05 May 2016

The Ascension Of Our Lord is the climax of Christ’s earthly ministry, and it prepares for everything that must follow – Pentecost, Trinity, and the Ordinary Time journey of learning to live out the meaning and message of Christ’s life. For this reason, Ascension is a celebration that must be treated with care and with great thoughtfulness. The awesome and gracious message of Christ’s Ascension is that the Cosmic Christ now embraces all of creation, drawing all things into intimate union with the Godhead. What a great reason for celebration this is!

May you be challenged and blessed as you worship!

READINGS:
Acts 1:1-11: Jesus promises the Holy Spirit to his disciples. Then he is taken up into heaven, with the assurance of the angels that he will return.

Psalm 47: A celebration of, and call to praise, the God who is high over all.
OR
Psalm 93
: A psalm celebrating God’s reign and majesty.

Ephesians 1:15-23: Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians that they may know the power of Christ who is over all and fills all.

Luke 24:44-53: Jesus reminds the disciples of how he has fulfilled the Scriptures, then he promises the Holy Spirit, blesses them and is taken up to heaven.

REFLECTIONS ON THEME:
There are a number of obvious themes that emerge from the Ascension celebration. One of the most prominent is that God in Christ is not just immanent, but also transcendent, and that Christ is high over all, truly and justly reigning over all of creation even when it doesn’t always seem like it. Another, complimentary theme that stands out, though, is the link between Ascension and Pentecost, which in Luke’s writings, is clear and strong. Jesus shifts from a specific, localised human body in a specific geographical location, to a universal Presence, seeking to indwell multitudes of bodies. This happens when Christ gathers all things to himself, and fills all things with himself (as Paul says in Ephesians). Thus, there is a sense in which the Ascension is the most immanent and inclusive picture of God we ever see. In the feast of Ascension we discover that Christ’s love goes further even than resurrection, but leads Christ to embrace all of creation, and fill it all with himself, while also carrying our humanity into the Godhead – the ultimate, intimate union of God and God’s universe!

CONNECTING WITH LIFE:
Global Application:
One of the problems with the traditional “power over” view of the Ascension is that this model of power is all too common, and all too destructive in our world. We begin to frame faith in the language of conquest, and we begin to view Jesus’ lordship as some sort of military victory. This image of Christ goes against the Jesus of the Gospels, and the message he proclaimed. What our world needs rather is a new way of viewing power: not as “power over” (dominion) nor as “power under” (manipulation), but as “power with” – shared, collaborative, dialogic and relational. When we view the ascension as an extension of Christ’s death and resurrection (which is has to be), then we recognise God’s purpose of bringing all things into relationship with Godself and with each other, and of making all things one – consciously filled with the Presence of God. This intimate union of creation and Creator is an immense gift of grace. But, it is also the dream to which we are called to aspire as we follow Christ. Christ’s Ascension, then, is not a call to an exclusive Christian exceptionalism based on a dominant Divine Monarch. Rather, it is a call to an inclusive, relational stance of humility and hospitality to all people, all creators and all the different parts of our planet, based on the welcoming, all-inclusive hospitality of God. The power that is proclaimed in this vision is that of self-giving love – the power to connect, to know and be known, to love and be loved, and to find abundant life together. This is a power that the world desperately needs to learn.

Local Application:
Too much of the faith conversation in our communities revolves around who can claim the “authority” of rightness based on the Bible, or a unique experience of God, or a connection with a particular Church tradition or leader. In too many ways we use this “authority” to play “power over” games with each other, “dividing and conquering” whenever we can – lay & clergy, believer & seeker, conservative & liberal. Ultimately, these power games simply lead to conflict and destruction. Jesus’ approach to power – as revealed in the Ascension – is radically different. He embraces all (invites all to sit at his feet) and seeks to fill all – finding unity with all. For us, this offers the example of hospitality and invitation, relationship and dialogue, and the quest for unity. We are called not to “rule over” but to seek a life that brings dignity, grace and self-determination to all, while creating systems of unity and shared power wherever we can. This can apply to every sphere of life, from the family, to the church community, to the public discourse. What does it mean to live “Ascension power” in your world today?

RESOURCES FOR WORSHIP:
Prayers:
Cosmic Community
A New Vision Of Power
Set The World To Rights
In Name Alone

Hymn Suggestions:
Be Thou My Vision
The Head That Once Was Crowned
Hail To The Lord’s Anointed
At The Name Of Jesus
Above All (Link to YouTube video)
How Great Is Our God (Link to YouTube video)
Everlasting God (Link to YouTube video)
Now And Forever
The Lord Reigns
We Bow Down Before You

Liturgy:
A Liturgy for the Foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet

Video Suggestions:
The Ascension & Jesus Christ
The Ascension & The Church
Rise

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