“O God, who on the day of Pentecost taught the hearts of your faithful people by sending them the light of your Holy Spirit: Grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgment in all things, and evermore to rejoice in his holy comfort; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
Ascension Day is one of those dates on our Christian calendar that is easy to miss. Like the story of the Ascension of Christ, it doesn’t command the attention that other big dates and events do such as Christmas and Easter. Falling on a Thursday might be part of what keeps it off of our collective calendars but it should remain in the forefront of our minds.
This week I hope we will recognize that the ascension of Christ serves to remind us that while he may be the Lord of our hearts (as well he should be) he is the Lord of the Universe. His ascension points to his sovereignty over all.
“Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.”
I confess, gladly, that I’ve been reading a lot of N.T. Wright of late. Several years ago Wright wrote what most scholars consider to be the finest study of Christ’s resurrection currently available, The Resurrection of the Son of God. For an academic work it is remarkably readable. It’s pleasant and not filled with unnecessary jargon but concerned with getting the important points across clearly. It’s been praised by everyone from Anne Rice, the vampire author, to John Piper and Tim Keller.
Wright has another somewhat smaller and less technical book called Surprised by Hope where he explores the ramifications of Jesus’ resurrection and the reasons why we should anticipate our own. In Surprised by Hope Wright makes a clear and powerful connection between the resurrection of Jesus and the fulfillment of his Kingdom. Rather than relieving us from responsibility, the resurrection of Christ enjoins us to the good work of participating in God’s creation and taking joy in the presence of his Kingdom. It’s neither legalism nor self-help but an inspiring, joyful call to action, a call to participate in God’s good world.
“… love is not our duty; it is our destiny. It is the language Jesus spoke, and we are called to speak it so that we can converse with him. It is the food they eat in God’s new world, and we must acquire the taste for it here and now. It is the music God has written for all his creatures to sing, and we are called to learn it and practice it now so as to be ready when the conductor brings down his baton. It is the resurrection life, and the resurrected Jesus calls us to begin living it with him and for him right now. Love is at the very heart of the surprise of hope: people who truly hope as the resurrection encourages us to hope will be people enabled to love in a new way. Conversely, people who are living by this rule of love will be people who are learning more deeply how to hope.” ~ N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, pg. 288
Prayer for the week:
“O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”
Prayer for the week:
“O God of peace, who has taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength: by the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray, to your presence, where we may be still and know that you are God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Forgive me! I’m behind on getting our Scripture readings posted for this week. Here you go:
Ps 100 • Ez 34:1-10 • Ac 4:23-37 • I Jn 3:1-8 • Jn 10:11-16
“O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people; Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who call us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, forever and ever. Amen.”
“O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.”
Every week we share in communion, the Lord’s Supper. It’s a central part of our worship services and has been from our church’s beginning. We can take joy in the fact that the supper we share is something our brothers an sisters in Christ have done since the time of Jesus himself. As the prayer above reminds us, the bread is not just bread and the cup is no mere cup, but the supper serves as a reminder for the good work we get to do; being Christ’s hands and feet in our world.
Christ is risen! Therefore, let us participate in the good, joyful work of his Kingdom!