Sunday Guided Tour -  Seventh Sunday of Easter  -  May 24, 20120

Here is the link to the worship service 

Read the text below at your leisure or follow along with Rev. Jim McKnight and and Rick Young, Music Director.

                          https://youtu.be/TjEaKm2F14k

 

You can also access this at Facebook : Friends of TrinityUnitedChurchThorold.

Good morning, everyone, and welcome to our Sunday Guided Tour for May the 24th.  It feels as though we should really be celebrating Victoria Day today, because the 24th is the actual date of Queen Victoria’s birthday; but, in good long-weekend fashion, we accomplished that last week.  So here we are on this Sunday, following the Thursday of Ascension and preceding the Sunday that is Pentecost.  The Bible readings for today I think have much to tell us, and to guide us through these days of doubt and reservation and confusion.  

 

Please join with me as we begin today’s service with prayer:

Loving God, we come together in your Spirit all as one.  It is as though we come in answer to Jesus’ prayer:  Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. 

We come as one, to be as you with one another  -  one in spirit and commitment: to serve the love that gives us life; to serve each other and your world; to protect each other and your world as you, in your humanity and love and understanding, have protected us.  We pray, O God, you give to us a steadfast heart, which will not be diverted by malevolent distractions; a courageous heart, which will not be worn out by trials; a faithful heart on which no trivial matter can encroach; understanding to know you, diligence to seek you, wisdom to find you, and faithfulness to serve you and embrace you in the quest for life for all, through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

Rejoice, the Lord is King.  Hymn #213 

As I am sure you have come to appreciate over the past few weeks, the subject of our weekly presentations is not so much a sermon as a guided tour through the Bible readings for the day.  My hope is that we can better share a sense of what the Bible is, of how it has come to be and be a guide and light to life, and how it is not a prescription for our lives, but more an invitation to be together in relationship with one another, and with the God we’ve come to know and recognize in the person of Christ Jesus.  As I have fairly often said (and according to Jim McKnight), the Bible can be best described as “the witness of the community of faith as it struggles to reconcile the realities of their lives in relation to their belief in God”.  The experience and knowledge of the community of faith changes and evolves across the years, and it is necessary that the Gospel message be faithfully reinterpreted to every generation.  It’s the way of life and love.  It’s the way of a living Christian faith.  It’s the way that is the Bible.  

 

So, today, we hear readings from the Bible that reflect our understanding and appreciation of what we have come to call “the Ascension of Jesus”.  The actual day of the Ascension was last Thursday, May 21st; but the readings carry over to this Sunday.  The readings for today are Acts 1:6-14; Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35; 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11, and John 17:1-11.  As usual, they are posted on the church’s website.

 

Please join with me as I say our Prayer for Illumination.  Let us pray:

Gracious Holy Spirit, we pray you guide us in your love and strength of heart, that we might clearly hear the promise of the Gospel and live our lives with courage and compassion, for Jesus’ sake.  We pray in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

The essential reading for this day, the Sunday after the Day of Ascension, is the one from Acts: Acts 1:6-14.  And this is what it tells us:

 

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 toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them.

11     They said, “People of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward 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.”

12     Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey                 away.

13     When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James,         and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and                   Judas son of James.

14    All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of         sJesus, as well as his brothers.

 

 

As we have acknowledged previously, the Book of Acts was written by the author of Luke’s gospel, so it’s only fitting that we hear the words that conclude the Gospel According to Luke and introduce us to the Book of Acts.   Those words should lead right into what we have just read from the opening chapter of Acts; and as it turns out, they do.  Exactly.

 

Words from the final chapter of Luke constitute the Gospel reading for the Day of Ascension this past Thursday.  The passage is Luke 24:44-53, and this is what we hear:

 

[Rick:]

44    Then [Jesus] 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.”

45    Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,

46    and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day,

47     and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from                           Jerusalem.

48    You are witnesses of these things.

49    And 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.

51     While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.

52     And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy;

53     and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

 

Come Now, Almighty King.    Hymn #314 

In Luke’s gospel, we read:  While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.

 

And then, Luke follows up in Acts with an elaboration of that statement, saying:  .. as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.  While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them.  They said, “People of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward 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.”

