Welcome, Cheviot churches and also those joining us from elsewhere. We worship together on this Ascension Sunday
Clap your hands, all you peoples;
We will shout to God with loud songs of joy.
For God, the Most High, is awesome
Reigning over all the earth.
Let us worship God with all we have to offer!
We will offer God our love – heart, body, mind and soul!
Hymn 439 – Look, ye saints, the sight is glorious
Prayers of Adoration and Confession
God of promise and purpose,
we greet you this day with thankful hearts.
As flowers open and buds unfurl around us,
the beauty of your world lifts our hearts in praise.
You lifted up Jesus to be by your side,
and so we know he is always by our side
as the future opens before us.
Draw close to us in this time of worship and show us the promise and purpose in our own lives--
how we can unfurl with new life
and move into the future with the energy of your Holy Spirit and the abiding love of Christ our Lord.
Lord Jesus Christ, you have called all your followers
to carry the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness to the ends of the earth.
Yet we confess we cannot always find the words to tell others of our faith.
We are often silent when others criticize the church.
We try to act out your love, but it’s hard to tell others why we do what we do for you.
Forgive our hesitation to share the gift you have given us, and renew our courage to speak of our commitment to you.
Paul says that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Let us rejoice that, no matter what is happening around us, no matter what we have done, God’s deep love will never let us go.
Readings – Acts 1:1–11
Hymn 438 – The head that once was crowned …
Everlasting God, you made the world and everything in it. We pray with one voice, proclaiming your presence to all the earth. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you and give thanks for all wonders of your marvellous creation. As with the disciples at the ascension of Jesus we worship Him and look forward to His promised return. Amen
Today is Ascension Sunday, and the Ascension is somewhat different from the other high days in the Christian year. At Christmas, for example, we celebrate Jesus born in a stable, God with us. At Easter we celebrate Jesus risen from the dead, coming back to the disciples, God with us. At Pentecost next week we will celebrate the Holy Spirit, coming upon the disciples, God with us. But at the Ascension, there is a sense of absence, for Jesus leaves the disciples and ascends to heaven. Why celebrate someone leaving? Who wants a day to remind us of God seemingly leaving us behind? And yet the Ascension was a vital day in empowering the disciples -and us – to be witnesses to Christ in the world.
Jesus had risen from the tomb and for these 40 days (for the Ascension is exactly 40 days after the resurrection) Jesus has been with the disciples, taking the opportunity further to equip and strengthen them. They must have been getting used to Jesus being with them again. It must have seemed like old times and that things were back to normal again. We long for things to be back to normal again after Covid, to have our coffee mornings and even plan holidays. The disciples had grown used to having Jesus around them again. It was back to normal, and it would go on and on… But it couldn’t be. There had to be the break. The disciples had been disciples – learning from their Master, following his words, learning from his example. Now it was time to be on their own and put all that they had learned into practice. Just like a chick in a nest has to learn to fly and at the appropriate moment jump from the nest and fly, so the disciples had to take the risk of living life and starting to give rather than just receive.
One minute the disciples were laughing with Jesus, then the next he was away, with the disciples left gawping up at the sky. But then two men appear and chivvy them along. ‘Why are you standing here? You heard what he said. There is work to do, a world to be woken up!’. The disciples had to learn to live without the Jesus as they knew him physically and learn to live on their own feet, with their own mistakes, but always in and by Christ’s light. And, vitally, with the Holy Spirit. That is why, Luke tells us in the Gospel, they went home rejoicing
They had to be Jesus’ witnesses, and that meant seeing the world through Christ’s eyes and loving the world with Christ’s compassion. As Jesus had fed the hungry and healed the sick, as he had embraced the world in love and persuaded people that God loved them passionately, so he was saying to the disciples – and to us ‘Over to you. Now it is your turn. Be my witnesses’.
Like the disciples, we have been nourished and nurtured. We have received so many blessings. Now it is our turn to give, by being his witnesses in the world and do as he did.
In other words: love one another, as Jesus did;
Forgive one another, as Jesus did;
Work for justice - as Jesus did;
Challenge the hypocrites, as Jesus did;
Live with integrity, as Jesus did;
Embrace the stranger, as Jesus did;
Make God the centre of your life, as Jesus did.
At this Ascension Sunday let us look at each other in Christ’s light and begin to repair the world through gifts of kindness and compassion, embracing the breadth and depth of God’s vision for the whole of creation.
Hymn 436 – Christ triumphant
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
Eternal and ever-present God bless the gifts we offer you today. Use them and us to witness to your love and bring healing and hope to the world in Jesus’ name.
In uncertain times we thank you Lord for the relationships and friendships that have carried us through: for those who have made us laugh, for those who have listened, for those who have stood by us. Thank you for the love, care and attention of others. Help us to learn to pray as Jesus did. As we move through this week and encounter our friends help us to pray for their needs and that they would know your peace in their lives
O God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of all life,
You have begun the work of creating a new world,
a world where justice is known, where freedom and healing are available to all people.
We pray for the places in the world that are caught up in violence,
We especially think of Israel and Palestine and Gaza and all living in fear. We pray for the peacemakers in that area. Hold them from despair, give them the energy and vision for a better future that will keep them going during these difficult times. Help the local politicians and those in the international community who are trying to mediate and resolve this crisis. Equip them with the skills they need, give them the words that will speak into this situation and help those who need to hear listen to their words and cease their fire.
You have begun the work of creating a new community, a community where love is shared, and all find a sense of belonging.
We pray for groups who are made to feel like they don’t belong,
for families that caught up in tension or strife,
and for those who feel isolated or desperate because no one seems to care.
Grant them all courage and comfort through your Spirit. May people everywhere find the fullness of life you intend for us all.
Hymn 441 – Blessing and honour
Go in peace, and in your rising, in your resting, in your walking, in your speaking, in your praying, in your striving, in your giving, in your crying,
may you know the Spirit of the Lord upon you.
May the blessing of God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer be with you and be with all you love this day and even forevermore. Amen