It seems to me that people are no longer asking the question to which the ascension is the answer. For the Reformed tradition, the doctrine of God’s transcendence, God’s otherness, God’s glory, and God’s sovereignty are central, coupled with an awareness of God as our Creator, the one for whom we are made. Such an understanding of God raises the need for a mediator as our most profound existential question.
Last year three pastors of neighboring churches wanted to help our congregations celebrate Ascension Day as a high point of the Christian year. We decided to hold a combined service the Sunday before Ascension Day (Ascension Day is May 25 in 2006), and publicized it as a coronation service.
This festival of song based on Romans 8 was the concluding service of the Calvin Symposium on Worship and the Arts, January 2003. It would be especially appropriate for use anytime between Ascension and Pentecost, or as background material for any service based on a portion of Romans 8. The entire chapter of Romans 8 was proclaimed from memory by different people who had been coached by Dennis Dewey (see RW 65). For this service, we celebrated in song the gifts from the body of Christ from many times and places, united by the power of the Spirit.
For this service I simply took the teachings of the Heidelberg Catechism on the ascension of Christ and coordinated them with Scripture readings and songs (see Lord’s Days 18 and 19, pp. 879-881 in the worship edition of the Psalter Hymnal.) Members of the congregation read the Scripture passages. The worship leader introduced each Scripture reading and song with a heading, which was also printed in the bulletin. We placed the sermon early in the service; but you could insert a sermon at any point in the service where it matches a particular theme.
UP THROUGH ENDLESS RANKS OF ANGELS
Up through endless ranks of angels,
cries of triumph in his ears,
to his heavenly throne ascending,
having vanquished all their fears,
Christ looks down upon his faithful,
leaving them in happy tears.
proven equal to our need,
now for us before the Father
as our brother intercede:
flesh that for our world was wounded,
living, for the wounded plead.