Our Worship for Ascension Day (21st May)

Ascension Day is traditionally celebrated the 40th day after Easter Sunday, and commemorates Jesus’s ascension into heaven. Jesus promised the disciples that they would soon receive the Holy Spirit (at Pentecost), and asked them to remain in Jerusalem until the Spirit came. Ascension Day is a feast of our Church so enjoy our 20 minute celebration and praise.

Alleluia! God has gone up with a shout! The Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Alleluia!

Alleluia! He ascends to the Father, to my God and your God.  He will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven. Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Hymn: Hail the day that sees Him rise

Brothers and sisters in Christ, for forty days we have been celebrating with joyful hearts the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, his bursting from the tomb and his defeat of the power of sin and death.  He appeared to his disciples many times and told them about the Kingdom of God.

Today we recall how he left this earth and returned to his Father, ascending into heaven to take his throne over all dominions and powers.  Trusting in his reign over all creation, and submitting to his kingly yet loving rule, let us hear the story of his parting.

The Ascension Reading: from the Acts of the Apostles (1:4-11)

While staying with them, Jesus 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. 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. While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards 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.’

Alleluia, Christ is risen.     He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

A prayer for Ascension Day: Let us pray that our risen and ascended Lord will lead us to eternal life.

Risen Christ, you have raised our human nature to the throne of heaven: help us to seek and serve you that we may join you at the Father’s side, where you reign with the Spirit in glory, now and for ever.  Amen.

Coelos ascendit hodie; Jesus Christus Rex gloriae: [Translation below]

Coelos ascendit hodie
Jesus Christus Rex gloriae.
Sedet ad Patris dexteram,
Gubernat coelum et terram.

Jam finem habent omnia
Patris Davidis carmina.
Jam Dominus cum Domino
Sedet in Dei solio.

In hoc triumpho maximo
Benedicamus Domino.
Laudatur Sancta Trinitas.
Deo dicamus gratias.

Words Anonymous, 12th Century

Jesus Christ, the King of Glory,
has ascended today into the heavens.
He sits at the right hand of the Father
and rules heaven and earth.

Now all the psalms of David,
our father, are fulfilled.
Now the Lord sits with the
Lord on the seat of God.

In this greatest of triumphs
let us bless the Lord.
The Holy Trinity be glorified.
Let us give thanks to God.

Ascension Day Gospel: Luke 24: 44-53

Then Jesus 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.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 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, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. 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.’

Then 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 worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

Hymn: Lord Enthroned in Heavenly Spendour

Reflection: by Nigel Halliday

Rembrandt “The Ascension of Christ”

This is not one of those Rembrandts that seem to peer deeply into a man’s soul. We see a group of disciples simply staring in awe as Jesus is taken up to heaven. The scene is lit from above and the heavenly light filters down to the faces of the disciples, symbolizing their genuine but partial understanding. At the left-hand side a giant palm tree – a symbol of God’s people – holds the two realms of heaven and earth together.

And yet, perhaps its simplicity is a strength. What else is there to show? Isn’t staring in awe exactly the right response? Jesus has been raised from the dead and has been with the disciples for 40 days. That was amazing enough.  But now he has been taken bodily into heaven. What does that tell us?

Jesus is unique. Death never had any hold over him. So Jesus freely gave himself up to death for our sakes and for our salvation and freely took up his life again, never to die again. And to underline this wonderful truth, Jesus’ body is taken physically from this earth and he now stands in the presence of God.

Luke is emphatic that like all the resurrection appearances this event too is attested by eye-witnesses (Acts 1:9). And so we have one more powerful demonstration that Jesus really is both perfect God and perfect man.

It is a truly amazing fact: that a man really does stand in the presence of the Father.  And he stands there representing us human beings. It is precisely because he stands there, as our friend and brother, but also as our High Priest offering the sacrifice of his own life on our behalf, that we have hope and confidence to face our own deaths, knowing that we will one day be re-clothed in resurrection bodies as he was (1 Corinthians 15).

Rembrandt shows the disciples rapt in awe as they see Jesus glorified. They will now have to go out into a hostile world spreading the great good news of the gospel and each will pay dearly in his own flesh for the privilege of this witness. But each does so because they have seen with their own eyes the truth of the resurrection and the ascension and they are therefore sure in their faith and their hope.

Anthem: O Clap your hands

Psalm 47
O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.
For the Lord most high is terrible; he is a great King over all the earth.
God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding.
God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon the throne of his holiness.

Prayers for today

Let us join our prayers with those of our Saviour Christ, seeking the Father’s blessing and the gifts of the Spirit.
Jesus Christ, great high priest, living for ever to intercede for us, pray for the Church, your broken body in the world.

Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us.
 
Jesus Christ, king of righteousness, enthroned at the right hand of the majesty on high, pray for the world, and make it subject to your gentle rule.

Lord, hear usLord, graciously hear us.
 
Jesus Christ, Son of Man, drawing humanity into the life of God, pray for your brothers and sisters in need, distress or sorrow.

Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us.
 
Jesus Christ, pioneer of our salvation, bringing us to glory through your death and resurrection, surround with your saints and angels those who have died trusting your promises.

Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us.
 
Jesus Christ, Lord over all things, ascended far above the heavens and filling the universe, pray for us who receive the gifts you give us for work in your service.

Lord, hear us, Lord, graciously hear us.

Jesus Christ, keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit and in the bond of peace, and bring the whole created order to worship at your feet; for you are alive and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  

Amen.

Hymn: Christ Triumphant

Blessing:

May the Spirit, who set the church on fire on the day of Pentecost, bring the world alive with the love of the risen Christ.  And the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with us always.  Amen.

Waiting expectantly for the promised Holy Spirit, go in the peace of Christ.  Alleluia. Alleluia.

Thanks be to God. Alleluia.  Alleluia.

That concludes our worship for today. If you would like to see a three minute dramatisation of the Ascension, click the link below. There is also some background information about Ascension Day below.

Ascension Day is a Christian holiday celebrated around the world.

In Christian doctrine, Ascension Day marks the day that Jesus ascended into heaven after he was resurrected. Also known as the Feast of Ascension, this day is generally observed as a feast day by Catholics and Anglicans, and it occurs 40 days after Easter. 

Looking to the Bible, the Ascension of Jesus is referred to in three different accounts.

In Western Christianity, the terms used for the feast (ascensio or ascensa) are derived from Latin, promoting the idea that Jesus rose on his own volition. In Eastern Christianity, the terms for the feast (analepsis or episozomene) are derived from Greek, promoting the idea that by rising up, Jesus finished his work of redemption for all. 

Ascension Day Traditions, Customs and Activities

For Roman Catholics and High Church Anglicans, Ascension Day is among the six holy days when attendance at Mass is necessary, and so rather like Easter and Pentecost it is hard this year knowing we cannot meet and celebrate together. 

In England, there was an old Ascension Day tradition in which the parishioners carried a banner with the symbol of a lion at the start of the procession followed by a banner with a symbol of a dragon at the rear. This was done to display the victory of Christ over the devil.

What does it mean for us today?

Ascension Day is a feast day when as Christians we take time to remember that Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth as he returns to be with his Father in glory and to reign at his right hand.

It marks the start of God’s worldwide mission and the witness of the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit for whom the first disciples waited expectantly in the ten days between Jesus return to his Father and the first Pentecost.  And according to Matthew’s account of the Ascension, Jesus final command to them, and to us who call ourselves Christians today, is this:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” 

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