Christ’s ascension is key to understanding the life of the Christian, the role of the church, and God’s plan for the future. Jesus, reigning in bodily form from the right hand of the Father, reminds us that we are called to a tangible, embodied ministry that attends to the bodily experience in this world. This Ascension Day service draws attention to how the embodied justice work of the church is rooted in the doctrine of the Ascension. Visuals for this service could include slides or posters highlighting your congregation’s justice-related work. You could also use physical reminders of that work: a pyramid of canned goods around the table if your church has a food pantry, stacks of children’s books as a reminder of the literacy program your church participates in, or recycling bins to highlight your church’s creation-care efforts.
Call to Worship
God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
Sing praises to God, sing praises!
For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm.
Sing praises to our King, sing praises!
—adapted from Psalm 47
Confession and Assurance
Almighty God, you came down from heaven and taught us how to love you and your world. When you returned to heaven to reign in glory, you commanded us to go and do as you did. Yet we so often find ourselves staring up at the sky instead of looking at the needs of those around us. We so often find ourselves staring up at the sky instead of looking for how we can better advocate for your justice and peace. We so often find ourselves staring up at the sky instead of responding to your call to go and serve. Forgive us, Lord, for our inaction, for our wanton disregard for your commands, and for our lazy faith. Amen.
Beloved people of God, the Lord Most High is awesome, the great King over all the earth. God chose our inheritance for us. God loved us while we were still sinners, and even though we are a broken people, God chose us to be his holy people, forgiving us and equipping us for service.
In the name of the ascended and reigning Christ, we are forgiven. Glory to God! Amen.
The Reading of the Word
[The reader should pause to allow for attention to each gesture.]
A reading from the book of Acts, chapter 1, beginning in verse 1:
In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them 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, . . .
[The bread and the cup are brought to the table.]
. . . 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.”
[Water is poured into the baptismal font.]
Then they gathered around him and 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.
[The Christ candle is lit.]
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.”
This is the Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God.
The ascension confirms the bodily resurrection of Jesus and how believers will join in that resurrection. Further, the ascension reminds the church to never stop longing for Christ’s return as we continue the work he mandated for us. Jesus’ ministry continues as he intercedes for us and prays on our behalf. The fact that Jesus is still ministering anchors the church as it continues its struggle here. The doctrine of the Ascension roots the justice work of the church in Christ—the church does not pursue justice out of its own desires, but because our King is still calling us to the work of the kingdom.
“Only King Forever” Brown et al.
“Before the Throne of God Above” Bancroft, LUYH 682, SSS 541
“Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly” Tomlin et al.
“Crown Him with Many Crowns” Bridges and Thring, LUYH 223, GtG 268, SSS 208
“We Labor Unto Glory” Harris and Wardell