Reformed Christians should celebrate the ascension with verve, with glory, and with full pews. The ascension, after all, is not marked by an isolated Thursday service in which the church tries to come to terms with a gravity-defying miracle. The ascension is rather linked to the sunburst expression of the victory and power of the risen Lord that we celebrate on Easter Sunday. So on Ascension Day we sing songs of victory.

Rejoice in the Lord, the hymnal of the Reformed Church in America, has one section of "Resurrection and Ascension" hymns. That's because many of the Easter songs (especially "Jesus Lives") can be sung as ascension songs along with the songs (e.g., Charles Wesley's "Hail the Day That Sees Him Rise") traditionally associated with the ascension. The new CRC Psalter Hymnal includes both of the titles mentioned above, along with nine other Ascension hymns (among them another Wesley hymn, "Rejoice, the Lord Is King.") The Trinity Hymnal has sections on "His Ascension" and "His Exaltation."

On Ascension Day the minister will preach about Christ's glorious kingship, perhaps using texts from the lectionary or from the passages discussed in the article on these pages. At different times one can stress Christ's glory or his return, his presence with us or his preparation of a place for us, his comforting nearness or his challenge to us to work in the kingdom. There are enough glorious variations on a theme to give a preacher something different to talk about for thirty-five years of ascension sermons!

The spirit of the ascension service is one of joyful solemnity. We are in the King's presence. We speak in awed tones and, in spite of the absence of kneeling benches in most of our churches, we might kneel in adoration. The King is also our deliverer, so we singjoyously and robustly, "A Hymn of Glory Let Us Sing" and "Crown Him with Many Crowns."

Plan and pray for a King-honoring ascension service. As Calvin says, the ascension is "one of the chiefest points of our faith"; such a chief event demands a gala worship service.

Harry Boonstra (hboonstr@calvin.edu) is former theological editor of RW and emeritus theological librarian of Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan.


Reformed Worship 3 © March 1987, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.