you ascended into the heavens

Rabula Gospels / 6th Century Dsmdgold / Wikimedia Commons
 
To complete your seamless robe, 
    and so to complete our faith,
you ascended through the air into the heavens,
    before the very eyes of the apostles.
In this way you showed that you are Lord of all,
    and are the fulfillment of all creation.
Thus from that moment every human and every living creature
    should bow at your name.
And, in the eyes of faith,
    we can see that all creation proclaims your greatness.
 
Bernard of Clairvaux, 1090-1153, French abbot and Cistercian mystic
 
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After saying this, he was taken up into a cloud while they were watching, and they could no longer see him.  As they strained to see him rising into heaven, two white-robed men suddenly stood among them.  “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!”

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Risen Lord, we come to you

At the Throne of Grace / Lawrence OP / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 
 
Risen Lord, we come to confess our sins.
Our hearts are full of impatience, frustration,
    and sometimes even bitterness with one another.
We find it hard to be accepting.
 
    Break the seals, Lord, roll away the stone,
    rip open the protective bandages.
    Breathe the breath of life into our cold, dead hearts.
 
Risen Lord, we come to petition you.
Our minds are so often full of doubt
    and we are shy about sharing 
    the good news of your resurrection.
 
    Break the seals, Lord, roll away the stone,
    rip open the protective bandages.
    Breathe the breath of life into our cold, dead hearts.
 
Risen Lord, we come to adore you.
We desire to know you as living Lord
    and to experience your vitality within us.
 
    Break the seals, Lord, roll away the stone,
    rip open the protective bandages.
    Breathe the breath of life into our cold, dead hearts.
 
Risen Lord, we come to worship you.  
The world waits for your coming through us.
We want to be filled with joy
    and to have the freedom to be your true disciples.
 
As we come, we thank you that you do break the seals, Lord,
    you roll away the stone and rip open the protective bandages.
You breathe the breath of life into our cold, dead hearts,
    and by your resurrection we are made new.
 
prayer from New Zealand
 
__________________
 
 
With great power the apostles were giving testimony 
    to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, 
    and great grace was on all of them.
 

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But I confess that you are God

image / Lawrence OP / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
 
With all my heart I worship you, O hidden God.
You who hide yourself behind the things of your creation.
My heart submits to you, and so does my mind.
Compared with contemplating you, all else is nothing.
I cannot touch you, taste you, see you.
All senses are cheated of you – except the ear.
Your Son has spoken, and I believe.
Nothing has truth beyond the word I hear.
On the cross your divinity was hidden,
And now on earth you humanity is hidden,
But I acknowledge you and cry to you.
I do not gaze, like Thomas, on your wounds,
But I confess that you are God.
Give me a stronger faith, a surer hope,
And a deeper love for you, my Lord.
You gave us a memorial of your dying
In the living Bread that gives life to men.
As I eat your bread, may you live in me.
And may I always turn to you for strength.
O Christ, who gave your heart for all men,
Cleanse my sin in your blood which was spilt.
A single drop of it would save the world,
Cleansing every man from his foul guilt.
A veil is over your face, I cannot see you.
I cry to you to show me yourself,
To let me see you face to face.
With that vision my soul will be at peace.
 
Thomas Aquinas, 1225 – 1274, Roman Catholic philosopher and theologian
 
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Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

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This is Jesus Christ

image / pixabay
 
Born as a Son,
led forth as a Lamb,
sacrificed as a Sheep,
buried as a Man,
He rose from the dead as a God,
for He was by nature God and man.

He is all things:
He judges, and so he is Law;
He teaches, and so he is Wisdom;
He saves, and so he is Grace;
He begets, and so he is Father;
He is begotten, and so he is Son;
He suffers, and so he is Sacrifice;
He is buried, and so he is man;
He rises again, and so he is God.
This is Jesus Christ,
to whom belongs glory for all ages.
 
Melito of Sardis, d. 180, Bishop of Sardis
 
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The Good News is about his Son.
In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, 
and he was shown to be the Son of God 
when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. 
He is Jesus Christ our Lord.

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O wondrous power of the cross!

Bonnat Crucifixion Detailsdalry / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
 
O wondrous power of the cross!
O unspeakable glory of the passion 
    which became the Lord’s tribunal, the world’s judgment, 
    and the power of the Crucified!
From Your cross You draw all things to Yourself, O Lord!
When You stretched out Your hands to an unbelieving people that mocked You,
    the whole world was finally brought to confess Your majesty. . . .
In this way type gave way to truth, prophecy to revelation,
    the ancient law to the gospel.
You drew all things to Yourself, Lord, 
    so that what previously was performed 
         in the one temple of the Jews in mystic signs
    is now celebrated everywhere by holy men
         in every country in revealing rites. . . .
Your cross is the font of all blessings, the source of all graces,
    and through it the believers receive strength in return for weakness,
    glory in return for shame, life in return for death.
 
