Ascension Day is Coming – Celebrate the New Creation.

This ivory depiction of the Ascension was produced in Rome or Milan around 4th Century. vi Wikimedia

This ivory depiction of the Ascension was produced in Rome or Milan around 4th Century. vi Wikimedia Commons

Ascension Day is coming May 9th. In my last year’s post: Ascension Day is Coming – Do You Know What it Means?, I listed a number of resources for Ascension Day. This is not a celebration I grew up with and until recently I did not know that this is not just a celebration of the ascension of Christ, it is also a celebration of the new creation that God brought into being through the ascension of Jesus.  So this year I thought I would focus on Jesus as gardener of the new creation in my reflection.

This imagery is very special to me. As a keen gardener  I am intrigued by the concept of Jesus as the gardener of the new creation a concept which grows more powerful for me each year as I continue to garden and reflect on the God who is revealed as I do so. I wrote about this on Good Friday this year but as we approach Ascension Day thought that it was good to reflect on this imagery again,

From The Drogo Sacramentary a Carolingian illuminated manuscript on vellum of c.850, vis wikimedia Commons

From The Drogo Sacramentary a Carolingian illuminated manuscript on vellum of c.850, vis wikimedia Commons

Some theologians think that the whole theme of the Gospel of John is that of new creation. Most of the book of  John (chapters 12-20) takes place during one week in the life of Christ. John concentrates on themes. One theme is that Christ will redeem all of Creation (not just souls) through Re-Creation. In many ways Jesus death was like the planting of a seed (Unless a seed is planted in the soil and dies it remains alone, but its death will produce many new seeds, a plentiful harvest of new lives (Jn 12:24).  And then in John 20:15 we read: “she thought he was the gardener”  Why did it matter that Mary Magdalene thought that Jesus was the gardener?

The gospel of John begins with the words “In the beginning”. This immediately harkens us to the book of Genesis which opens with the same words. John then lays out a series of events in the life of Christ that mirror the Seven Days of Creation.  Read more

In the beginning God planted a garden – the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:8).  In the beginning of the new creation brought into being by the resurrection and ascension of Christ, God now in the form of the risen Christ, is once more seen as a gardener.  The hope and promise of these words which we so often skim over is incredible.  As we read in 2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.”

The new has come – On Good Friday Christ was planted in a garden – his mortal remains were placed in a garden tomb just as we plant seeds in the ground. On Ascension day we celebrate the hope that planting foreshadowed. All around me seeds have sprung into life. New creation has indeed begun and we in its birth the promise of many lives renewed, restored and bearing fruit.

A couple of years ago Good Friday and Earth Day coincided and I wrote the following liturgy which seems to me to be very appropriate as we celebrate this new creation

God all of created life is groaning waiting for the future God has prepared for us,
We hope for the day on which all you have made will be rescued from death and decay,
We wait for the redemption of our bodies and the restoration of our world.

In my opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us. The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own. The world of creation cannot as yet see reality, not because it chooses to be blind, but because in God’s purpose it has been so limited – yet it has been given hope. And the hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God!

It is plain to anyone with eyes to see that at the present time all created life groans in a sort of universal travail. And it is plain, too, that we who have a foretaste of the Spirit are in a state of painful tension, while we wait for that redemption of our bodies which will mean that at last we have realised our full sonship in him. We were saved by this hope, but in our moments of impatience let us remember that hope always means waiting for something that we haven’t yet got. But if we hope for something we cannot see, then we must settle down to wait for it in patience. (Romans 8:18 – 25 (Phillips Translation)

God in this season of hope and promise bless the earth rich and fertile with life
God in this season of planting and growth, bless the seed we plant and nurture
As it falls into the ground to grow may we remember your body broken for us

Unless a seed is planted in the soil and dies it remains alone
But its death will produce many new seeds,
a plentiful harvest of new lives (Jn 12:24 NLT)

God as we sprinkle our gardens with the water that gives life,
May we remember lands that are parched and those that are flooded,
May we remember Christ that your life blood was poured out for us,
You were hung upon a tree and crucified,
So that together with all your creation we might be liberated into freedom.

