Sunday after Ascension Day 2020
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
O God the King of glory,
you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ
with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven:
we beseech you, leave us not comfortless,
but send your Holy Spirit to strengthen us
and exalt us to the place where our Saviour Christ is gone before,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
The Ministry of the Word
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with[a] water, but in a few days you will be baptized with[b] the Holy Spirit.”
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them
17 After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
6 “I have revealed you[a] to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of[b] your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.
The Nicene Creed.
I believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And of all things visible and invisible:
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God; Begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God; Begotten, not made; Being of one substance with the Father; By whom all things were made: Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man: And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered was buried: And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures: And ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of the Father: And he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, The Lord, and Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; Who spake by the Prophets: And I believe one Catholic and Apostolic Church: I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins: And I look for the Resurrection of the dead: And the Life of the world to come. Amen.
The events of the past weeks prove that life can change quite unexpectedly, and remarkably fast. But then, life itself is a process of transformation, dictated by any number of situations and circumstances.
In the early part of human life, change comes thick and fast. A child will hopefully morph to adulthood and takes its place in society. In later years, the pace of change slows. Therefore, when circumstances do alter, they often prove unwelcome and bring apprehension and threat to a perceived security.
Alas, it is impossible to flourish in life without acceptance of the inevitability of change, whether for good or ill.
Last Thursday was Ascension Day, the thirty ninth after Easter. The Ascension itself marked a moment of dramatic change for early Christians. The scriptures describe the Ascension in words every bit as mysterious and magical as the account of the Nativity. Mediaeval and Renaissance artists depict the Ascension as Christ’s figure departing to the clouds with humanity gazing at his rapidly disappearing feet. The artistic perception will have been based upon an understanding of a flat earth with the sky above encompassing the heavens. At the time, Jesus’ departure and return to God could naturally only be explained in these terms. Scientific discovery has since proved the earth neither to be flat nor the centre of the universe. Ancient theological imagery therefore has its limitations when set against modern rationalist understanding. What today then is the true meaning of the Ascension?
Mrs Alexander beautifully summarised the nativity in her Christmas carol ‘Once in Royal David’s City’
He came down to earth from heaven
who is God and Lord of all,
and his shelter was a stable,
and his cradle was a stall;
with the poor and mean and lowly
lived on earth our Saviour holy.
The words tell of the entry of divinity, the Christ child, into human experience. By Ascension Day thirty or so years later, events had turned full circle. Jesus’ earthly life had finished, and his humanity become one with the Divine.
Christ’s departure naturally wrought great change to the lives of the earliest believers. Jesus’ immediate, visible presence was at an end. Jesus had though previously warned of change. “In a little while you will see me no more. But a little while after that, you will see me again.” (John 16:16). Nevertheless, his followers must have found both their lives and understanding changed, as his presence would now be felt in a vastly different way. They had to recognize that Jesus’ life could stilltransform theirs – even though he could no longer be seen.
The Ascension therefore marks a change and one that needs not to be ignored but addressed. Change inevitably leaves the past and familiar behind. Ascension was and is a time of change and transformation. The first believers could not cling to the dangling feet to pull Jesus back down to earth and neither can we.
This momentous change has though only just begun. Pentecost has yet to arrive.
We saw his light break through the cloud of glory
Whilst we were rooted still in time and place
As earth became a part of Heaven’s story
And heaven opened to his human face.
We saw him go and yet we were not parted
He took us with him to the heart of things
The heart that broke for all the broken-hearted
Is whole and Heaven-centered now, and sings,
Sings in the strength that rises out of weakness,
Sings through the clouds that veil him from our sight,
Whilst we ourselves become his clouds of witness
And sing the waning darkness into light,
His light in us, and ours in him concealed,
Which all creation waits to see revealed
Lord, give Your people Your peace that we may shine brightly in a dark world. Grant us the courage to live faithfully even amid hard times. Let our fear of You be the beginning of wisdom rather than allowing the fear of the world to drive our actions. Help us to embrace our heavenly citizenship and live strangely in the midst of a world that needs to know You.
Show Your mercy and heal those who are suffering in Your fallen creation. Most of all Lord, come. Restore the world You have made and make all things new. We pray that Your will would be done. Amen.
Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men; We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, By thought, word, and deed, Against Thy Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly Thy wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent and are heartily sorry for these our misdoings: The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; The burden of them is intolerable. Have mercy upon us, Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; For Thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, Forgive us all that is past; And grant that we may ever hereafter Serve and please Thee In newness of life, To the honour and glory of Thy Name; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Almighty and merciful Lord, grant me pardon and absolution of all my sins. Amen.
The Comfortable Words, Preface. and Sanctus.
Hear what comfortable words our Saviour Christ saith unto all who truly turn to Him.
Come unto Me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. St. Matt. xi. 28.
So God loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. St. John iii. 16.
Hear also what Saint Paul saith.
This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. 1 Tim. i. 15.
Hear also what Saint John saith.
If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous; and He is the Propitiation for our sins. 1 St. John ii. 1, 2.
with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud
and magnify Thy glorious Name; evermore praising Thee, and saying,
HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, Lord God of hosts, Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory: Glory be to Thee, O Lord Most High. Amen.
In union, O Lord with the faithful, I desire to offer Thee praise and thanksgiving. I present to Thee my soul and body with the earnest wish that may always be united to Thee. And since I can not now receive Thee sacramentally, I beseech Thee to come spiritually into my heart. I unite myself to Thee and embrace Thee with all the affections of my soul. Let nothing ever separate Thee from me. May I live and die in Thy love. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer:
The Hymn Listen on YouTube
1 Hail the day that sees him rise, Alleluia,
to his throne above the skies; Alleluia,
Christ, the Lamb for sinners given, Alleluia,
enters now the highest heaven. Alleluia!
2 There for him high triumph waits;
lift your heads, eternal gates.
He hath conquered death and sin;
take the King of Glory in.
3 Lo, the heaven its Lord receives,
yet he loves the earth he leaves;
though returning to his throne,
still he calls mankind his own.
4 See, he lifts his hands above;
see, he shews the prints of love;
hark, his gracious lips bestow
blessings on his church below.
Still for us he intercedes,
his prevailing death he pleads;
near himself prepares our place,
he the first-fruits of our race.
6 Lord, though parted from our sight,
far above the starry height,
grant our hearts may thither rise,
seeking thee above the skies.
the Day that Sees Him Rise” by Charles Wesley (1707-1788) was published
in 1739 One upon a time the BBC Home Service would play this before
began on an Ascension Day morning. Alas, this is no longer possible in
our politically correct age.
The first verse explains Jesus’ ascension and the second his destination, the gates of heaven, which accept Christ in glory. The fourth verse assures believers of Christ’s continued investment in the lives of those on earth. in comparison to his heavenly inheritance described in the previous lines. The final stanzas present Christ as the continuous intercessor for humankind, leading us finally to eternal union with God.