Why Are You Just Standing Around?

A Service for Ascension Day

Though this service can be used on its own and would work any day of the year, it was originally part of a long series that began on Ash Wednesday. Before Easter, the series was called “Confronted by the Cross.” After Easter, it was changed to “Confronted by the Resurrection.” Each Sunday we looked at specific biblical characters and their reactions to the gospel message—prideful Caiaphas, grateful Nicodemus, excited Peter, bewildered Cleopas, and doubting Thomas, for example. We asked what we could learn from a character’s reaction about ourselves, about others, and about Jesus.

On Ascension Day the sermon reflected on “all that Jesus began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1) until the day he disappeared into the clouds. Listeners were confronted with Christ’s ascension and his call to action. This meant thinking about the lessons Christ taught here on earth: deny yourself (Matthew 16:24), show compassion (Matthew 9:36), greatness is measured by humility (Matthew 18:3), riches can be a hindrance (Matthew 6:24), guard your heart (Proverbs 4:23), pray privately with conviction (Matthew 6:5), and plenty more. The rest of the book of Acts describes the people picking up where Jesus left off, doing and teaching the gospel he lived. In the words of our pastor, Kent Rottman, “Christians are never to be the ‘stand around’ type. We are to be action oriented. Those who profess their faith are sent by God to be his ambassadors/agents in the world.” Christ has ascended to heaven, but his work continues through us.

Prelude

Welcome

Call to Worship
God has ascended amid shouts of joy, 
      the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets. 
Sing praises to God, sing praises; 
      sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth; 
      sing to him a psalm of praise.
—Psalm 47:5–7

Opening Songs Led by Children
“This Is the Day” Garrett, PsH 241, SSS 379 (vs. 1, 3)
“Jesus Loves Me” Warner, LUYH 709, GtG 188, SSS 570 (vs. 1, 2)
“The Trees of the Field” Rubin, GtG 80, PsH 197
“Hallelu! Hallelu!” Anonymous, Worship in Song 226

Greeting from the Triune God
Jesus greets you,
he who conquered death,
he who ascended to the place of honor
at the right hand of the Most High,
he who is now our heavenly high priest,
and who intercedes for us.
Jesus greets you
with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
God Triune and glorious.
—Cornelius Nick Overduin, RW 31

Mutual Greeting
As the triune God has greeted us as a covenant community, we solidify our oneness in Christ by greeting one another.

Call to Confession
Invitation to corporate and personal confession spoken by the pastor.

Silent Reflection and Prayer
During this time you are invited to think about the past week. Were there times as an individual, family, or community of believers when you chose to sit back and do nothing rather than be Christ’s representative here on earth?

Prayer of Confession
Holy God, we confess to you today that in this past week there have been many times when we have failed to be Christ’s representatives here on earth.

We say we are Christ’s disciples, that we desire to follow him in all things, yet we found ourselves denying him again and again. We took your name in vain, using it in unholy ways. At other times we failed to stand up for Christ’s name and claim it as our own. Instead, we participated in activities we knew did not honor you.

Our group texts are filled with mean-spirited comments about others. Sure, maybe we didn’t write them, but neither did we shut them down.

We let our eyes see things we knew devalued and demeaned other people, including those we love and our very selves.

We didn’t treat our bodies as the holy temples they are, giving in to cravings for food, drugs, or alcohol, knowing that they would only hurt us, desiring the quick fix rather than fixing our eyes on you.

At other times, when confronted with people in need, we threw up our hands, thinking the problem was too large for us to solve instead of asking how you might want to use us to be part of the solution.

We failed again and again to believe that as Christ’s followers, through the working of the Holy Spirit, we have power—power to say “no” to the temptations around us, power to make a difference, power to claim this world for you. Instead we sat back and did nothing.

Even though we know that Christ is seated at your right hand ready to intercede on our behalf and that you have given us brothers and sisters to help us in our journey here on earth, we forgot. We thought we were on our own, and we failed. Forgive us.

Holy God,
we come before you knowing we are unworthy of your forgiveness, but also filled with great relief because you have assured us again and again that you will always love us and that you are rich in mercy.

And while we know our salvation is not based on what we do or don’t do, we also know that Christ has given us specific tasks to do here on earth.

Forgive us for not being willing servants of Christ, and help us in this next week to grow in our knowledge of him so that all we do may be a better reflection of our unity with Christ.
Amen.
—Rev. Joyce Borger

Assurance of Pardon
But because of his great love for us,
God, who is rich in mercy,
made us alive with Christ
even when we were dead in transgressions

—it is by grace you have been saved.

And God raised us up with Christ
and seated us with him 
in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,

in order that in the coming ages
he might show the incomparable riches of his grace,
expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—
and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 
not by works, so that no one can boast. 
For we are God’s handiwork, 
created in Christ Jesus to do good works, 
which God prepared in advance for us to do.

—Ephesians 2:4–10

Song of Praise
“Across the Lands” Getty and Townend, LUYH 775

Prayer for Illumination
“Lord, Listen to Your Children Praying” Medema, LUYH 896, GtG 469, SSS 577

Scripture Reading
Acts 1:1–11

Message
“Why Are You Just Standing Around?”

Song of Response
“Crown Him with Many Crowns” Bridges, LUYH 223, GtG 268,, SSS 208 (vs. 1–3)

Prayers of the People
Focus on Christ’s lordship over all things and how his being seated at God’s right hand means he is able to intercede and does intercede on our behalf.

Offering
The giving of our gifts is a symbol of our joining in the work of the gospel.

Blessing
Hebrews 12:1–2

Doxology
“Lord, I Lift Your Name on High” Founds, LUYH 610, SSS 205

Postlude

Rachel Bouwkamp serves as administrator and director of worship at Lee Street Christian Reformed Church in Wyoming, Michigan.