Ascension Day Reflection – 13th May 2021

Written by Jacki Thomas

We hope that you will be able to use this service in your own homes to worship, pray and reflect on this special day. Jacki has provided her words for you to read, or you can watch / listen on her recordings. The hymns are also there for you to play.

Welcome

Welcome to this short service for Ascension Day.

Hymn:  Hail the day that sees him rise

Introduction

For forty days we have been celebrating 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, we hear the story of his parting.

 A page from the Gospel Lectionary portion of the Bamberg Apocalypse (Bambergm Staatsbibliotek, MS A. II. 42)  The Ascension

Reading

Acts 1: 3 – 11

After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over the course of 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.’ 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.’

Reflection

Why is it that Ascension is often overlooked?  Have we failed to appreciate its significance?  Do we struggle with the mechanics of the ascension?

I suggest that the how is not so important as the why.  Jesus was returning to be reunited with God the Father.  He had to let go of the disciples and the disciples had to let go of him. He had to go for them to receive the Holy Spirit.  In order to continue his work the disciples needed to see him go physically. To receive the Holy Spirit in all fullness they had to let go of the idea that they could always turn to the physical Jesus.  They had to learn to co-operate with and depend on the Holy Spirit. They had to learn that Jesus was always with them – You may remember that at the end of Matthew’s gospel Jesus promised ‘I am with you always to the very end of the age’. (28: 20)

Do we recognize Jesus as always being – John’s gospel begins ‘without him was nothing made that is made’ (John 1: 3) and Paul wrote to the Colossians ‘in him all things hold together’ (1: 17).

When we think about Jesus do we visualize one of the many paintings or pictures we have seen?  Do we think of the risen Jesus meeting the bewildered Mary at the tomb, the Jesus who patiently walked the road to Emmaus, the Jesus who accepted Thomas’s lack of belief and let him touch him, the Jesus who knew what it was to be hungry and cooked breakfast on the beach for the disciples…think of your favourite picture of Jesus and remember that it is this Jesus who has ascended.  Glorified with the beauty of his holiness and enthroned in the splendour of majesty the glimpse we saw at the transfiguration is complete now. The book of Revelation describes him:

13 and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.  (Revelation 1: 13- 16)

Christi Himmelfahrt  by Gebhard Fugel  c 1893

Jesus is indeed King.  He has ascended and is enthroned.  This is encapsulated in the prayer: Yours Lord is the greatness, the splendour the power and the majesty, all things come from you and of your own do we give you.

Whatever is going on in our lives Jesus is in charge.  He is greater than anything that can happen to us.  Jesus is our priestly King:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. (Hebrews 4: 14)

Song:  Open the eyes of my heart Lord

Prayers

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
(Hebrews 4: 14 – 16)

Lord God Almighty,

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.

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.

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 we may be so aware of his presence with us,

that people may notice and know that we have been with Jesus.

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 …

strengthen and heal them, that they may find grace in time of need,

Lord, in your mercy:

All   hear our prayer.

Heavenly Father, whose Son took our humanity into the heavens,

and who has gone before us to prepare a place for us:

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

and those 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.

Amen.

Hymn: Immortal invisible

Final prayer & blessing

O God you withdraw from our sight that you may be known by our love; help us to enter the cloud where you are hidden, and surrender all our certainty to the darkness of faith  and may the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be on each of us and all whom we love now and for ever.  Amen.

Giotto di Bondone (1267 – 1337) Capella Scrovegni a Padova, Ascension

Ascension Day Reflection – 13th May 2021