 

Both versions of the story of the Ascension are written by the author Luke.  But each is very different from the other.  The details are very different.  Luke most likely held off with any elaboration in his gospel because he knew he was going to provide it in his book of Acts.  That would make sense, because both accounts are written by the author Luke.  But the interesting thing is that, aside from Luke, there is only one other gospel-writer who mentions the Ascension at all.  And that gospel-writer is Mark.  The Gospel of Mark is the gospel that most students of the Bible agree was written first.  It was the earliest.  And in his gospel, Mark says this:

 

So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.  (Mark 16:19)

 

That’s it.  That’s what Mark tells us .. even though I’m not exactly sure how he knew the Lord Jesus sat down at the right hand of God.  But that’s what he tells us:

 

Simple and succinct; without elaboration; paralleled subsequently by Luke’s account of the Ascension  -  a dramatic event, about which not a single word is recorded in the gospel of Matthew or of John!  And we would most certainly be justified in asking:  How can it be that an event and an occasion as important as the Ascension is not recorded in all of the four gospels?!  

 

And the truth is, even as we ask the question that we ask, we really shouldn’t be surprised.  The birth narrative of Jesus is recorded only in Luke’s gospel, with Matthew’s a close second; and neither Mark nor John make any reference whatsoever to either angels or to magi or a manger!  The written record of the life of Jesus as the Christ seems to be as variable as the different writers of the gospel themselves .. except for one thing.  They all agree their lives have been made different and transformed in their loving closeness to the One we know as Saviour; and they are using every means at their disposal to convey their hope and promise to the world!

 

Ministry of Music  -  We Are One   (VU#402)

 

Luke and Mark respond to their communities of faith who must have asked:

Where is this Lord, who has been raised from death; who lives to give us promise and new life?  

 

And Mark and Luke give answer to the entire Christian community, not only in their own day, but through every generation yet to follow:

 

Christ has ascended into heaven; to live and reign, as Son, with God the Father and the Holy Spirit; and by the Spirit, to live among us and within us, to the very end of time!

 

This is the source and soul and understanding of the Christian faith.  

 

But the message of Ascension doesn’t simply leave us with the promise that is Christ.  It doesn’t simply leave us with the story of a Risen Saviour lifted up to heaven, and offer answer to the urgent question of the Early Church about the godhead  -  Three-In-One  -  and the place from which the godhead reigns.  The story and experience of the Ascension leave us with Christ’s final words  -  words that animated and gave purpose to the writers of the Gospel and the early Christians; written there for every generation:

 

In Luke (Luke 24:46-49), the reading for the Day of Ascension, Jesus’ words to his disciples are:

 

“Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.  And 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.”

 

Christ’s promise is the Holy Spirit and the Day of Pentecost, and the rebirth of Christ’s body here on earth, the Church!  We celebrate the Day of Pentecost next Sunday.

 

And, in John, the gospel reading for today, we know assurance of Christ’s promise in his final words again, this time at the end of the Last Supper, when he says to us:

 

“[Father], I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world.  They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.  Now they know that everything you have given me is from you;  for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.  I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 

 

All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 

And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you.  Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” 

 

“Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

 

And today, this Sunday, we are one:  One with one another, one in Spirit with our God; one with all the world:  sharing hope and promise because the One who has ascended and who lives with us forever, to the very end of the age, has said to us:

 

“I am sending upon you what my Father promised, so you will be clothed with power from on high.”

 

And the power is God’s love; and the power is God’s healing; and the power is the Holy Spirit, who surrounds us and lives in us, and who takes us through the darkness into light.

 

This is the Good News of the Gospel.

This is the promise of the faith  -  for us, and all the world.

Thanks be to God!  

 

Crown Him with Many Crowns.  Hymn #211 

 

Commissioning and Benediction:

(George Allan, Chatham, Ontario)

Jesus said,

        “I am the way and the truth and the life.”

        Go forth to be life and truth.

        Go forth to point to the Wayfor family, friend, and stranger;

        for all are neighbours in Christ Jesus.

        And know that Christ goes with you.

        Amen.

 

Postlude   #101 Songs of Thankfulness and Praise

Bible Readings

 

Acts 1:6-14   (New Revised Standard Version)

The Ascension of Jesus

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 toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them.

11     They said, “People of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward 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.”

12     Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey                 away.

13     When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James,         and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and

        Judas son of James.

14     All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother             of Jesus, as well as his brothers.

 

 

Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35   (New Revised Standard Version, alt.)

To the leader.  Of David.  A Psalm.  A Song.

