Looking Is Not for Us - Sixth Sunday of Easter or Ascension Day - Acts 1

A service for the sixth Sunday of the Easter season or Ascension day with the purpose of appropriately remembering this event in the exaltation of Christ.

Theme of the Service

Ascension Day is the fortieth day after Easter that marks the day Jesus went to the Mount of Olives with his disciples and ascended to heaven before their eyes. Unfortunately, this day is usually overlooked in the life of the church, and its significance often remains a question mark in the minds of many Christians.

The purpose of this service of worship is to appropriately remember this event in the exaltation of Christ. By raising Christ to heaven, the Father declared that (1) his work had been successfully completed, and (2) he is now exalted to the throne of heaven where he will reign until the time he returns to bring the end of all things. In this service, we aim to celebrate his reign as Lord, and anticipate his return.

Some congregations may prefer to celebrate this day with a Thursday evening service; others may observe Ascension Day on the preceding Sunday.


WE GATHER IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD

Prelude: "Partita on 'Crown Him with Many Crowns' ", Callahan [organ]
or: "Crown Him with Many Crowns", Boertje [piano]

The Call to Worship

A Reading of Luke 24:45-53

*Songs of Praise:
"Crown Him with Many Crowns" PH 151, PsH 410, RL 600, RN 56, SFL 181, TH 295, TWC 92
"We Will Glorify (the King of Kings)" RN 33, SFL 18, SNC 21, TWC 118

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting:

People of God, where is your trust placed?
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!

*We Greet One Another

*Songs of Celebration:
"Clap Your Hands" (v. 1) SFL 179, TWC 23
"Rejoice, the Lord Is King" (Arthur's Seat: TH 309) (Darwall's 148th: PH 155, PsH 408, RL 596, SFL 180, TH 310, TWC 262) (Gopsal: RL 597)
"Clap Your Hands" (v. 2) SFL 179 only

Our Confession of Sin

The Assurance of God's Pardon

Anthem: "Coronation", Courtney

Song: "Meekness and Majesty/This Is Your God" RN 158, SNC 109

Anthem: "I Will Shout! I Will Praise!", Miller

Offertory: "Jesus Shall Reign", Held and/or Cherwien

The Offertory Prayer


GOD SPEAKS FROM HIS WORD

*Our Affirmation of Faith:

What do you believe about the ascension of Christ?
Jesus ascended in triumph
to his heavenly throne.
There he hears our prayers,
pleads our cause before the Father,
and rules the world.

How does Christ's ascension to heaven benefit us?
First, he pleads our cause in heaven
in the presence of the 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.

From Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony, Article 29, alt., and Heidelberg Catechism, Q/A 49, ©1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids MI, 1-800-333-8300. Used by permission.

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

Sermon: LOOKING IS NOT FOR US
Text – Acts 1:11

The Prayer of Application


WE CELEBRATE CHRIST'S KINGSHIP

*Songs of Celebration:
"Come, Christians, Join to Sing" (Spanish Hymn/Madrid: PH 150, RL 357, RN 50, TH 302, TWC 108)
"You/Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim" (Hanover: PH 477, PsH 477, TWC 103) (Lyons: RL 598, TH 165) (also Laudate Dominum)

Anthem: "Christus Paradox", Fedak

*Song of Praise:

"Hail the Day That Sees Him Rise" PsH 409 (5 vv.), RL 331 (6vv.), TH 290 (4 vv.), TWC 258 (4 vv.)
v.1 – all
v.2 – antiphonally: east side begins, west side on "Alleluia"
v.3 – all
v.4 – antiphonally: west side begins, east side on "Alleluia"
v.5 – all
"All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name" (Coronation: PH 142, PsH 471, RL 593, RN 45, TH 296, TWC 95) (Diadem: PH 143, TH 297, TWC 93) (Miles Lane: RL 594)

*The Benediction with congregational Amen!

*Christ's Parting Commission – Matthew 28:16-20

*Song of Challenge: "Bring Forth the Kingdom" RN 153, SFL 154, SNC 123

Postlude: "Fanfare", Lemmens
* - you are invited to stand

Sermon Notes:

The challenge of this sermon is that it deals with a very familiar and well-known passage of Scripture. Often, the more familiar the passage/story, the greater the challenge to make the sermon interesting and captivating.

This sermon focuses on the word "looking" in v.11. A number of facts about this word make it important:

Ø it was spoken by two angels
Ø since it was spoken by angels, we may assume this was an assignment from the Father
Ø they spoke it as Jesus was ascending
Ø they spoke it to disciples who were "looking intently" up into the sky
Ø the question seems to be a rhetorical one
Ø the question is accompanied with a promise.

