Morning Worship for 24th May 20207 days ago
As you begin this act of worship in your own home remember that there are many friends who are doing the same and are joining with you in worship. If you have Youtube then please find an appropriate version of the hymns and join in the singing. As you go through this time of worship try to remember this reality; you are in the presence of God who holds us all in His care and keeping.
Rise up, followers of Christ Rise up, and praise our Saviour! Rise up, disciples of our Redeemer Rise up and give glory to God!
Collect for the day:
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. Amen.
Our Declaration of faith
We look up into the sky But our Lord is not there! We close our eyes in prayer And we see only darkness. Faith calls us not to seek with the eye But to seek with the heart, soul, mind And all the strength that we have! When we do this we find Jesus. When we share a word of love we find Jesus! When we open up ourselves to the Father We see the Lord ascending. Not ascending from us but within us Filling us with love and joy and peace. Certain that we are not left alone, We rejoice that in the power of the Holy Spirit We rise up with our ascended Lord. We rise up as followers of Jesus! This is what we believe and it is a joy to behold.
Hymn: Christ Triumphant ever reigning.
Readings: Acts 1:6-14, 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11, John 17:1-11.
Looking back and looking forward in Glory!
As I look back on days gone by as I have celebrated the feast of the Ascension, two particular memories come flooding back to me. The first was when I was the Rector of Ebchester in Durham Diocese: By tradition the deanery always celebrated this day together by having one shared service which was passed around the churches as each year went by. It just so happened that it was our turn that particular year, and so I raised it at the PCC to see if perhaps we could do something a little different! Everyone was keen, and I remember that the lady who was the treasurer at that time becoming really excited.
We abandoned our little church for the service and instead celebrated the Eucharist in the Primary School nearby, we had a really relaxed friendly evening service with over a 120 in attendance and we had the pleasure of listening to the Archdeacon of Durham as he addressed us on the day. Following the service we all processed outside into the school playing field and together we released helium filled balloons with messages attached seeking to look up, but also to share the glory of the Ascension with others.
We then headed off to the village hall for refreshments, and they really were truly triumphant! The treasurer had insisted that if we were going to do this we would do it well! There was a choice of wine or soft drinks to enter, followed by canapes with caviar, prawns, and smoked salmon!
A feast of glorious food was then presented with dishes being prepared from all around the globe! A sheer delight to the senses and a glorious way to complete our evening! Everyone had such a wonderful time that the memory is still as vivid today as it has always been.
The second occasion that sprang to mind was a pilgrimage the deanery organised to Walsingham! A full coach load of happy pilgrims set off on a glorious summer’s day to spend the day at the shrine of “Our Lady”. Following the procession and a very traditional Eucharist we were all free to wander around the shrine and we were drawn to a particular window! Only a tiny window and all that you could see were a few fluffy clouds and a pair of feet!
Clearly we were looking up and the window was serving to remind us of how Jesus was symbolically taken from us! But oh how we laughed!
It was one of those moments when through simplicity and poetic licence we were able to glimpse something beyond what we could see!
Looking ahead, this it seems is a time where we as the Church need to look beyond the obvious and seek the mysterious. A time to do things differently and yet also a time to stay true to the traditions of the past which have always been there for us.
Ascension is a time to celebrate with Jesus, and to give thanks, that as he symbolically leaves us to return to the heights of heaven, the Holy Spirit of God binds us together with him eternally!
So let us look back and delight, and look forward with eager expectation, that the Church like Jesus, will be once again lifted up in glory, and that we, will once again celebrate together and give thanks to God in and through the joy of sharing our lives with Jesus who is Risen, Ascended and Glorified.
Hymn: Hail the day that sees him rise.
Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said!!
These few words mark the beginning of the chapter of John’s Gospel from which comes the gospel message for today, for quite some time Jesus has been preparing his disciples for his departure; in Chapter 13 Jesus knew that his hour had come and from that moment on he changed the direction of his teaching. Now it was imperative that his disciples were fully prepared for everything which was to come, prepared not only for disappointment, disarray and fear and trembling but also prepared to pick up the baton from Jesus and to carry it with confidence in the public sphere.
When we think on the final discourses we are often minded to wonder what the disciples really made of them, why was Jesus telling them these things and why was there a sense of him leaving them; what must have been going through their minds, no wonder at times they were confused and uncertain and yet every prediction of departure, every hint of Jesus returning to the Father is grounded especially in the Gospel of John by the certainty that departure does not mean separation.
What do I mean by departure having nothing to do with separation?
In the eyes of faith, death itself, no matter how tragic it may seem and how much pain and loss is felt by those left behind has through Jesus been changed into victory.
In the joy of human relationship we have often lived a long time with a person, a partner, a parent or a child, throughout the time that was given to us by God whether it be long or short a bond of love of fellowship and a sharing of the most intimate parts of our very being will have been shared with that other significant person. I have often heard that bereavement is rather like amputation, there is something which was so much an intrinsic part of who and what we were which has now through death been taken away from us.
