Rev Olwen Woolcock

Holy Communion – Ascension Day (Thur, 21 May 2020)

Holy Communion – Ascension Day (Thur, 21 May 2020)

Holy Communion – Ascension Day (Thur, 21 May 2020)

Welcome

OPENING HYMN: At the Name of Jesus

THE GREETING

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

Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you
and also with you.

Dear 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.

The Ascension Reading  – from the Acts of the Apostles (1.4-11)

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.’

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

Seeing we have a great high priest who has passed through the heaven,
Jesus the Son of God, let us offer him the praise worthy of his name.

GLORY TO GOD:

Glory to God, glory to God, glory to the Father.
Glory to God, glory to God, glory to the Father.

To him be glory forever.
To him be glory forever.

Alleluia, amen.
Alleluia, amen. Alleluia, amen.  Alleluia, amen.

Glory to God, glory to God, Son of the Father….

Glory to God, glory to God, glory to the Spirit….

THE COLLECT 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.

GOSPEL READING: Luke 24: 44 to end

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Luke
Glory to you, O Lord

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 worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53 and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

This is the gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.

SERMON

We have entered, unexpectedly, into a new world. A new way of being,  and although we might be waiting for things to return to what is familiar to us it’s becoming clear that actually there is going to be more change in store. Even when we can return to our church buildings, be present to one another in a different way, even worship in a different way as it will be a while before we are allowed to sing in public gatherings. It is right that we should regret that things can’t be the same, that is natural, but it is also important to recognise that God’s Holy Spirit is still at work in the church and in our lives and will bring renewal, new opportunities, new life, for that is the nature of the Holy Spirit. The word of God to us is always ‘Behold I am doing a new thing; do you not perceive it?’

Forty days after that first Easter Sunday Jesus appears to his disciples for the last time. He walks with them out of the city to Bethany, commissions them, blesses them and is taken up out of their sight. It is a new beginning. It is truly a new dawn, truly a new way of doing things, truly a new world with new potential.

Because Jesus’ earthly ministry ends at this point. He has taught and healed and inspired and preached for three years, mentoring his disciples and announcing the kingdom of God. He has shown the disciples the truth of the resurrection and has come to them several times over the weeks since his death, bringing them reassurance and hope. It is as though they had not lost him and they came to understand they were not alone. For them Christ was still present on earth – but now no more.

This is the day of parting and the beginning of a different relationship between Jesus and his followers. He can no longer be with them in a visible way. That is the old way. Instead there will be a new way in which they can know his presence and it will be through the Spirit which God will give them. The Holy Spirit will come upon them and bring them into a new relationship with their Lord. It will be a bit like zoom, an invisible, accessible connection between the Lord Jesus Christ and all who believe. And in order to get the connection the disciples are told to wait in the city. There will be a new way of being in relationship and it is coming.

And there’s another change for the disciples beginning from the time of Christ’s ascension. Because it is from this point that Luke, who wrote the gospel and the book of Acts, refers to them as apostles, they move from being disciples to apostles. From being simply followers of Jesus to those who go out in his name and proclaim his story to the world. An apostolic ministry is one which goes out. You will be my witnesses, say Jesus, you are the ones who have seen and known and understood what I have done. Repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed to all nations in my name and you are the ones to do it. It is the beginning of a new world.

And then there is the strange reality of the ascension of Jesus. What exactly happened is hard to tell, it is not easy to imagine Jesus’ feet sticking out of a cloud before they disappear from sight or Jesus floating above the trees on his way to heaven. And yet Luke understood that this was the moment when Jesus returned to his Father in glory. That earlier transformation on the mount of transfiguration has become fulfilled. Jesus ascends and is glorified. There is a new dimension to who Jesus is. He is now the one who reigns with God in glory.

So – all change. A new way of being. And of course, there’s fear and anxiety, a sense of loss, a sense of disbelief, a wondering of exactly what will happen next. And lots of waiting – pretty much like the lock down in fact.

For the disciples it was scary stuff, there was a great deal of uncertainty. We also know that uncertainty about the future, we connect with their anxiety. Yet, with our hindsight, we also know that for over two thousand years people have heard the story of Jesus and believed in him as the Son of God and received the forgiveness of sins and been filled with God’s Holy Spirit. 

That’s why we’re here today worshipping the ascended Christ – because of that legacy of faithfulness and trust in God’s promises which carried the gospel across the generations. We’re here because we know of the power of God’s Holy Spirit at work in people’s lives turning their hearts to God, inspiring them to fulfil God’s work and purposes. Otherwise Christianity would have died out years ago. We know God’s promises are true. The power that the disciples received was real power. The pandemic has shown us the fragility of earthly power.   Earthly power is temporary and slippery and is easily lost. Heavenly power is not fragile.

The power of the Holy Spirit is life changing and eternal, it transcends the powers of this world and equips God’s people to work for God’s Kingdom. The power of The Holy Spirit renews lives and hearts and draws people into a new relationship with God. It enables them to worship and to witness in a new way. You will be filled with power from on high said Jesus to his disciples

The time between Ascension and Pentecost we describe as the waiting time. Waiting on the promise of Jesus to send this Holy Spirit. The lock down has taught what it is to wait. And the waiting continues. As we enter into this particular time of waiting during these ten days between Ascension and Pentecost let us do so in the faith and in prayer that this Pentecost will be a time of transformation for us. Let’s pray that God will pour out His Holy Spirit once again on the churches of Ketton and Tinwell  to release our imagination and potential,  to equip us with the gifts of the Spirit to reach out to others, to move us once more from being disciples to being apostle. There has been a long interregnum, some hard knocks, some sadness, weeks of a lock down. Let us pray for the filling of the Holy Spirit for a new era.  

It may not be comfortable but it is exciting. Fire in your belly. Motivation in your heart. God’s powerful Spirit turning our lives upside down for the sake of the Kingdom.   God’s Spirit keeping us in relationship with Jesus, God’s Spirit showing us new ways to fulfil the Great Commission and witness to the truth and love of Jesus and his saving grace for each one of us and for our world.

OUR BELIEF

Do you believe and trust in God the Father,
source of all being and life,
the one for whom we exist?
We believe and trust in him.

Do you believe and trust in God the Son,
who took our human nature,
died for us and rose again?
We believe and trust in him.

Do you believe and trust in God the Holy Spirit,
who gives life to the people of God
and makes Christ known in the world?
We believe and trust in him.

This is the faith of the Church.
This is our faith.
We believe and trust in one God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.    Amen.      

HYMN: Jesus is King and I will extol him

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION

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. Fill your church once again with your Holy Spirit to worship and witness in this particular season.
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. Have compassion on the world’s distress and pray for the willingness of all governments and nations to tend the earth and care for her people.

Lord, hear us.
Lord, 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. Pray for the bereaved, pray for the shocked and the shattered, for the vulnerable, for the elderly, for children, for those who serve others selflessly
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. Give us hearts to serve and eyes to see where we can make a difference.
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.

THE PEACE

Jesus says: ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
If you love me, rejoice because I am going to the Father’. Alleluia.

The peace of the Lord be always with you

Let us hold one another in prayer and in the peace of Christ.

Let us pray with confidence as our saviour has taught us

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.

THE BLESSING

May the Spirit,
who set the Church on fire upon 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 you always.

FINAL HYMN

Hail the day that sees him rise.

DISMISSAL

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ. Amen.        

Toccata G Major – Dubois

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