The Chapter of a Great Lord - The Ascension of Christ Sunday - Revelation 1

A worship service for Ascension Sunday based on Revelation 1. The entire structure of the worship service is derived from the structure of the passage/chapter of Scripture that is in focus.

Worship Service

Sermon Notes
Music Notes
Liturgy Notes

Theme of the Service

Thursday, May 5, marks the Ascension of Christ, 40 days after Easter. This worship service honors the exalted Lord to mark this event. Whether you choose to observe the Ascension of Christ on Thursday or on Sunday, this theme will be equally appropriate.

This is a "theme service"—i.e., the entire structure of the worship service is derived from the structure of the passage/chapter of Scripture that is in focus, Revelation 1.

WE GATHER IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD

Prelude: “God Has Gone Up with Shouts of Joy!” [see music notes]
     “Crown Him with Many Crowns”

The Call to Worship

The Opening Prayer
     Almighty God,
     as we prepare to worship today,
     we ask that you will stretch our imaginations
     to sense the majesty and mystery of your ascension.
     Help us perceive how Jesus' presence in heaven
     can give us confidence in our praying
     and hope for the future.
     Through Jesus, our Lord. Amen. (TWS, p. 656)

*Opening Hymn of Exultation: "God Has Gone Up with Shouts of Joy!” SNC 154
     or “Crown Him with Many Crowns” PH 151, PsH 410, RL 600, RN 56, SFL 181, TH 295, TWC 92, UMH 327

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting
     Congregation of Jesus Christ, in whom are you trusting?
     Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
     Grace, mercy, and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.           
     Amen.

*Song of Response: “You Are Crowned with Many Crowns” SNC 158

The Call to Confession

Our Prayer of Confession

The Assurance of God's Pardon

Our Song of Gratitude: "Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners” TH 498, TWC 89

Offertory: “Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners” [see music notes]


GRACE AND PEACE TO THE CHURCHES

An Introduction to Revelation 1: "The Chapter of a Great Lord"

The Reading of Revelation 1:1-8
     The Word of the Lord.
     Thanks be to God!

The Message

The Prayer

*Song of Praise: "Alleluia! Sing to Jesus" (st. 1-3) PsH 406


THE NEW VIEW OF JESUS

The Reading of Revelation 1:9-16
     The Word of the Lord.
     Thanks be to God!

The Message

*Songs of Exaltation [see music notes]

*Our Affirmation of Faith: The Nicene Creed
I believe in one God,
  the Father almighty,
  Maker of heaven and earth,
  and of all things visible and invisible.  

And in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
  the only begotten of the Father before all worlds;
  God of God,
  Light of Light,
  very God of very God,
  begotten, not made,
  of one substance with the Father,
  by whom all things were made.
  Who, for us and our salvation,
  came down from heaven,
  and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary,
  and was made man;
  and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate;
  he suffered and was buried;
  and the third day he rose again,
  according to the Scriptures;
  and ascended into heaven,
  and is seated at the right hand of the Father;
  and shall come again, with glory,
  to judge the living and the dead;
  whose kingdom shall have no end.  

And I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life,
  who proceeds from the Father and the Son;
  who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified.
  who spoke by the Prophets.
  And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
  I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins;
  and I look for the resurrection of the dead,
  and the life of the world to come.
 
Amen.  


CHRIST COMFORTS HIS CHURCHES

Anthem: “No More Fear,” Nickel

The Reading of Revelation 1:17-20
     The Word of the Lord.
     Thanks be to God!

The Message

The Prayers of the People


WE LEAVE WITH PRAISE

*Our Acclamation of Praise:
     Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
     to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
     and honor and glory and praise!

     Then every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth
     and on the sea, and all that is in them, sang,

    "To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
     be praise and honor and glory and power
     forever and ever!" Amen. (TWS, p. 657, from Rev. 5:12-13)

*Song: "Rejoice, the Lord Is King" PH 155, PsH 408, RL 596, SFL 180, TH 310, TWC 262, UMH 715

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

Postlude: "Rejoice, the Lord is King" [see music notes]

      * you are invited to stand

Sermon Notes:

1. Since this entire service of worship is built around Revelation 1 it will be helpful try to create an awareness of the setting in which the book was written. Late in the first century, when opposition to the faith was growing, John was exiled to the Mediterranean island of Patmos. While there he carried in his heart a deep concern for the welfare of the Christian churches across the land. His personal encounter with Jesus Christ revealed that Jesus carried the same concern and desired to use John as a messenger who would bring his churches hope and strength. Such background material can serve as an introduction even before the first Scripture reading.

