Thursday, 21 May 2020

Marsden Road Uniting Worship for Ascension 24 May 2020

Sunday 24th May 2020
Marsden Road Uniting Church

Sunday 24th May 2020
Ascension Sunday in the year of Matthew
9.30 am

Gathering God’s People

Prelude Music to prepare for worship

Acknowledgement of First Peoples

We acknowledge the first people who have cared for this Land, where we worship, the Wallumedgal. 
May our worship join with the voices of the First Peoples of this Land.

Call to Worship
(Mary J. Scifres, Abingdon Worship Annual 2017)
Called to be one with Christ, called to be one with each other, called to be one in ministry, we gather in the unity of God’s Holy Spirit, who calls us here.

Called to be one,
we are here.
Called to be strong,
we are here.
Called in devotion to God,
we gather to worship and pray.

Hymn 100: All creatures of our God and King
(Tune – Lasst Uns Erfreuen)

All creatures of our God and King,
Lift up your voice and with us sing,
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thou burning sun with golden beam,
Thou silver moon with softer gleam!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou rushing wind that art so strong,
Ye clouds that sail in heav’n along,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou rising moon, in praise rejoice,
Ye lights of evening, find a voice!
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Thou flowing water, pure and clear,
Make music for thy Lord to hear,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Thou fire so masterful and bright,
That givest man both warmth and light.
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care!
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Let all things their Creator bless,
And worship Him in humbleness,
O praise Him! Alleluia!
Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son,
And praise the Spirit, Three in One!
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

Opening prayer

Holy Spirit descend upon us this day. Gather us into your
presence, that we may be devoted to prayer and
strengthened in unity and love. In your holy name, we
pray. Amen.

A Prayer of Confession

Rouse us with your grace and mercy, O God.
Scatter the fears within our hearts. Drive away our doubt and our sin.
Melt our insecurities and anxieties.
Banish our divisions and disagreements, that we may be one with you through the grace of Christ Jesus, and one with each other through the power of your Holy Spirit, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Declaration of Forgiveness
Sing to God! For we are forgiven and united by God’s power and grace.
Thanks, be to God!

The Peace

Forgiven by Christ’s grace and united in the Spirit, let us share signs of unity and love this day.
Peace be with you!
And also, with you!
(You may like to exchange a sign of peace with those around you.)


A Word with the Children/Young People

Do you enjoy puzzles? I like puzzles especially cross word puzzles but not cryptic cross words. Word jumbles are something that I like doing at times. That is a puzzle where the letters of a word are all mixed up and you have to figure out what the word is. Sometimes it is easy to figure the word out. Other times I will look and look and can't figure out what the word is. Then, all of a sudden, it seems my mind is opened, and the word is clear to me.

We have a word puzzle for you today. The letters are not mixed up. The word is just hard to see. I am going to hold it up and show it to you. If you see the word, don't say what it is until everyone has had time to figure out what the word is. (Hold up the puzzle and wait for a short time.) If you can see the word, raise your hand. Who can tell us what the word is? That's right, the answer is Jesus!

This puzzle reminds me of something that happened in our Bible lesson today. The Bible tells us that Jesus appeared to some of his disciples and said, "Peace be with you." The disciples were afraid and weren't sure what they were seeing. They thought they were seeing a ghost.

Seeing that they were afraid, Jesus said to them, "Why are you troubled? Why do you have doubts? Look at my hands and my feet. Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones like I have."

Jesus could see that they still weren't convinced, so he asked them, "Do you have anything to eat?" They gave him a piece of fish and he ate it as they watched.
Then Jesus opened their minds so that they could understand the Scriptures. He taught said, "It was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer, die, and be raised from the dead on the third day. It was written so that this message would be told to every nation, beginning in Jerusalem: 'There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.' You are witnesses of all these things."

As Jesus opened the minds of his disciples, let us pray that he will open our hearts and minds to spread the Good News to everyone we know that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again so that we could have forgiveness of sin.

Heavenly Father, open our minds to understand your Word, open our hearts to live your Word, open our lips to share the Word with others. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.


