Sunday Worship May 24th - Ascension
Join us in our worship this Sunday - our congregation receive this by email or a hard copy through their door.
Opening words Revelation 4:9-11
Mighty God, we gather in humility to worship you. Caring God, we bring to you our concerns. Glorious God, we exalt your holy name. Unite us – make us one in you, that your love may strengthen and empower us. Amen.
Lord of all glory,
we come before you seeking your wisdom
that we may glorify you through our thinking;
we come seeking your love,
that we may glorify you through our emotions;
we come seeking your strength,
that we may glorify you at all times;
we come seeking your perseverance,
that we may glorify you in all places.
Show us how to live, that our lives shine with your glory,
and those who encounter us may know you
and that you are at work in your world.
Psalm 68.1-10,32-35; John 17.1-11; Acts 1.6-14; 1 Peter 4.12-16 and 5.6-11;
This week, we celebrated Ascension Day, albeit with the COVID-19 restrictions in place. This festival marks Jesus’ ascension to heaven and, in Acts 1.10, we read that the disciples ‘were gazing up towards heaven’ as Jesus was going. In John 17.1, it says that Jesus ‘looked up to heaven’ and spoke to his father, delivering what was arguably his most extensive and profound prayer. Jesus was foretelling what would happen to Him , first on the cross and then at the ascension. Jesus had spent almost six weeks with his disciples behind closed doors in the upper room, explaining everything to them – making them ready for the next step – preparing them for the coming of the Holy Spirit. But he also spoke about His glory.
Note how John, pulls together Jesus’ darkest hour with the prospect of the cross, and the notion of ‘glory’ – resurrection glory, the intense reality and intense brilliance of the living and creating divine. I wonder why John put this particular passage in here, imagine the impact this would have on his readers. The darkest of times blocked out by the glory of eternity – the glory of Him living with His Father forever. How does this make you feel? Do we feel excitement, terror, awe, joy, hope? We should feel the glory of God around us.
What does it mean, that Christ has been glorified in the lives of his disciples? (Verse 10) It is not only a matter of knowing, understanding, and believing, it is also a matter of doing, of being a Christian. It is important that the disciples are ‘one’, united? We too should be one with each other and one with God – we should all be united and never more so than at this time. How can we today and in this situation ‘glorify’ Christ in our lives?
As the Gospel reaches the climax, John presents Jesus’ last ‘speech’, which is in fact a prayer, crying out to his Father the desires of his heart, that through His actions on the cross, God would be glorified. There is something here of the relationship between God , Jesus and the Spirit, Jesus in this prayer is lifting them all up to be glorified, they are one and the same and all share in this glory.
The term glory - often associated with heavenly light - has other meanings. The crucifixion will be the hour in which Jesus is glorified. Jesus has also glorified his Father by finishing the work he was sent to do. And Jesus even says that he has been glorified in his disciples. Glory is deeply relational and mutual: Jesus asks the Father to glorify the Son so that the Son may glorify the Father. Glory is something to bestow on another.
Isaiah which I began this service with is a favourite passage of mine. Isaiah knows he is unworthy to serve and standing beside the glory of God he knows he is nothing. Yet God gently cleanses and renews him – putting burning charcoal on his lips he cleans him, then asks – who shall I send? Isaiah is now ready – ‘here I am, send me ‘ his vision in the temple – the glory of God made Isaiah offer his life to God.
The disciples in the upper room having supper did not understand all that Jesus spoke about but knew that He would be glorified and that they would be glorified too as they responded to His call – here I am send me – we will see next week how well that worked out!.
Here is the great challenge for us today, as followers of Jesus that we would continue to lift him up, and bring glory to God through our actions and our relationship with one another, echoing the relationship between the Trinity – as Jesus prayed: ‘that they would be one, as we are one’.
At the ascension Jesus took the disciples to a mountain – (Moses and Elijah found God’s glory on the mountain top – The transfiguration took place on the mountain) and gave them His final instructions – go back to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit.
Then he is lifted up and a cloud hides him from their sight, and two men dressed in white explain that there is no point in continuing to look for Jesus, as though this were some random disappearance that will end at any moment. But, they say, he will come ‘in the same way as you saw him go into heaven’ – he will return according to a divine purpose, at the time that God determines. This moment marks a decisive change in the disciples’ relationship with Jesus. Things have been startlingly different since the resurrection, with Jesus appearing, and teaching, and then disappearing again. But now he has told them that the moment they should be waiting for is not his next resurrection appearance, nor the liberation of the nation, but the moment when they will receive the Holy Spirit.
God’s glory is everywhere, but it is not always visible. Sometimes a moment of glory precedes a separation, as it did for the disciples on the mountain-top. Sometimes glory is hard to recognise, as it was for the disciples before the crucifixion. Sometimes glory is hidden, as it was for the suffering Christians. But the glory of God persists. As 1 Peter suggests as we suffer and struggle for the name of Jesus – so we too will bring glory to God and be glorified by Him in eternity.
A prayer for others
We bring before you, O God, our concerns for our world:
where there is violence, we pray for peace;
where there is sickness we pray for health;
where there is despair we pray for hope.
We pray that you would be active in health care:
in the work of doctors and dentists,
psychiatrists and psychologists,
nurses and administrators,
pharmacists and researchers.
Guide our activity in the church:
may we find ways to grow;
may we always honour you;
may we serve our communities.
Lord, hear us, heal us and shine through our lives.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
For me Lord, may your glory be seen in what I do and who I am. Amen.
Activities if you want to take part ..…….