A Wonderful Hope
This is a service of celebration for Ascension Day. Parts of the service might also be used on Ascension Sunday. It requires at least one leader and a Scripture reader. The congregation speaks the lines in bold.
Gathering and Welcome
Leader: Today is Ascension Day. On this day we celebrate a wonderfully reassuring event: the ascension of Christ’s physical body into heaven. This is an important event in the liturgical year because we recognize that Christ, in his physical body, is in communion with the Father, having fully atoned for our sins. It is a sign of our own resurrection to come. During this service, we will explore the wonderful hope that is available to us through Christ’s Ascension. We will also thank God for the promise we receive during Ascension: that the Spirit of God is present on earth, calling and empowering the church to bring justice, peace, and the good news of the gospel to all of God’s creation. Now let us praise God for his sacrifice and resurrection.
We Look Up
Scripture Reading: Psalm 113
Praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord, you his servants;
praise the name of the Lord.
Let the name of the Lord be praised,
both now and forevermore.
From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the Lord is to be praised.
The Lord is exalted over all the nations,
his glory above the heavens.
Who is like the Lord our God,
the One who sits enthroned on high,
who stoops down to look
on the heavens and the earth?
He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes,
with the princes of his people.
He settles the barren woman in her home
as a happy mother of children.
Praise the Lord!
“Alleluia, for the Lord God Almighty Reigns/Agnus Dei” SNC 39
“How Majestic Is Your Name” CH 121, SNC 24, SWM 30, WR 42
“I Will Sing of My Redeemer” CH 309, PsH 479, WR 356
Scripture Reading: The Story of the Ascension, Acts 1:3-11
After his suffering, [Jesus] presented himself to [the disciples] and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.
They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
Lord, we praise you for your love and resurrection, and we have heard your Word. You are good, and your love is life to us. Yet, Lord, we do not understand your ways. At times we wonder why we cannot see you. Like the disciples, we look up, bewildered. We ask, “Are you going to restore your kingdom at this time?”
How long, O Lord, before you restore your kingdom here on earth?
Lord Jesus, in this world where sin is rampant, as we hear of you rising into heaven, we wonder what will happen next.
How long, O Lord, must we be patient while the wicked triumph?
Lord God Almighty, we look up in wonder, and we wait in anticipation for your return. We love you. We long to be in communion with you.
How long, O Lord, will the labors of your people fail?
Holy Spirit, in this world where even your people are separated by strife and anger, we long for your healing mercy and justice to put an end to all our grief.
How long, O Lord?
Scripture Reading: Psalm 22:1-2
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from the words of my groaning?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.
“Jesus, Remember Me” PH 599, PsH 217, SFL 168, SNC 143, WR 285
“Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted” TH 257
“I Want Jesus to Walk with Me” PH 363, SFL 214, SNC 130, TH 611, 642, WR 248
“Why Has God Forsaken Me?” PH 406, SNC 141
We Are Humbled
Confession and Assurance
Scripture Reading: Psalm 22:3-5
Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the praise of Israel.
In you our ancestors put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.
They cried to you and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not disappointed.
God of compassion, we are a fallen people. We do not understand your will, and we are humbled by your presence.
Lord, have mercy on us!
God of grace, we have lied to our neighbors; we have spoken in anger to our loved ones; we have hated our enemies and betrayed our friends. We do not walk in the light as you have called us to walk. You give us light, and we are content to live in darkness apart from you. God of love, heal our unbelief. You have not promised us a life of ease, but only the love of a perfect Savior.
Lord, have mercy on us!
People of God, this is the miracle of Ascension Day: Jesus Christ does empathize with us. He walked on the earth, and he sits now at God’s right hand, interceding on our behalf. Hear now these words of comfort:
Scripture Reading: Hebrews 4:14-16
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
“Since Our Great High Priest, Christ Jesus” PsH 230, SNT 217
“Before the Throne of God Above” CSW 28
We Lift Up Our Hearts
Thanksgiving: from 1 Samuel 2:1-3
My heart rejoices in the Lord;
in the Lord my horn is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
for I delight in your deliverance.
There is no one holy like the Lord;
there is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.
Do not keep talking so proudly
or let your mouth speak such arrogance,
for the Lord is a God who knows,
and by him deeds are weighed.
Scripture Reading: Colossians 3:1-4
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Sermon: “A Wonderful Hope”
“Lord, I Lift Your Name on High” CH 107, SNC 157, SWM 39, WR 88
“Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” CH 11, PH 356, PsH 486, TH 457, WR 68
“Have No Fear, Little Flock” PsH 366
[This would be an appropriate point in the service to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and take an offering.]
God Sends Us Out
Scripture Reading: Hebrews 9:24-28, TNIV
For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
“Why Stare at Heaven’s Distant Blue” SNT 117
“Man of Sorrows—What a Name” CH 311, PsH 482, TH 246, WR 301
“By the Sea of Crystal” PsH 620, SNT 250, TH 549
“We Receive Your Blessing” CSW 37
People of God, Jesus Christ suffered, died, and rose again for you. He is a faithful God, and he gives this promise to his church: This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go.
God of grace, we believe that you keep your promises. In your mercy, teach your church to love all of your creation.
Benediction and Passing of the Peace
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Let us now turn and greet one another in peace.
Song of Sending: “We Receive Your Blessing” CSW 37