Invitation to the Offering

Showered with God’s abundant grace, let us share abundant love in the gifts and offerings we bring.

Offering Prayer

Pour out your Holy Spirit on us. Pour out your Holy Spirit on these gifts. And pour out your Holy Spirit on the ministries we offer to your world. Though our gifts and our offerings, others may find generous friends and a loving community of faith.

Hymn: Be Still and Know

Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am God.

Composer: John L. Bell

The Service of the Word

The Gospel Reading:                            Lk 24:44-53           NEB page 808
After the final reading the reader will say            For the Word of the Lord
Please respond by saying                                    Thanks be to God.


1 In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2 until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over the course of forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4 While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. ‘This’, he said, ‘is what you have heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’ 6 So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ 7 He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’

Lk 24:44-53

44 Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so, stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’
50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51While he was blessing them; he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52And they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

Preaching of the Word - Physical Absence, Spiritual
                                Presence – Acts 1:1-11

Today is one of those relatively obscure Christian holidays of which many are unaware: Ascension Sunday. This is the day in the church calendar when we celebrate the ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven. In all honesty, the ascension is a rather difficult idea for the modern mind to handle. It’s the story of how Jesus went to the Mount of Olives after his resurrection from the dead. There, according to the book of Acts, Jesus literally flew off into heaven. “He was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.”

In the first century, the understanding of the cosmos was very different from ours. People understood heaven to be a place that was literally, geographically, “up” from the earth. They could visualise Jesus leaving them and going “up” into heaven. With our scientific view of the cosmos, we know there is not an up or down in the universe. Even our notion of heaven is not of a geographical location or direction. When contemporary people think of the ascension, it is a little hard to imagine the Lord Jesus Christ flying off like a one-person space shuttle into the skies.

Yet, despite our scientific reservations, the story of the ascension is spiritually important to us. The ascension was the church’s way of dealing with a fundamental fact. The earliest disciples had experienced the bodily presence of the risen Lord, the one who was no longer under the claim of death. After a passage of time, this experience of the risen Lord as bodily present with them seemed to pass. He didn’t appear again. They accounted for his absence by saying that the risen Lord was now in heaven. They had to go forward without his physical presence.

He had ascended into heaven. Christians today have the same circumstance. We believe in a risen Lord who is no longer physically present. The body of Jesus is not here any longer, except in the church as the body of Christ. So, on Ascension Sunday, we do well to think about what Jesus’ physical absence means for Christians today.

First, the absence of the physical Jesus calls us to take seriously the church as the body of Christ. This is a concept with which we all are very familiar. We say that the church is the body of Christ without thinking about what that might actually mean. If the church is the body of Christ, then we are called to give to the church the devotion and respect that Christ deserves.

Think about it. How precious to you is the church? How central to your life is the mission of the church? It is easy for us to think that we would respond to the physical presence of Jesus with all the love and devotion we could humanly summon. Yet we often treat the church as just one more volunteer community organization. Now civic clubs do good work; health-related charities appeal to us, especially if we have lost a loved one to the disease the charity seeks to overcome; organizations that support our schools do important work. But none of these organisations are the body of Christ. Only the church is Jesus among us. Its mission is to be consistent with Jesus’ mission. The love we have for it is the love we have for Jesus.

The church is the closest we will ever come on earth to having Jesus to care for and to love. On Ascension Sunday, we are called to reassess our devotion to the church as the physical body of Christ still among us. The risen Lord is not here; he has ascended. The body of Christ is very much here, and the way we treat the church is the way we treat the risen Lord.

Second, Ascension Sunday reminds us that we are each, individually, a part of Christ’s body. To honour the church as we honour Christ is also to remember that in a powerful way, we are each a part of this body of Christ. When we neglect our part in the mission of the church, we disable the body of Christ. As Paul said, each of us is a physical part of the body of Christ. We are the arms and legs, the eyes and ears; we are limbs and organs of Christ’s present body. When we fail to do our part, the body becomes disabled. Christ becomes disabled without the limb or organ that each of us is called and gifted to be.

The absence of the physical body of Jesus places a claim upon us to relate to the church as we would relate to Christ. It also reminds us that without our individual faithfulness to our role in the church, the body of Christ is weakened and disabled.

