By the time you start thinking about Ascension and Pentecost services Easter will have passed. Pastors and worship leaders are giving a collective sigh of relief that they have reached this stretch of Ordinary Time without any great expectations for special services. But wait—the gospel story isn’t over yet. Christ has been raised from the dead, but the story continues through Christ’s ascension and the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and beyond. It is with the giving of the Holy Spirit that we join the story.
Articles in this issue:
He is gone, above the sun ascended,
His body risen to beyond our eyes,
Our years together on earth have ended,
We look with longing out on empty skies.
To baptize disciples of all nations,
Preaching his word to strange and hostile lands,
To rise against our old hesitations,
To be our Saviour’s pair of earthly hands.
We shall not be lonely, the Spirit nears,
Breathing love through us to be passed on,
The past confusion as debris clears,
Building up Christ’s body now he has gone.
Reformed Worship editors asked a few subscribers the following questions about the significance of Ascension Day and how it should be acknowledged in our worship.
- How significant is Ascension Day for the church?
- How much attention should it receive in our worship? Should there be a worship service on Ascension Day? Incorporated into worship the Sunday before or after? Or something else?
Here are the responses of Pastor Eric Dirksen and Professor of Christian Worship Rod Snaterse.
Not long after my recent book Why We Listen to Sermons (Calvin Press, 2019) was released, my colleague John Witvliet and I had a conversation about it at Calvin Seminary’s annual President’s Legacy Society luncheon. John noted that if he had to choose who the book’s main character or actor was, it would clearly be the person of the Holy Spirit. And indeed, that was exactly my intention.
In an age of unprecedented division, when so many people around us experience racism, hatred, deportations, and fear, the church is called into unity and a spirit of Pentecost hospitality, working toward the day of re-creation. On that day everything will be made new, and all will join together around the heavenly throne, singing praises to the heavenly King in a beautiful chorus of many languages: “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come” (Revelation 4:8).
Pentecost often falls right around the end of the school year, presenting an opportunity to celebrate those in your congregation who are graduating and remind them that, as believers of Christ, they have the Holy Spirit in them wherever they go—the same Spirit who gives them particular gifts and abilities.
O God the Holy Ghost
Who art light unto thine elect
Evermore enlighten us.
Thou who art fire of love
Evermore enkindle us.
Thou who art Lord and Giver of Life,
Evermore live in us.
Thou who bestowest sevenfold grace,
Evermore replenish us.
As the wind is thy symbol,
So forward our goings.
As the dove, so launch us heavenwards.
As water, so purify our spirits.
As a cloud, so abate our temptations.
As dew, so revive our languor.
As fire, so purge our dross.
Finding uplifting, theologically sound music for worship is a complex task! We’ve had many conversations in our congregation in recent years about how to mix up our singing. Our annual fee for a copyright license (CCLI) opens up thousands of songs to us. But then we have to figure out which ones we want to learn. Who will teach the congregation new songs? Or will the song leader just sing them for us? Which ones will become beloved and familiar? Sometimes I end up writing Didn’t go over well or Don’t use in the margin of the office copy of my hymnal.