Today, May 24th 2020, is Ascension Sunday. Ascensiontide marks the period leading to Pentecost and a time to think about the vertical dimension of our faith, not simply ‘gazing up into heaven’ but looking towards God for the promised gift of the Holy Spirit.
Prayer of Approach
whose son Jesus called his disciples
to witness to him in all the earth,
guide and direct us
that we may also be your witnesses,
and stir us into action by your Holy Spirit in our lives,
for the sake of your people and to your greater glory.
Prayers of Adoration …
Almighty Father, we come before you.
You are the King of glory, the King of kings.
You created the world and rule it from your sacred throne.
You formed humanity for yourself and called women and men to tell of your glory.
You sent your Son, who spoke of your kingdom but he was rejected and killed.
You raised him from death and he walked with his disciples, sending them to the ends of the earth.
You carried him into the heavens where he rules with authority and power.
Lead us in worship today, that we may share your glory to the ends of the earth.
… and Confession
Loving God, we humble ourselves before you.
We are not worthy even to call upon your name, but we know that you are merciful in judgement.
Forgive us our false pretences, our prejudices, our arrogance and disrespect for the world you created and for the people you give us to love and to respect.
Turn us away from the sins we have committed.
Amend what we are and help us to walk with you. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
Reading: Acts 1:6-14
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 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.” 9 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.”
12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. 13 When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.
Some images to accompany this reading:
Of all the scenes in the New Testament, the account of Jesus’ ascension as described in Acts 1 is the one I’d like to know more about. (I say this about pretty much every gospel passage though!) I wish we had more of a sense of the mood as these Men of Galilee leave the scene and head back to Jerusalem…
If the disciples were feeling distraught, then that would be understandable. This is the last time anyone would see the physical Jesus.
If they were feeling deflated, then that would be understandable. The last few weeks had been particularly intense for them.
If they were feeling bemused, then that would be understandable. Jesus had always done things they’d never seen before and the weeks since the crucifixion had been packed with resurrection surprises!
If they were feeling energized, then that would be understandable. Jesus had just given them a clear plan of what they were to do next.
I pondered on this for a few days before remembering that Luke also includes Jesus’ ascension in the last verses of his gospel (Luke 24: 50-53).:-
… he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
It is clear then. Neither deflation nor distress but great joy!
Two differing accounts of the same event by the same storyteller. Hmmm.
If Luke’s gospel had been written for a Sunday evening TV drama series then chapter 24 reaches a natural high and the hint of a second series to follow in a few months. Series 2 begins with a recap of what happened where we left off (albeit with a different emphasis) before moving quickly to the events of Pentecost.
In this way, the same story is both an ending and a beginning. This might resonate in …
The arrival of a child for a couple who have endured years of IVF treatment.
The unlocking of a front door and return home after the funeral service for a partner.
In other words, a moment to acknowledge that life will never be the same again.
Another event marked by Methodists today is the conversion experience of John Wesley on May 24th 1738. His journal records that, “In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”
This came somewhat unexpectedly for Wesley at the end of a busy Pentecost Sunday (he’d been awake since 5am!) but would be a defining beginning moment in the life of the church.
what times in your life could be described as both an ending and a beginning?
how might this time of waiting in 2020 turn out to be both an ending and a beginning?
what today’s reading might have to say to the church about embracing change?
God Bless, Deacon Pru.
Forth in Thy name, O Lord, I go
My daily labour to pursue
Thee, only Thee, resolved to know
In all I think, or speak, or do
The task Thy wisdom hath assigned
O let me cheerfully fulfil
In all my works Thy presence find
And prove Thy acceptable will
Thee may I set at my right hand
Whose eyes my inmost substance see
And labour on at Thy command
And offer all my works to Thee
Give me to bear Thy easy yoke
And every moment watch and pray
And still to things eternal look
And hasten to Thy glorious day
For Thee delightfully employ
Whate’er Thy bounteous grace hath given
And run my course with even joy
And closely walk with Thee to heaven
Prayers of Intercession
Find an atlas, globe, map of the world (there is a map inside the back cover of the Methodist Prayer Handbook), world flags or some other image or object which represents the countries of the world.
Ponder on the words: ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth.’ (Acts 1.8)
Pray today for
- Family and friends in different parts of the world and the country
- Particular places in the news today
- Places you have visited or plan to visit
- Places you feel a particular connection to
- Home – our neighbourhoods
Offer words of prayer for each place, followed by the bidding and response:
Lord, hear us: Lord, graciously hear us.
Gentle Music: Your Love (Pour Over Me) – Stuart Townend
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
And forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation
But deliver us from evil
For thine is the kingdom
The power, and the glory
For ever and ever. Amen.
Go in peace, in the knowledge of God’s power.
Go in confidence, in the knowledge of God’s strength.
Go in joy, in the knowledge of God’s love.
And the blessing of God Almighty.
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be with us and remain with us always.