And this is so much with us all as we go through these difficult times, conscious every day of the updates which remind us of the tragic loss of so many loved ones.
Death is death an ending of a natural course of events, it is the one thing in life which awaits us all and when it comes to those who are close it brings the pain of departure but it does not bring separation. There is something which carries on, where and in what way is a mystery to us, but we can at times hear past loved ones speak to us, we can sense their presence, and feel their energy burning inside our hearts through our remembrance of them.
It is this intangible evidence of something beyond and yet something ever present which helps us to listen to Jesus more closely and with greater attention as he prepares us for all that lies ahead. Jesus looked up to heaven and said:
“Glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you,” the opening words of Christ’s high priestly prayer which reminds us of what he has done for us, why he came to be amongst us and what he promises us after he departs.
This morning’s text picks up the prayer after Jesus commends his disciples to his Father. But he does not just pray for them it is here that Jesus opens his heart and extends his prayer of fellowship to all who put their faith in him. As such it is a prayer which commends every one of us to the Father. Think on how significant that really is, for here we have a prayer to God from the Holy Son of God commending his followers, the holy chosen children of God to their Father. Children is the right phrase for us who follow Jesus, we follow with a thirst for knowledge, we understand so little and yet Jesus offers us more and more every time we look into his eyes for guidance and direction. Eyes which are ever present as we look into the eyes of one another in Christian love.
Departure but not separation, Jesus goes on to say those immortal words “ Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”
Jesus may be preparing his disciples for his departure but he is never going to truly leave them alone. Yes he will return to the Father but Jesus promises all who follow him a life which transcends all that we know and understand, a life which is not however some distant hope not something to long for in the future but something in which we engage in as we continue to live out our lives today.
Jesus is within us and we are within him and in so being we are within and part of the unity the divine unity of almighty God. We need not look up into the skies to see a glimpse of heaven for it is within us and around us constantly in and through the fellowship of Christ into which we have been called by faith.
Jesus offers this amazing prayer for us just before he heads off into the Garden of Gethsemane, a place in which he just like us can pour out his soul to his Father. A place of tears, of pain and anguish yes, a place very much like the place so many find ourselves in today, but also a place where the true glory of God resides in our presence. Jesus by his life and death reveals the glory of God to every one of us, a glory which does not rest on transcendent power, judgement and control but a glory which is made manifest through weakness, humility and love.
Yet just as departure is not the same as separation, weakness, humility and love are not different from transcendence, judgement and control. They are inexplicably entwined together into what makes the Godhead so unique and yet so ordinary. God is love and in the perfected love of Jesus revealed to the world God is made known in a personal and intimate way. He does not lose his majesty but rather that majesty is revealed in its true beauty, and just as the Father shares who and what he is with Jesus so Jesus shares that with us. He promises a gift and the gift will come to us from on high a gift so powerful that once it rests upon us then our eyes will be opened and we shall truly see the glory of God.
“Father, the hour has come, Glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you.”
Through his life, death, resurrection and ascension, Jesus glorifies the Father, in so doing Jesus becomes sovereign over all mankind to give eternal life to all who have been given to him.
And this is eternal life, to know you the only true God and Jesus whom you have sent.
Let us rejoice as the children of God that through our belief in him through the person of Jesus Christ we know that we are never alone, never isolated and never deserted. There will be departures in our lives as the tragic events surrounding us have so clearly reminded us, but in Christ Jesus there will never be any separation.
I close with the words of comfort from Romans Chapter 8:
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Prayers for others:
This morning let us pause for prayer for so many people and for so many situations. Use these headings for your silent prayers to God or use words and address them to Him who hears every word we utter.
For the Church as it celebrates Ascension and looks forward to the feast of Pentecost! We pray for the divine Spirit of God to wash over us all and to cleanse us, to restore us and to keep us strong through these difficult days. We pray that we may find joy in our faith! Worship with gladness in our hearts! Share a prayerful moment thinking of one other whom we hold in our hearts and lift up to Jesus our Ascended Lord. For the NHS with all the pressures and strains still upon it, that they would receive all the protection and supplies they need, that they would experience God’s protection in their work, courage for each day and stamina to care for all those in their care. For the sick and vulnerable that they would receive the care they need and the support in their hour of weakness. For the lonely in our parishes, that they would know God’s presence in their solitude and receive a friendly call from the volunteers in our midst. For those in authority charged with leading the fight against the virus: for our Prime Minister and his Ministers, for Scientists working on vaccines and other means of fighting the infection. For our loved ones, who we miss so much, that we would find ways of staying in touch regularly and that You would be with them as You are with us.
And so we pray
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.
Hymn: Jesus shall reign where’er the sun.
God the Father, Who has given to his Son the name above every name, Strengthen you to proclaim Christ Jesus as Lord. God the Son, Who is our great high priest passed into the heavens, Plead for you at the right hand of the Father. God the Holy Spirit, Who pours out his abundant gifts upon the Church, Make you faithful servants of Christ our King. And the blessing of God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be with you and remain with you always. Amen.