2. The "seven churches" (1:4) refer to the seven who receive "letters" in chapters 2 and 3, but also represent all the Christian churches of all times. "Grace and peace" is the gift of the ascended Christ to his churches. Notice carefully who gives this gift. Verses 4-8 carry a very lofty and exalted description of Jesus.

3. Verses 9-16 (second meditation) take a view of Jesus that is very different from the view that often came during his earthly ministry, Palm Sunday, Good Friday, or even the 40 days after Easter. John's gift is this "new view" of Jesus that he aims to communicate to us. Notice the "voice" (vv. 10, 12), the attire and personal appearance as John attempts to describe it (vv. 13-15), and then the stars and the sword (v. 16). This is a glorified Jesus Christ!

4. This vision continues in verses 17-20 and should carry into the third meditation. But by now the full intent of this revelation must be clarified: it is not meant to merely dazzle or mystify, but to give comfort and encouragement (as is true for the entire book of Revelation). The churches, though frightened by the opposition of this world, have reason to be encouraged because they rest firmly and securely in the hand of the ascended King of the church!

Music Notes:

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH        The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH      The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL        Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN        Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL      Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC      Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
            Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH        Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
            Commission Publications)
TWC     The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH     The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV     With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

1. The suggestions for the prelude are based on the hymn tunes MIT FREUDEN ZART and DIADEMATA. Arrangements based on these hymns can be found in the following:

DIADEMATA [“Crown Him with Many Crowns”]
Organ:

  • Burkhardt, Michael. Five Easter Season Hymn Improvisations. Morningstar MSM-10-403 [1990] (E-M).
  • Callahan, Charles. Partita on Diademata. Morningstar MSM 10-409 [1991] (M).
  • Held, Wilbur. Hymn Preludes for the Pentecost Season. Concordia 97-5517 [1979] (E-M).

Piano:

  • Boertje, Barbara. Piano Improvisations for the Church Year. Unity 70/1194U [1998] (E-M).

Handbells:

  • Keller, Michael R. Alleluia, He Is Risen. Agape 1221 [1986] (3-5 octaves, M).         

GENEVAN 138/MIT FREUDEN ZART [“God Has Gone Up with Shouts of Joy!”]
Organ:

  • Bender, Jan (1974 Chantry). Augsburg Organ Library – Easter. Augsburg 11-11075 [2000].
  • Candlyn, T. Frederick H. Prelude on Mit Freuden Zart. Abingdon APM-148 [1961] (E-M).
  • Ferguson, John. Three Psalm Preludes. Augsburg 11-10823 [1997] (M).
  • Haan, Raymond H. Canonic Variations on “With High Delight.” Concordia 97-6167 [1992] (E-M).
  • Leavitt, John. Three Hymn Preludes. Concordia 97-5894 [1985] (E-M).
  • Leavitt, John. With High Delight. Concordia 97-6845 [2000] (E-M).
  • Wolniakowski, Michael. Partita on With High Delight, Let Us Unite. Morningstar MSM-10-416 [1996] (D).

Handbells:

  • McChesney, Kevin. Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above. AGEHR AG23006 [1993] (2-3 octaves, M).

2. Alternative organ harmonizations for the opening hymn based on DIADEMATA can be found in the following:

  • Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 1. Ludwig O-05 [1975].
  • Wood, Dale. New Settings of Twenty Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9292 [1968].

Descants for both opening hymn suggestions can be found in the Psalter Hymnal and Sing! A New Creation.

3. Alternative harmonizations for “Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners” [HYFRYDOL] can be found in the following:
Alternative Harmonization for Organ:                                

  • Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 1. Ludwig O-05 [1975].
  • Held, Wilbur. Preludes and Postludes, vol. 1. Augsburg 11-9318 [1972].

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:

  • Cherwien, David. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000].

4. Offertory music based on HYFRYDOL (“Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners”) can be found in the following:
Organ:

  • Barr, John G. Processional Prelude on Hyfrydol. H.W. Grey GSTC 01083 [1992] (E-M).
  • Callahan, Charles. Partita on Hyfrydol. Concordia 97-5940 [1986] (M).
  • Childs, Edwin T. Organ Music for the Seasons, vol. 3. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7564-9 [2003] (M).
  • Coleman, Henry. A Book of Hymn Tune Voluntaries. Oxford ISBN 0-19-375115-1 [1950] (E-M).
  • Honoré, Jeffrey. Classic Embellishments. Augsburg 11-11005 [1999] (E-M).
  • Krapf, Gerhard. Sing and Rejoice, vol. 2. SMP KK235 [1982] (E, could be adapted for piano).
  • Lasky, David M. Partita on “Hyfrydol.” Egan EO-300 [1993] (E-M).
  • Manz, Paul. God of Grace. Morningstar MSM-10-599 [2004] (M).
  • Stearns, Peter Pindar. Twelve Hymn Preludes for General Use. Flammer HF-5145 [1987] (M).
  • Vaughan Williams, Ralph. Augsburg Organ Library – Epiphany. Augsburg 11-11073 [2001] (M).
  • Vaughan Williams, Ralph. Three Preludes. Galaxy (Stainer and Bell) (M).
  • Willan, Healy. Ten Hymn Preludes, set 1. Peters 6011 [1956] (E-M).