Pope Leo the Great, c.400-461, influenced the Chalcedonian Creed and Attila the Hun
 
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So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.  So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

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the scene of Christ’s suffering

image / wallpaperuse
 
Great God, our Father:
As we call to mind the scene of Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane,
    our hearts are filled with penitence and shame
    that we foolishly waste our time in idleness
    and that we make no progress in the Christian life day to day. . . 
We are ashamed that war and lust flourish and grow more rampant every day.
Forgive us for our cruel indifference to the Cross,
    and pardon us that, like the bystanders of old,
    we merely stand and gaze in idle curiosity
    upon the pitious scene.
O teach us, we beseech thee, the good news of thy forgiveness.
Cause humanity, degenerate as it is, to live anew,
    and hasten the day when the whole world shall be born anew.
 
Toyohiko Kagawa, 1888-1960 Japanese Christian pacifist, reformer, and labour activist
 
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Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, 
and he said to them, 
    “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 
He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, 
and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 
Then he said to them, 
    “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. 
    Stay here and keep watch with me.”

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the new commandment

Jesus washing Peter’s feet by Sieger Koder / Jim Forest Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
 
Jesus, you gave us the new command to love each other 
    just as you loved your disciples.
We are eager to imitate you in loving our brothers and sisters, but like Peter,
    our efforts are often more words and good intentions 
        than action and sacrifice..
We want to offer ourselves fully in friendship
    but when the relationship becomes costly we disengage.
We want to reach out to those different from ourselves
    but tend to stay within our safe routines.
And when relationships lead to hurt or betrayal 
    we withdraw to protect ourselves
    and fail to keep your commandment.
You know this about us.
You know that we are weak and made of dust.
 
Oh, pour out an extra measure of faith upon us!
Strengthen us with the supernatural ability to love just as you loved.
Enable us to present ourselves as living sacrifices in our relationships.
 
But more than that, bless our flawed, timid expressions
    and communicate them through your Holy Spirit,
    so that those who we begin to love, 
    know that, in fact, they are loved 
    completely
    by you
just as you loved your disciples, and us, unto the end.
 
EM
______________________
 
 
It was just before the Passover Festival. 
Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. 
Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
 
A new command I give you: Love one another. 
As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
 

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You justify the humble

Publican & Pharisee Icon
Publican & Pharisee Icon / Ted / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
 
Humility once exalted the tax collector,
    who bewailed his sin
    and cried: ‘Be merciful,’
    and was justified.
Let him be our example,
    for we have all fallen into the abyss of evil.
Let us cry to the Savior
    from the bottom of our heart:
  we have sinned, be merciful,
    for you alone love us.
 
Lord, you condemned the Pharisee
    who, boasting of his works,
    justified himself.
You justified the tax collector
    who, humbling himself,
    with sorrowful sighing asked for mercy.
For you reject proud hearts.
    but do not reject contrite hearts.
So in humility we prostrate ourselves
    before you, who suffered for us.
Grant us forgiveness
    and generous mercy.
 
From Orthodox Lent. Holy Week, Easter
 
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To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

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strength to overcome the temptations

 ChristTempted / John Ritto Penniman / Wikimedia Commons
 
We thank you, Father, for those days in the desert when, 
    through prayer and fasting, 
    Jesus discovered your will for his life 
    and overcame the temptations of the Evil One.
Help us, during these days of Lent, 
    to come close to you and to listen to your voice.  
Give us strength to overcome the temptations 
    to please ourselves and live life without you.
Teach us your way.  For Jesus’ sake.
 
 
______________________
 
 
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,  where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
 

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your Son, born of a virgin

image / pixabay

 

O Holy God of Promise,
    we so often place our trust in the things we can see,
    and touch, and easily believe.
But you did not ask us to believe what is easy,
    you have asked us to believe what is true!
Forgive us, Holy One, when we doubt the ways you work.
Forgive us when we find it hard to believe an ancient story.
Forgive us when we question how you chose to enter the world,
    born as one of us.
Forgive our lack of faith and belief
    in ways which seem so impossible to believe.
Help us to look in faith, open our belief, and set aside our doubts
    that you sent your Son, born of a virgin –
        the one who has come to set us all free.
We offer these prayers in the name of your Son,
Emmanuel, God with us.  
Amen.

Jan Brook, Presbyterian Pastor serving in Kansas
re-worship.blogspot
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In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
 

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