the wonder of his Ascension

Ascension of Christ, Pietro della Vecchia, Wikimedia Commons
Almighty God,
We come today reminded of your greatness and glory,
your sovereign power and eternal purpose
all expressed so wonderfully in Jesus Christ, our Lord,
Risen and Ascended.

We thank you for the wonder of Ascension,
that marvelous yet mysterious moment
in the life of the Apostles
which left them gazing heavenwards in confusion
yet departing in joy.

We thank you for the way that it brought the earthly ministry of Jesus
to a fitting conclusion;
signifying his oneness with you,
and demonstrating your final seal of approval
on all that he had done.

We thank you that through his Ascension
Jesus is now set free to be Lord of all:
no longer bound to a particular place or time,
but with us always—able to reach even to the ends of the earth.

We thank you that through his departing
Jesus prepared for his coming again:
through his Spirit,
his Church,
and his coming again in glory.

Gracious God,
Forgive us for so often failing
to grasp the wonder of Ascension,
for living each day as though it had never been.

Forgive the smallness of our vision,
the narrowness of our outlook,
the weakness of our love,
the nervousness of our witness,
our repeated failure to recognize
the fullness of your revelation in Christ.

Give us a deeper sense of wonder,
a stronger faith,
and a greater understanding of all you have done.

Father God,
Like the Apostles,
we too will never fully understand all Ascension means.
We accept, but we do not fully understand.
We believe, yet we have many questions.
Help us, despite our uncertainty, to hold firm to the great truth
that the wonder of Christ Jesus
goes far beyond anything we can ever imagine,
and in that faith may we live each day
to his glory and honour. Amen.
Bryce Calder, Church of Scotland Minister
Jesus said to her, “Mary.” 
She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).  
Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; 
but go to my brothers and say to them, 
    ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

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Equip us to fight the enemy

Do not let us avoid the reading of the diving Scriptures, Lord.
For that would be Satan’s devising – not wanting us to see the treasure,
    otherwise we would gain the riches.
So he would say that hearing the divine laws means nothing.
Otherwise, if we did, we might become doers of the word,
    as well as hearers.
Knowing then his evil plan, Lord, 
    let us fortify ourselves against him on every side.
Fenced with this kind of armor,
    we can live unconquered lives,
    as well as strike a heavy blow to his head.
Then, crowned with glorious wreaths of victory, 
    we can attain the good things to come,
    by the grace and love towards others of our Lord Jesus Christ,
    to whom be glory and might for ever and ever, Amen.
John Chrysostom, c. 347- 407
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness 
    to be tempted by the devil. 
And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 
And the tempter came and said to him, 
“If you are the Son of God, 
    command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 
But he answered, “It is written,
    “‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
        but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

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Reveal yourself to us

Fresco from the great Cloister of Santa Maria Novella in Florence / Lawrence OP
O Christ, the brightness of God’s glory 
    and express image of his person,
    whom death could not conquer,
    nor the tomb imprison;
  as you have shared our mortal frailty in the flesh,
    help us to share your immortal triumph in the spirit.
Let no shadow of the grave affright us 
    and no fear of darkness turn our hearts from you.
Reveal yourself to us as the first and the last,
    the Living One, our immortal Savior and Lord.
Henry Van Dyke, 1852 – 1933, American diplomat and Presbyterian clergyman
As they were talking about these things, 
Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, 
    “Peace to you!” 
But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 
And he said to them, 
    “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?
     See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. 
     Touch me, and see. 
     For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 
And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.

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Why have You forsaken me?