Last, Ascension Sunday reminds us that if Christ’s work is to continue, it is up to us to do it. Now that is not to say we receive no godly help. Next Sunday is Pentecost, and we will celebrate our empowerment by the Holy Spirit. But this divine help comes to empower us in doing the work of Christ. Jesus is no longer here to heal the sick. He is no longer here to touch the outcast. He is no longer here to feed the hungry. It is up to us, the body of Christ, to continue this work. If the church fails to be the body of Christ, Jesus is absent. If the church fails to be the body of Christ, Jesus is nowhere to be seen.

Yes, this is an obscure Christian holiday. It celebrates an event that is difficult for the modern scientific mind to take literally. At the same time, this is a critical day in our personal and collective self-understanding. It is significant that the risen Lord ascended into heaven. His ascension invites us to relate to the church as we would to Christ.

It reminds each of us of the critical nature of our role in the body of Christ. It calls us to take up Jesus’ work on earth. This is a most important obscure day.

                  (Tune – Gather us in)

Here in this place, new light is streaming
now is the darkness vanished away,
see, in this space, our fears and our dreamings,
brought here to you in the light of this day.

Gather us in the lost and forsaken
gather us in the blind and the lame;
call to us now, and we shall awaken
we shall arise at the sound of our name.

We are the young -- our lives are a mystery
we are the old -- who yearns for your face.
we have been sung throughout all of history
called to be light to the whole human race.

Gather us in the rich and the haughty
gather us in the proud and the strong
give us a heart so meek and so lowly
give us the courage to enter the song.

Here we will take the wine and the water
here we will take the bread of new birth
here you shall call your sons and your daughters
call us anew to be salt of the earth.

Give us to drink the wine of compassion
give us to eat the bread that is you
nourish us well and teach us to fashion
lives that are holy and hearts that are true.

Intercessory Prayers  
God of Christmas Calling, Easter Joy and Pentecost Fire,
our days are filled with strange actions, our world is filled with hurt, our too-quick breath is filled with anxiety.
We seek after solutions and solace that ease the pain,
but do not lighten the load.
Help us cast our cares upon your shoulders, help us to rest our anxiety in your love.
Attune us to the needs of others that we might be for them, the comfort promised by you.
Help us to be present to our inward unrest that we may show up for others with gentle words and quiet comfort.
Be with those filled with angst and anger that so often threatens to devour them.
Help us cast our cares upon you that we might know and be led to show your deep care for us and all of creation. Amen.


Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours now and for ever. Amen.

                    (Tune – Thornbury)

Thy hand, O God, has guided
thy flock, from age to age;
their wondrous tale is written,
full clear, on every page;
thy people owned thy goodness,
and we their deeds record;
and both of this bear witness;
one Church, one Faith, one Lord.

Thy heralds brought glad tidings
to greatest as to least;
they bade men rise, and hasten
to share the great King's feast;
and this was all their teaching,
in every deed and word,
to all alike proclaiming
one Church, one Faith, one Lord.

Through many a day of darkness,
through many a scene of strife,
the faithful few fought bravely,
to guard the nation's life.
Their gospel of redemption,
sin pardoned, man restored,
was all in this enfolded:
one Church, one Faith, one Lord.

Thy mercy will not fail us,
nor leave thy work undone;
with thy right hand to help us,
thy victory shall be won;
and then, by all creation,
thy name shall be adored,
and this shall be their anthem:
one Church, one Faith, one Lord.

                    Author: E. H. Plumptre (1864)
Tune: Thornbury

       Called to be one,
        we go forth in unity and love.
        Called to be strong,
       we go forth in the power of the Holy Spirit.
        Called in devotion to God,
        we go forth in ministry and witness to the world.
        And may the one who calls us, almighty God creator, redeemer and giver of live bless us and keep us as we go forth. Amen

                 (Tune – Somos Del Señor)

Shalom to you now, shalom, my friends.
May God’s full mercies bless you, my friends.
In all your living and through your loving,
Christ be your shalom, Christ be your shalom

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