The preacher should help his/her listeners step into the experiences of the disciples. They have been with Jesus for three years, but most recently have experienced very bewildering and confusing things. Their bewilderment deepened, yet they were filled with hope by his resurrection on Easter Sunday. Now, when they see him rise to the skies, they are bewildered all over again. It seems only normal and natural to stare/gawk as it all happens! Yet, now they are told they should not!

The sermon should aim to communicate that (1) there is a form of religion that wants to hold on to Jesus and not let go of him, even to allow him to go the next step in revealing himself; (2) while there are many good disciplines that can be built into the Christian life, gawking into heaven is not one of them; and (3) the Christian and redemptive view of history sees events moving closer to the fulfillment of all God's purposes.

There is both a rebuke and a challenge in this word. The rebuke focuses on the desire to hold him and not move forward in his work. The challenge is to accept the signal to move on to the next chapter in service. The sermon will have to clarify that, though it is important for Christians to "watch" for his return, they may not engage in idle gawking, but are called to work for him while it is day, knowing that the day to "look up" will come soon. The time for "looking" will be here when the trumpet sounds; now is the time for serving.

The "soul" of this sermon must be the awareness that a faith that centers on the ascension of Christ who is now reigning as Lord is a very rich faith!

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)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

Music Level Key: E = Easy, M = Medium, D = Difficult

  1. The organ prelude is entitled "Partita on 'Diademata' " by Charles Callahan and is published by Morningstar MSM-10-409 [1991] (M). The piano prelude can be found in "Piano Improvisations for the Church Year" by Barbara Boertje, published by Unity Music Press 70/1194 [1998] (E-M).
  2. Both grouping of hymns in the gathering section of the service can flow unannounced – texts, style and key relationships are consistent within each group.
  3. A free harmonization for the hymn "Crown Him with Many Crowns" (Diademata) can be found in Dale Wood's "New Settings of Twenty Well-Known Hymn Tunes" published by Augsburg 11-9292 [1968].
  4. A free harmonization for "Rejoice, the Lord Is King" (Darwall's 148th) can be found in Eric Thiman's "Varied Accompaniments to Thirty-Four Well-Known Hymn Tunes" published by Oxford ISBN 0 19 323210 3 [1937].
  5. "Coronation" by Craig Courtney is an SATB anthem with French horn obbligato published by Beckenhorst BP1273 [1986] (E-M). This anthem has long, flowing phrases; the French horn part can be transcribed for trumpet if needed.
  6. "I Will Shout! I Will Sing Praise!" by Christi Cary Miller is a two-part children's anthem published by Hal Leonard 0859581 [1996] (E).
  7. You may wish to combine the two settings of "Jesus Shall Reign (Duke Street)" for the offertory music, depending on the length needed. The setting by Wilbur Held can be found in "Preludes and Postludes" vol. 1 published by Augsburg 11-9318 [1972] (E). The setting by David Cherwien can be found in "Interpretations" vol.3 AMSI OR-6 [1983] (M).
  8. "Christus Paradox" by Alfred Fedak is published by GIA G-5463 [2000] (M). This octavo is part of the published series commissioned by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. You may recall that this piece was also suggested as part of the Advent series. Using it twice within a single choir season reinforces the text and music learning of the choir, but also draws together the seasons of the Christian year from Advent to the Exaltation of Christ (Ascension).
  9. A free harmonization for "All Hail the Power of Jesus' Name" (Coronation) can be found in John Eggert's "Creative Hymn Accompaniments for Organ Vol. 2" published by CPH 97-6851 [2000].
  10. "Fanfare" by Jacque Lemmens is published by Fischer P 2319 (M). This piece is a fitting conclusion to a celebrative service.

Liturgy Notes:

1. Since the intent of this worship service is very focused, the call to worship should specify that "we have come into the presence of God to celebrate the ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven". The call to worship should be brief, making it clear that we are called to this celebration by God himself, and be followed immediately by the reading of the ascension story from Luke 24, read either by the pastor or a lay reader.

2. This service includes much singing by the congregation and by the choir, both before and after the sermon. A day of celebration for the coronation of Christ needs that!

3. The Affirmation of Faith prior to the sermon takes words from the historic Heidelberg Catechism and the Contemporary Testimony (Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony) and joins them for the worshipers to take on their lips. Such an affirmation lays the foundation for the sermon.

The Contemporary Testimony was written by a Synod-appointed committee of the Christian Reformed Church and included in the Psalter Hymnal (p. 1028). For copyright permission, please contact CRC Publications at (616) 224-0819, 1-800-333-8300 or info@crcpublications.org.

Also, the Heidelberg Catechism appears in the Psalter Hymnal (p. 880); to use this version, contact CRC Publications.

4. Concluding this service with the reading of Matthew 28 is particularly necessary so that worshipers leave with the final words from Jesus' mouth ringing in their hearts.

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