Open up O heavens and pour out your righteousness
Let the earth open wide
So salvation and righteousness can sprout up together (Is 45:8 NLT)

As we watch for the first sprouts of new creation
We remember your resurrection promise,
A new world is breaking into ours with abundance and wholeness

Look I am making all things new…
On each side of the river grew a tree of life
Bearing twelve crops of fruit with a fresh crop each month
The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations (Rev 21:5; 22:2 NLT)

Jesus our hope lies not in your death but in your resurrection,
Not in your dying but in your rising again,
We wait in hope for your promise to be fulfilled,
Death is conquered, resurrection has begun,
May your healing be revealed in our bodies,
May your healing power be seen throughout the earth,
May we all participate together in the coming of a new heaven and a new earth.

Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.  “Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”  She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”   She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”  “Mary!” Jesus said.  She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).  “Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”  Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.  (John 20: 11 – 18 NLT)

Hallelujah, Christ is risen
You who are the gardener of the new creation,
Cultivate the new seeds that have sprung into life,
Bring growth, bring blossom, bring fruit,
May your new creation flourish in us, through us around us,
So that all the world may say together,
Christ is risen he is indeed Hallelujah.

Amen

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Ascension Day Getting Us Ready for Pentecost

Ascension Jesus mafa image

Ascension Jesus mafa image

Today is Ascension Day, but like many of us I am already thinking about Pentecost in 10 days time. Then we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, though for many churches it has become a day of prayer for peace. The following prayer came to me this morning as I thought about these two celebrations and the amazing impact on our world of Christ’s ascension, the coming of the Holy Spirit and our heart burning desire to see God’s peace come in our world.

Peace O Lord to all whose lives entwine with ours,
Peace to all who walk this earth with us.
Peace to friend and to stranger, to neighbours near and far,
Peace to all who struggle,
Peace to the lost, the broken and the hurting.
Peace from the Christ who has redeemed and saved us,
Peace from the One who sits at the right hand of God,
An advocate for all God’s children,
May we follow him into the new creation and join him in making all things whole.

Last year I spent time reflecting on these two events as well and thought I would repost that reflection here too – I love this art piece that I found thanks to Matt Stone to go with it.

African art - Zaire Jesus

African art – zaire Jesus

Jesus Christ ascended into heaven

First born of a new creation

Marking the way with his blood

Shining as a light for all to see

An advocate in heaven

Now at the right hand of God

Holy Spirit descended from above

Indwelling presence of God

Opening our hearts to the Good News of Christ

Leading us into all truth

An advocate within

Forever with all who are called by God’s name

Ascension Day is Coming – Do You Know What it Means?

Christ Ascended into Heaven - Dome of Monastery in Mirozh Russia, Public Domain

Christ Ascended into Heaven – Dome of Monastery in Mirozh Russia, Public Domain

Thursday is Ascension Day the day on which we remember Jesus ascension into heaven 40 days after he rose from the dead.  What I did not realize until recently is that for many this is also a celebration of the new creation that God brought into being by the ascension of Jesus.  What beautiful imagery to carry with us for the rest of the season until Pentecost.

This is not a celebration that I grew up with, nor is it one that I have taken much notice of in the last few years.   I was amazed this morning therefore at the beautiful and enriching prayers and scriptures I came across from many different traditions and thought that I would share some of them with you. I have posted some of these in previous years but have refreshed the links and added more resources.

I love the exultant note of this prayer from Rev. Marilyn E. Thornton the Lead Editor for African American Resources at the United Methodist Publishing House

One: Let us gather as they gathered on the Mount of Olivet.
Let us remember the teachings of the law, psalms, and prophets.

Many: Ride on King Jesus, no one can hinder you!

Read the entire prayer

Here is another from the reformed tradition With A Shout

And this by David Diephouse who teaches history at Calvin College

Our God goes up with shouts of joy!

Our Lord ascends to the sound of trumpets!
All: Sing praises to our God, sing praises!
Sing praises, sing praises to our King!
The Almighty rides in triumph.
The Almighty leads captivity captive.
Who shouts for joy? Who blows the trumpet?
The hosts of heaven sing the honor of his name;
they praise him with an endless alleluia.

