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Thursday 21st May 2020 - Ascension Day

posted 20 May 2020, 06:29 by Church Office   [ updated 20 May 2020, 06:30 ]

Please join us for our Ascension day service on Thursday at 8:15pm after the NHS clap for carers by clicking this Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86788998688?pwd=RzBvRDF6VE9VNnVueldOalQwYVhkdz09

You can download the order of service here, and a printable version of the readings, sermon and prayers can be downloaded here.

Thursday 21st May 2020

Ascension of the Lord

 

Readings

Ascension Day marks our growing up: Christ has no hands on earth now but ours. The task of carrying on Christ’s mission may be daunting but — he promises that he will send us his Spirit. The same Spirit that moved over the water of creation bring forth everything out of nothing. Christ’s hands are now multiplied across the face of creation ready to usher into being a new creation.

Acts of the Apostles 1: 1-11

The Promise of the Holy Spirit

In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

The Ascension of Jesus

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But 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.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

It is comforting that the disciples who lived alongside Jesus and witnessed his death and resurrection still had no clue what his mission, and therefore theirs, was really about: not the recreation of Israel as a political power but the recreation of the whole earth.


Luke 24: 44-53

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53 and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

Again, the risen Christ commands his disciples to wait, again he promises them the same power that he received from God, the creator of all things, again he tells them that God’s recreation is intended for all.


Sermon

“While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven?’” (Acts 1:10-11). Seriously - give them a break. I’d certainly be standing looking up toward heaven, if I’d just witnessed the risen Christ ascending to the skies, and I’d bet you would be too.

But the point is there’s stuff to get on with, work to be done. This is an ending, of course, but it is also a beginning. A new beginning in which the disciples are invited to participate, even more, to be the means by which this new thing - the thing that will in time become the Church - is realised. As with the resurrection, the consequence of the Ascension is a demand for action. The tomb is empty because the risen Christ has already gone on ahead, somewhere else, and invites us to follow. And even if you have just witnessed the Ascension, why would that mean you should stand still, gazing into space? As Luke puts it in his gospel rather than in his letter which we know as the Book of Acts, immediately before the Ascension Jesus says to his disciples that as it had been written, “the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations.” That is what is to be done. No time for standing still.

 

What follows from the Ascension is repentance - the Greek word metanoia means a complete change of mind, a reforming of oneself – and forgiveness. Not condemnation, but forgiveness.The Ascension is a tricky proposition for the preacher. Does Luke intend a literal reading? The two accounts he offers us differ in significant ways and I wonder if this in itself could be a clue that a literal reading, sort of “Beam me up, Scotty” (please excuse my irreverence) is not what he was trying to evoke.

What matters to me, is that Christ who gave himself up to suffering and death is the same Christ who sits in glory at the right hand of God. Christ who having risen from the dead still bears the scars of crucifixion, ascends to God the Father still wounded. And the woundedness of humanity is embraced by God; redeemed, forgiven, and loved. Luke’s Jesus touches lepers, scandalises people when he praises the woman who bathes his feet with oil, and the woman who dares to touch the hem of his garment because she knows she deserves to be free of the bleeding she has suffered for years - and the being made an outcast that went with that, of course. He calls outsiders to be his followers, tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. In which case, the Christ who sits in glory at the right hand of God calls us to a change of mind, a re-forming of things. Maybe this is not so far from the contemporary realisation that those whose work has been dismissed as unskilled are anything but unskilled, and that work on which society has not placed a high value is actually essential.

As Tom Wright points out in Luke For Everyone, Luke’s Jesus ends where he begins, by referring to the Hebrew scriptures. The last thing he does before the Ascension is to “open their minds to the scriptures” that the Messiah must suffer and die and rise again. And right back at the start of his public life Jesus had read from the scroll in his home synagogue, that “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free ...”

That is still what is to be done. No time for standing still.

Amen.

Prayers

Risen and ascended Christ,
you surround us with witnesses
and send us the Counselor
who opens our minds to understand your teaching.
Bless us with such grace
that our lives may become a blessing for the world
now, and in the age to come. Amen.

 

Prayers of Intercession

Almighty God, our heavenly Father,

you have exalted your Son Christ Jesus to your right hand,

and made him the head over all things for his body the Church:

hear us as we pray for the Church throughout the world …

Make us and all your people receptive to the gifts he pours upon us,

that we may use them to your glory,

and the building up of the body of Christ.

Lord, in your mercy:

All   hear our prayer.

 

Lord God Almighty, the Ancient of Days,

you have given your Son all authority in heaven and on earth:

hear us as we pray for the world he came to redeem …

Grant that we may know even in this time the things that make for peace,

and may strive for the reconciliation of all people

in his kingdom of justice and love.

Lord, in your mercy:

All   hear our prayer.

 

Father of all, whose Son has promised to be with us always,

to the end of the age:

hear us as we pray for those among whom we live and work …

Grant that this community may journey together with Jesus, responsive to the needs of our neighbour.

Lord, in your mercy:

All   hear our prayer.

 

O God our Redeemer, whose Son ever lives to make intercession for us:

hear us as we pray for those in any kind of need …

May he who has borne our infirmities strengthen and heal them,

that they may find grace to help in time of need,

and rejoice in his salvation.

Lord, in your mercy:

All   hear our prayer.

 

Heavenly Father, whose Son has borne our humanity into the heavenly realms,

and gone before us to prepare a place for us:

hear us as we remember before you those whose earthly sojourn is over,

and whose life is now hidden in him with you …

Make us joyful and expectant, that at his coming with all his own

we too may go forth to meet him, and share in his eternal joy.

 

Merciful God,

All   accept these prayers

for the sake of your Son,

our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Amen.

 

Ċ
Church Office,
20 May 2020, 06:29
Ċ
Church Office,
20 May 2020, 06:29