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It's a Good Thing He Left - John 16

A service plan from the Apostles' Creed focused on Christ's Ascension into heaven and how that benefits Christians in a series on the Apostles' Creed as explained in the Heidelberg Catechism.

Worship Service
The Apostles' Creed

Theme of the Service

On the one hand, the theme of this service focuses on the Ascension of Christ and his present ruling position at the right hand of the Father. On another level, the theme of this service focuses on the present personal benefits for us that are associated with the ascension and reign of Christ.

In the Apostles' Creed we profess that he "ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty." And the catechism is careful to ask, "How does this benefit us?" The purpose of this message is to combine truth and application-exaltation and comfort.


Prelude: "Jesus Shall Reign"
or "Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns" [see <href="#music" >music notes]

The Call to Worship
God has ascended amid shouts of joy,
the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets.
Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.
God reign over the nations;
God is seated on his holy throne. (The Worship Sourcebook, O.1.2.4, p. 658)

or Introit: "Psalm 47: Clap Your Hands All You Nations," Bell [see <href="#music" >music notes]

*Song of Adoration: "Man of Sorrows-What a Name" (st. 1-4) PsH 482, TH 246, TWC 226, UMH 165

*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.

*Song of Response: "Lord, I Lift Your Name on High" RN 4, SNC 157

The Children's Moment


The Call to Confession
While we claim to celebrate the ascension of our Lord,
the way we live proclaims our lack of faith
in his power to deal with the world.
Let us confess the incongruity between our faith and practice.
Let us pray:

Our Prayer of Confession
We come, O Lord, on this day of glory to confess our lack of trust.
While we sing of your lordship over all creation,
we have too often acted as though you are powerless
in the face of today's events.
Help us to live with confidence in your presence today
and in hope for life with you forever. Amen.
(The Worship Sourcebook, O.2.2.2, pp. 662-663)

The Assurance of God's Pardon: 1 John 2:1-2

God's Call to Grateful Obedience [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]

Song of Dedication: "Lord of Creation, to You Be All Praise" PsH 286
or "Shine, Jesus, Shine" RN 247, SNC 128, SFL 239, TWC 721, WOV 651


The Prayer for Illumination

The First Scripture Reading: Acts 1:6-11
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

The Second Scripture Reading: John 16:5-16
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: "It's a Good Thing He Left!" (The Apostles' Creed - #8)
Text: John 16:7

The Prayer of Application


A Litany of Profession
What do you mean by saying,
"He ascended to heaven"?

That Christ,
while his disciples watched,
was lifted up from the earth to heaven
and will be there for our good
until he comes again
to judge the living and the dead.

How does Christ's ascension to heaven
benefit us?

First, he pleads our cause
in heaven
in the presence of his Father.
Second, we have our own flesh in heaven-
a guarantee that Christ our head
will take us, his members,
to himself in heaven.
Third, he sends his Spirit to us on earth
as a further guarantee.
By the Spirit's power
we make the goal of our lives,
not earthly things,
but the things above where Christ is,
sitting at God's right hand.

Why the next words:
"and is seated at the right hand of God"?

Christ ascended to heaven,
there to show that he is head of his church,
and that the Father rules all things through him

How does this glory of Christ our head
benefit us?

First, through his Holy Spirit
he pours out his gifts from heaven
upon us his members.
Second, by his power
he defends us and keeps us safe
from all enemies.
(The Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 46-51)

Song of Response: "There Is a Redeemer" RN 232, SNC 145

The Prayers of the People

The Offertory
The Offering of Music: "There Is a Redeemer"
or "The Head That Once Was Crowned with Thorns"
or "Christ, the Lord Ascends to Reign" [see <href="#music" >music notes]
The Offering of Our Gifts to . . .

*Song of Praise: "Alleluia! Sing to Jesus" PsH 406


*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*A Moment of Meditation

Postlude: "Rigaudon," Campra [see <href="#music" >music notes]

* you are invited to stand

Sermon Notes:

1. The interrelationship of historical events in the redemptive work of Christ forms the context in which this message is developed. Christ, who arose from the dead, continued his exaltation by ascending to heaven and is currently seated at the right hand of God the Father. These steps of his exaltation are often the forgotten events of Christ's journey. The explanation of the catechism helps us to see the critical benefits for us in these events.

2. An exposition of Jesus' discourse in John 16 steps into his commentary on these events and explains why the events are necessary. Imagine that you are one of the disciples listening in on this discourse. Your previous experiences with Christ have been so rich as you have listened to him, so deep as he prepares you for the journey ahead, and so painful as he speaks about the need to suffer and die. Yet you feel some bewilderment as you look ahead, and you wonder just what he has in mind. Then he says, "It is for your good that I am going away," and you wonder all the more!

3. A sermon that successfully gets into the content of this statement by Jesus will (1) understand the need in the disciples' hearts and minds for some explanation of these puzzling events, (2) see the events of Christ's humiliation and exaltation as a unified story that must all remain together, (3) anticipate coming events (such as ascension, the right hand of the Father, and the coming of the Holy Spirit) as dependent on the previous events, and (4) appreciate the great personal benefits that flow to us as a result!