Read the entire prayer

And this prayer from the Catholic service for Ascension Day

God our Father,
make us joyful in the ascension of your Son Jesus Christ.
May we follow him into the new creation,
for his ascension is our glory and our hope.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Read the entire service.

John Van de Laar at Sacredise.com always has great resources for the seasons including suggested hymns, prayers and video media resources. Check out the ascension day resources here

I particularly enjoyed this video The Ascension and Jesus Christ  on The Work of the People (love their work).

Here is another good set  of videos/loops from re:Worship

And as always textweek.com has a very comprehensive list of resources for celebrating Ascension Day

Obviously there are lots of other great resources out there too so if you have found something that is particularly helpful please leave a link in the comments below.

Jesus resurrection is amazing, the fact that he acts as advocate for us before God is awe inspiring and reassuring because we know that every time we mess up (and all of us do) Jesus is there pleading for us before God.  And how I feel about that could not be better expressed than in the words of Psalm 47 written three thousand years ago

Come, everyone! Clap your hands!

Shout to God with joyful praise!
2 For the Lord Most High is awesome.
He is the great King of all the earth.
3 He subdues the nations before us,
putting our enemies beneath our feet.
4 He chose the Promised Land as our inheritance,
the proud possession of Jacob’s descendants, whom he loves.
Interlude

5God has ascended with a mighty shout.
The Lord has ascended with trumpets blaring.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises!
7 For God is the King over all the earth.
Praise him with a psalm!
8 God reigns above the nations,
sitting on his holy throne.
9 The rulers of the world have gathered together
with the people of the God of Abraham.
For all the kings of the earth belong to God.
He is highly honored everywhere. (via Biblegateway.com)

And last but hopefully not least a prayer/poem I wrote some years ago that I think is appropriate for this season.  I have frequently been told it should be put to music so if anyone feels inspired to do that let me know..

God whose glory fills our world

God whose life is closer than breath

God whose love is stronger than death

God, this God of life and love

Has sent an advocate to save us

Jesus Christ the righteous, now at the right hand of God

Not to condemn but to bring full life

Not to accuse but to redeem

Not to reject but to draw close

God, this God of life and love

Has sent an advocate to save us

Jesus Christ the righteous, now at the right hand of God

God who hears the cry of our seeking souls

God who sees the pain of our suffering bodies

God who feels the loss of our grieving spirits

God, this God of life and love

Has sent an advocate to be with us forever

The Spirit of truth abides with us eternally

Before us to teach and lead,

Within us to comfort and heal,

Around us to shield and protect,

God, this God of life and love

Has sent an advocate to be with us forever

The Spirit of truth abides with us eternally

Ascension Day & Pentecost – Distant neighbours

African Christian art - Zaire Jesus

A couple of days ago I was thinking about the juxtaposition of Ascension day and Pentecost.  One to commemorate the ascent of Jesus the other to remember the descent of the Holy Spirit.    Ascension Day and Pentecost are closely linked.  It was because Jesus ascended into heaven that the Holy Spirit could descend and fill us all.  I thought that you might enjoy the prayer that my reflections inspired

Jesus Christ ascended into heaven

First born of a new creation

Marking the way with his blood

Shining as a light for all to see

An advocate in heaven

Now at the right hand of God

Holy Spirit descended from above

Indwelling presence of God

Opening our hearts to the Good News of Christ

Leading us into all truth

An advocate within

Forever with all who are called by God’s name

Prayers and Liturgy for Ascension Day

Giotto Ascension of Christ via Wikimedia commons

Giotto Ascension of Christ via Wikimedia commons

Next week – June 2nd – we celebrate Ascension day.  What on earth is this you may ask?  The fortieth day after Easter Sunday is a day of great significance as we celebration the ascension of Christ into heaven and the new creation that his resurrection brought into being. It is not however a celebration that most of us outside liturgical churches have ever heard of or ever really celebrated, but it is very important and I would highly recommend that you consider incorporating it into your worship cycle.  It seems such an appropriate celebration for those of us who are interested in sustainability and creation care.

A couple of years ago I posted this list of prayers and resources that you may like to consider.  Since then I have come across a number of other beautiful liturgies and prayers that i want to make you aware of.

