Ascension Sunday

May 21, 2023

Lectionary Texts

Ascension Day

Acts 1.1-11. Jesus’ final instruction s to the disciples 40 days after the resurrection, and his ascension

Psalm 47 rejoices that God has “gone up with a shout” and sits on the holy throne.

Ephesians 1.15-23. A prayer that you may receive “a spirit of wisdom and revelation… with the eyes of your hearts enlightened,” so that you might know the greatness of God’s power, the power with which God raised Jesus from the dead.

Luke 24.44-53. A shorter account of Jesus’ ascension.

7th Sunday of Easter

[Ascension Day, 40 days after the Resurrection, is May 18, but may be observed Sunday the 21st. Regardless of other textual choices, include at least one version of the ascension story.]

Acts 1.6-14. The ascension story.

Psalm 68.1-10, 32-35. “God, parent of orphans and protector of widows, has given the desolate a home to live in.”

1 Peter 4.12-14; 5.6-11. Blessed are you who are persecuted for your faith. Discipline yourselves. Cast your anxiety on God. Resist evil. God will restore you.

John 17.1-11. Jesus’ prayer for his disciples, that they (we) may know God, and that they be one.

Preaching Thoughts

    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. Jesus has ascended to the “heavenly places:” not the sky, or the afterlife, but the place of power at the heart of all things. 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). So it’s not just a story about Jesus: it’s a story about us. 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 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.
    It’s 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: God of glory, something has happened.
All: God of love, something has changed.
Christ now reigns overall the world.
Christ now reigns over all our hearts.
All our minds.
All our lives, and all our choices.
Christ, ruler of all that is, come rule over us.
Draw us up in your love, and make us your Body,
for the sake of the world. Amen.

Leader: Despite the world’s chaos,
love is the root of all.
Over and beneath men who fight for power and influence,
love is the greatest power.
Though death looms and evil prowls,
Christ, risen from the dead, is in every time and place.
God, the God of love, is with us.
We worship in gratitude and joy.

Leader: Eternal God, you reign over all the universe.
All: Praise to you for your wondrous love!
Christ, you have ascended and are enthroned over all things.
Glory be to you, who are above all powers and authorities.
We praise you. Reign over us, and make us your holy people.
Alleluia! Come, Holy Spirit, and transform us by your grace. Alleluia!

Leader: Loving God, you sent Christ to us, to love us and lead us.
All: Alleluia! We are blessed, and we thank you for your love!
But he was crucified at the hand of our own fear and selfishness.
Alas! We are sorrowful, and we confess our sin to you, and ask your forgiveness.
In grace you raised him from the dead.
Alleluia! We are saved! We praise you for your grace!
You have lifted him up into the heavenly places.
Alas! We are afraid, for now we are without him: he has gone away from us again!
You have seated him at your right hand in the realm of power.
Alleluia! Christ rules over everything, over every force that frightens us.
We can relax!
Christ is the head of all things for the church, which is his body.
Alas! Then we must get to work, and risk dying and rising as well!
In Christ you grant us a glorious inheritance, and call us to hope.
Alleluia! With all our mixed feelings we come to worship, to give you our lives,
to follow the crucified, risen and ascended Christ. Alleluia!

Collect / Prayer of the Day

Everliving God, your eternal Christ once dwelt on earth, confined by time and space. Give us faith to discern in every time and place the presence among us of the One who is head over all things and fills all, even Jesus Christ our ascended Sovereign. Amen.

Loving God, Creator of all things, you have raised Christ to rule at the heart of the human story, present in all beings, through the Spirit of love to bless us, keep us and lead us in your ways. May your Word may be made flesh again in Scripture, in our worship, and in all our lives and in our living. Open our hearts, God, and speak to us. Amen.

Eternal God, Christ, who rose from the dead, rises in our hearts with love. May Christ, who has ascended to the heart of all things, ascend in our minds and hearts, and rule with grace. Amen.

Listening Prayer

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

We do not look up into the sky for Jesus.
We look to love.
May the eyes of our hearts be enlightened,
that we may see and give thanks,
that though we don’t see
we may give our hearts.


        Enlighten the eyes of my heart

God, enlighten the eyes of my heart,
that I may see clearly what is your true and beautiful will;
and even if I may not see your will,
that I may see what is true and beautiful;
and even if I may not see that,
that I may see what is.

Enlighten the eyes of my heart,
that I may be open to your light.

Response / Creed / Affirmation

Ephesians 1. 15-23
      We do not cease to give thanks to you, O God of our Beloved Jesus Christ, our glorious Father and Mother! We pray that you may give us a Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that we may know you better. Enlighten the eyes of our hearts. Help us embody the hope to which you have called us. We thank you for the richness of the gifts we inherit from you with all the saints, our sisters and brothers. We celebrate the incomparably great power you give us when we entrust ourselves to you.
      By that same power, you raised Christ from the dead; by that mighty strength you seated Christ at your right hand at the heart of all things, to reign over every force and every system, every rule and every power structure, every law, both human and natural, in this world and in the next. You placed all things under Christ, whom you made to be head over everything—especially the church, which is Christ’s body.
      Therefore by your Spirit and your abundance that fills everything in every way, we devote ourselves to be the presence of Christ, to embody your love in this world. Alleluia!

Eucharistic Prayer

[After the introduction, the body of the prayer may be read responsively with the presiding leader(s) and congregation, or by the 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 you create us in your image,
and covenant to be with us in love.
You judge the forces of injustice,
and call us to join you in freeing your children from all oppression.

You gave us the gift of Jesus, who was crucified by the powers of evil.
But by the power of love you raised Christ from the dead,
and set Christ, the Body of your Love, to rule at the heart of all things.
Therefore with all Creation we praise you with joy and gratitude:

            [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.
He loved and healed and taught and fed the hungry.

He was taken by the forces of injustice,
subject to the powers of this world.
But by the great power of your grace
you raised him from then dead,
victorious over death, over evil, over the powers of this world.
Christ is no longer in one time or place, but present in all things.
The living Christ embodies your covenant to be with us in love.

     (The Blessing and Covenant)
As long as we break this bread and share this cup
we remember his death and resurrection, until he comes again.
Therefore, remembering these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves 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 Spirit on us, that we may be for the world the Body of Christ,
clothed with power from on high, the power of love,
witnesses to your grace from here to the ends of the earth,
for the sake of the healing of the world, to your glory.

     [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 / after Communion

[Adapt as needed.]
Gracious God, we thank you for (the mystery that you give yourself to us / this mystery in which you have given yourself to us.) Even as Christ left the disciples, still he filled their hearts. You have opened the eyes of our hearts, so that we seek you in one another and in our love. Send us into the world to be your witnesses, to give flesh to your Word, and to trust your reign of power and grace. We pray, as we serve you, in the name of Christ. Amen.

Loving God, we treasure this mystery, that Christ is no longer in one time or place, but in every time and place. May your Spirit give us grace and courage to be your witnesses, to the ends of the earth, in the steadfast company of Jesus. Amen.

Suggested Songs

(Click on titles to view, and hear an audio clip, 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.

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.

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