oh, make us yours, your servants and your lovers.
        Oh, make us one, united here in you.
        Oh, make us new: the Red Sea lead us over,
        and set us free to walk in harmony with you.

Oh, Christ, you come, forgiving, risen from the dead,
in gracious love, that far outlives the grave.
You offer us your life in this, your humble bread,
and in this wine, your love poured out to save.
        So fill us with your peace and make us one again.
        Oh, fill us with your gentle, freeing love.
        Oh risen Christ, draw us into your rising here,
        and fill us with your light now dawning from above.

We come to eat the bread of peace you offer us.
We come to drink your resurrecting wine.
We come to feast upon your presence here with us,
and so become your Body as we dine.
        So make us whole again, and be our living breath.
        Make us your hands, and you will be our nerve.
        Oh, risen Christ, we join you, rising up from death,
        and by your side we’ll go, made new, to love and serve.

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