Study for Crucifixion (1947) by Graham Sutherland, CC BY-NC 2.0
you were not only tempted for forty days down by the Jordan 
but constantly all through your ministry.
Not to obvious blatant sins
but to the subtler deflections from the Father’s will;
to cunning compromise which would defeat the Father’s purpose.
As when the presence of the seeking Greeks
suggested the possibility of a wider mission
in which you might have been listened to and welcomed,
without the necessity of the cross.
As when in the Garden of Olives across the valley,
you wrestled with the doubt that death could be the Father’s will.
Or when, in the presence of Pilate
you might have pleaded your case with your accusers;
or in those fiercest moments of pain,
acquiesced to the mocking cry of the crowd to
    ‘Come down from the cross and we will believe,’
Until one temptation remained –
the final test, the last claim of love,
the fiercest attack of evil –
more subtle and shattering than the rest,
when, cloaked in a blanket of darkness
came the whispering doubt:
    What if God too has forsaken you?
And at last, the battle done, the last temptation met,
faith complete, the task finished, evil defeated,
love triumphant, you said:
    ‘Father into your hands I commend my spirit –
    the rest lies with you, Father, dear Father.’
And then it was that by the cross with its limp body
there must surely have sounded the voice from heaven 
    once more:
    ‘This is my beloved Son.’
    Son in call,
    Son in obedience,
    Son in love
    Son in death and in triumphant life.
George Appleton, 1902 – 1993, Anglican Bishop in England and Jerusalem
It was now about noon, 
    and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon,
    for the sun stopped shining. 
And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 
Jesus called out with a loud voice, 
    “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
When he had said this, he breathed his last.

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Help me to live your Gospel

Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees, James Tissot, Brooklyn Museum
Lord, it is too late for you to be quiet,
    you have spoken too much;
    you have fought too much;
You were not sensible, you know, 
    you exaggerated, it was bound to happen.
You called the better people a breed of vipers;
You told them that their hearts were black sepulchers
    with fine exteriors;
You kissed the decaying lepers;
You spoke fearlessly with unacceptable strangers;
You ate with notorious sinners,
    and you said that the street-walkers would be the first in Paradise;
You got on well with the poor, the tramps, the crippled;
You belittled the religious regulations;
Your interpretations of the Law reduced it to one little commandment: 
    to love.
Now they are avenging themselves.
They have taken steps against you;
    they have approached the authorities and action wlll follow.
Lord, I know that if I try to live a little like you,
     I shall be condemned.
I am afraid.
They are already singling me out.
Some smile at me, others laugh, some are shocked, 
    and several of my friends are about to drop me.
I am afraid to stop,
I am afraid to listen to men’s wisdom.
It whispers: you must go forward little by little,
    everything can’t be taken literally,
    it’s better to come to terms with the adversary . . .
And yet, Lord, I know that you are right.
Help me to fight,
Help me to speak,
Help me to live your Gospel,
To the end,
To the folly of the Cross.
Michel Quoist,1918 – 1997, French Catholic priest and writer
Prayers of Life

Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, 
    it remains only a single seed. 
    But if it dies, it produces many seeds. 
Anyone who loves their life will lose it, 
    while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 
Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. 
My Father will honor the one who serves me.”

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Drive me deep to face myself

image by Ümit Bulut umit, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Lord, grant me your peace,
    for I have made peace
        with what does not give peace,
            and I am afraid.
Drive me deep, now,
    to face myself so I may see
that what I truly need to fear is
    my capacity to deceive
        and willingness to be deceived,
    my loving of things
        and using of people,
    my struggle for power
        and shrinking of soul,
    my addiction to comfort
        and sedation of conscience,
    my readiness to criticize 
        and reluctance to create,
    my clamor for privilege
        and silence at injustice,
    my seeking for security
        and forsaking the kingdom.
Lord, grant me your peace.
Instill in me such fear of you
    as will begin to make me wise,
and such quiet courage
    as will enable me to begin to make
        hope visible,
            forgiving delightful,
        loving contagious,
            faith liberating,
        peace making joyful
            and myself open and present
            to other people
            and your kingdom.
Ted Loder, born 1930, American Methodist minister
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. 
Not as the world gives do I give to you. 
Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

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Gather me into your loving arms, O Lord

