Ascension Day (Thursday, May 19)
In Acts 1. 1-11 Jesus, who has appeared to the disciples for forty days since his resurrection, ascends into the sky— a metaphor for Christ’s cosmic sovereignty.
Psalm 47 proclaims God’s power and goodness. God has “gone up with a shout,” as if God is ascending to take a throne to rule over all Creation.
In Ephesians 1. 15-23 Paul prays that we might come to know Christ and the power of his grace. This power is the same that raised Christ, who is seated “in the heavenly places,” meaning in power over all the world.
In Luke 24.44-53 forty days after the resurrection, Jesus tells his followers to bring his message of repentance and forgiveness to others, then he ascends to heaven.
Seventh Sunday of Easter
In Acts 16. 16-34 Paul and Silas are imprisoned for interfering with a fortune-telling business. An earthquake splits open the prison, but they choose not to leave, since their escape would mean the death of the jailer. Changed by their love, the jailer is converted and baptized.
Psalm 97 proclaims that God rules the world, and light dawns for the righteous.
In Revelation 22 the cosmic Christ gives some final blessings: “I am coming soon;” “Blessed are those who wash their robes,” that is, who are transformed by Christ’s grace; and “Everyone who is thirsty, come take the water of life as a gift.”
In John 17. 20-26 Jesus prays that his followers be united in his spirit, that we be in Christ and Christ in us as God and Christ are in each other.
The story of the Ascension, like that of the Transfiguration, is highly 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.
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). Jesus is the spirit; they (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 is also a story about transition: the disciples now have to live without Jesus in separate physical form. It reflects a lot of the change, grief and uncertainty that surrounds the church these days.
The story of the Ascension also 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.
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!
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.
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.
(suitable as a Collect, preparation for hearing scriptures, or invitation to prayer)
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.
[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.
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:
Pour out your Holy Spirit on us, O God,
and on these gifts of bread and cup,
that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ,
that we may be for the world the Body of Christ,
redeemed by his blood and made one in his Spirit.
Receiving the Body of Christ,
we give thanks that we are 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.
* 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)
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.
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.