Piano:

  • Wilson, John F. A Sacrifice of Praise. Hope 347 [1994] (E-M).

Handbells:

  • Crawshaw, Craig. Hallelujah, What a Savior. Jenson 469-08019 [1984] (3 octaves, E-M).
  • Honoré, Jeffrey. Alleluia Passacaglia. Agape 1552 [1992] (3-5 octaves, E-M).
  • Hopson, Hal H. Fantasy on " Hyfrydol." Agape 1048 [1982] (2 octaves, E-M).
  • Hopson, Hal H. Fantasy on " Hyfrydol." Agape 2078 [1999] (3-5 octaves, E-M).
  • Tucker, Sondra K. Meditation on Hyfrydol. Choristers Guild CGB-182 [1996] (3 octaves, E-M).

5. The Songs of Exaltation could be selected from the following suggestions. Many churches who strive for blended worship tend to incorporate the contemporary praise choruses as “Gathering Music” at the beginning of the service. We suggest broadening their role throughout a service. As you make selections for these response songs, remember to group songs that work together well musically—all suggested here will work together thematically!

“Alleluia, for the Lord God Almighty Reigns/Agnus Dei” [SNC 39]

“He Is Exalted” [RN 238, SNC 41]

“He Is Lord” [PsH 633, RN 29, SNC 160, SFL 178, TWC 97, UMH 177]

“Lord, I Lift Your Name on High” [RN 4, SNC 157]

“Lord Most High” [SNC 47]

“We Bow Down” [SNC 42]

“Worthy Is Christ/Digno es Jesús” [PsH 629, RN 80, SFL 170]

“You Are Worthy” [PsH 232]

6. The SATB anthem “No More Fear” by Larry Nickel is published by Goliard Press GP92114 [1991] (M).

7. Alternative harmonizations on “Rejoice the Lord Is King” [DARWALL'S 148th] can be found in:
Alternative Harmonization for Organ:

  • Thiman, Eric. Varied Accompaniments to Thirty-Four Well-Known Hymn Tunes. Oxford ISBN 0 19 323210 3 [1937].

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:

  • Carlson, J. Bert. Let It Rip! At the Piano, vol. 2. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003].

8. Suggestions for the postlude on “Rejoice the Lord Is King” [DARWALL'S 148th] can be found in the following sources:
Organ:

  • Callahan, Charles. Partita on Darwall's 148th. Morningstar MSM-10-848 [1992] (E-M).
  • Harbach, Barbara (2002). Augsburg Organ Library – Autumn. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7579-7 [2003] (M).
  • Wold, Wayne L. Prelude, Meditation and Finale on Darwall's 148th. Augsburg 11-10809 [1997] (M).

Handbells:

  • Kinyon, Barbara B. Rejoice, the Lord Is King. Agape 1931 [1998] (3 octaves, level 3).
  • Page, Anna Laura. Rejoice, the Lord Is King. Alfred 16460 [1996] (3-5 octaves, level 2).

Liturgy Notes:

1. It will aid worshipers if the theme and spirit of this service are made clear at the beginning. Either a printed statement above the printed order of worship or an explanation in the call to worship can be utilized to turn attention to the Ascension of Jesus Christ and his present position in glory at the right hand of the Father. You may wish to read the account of the ascension from Luke 24:50-53 or Acts 1:6-11 at that time.

2. Sometimes the Service of Confession or Renewal is set off as a separate part of the liturgy. In this service it is included as part of the opening so that the remainder of the liturgy can receive its structure from the pattern of Revelation 1.

3. Worshipers will need the opportunity to express their praise and affirm their faith after the second meditation explains the "New View of Jesus" as the exalted One. We have suggested a group of songs and the profession of the Nicene Creed. These are only suggestions. There are other effective ways you may choose to do it.

4. The Prayers of the People, coming after the third meditation, ought to be marked by great sensitivity and concern for the worldwide church that lives in a hostile environment, with many brothers and sisters enduring opposition for their faith. Let these prayers include intercession for the church worldwide and especially intercession for grace and strength for those who are suffering.

5. The Acclamation of Praise at the end of the service gives worshipers an opportunity to verbally express what we hope will be on their hearts by that time.

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