As usual John van de Laar at sacredise.com has some great resources – prayers, liturgies, even suggestions for hymns and youtube videos.  You can check them out here.

I particularly enjoyed this video The Ascension and Jesus Christ  on The Work of the People (love their work).

Here is another good set  of videos/loops from re:Worship

And as always textweek.com has a very comprehensive list of resources for celebrating Ascension Day

Obviously there are lots of other great resources out there too so if you have found something that is particularly helpful please leave a link in the comments below.

Today is Ascension Day

Today is Ascension day – not a celebration that is well known in the protestant church.  however as I reflected on the scriptures this morning I was struck with the amazing assurance that we gain not just from the resurrection of Christ but also from the knowledge of his ascension into heaven where “he sits at the right hand of God”.

Jesus resurrection is amazing, the fact that he acts as advocate for us before God is awe inspiring and reassuring because we know that every time we mess up (and all of us do) Jesus is there pleading for us before God.  And how I feel about that could not be better expressed than in the words of this psalm written three thousand years ago

Psalm 47

For the choir director: A psalm of the descendants of Korah.

1Come, everyone! Clap your hands!
Shout to God with joyful praise!
2 For the Lord Most High is awesome.
He is the great King of all the earth.
3 He subdues the nations before us,
putting our enemies beneath our feet.
4 He chose the Promised Land as our inheritance,
the proud possession of Jacob’s descendants, whom he loves.
Interlude

5God has ascended with a mighty shout.
The Lord has ascended with trumpets blaring.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises!
7 For God is the King over all the earth.
Praise him with a psalm!
8 God reigns above the nations,
sitting on his holy throne.
9 The rulers of the world have gathered together
with the people of the God of Abraham.
For all the kings of the earth belong to God.
He is highly honored everywhere.

Pentecost Resources for Celebration

Pentecost Artist: CANZIANI, Estelle Louisa

Image at Peter Naham at the Leicester Galleries

Pentecost Sunday is less than 2 weeks away and many of us are scrambling for resources to help us celebrate.  But what are we celebrating.

  1. First we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the infilling of Jesus’ disciples with the power to go out and change the world
  2. Second we celebrate the great multi cultural gathering that we catch a glimpse of as we watch the spirit fall and suddenly everyone is able to understand each other – not all speaking the same language but able to understand each other in their own languages.  Acts 2:11.
  3. Pentecost is traditionally the time that many churches pray for the peace of our world in which at times there seems to be so little cross cultural understanding.

So what kinds of resources do we need?  First I think we need to provide our congregations with resources that help them to see Jesus from other cultural perspectives.  In a visual society like ours art is one very powerful way to do this.  Liturgy is another powerful tool because as we read the words aloud they resonate deep within our souls and take root.

Matt Stone at Glocal Christianity still has the best collection of art from different cultural contexts – not just European, Asian, African, South American, Middle Eastern, Australian and Celtic but also other more unusual perspectives – goth, alien, feminist and tattoo.  We may not agree with all these perspectives – after all how many of us can relate to Jesus as a Cyclon – but it important for us to see the different ways that people perceive if we want to “understand them in their own language”.

Another great resource is The Text This Week which has one of the best online collections of links to Christian art I have come across – all indexed according to Biblical/liturgical subjects.  They also provide an interesting list of movie clips that correspond to biblically related themes.

Another great collection of pentecost art is available at Biblical Art on the WWW

If you are looking for alternative approaches to worship  for this season I would heartily recommend Jonny Baker’s worship tricks

Steve Taylor a – sustain:if:able kiwi is another very creative worship leader.  I love his Ascension Day suggestion – the footprints of Jesus

In terms of Pentecost liturgies there are endless possibilities out there so please don’t expect this to be a comprehensive list.  However the ones I have most enjoyed browsing this year are:

The Worship Well with great resources mainly from Australia & New Zealand

Reformed Worship has some great reflections and ideas on Ascension Day and Pentecost

Sacredise.com is a great all round liturgical site with this great  Pentecost liturgy

Everyday Liturgy also has some great reflections on Pentecost this year

I know I have used “great” too many times in this blog post but I hope that you will forgive me