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 prelude based on the hymn tunes DUKE STREET and TRURO can be found in the following resources:

DUKE STREET ["Jesus Shall Reign"]

  • Bender, Jan. Five Festive Preludes on Easter Hymns. Concordia 97-5495 [1979] (M).
  • Bish, Diane. The Diane Bish Organ Book, vol. 4. Fred Bock B-G0776 [1985] (E-M).
  • Burkhardt, Michael. Five Easter Season Hymn Improvisations. Morningstar MSM-10-403 [1990] (E-M).
  • Burkhardt, Michael. Six General Hymn Improvisations, set 1. Morningstar MSM-10-846 [1992] (E-M).
  • Callahan, Charles. Partita on Duke Street. Concordia 97-5998 [1988] (E-M).
  • Callahan, Charles. Two Festive Organ Pieces. Morningstar MSM-10-761 [1999] (M).
  • Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 3. AMSI OR-6 [1983] (E-M).
  • Held, Wilbur. Preludes and Postludes, vol. 1. Augsburg 11-9318 [1972] (E).
  • Hobby, Robert A. For All the Saints. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7537-1 [2002] (E-M).


  • David, Anne Marie. Here I Am, Lord. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7566-5 [2002] (+, E-M).


  • Sherman, Arnold B. Jesus Shall Reign. Agape 1708 [1994] (2-3 octaves, E-M).

TRURO ["Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns"]

  • Bingham, Seth. Twelve Hymn Preludes, set 1. H.W. Grey [1942] (E-M).
  • Burkhardt, Michael. Four Hymn Improvisations for Holy Week. Morningstar MSM-10-318 [1995] (E-M).
  • Cherwien, David. Seasonal Interpretations Lent-Easter. Summa SP-112 [1998] (M).
  • Kerr, J. Wayne (1998). Augsburg Organ Library - Easter. Augsburg 11-11075 [2000] (E-M).

2. The Introit, "Psalm 47: Clap Your Hands All You Nations" by John Bell, can be found in Sing! A New Creation (156). Consider singing at least some of the stanzas antiphonally, either between sections of the choir or between the choir and the congregation.

3. Alternative harmonizations for the opening hymn suggestion "Jesus Shall Reign" (DUKE STREET) can be found in the following resources:

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:

  • Burkhardt, Michael. As Though the Whole Creation Cried. Morningstar MSM-10-555 [2001].
  • Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 3. Ludwig O-10 [1986].
  • Johnson, David N. Free Harmonizations of Twelve Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9190 [1964].

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:

  • Organ, Anne Krentz. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000].

4. Suggestions for the offertory music, based on "There Is a Redeemer" and the hymn tunes ST. MAGNUS and CHRIST IST ERSTANDEN can be found in the following resources:

"There Is a Redeemer"

  • Elwell, Ellen Banks. Piano Praise. Hope 237 [1993] (E).


  • Bettcher, Peggy. Lamb of God. Agape 2172 [2001] (3-5 octaves, level 2).

ST. MAGNUS ["The Head that Once Was Crowned with Thorns"]

  • Haan Raymond H. O Worship the King. Broadman 4570-42 [1979] (E-M).
  • Hobby, Robert A. Six Preludes for the Church Year. Morningstar MSM-10-716 [1996] (E-M).

CHRIST IST ERSTANDEN ["Christ the Lord Ascends to Reign"]

  • Bach, J.S. The Liturgical Year (ed. Riemenschneider ). Ditson [1933] (E-M).
  • Behnke, John A. Road to Calvary. Concordia 97-7072 [2004] (E-M).
  • Leupold, Anton Wilhelm. Augsburg Organ Library - Easter. Augsburg 11-11075 [2000] (E-M).
  • Leupold, A.W. An Organ Book. Chantry Music Press [1960] (E-M).
  • Willan, Healy. Ten Hymn Preludes, set 3. Peters 6013 [1958] (E-M).

5. The organ postlude "Rigaudon" by André Campra is arranged by Virgil Fox and published by H. W. Grey 902 [1963] (E-M).

Liturgy Notes:

1. Note that some of the readings in the liturgy focus on the observance of Ascension Day. Because this service is built on that event, you will find them as appropriate today as on Ascension Day. If you prefer otherwise, they may be revised or replaced.

2. The Children's Moment can be used to speak to the children about the fact that Jesus is not physically on this earth, that he physically went back up to heaven, and that he is ruling the world and caring for us from there. Yet be sure you do not leave them with the impression that he is "gone" or absent from us now. If you work to put it into their language and thought-patterns they will be able to grasp this truth.

3. Many different Scripture portions can be included for the "Guide for Grateful Living." Either the Law of God can be used in one form or another, or other passages can be used. You'll find many of these suggestions in The Worship Sourcebook, pages 126-137.

4. We have included two Scripture readings-the historical record of Christ's ascension and the discourse of Christ in John 16. The two provide good basic balance for this message.

5. The reading from the Heidelberg Catechism includes only those questions and answers that are most appropriate to this message. You are free to include more, if you like, but we were concerned about length.