Dear Father: How it must crush you when I turn my back on you and walk away.
How you must weep when you see me disappear over a far horizon
    to squander my life in a distant country.
Thank you that although I have sometimes left home,
    I have never left your heart.
Though I have forgotten about you,
    you have never forgotten about me.
Thank you for the financial crisis or the famine or the pigsty
    or whatever it took to bring me to my senses.
And thank you that even though what brought me home 
    were pangs of hunger instead of pangs of conscience,
    yet still, even on those terms, you welcome me back.
Thank you for the forgiveness and the restoration you have lavished on me –
    me, the one who needed them most but deserved them least.
I confess that there is inside me not only the prodigal son,
    but also a critical older brother.
How dutiful I have sometimes been, 
    and yet so proud of the duties I have done.
How generous I have been in my opinion of myself,
    and yet so judgmental in my opinion of others.
How often I have entered into criticism,
    and yet how seldom I have entered into your joy.
Gather both the prodigal part of myself and the critical part of myself
    in your loving arms, O Lord.  And bring them home.
Ken Gire, American author and speaker
‘For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; 
    he was lost and is found.’ 
So they began to celebrate.

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Transfiguration Prayer

Transfiguration of Christ, Carl Bloch, Wikimedia Commons

O God,
We open our eyes and we see Jesus,
the months of ministry transfigured to a beam of light,
the light of the world,
your light.
May your light shine upon us.

We open our eyes and we see Moses and Elijah,
your word restoring us, showing us the way,
telling a story,
your story, his story, our story.
May your word speak to us.

We open our eyes and we see mist,
the cloud of your presence
which assures us of all we do not know
and that we do not need to fear that.
Teach us to trust.

We open our eyes and we see Peter’s constructions,
his best plans, our best plans,
our missing the point,
our missing the way.
Forgive our foolishness and sin

We open our eyes and we see Jesus,
not casting us off,
but leading us down, leading us out –
to ministry, to people.
Your love endures forever.

We open our ears and we hear your voice,
‘This is my beloved Son, listen to him!’
And we give you thanks.


William Loader, New Testament Professor emeritus in Australia
And after six days Jesus took with him 
  Peter and James, and John his brother,   
  and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  
And he was transfigured before them, 
  and his face shone like the sun, 
  and his clothes became white as light.  
And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, 
  talking with him. 
And Peter said to Jesus, 
  “Lord, it is good that we are here. 
  If you wish, I will make three tents here, 
  one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 
He was still speaking when, 
  behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, 
  and a voice from the cloud said, 
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

The Presentation

The Presentation in the Temple, Alvaro Pirez, The Met, public domain
From all eternity, O Jesus Christ, 
    you have been our Lord and our God; so did the Father will it.  
Yet in this, the last of all periods of time, you also had your birth; 
    you were born of a virgin, 
    of one that had no knowledge of any man.  
To redeem us from the Law, you submitted to the Law.  
Your purpose was to free us from slavery 
    to which our corruption had reduced us 
    and to confer upon us the rank of sons.
This is the day when you were carried to the temple 
    and the aged Simeon took you in his arms 
    and asked leave to go in peace.  
‘My own eyes have seen’, he said, ‘your grace and your saving power.’
Deliver us, now, Lord, from all that is vain;
    fulfill your promise and free us from sin and shame;
    fill our hearts with your holy Spirit and enable us to say:
‘Abba, Father.’
Early Christian Prayers edited by A. Hamman, #218
Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:


“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”


You became human, really human.

Te tamari no atua, Paul Gauguin, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons
You became human, really human.
While we endeavor to grow out of our humanity,
    to leave our human nature behind us,
    You became human,
    and we must recognize that You want us also to be human – 
    really human.
Whereas we distinguish between the godly and the godless,
    the good and the evil, the noble and the common,
    You love real human beings without distinction. . . .
    You take the side of real human beings and the real world
        against all their accusers. . . .
But it’s not enough to say that You take care of human beings.
This sentence rests on something
    infinitely deeper and more impenetrable, 
    namely, that in the conception and birth of Jesus Christ, 
    You took on humanity in bodily fashion.
You raised your love for human beings 
    above every reproach of falsehood and doubt and uncertainty
    by yourself entering into the life of human beings as a human being,
    by bodily taking upon yourself 
    and bearing the nature, essence, guilt, and suffering of human beings.
Out of love for human beings, You became a human being.
You do not seek out the most perfect human being
    in order to unite with that person.
Rather, You take on human nature as it is.
after Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1906 – 1945, German  theologian and martyr
Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
    She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
    which means ‘God is with us.’

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