1      Rise up, O God, let your enemies be scattered;
        let those who hate you flee before you.
2      As smoke is driven away, so drive them away;
        as wax melts before the fire,
        let the wicked perish before you.
3      But let the righteous be joyful;
        let them exult before you;
        let them be jubilant with joy.

4      We sing to you, O God, sing praises to your name;
        we lift up a song to you who rides upon the clouds—
        your name is the Lord—
        we are exultant before you.

5      Father of orphans and protector of widows
        are you in your holy habitation.
6      You give the desolate a home to live in;
        you lead out the prisoners to prosperity,
        but the rebellious live in a parched land.

7      O God, when you went out before your people,
        when you marched through the wilderness, Selah
8      the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain
        at your presence, O God, the God of Sinai,
        at your presence, O God, the God of Israel.
9      Rain in abundance, O God, you showered abroad;
        you restored your heritage when it languished;
10    your flock found a dwelling in it;
        in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy.

32    Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth;
        sing praises to the Lord, Selah
33    O rider in the heavens, the ancient heavens;
        we listen, you send out your voice, your mighty voice.
34    Ascribe power to God,
        whose majesty is over Israel;
        and whose power is in the skies.
35    Awesome are you in your sanctuary,
        God of Israel;
        you give power and strength to your people.

 

1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11   (New Revised Standard Version)

Cast your cares on God.  Be alert.

12    Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something                   strange were happening to you.

13     But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his                 glory is revealed.  

14     If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is               resting on you. 

6      Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time.

7       Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.

8      Discipline yourselves, keep alert.  Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to         devour.

9      Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the             same kinds of suffering. 10 And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to             his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you.

11     To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.

 

 

John 17:1-11  (New Revised Standard Version)

Jesus prays for his disciples

1.      After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son             so that the Son may glorify you,

2      since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.

3      And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

4      I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do.

5      So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

6     “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world.  They were yours, and you gave them to         me, and they have kept your word.

7      Now they know that everything you have given me is from you;

8      for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came             from you; and they have believed that you sent me.

9      I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me,                     because they are yours.

10    All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.

11     And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you.  Holy Father, protect them           in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. 

 

Day of the Ascension  (May 21st)

Acts 1:1-11    (New Revised Standard Version)

The promise of the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ ascension

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 during forty               days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

4      While staying[a] 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[b] 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 toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them.

11     They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward 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.”

 

 

 Luke 24:44-53  (New Revised Standard Version)

Jesus’ last words to the disciples and the Ascension

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.”

45     Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,

46    and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah[a] is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day,

47.    and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from                           Jerusalem.

48    You are witnesses[b] of these things.

49    And 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.

51     While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.[c]

52    And they worshiped him, and[d] returned to Jerusalem with great joy;

53    and they were continually in the temple blessing God.[e]

 

Footnotes

  1. Or the Christ

  2. Or Beginning from Jerusalem 48 you are witnesses

  3. Other ancient authorities lack and was carried up into heaven

  4. Other ancient authorities lack worshiped him, and

  5. Other ancient authorities add Amen

 

 

Mark 16:19  (New Revised Standard Version)

So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.

Morning Prayer                           

 

God of love and life, of understanding and compassion, and of life made new: we thank you for the gospel witness to the  event we in the Church have come to call Ascension  -  a recognition born of the experience and witness in the Spirit of those who knew you face-to-face and in the person of your Son, Christ Jesus, who lived your love among us and forever.  And we thank you for the living promise of the Holy Spirit  - 

a promise realized at Pentecost, the power promised from on high by Jesus and defined by Jesus’ life so we can say: the power is your love; and the power is your healing; and the power is the Holy Spirit, who surrounds us and lives in us, and who takes us through the darkness into light.  “For thine is the kingdom,” your faithful people say, “the power, and the glory.”  And a loving Son assures us, “The kingdom is within you; and the power is God’s love, who comes to you the Spirit and a Son: life and light the darkness cannot overwhelm.”  Gracious God, assure us once again, in heart and depth of soul, that we can know your healing strength and presence in our lives, and share that strong assurance with each other, and your world.  We pray in Jesus’ name.

And we pray for those today who have suffered so the loss of ones so deeply loved.  Be close to them we pray, and comfort them, and be their rest and living light, and hope.  We pray for those who have suffered loss of health, or job and income and support; for those who face confusion and uncertainty; for all of us, who barely can conceive of what the days to come will look like, and who feel the ground beneath us shaking in the whirlwind of these days.  Help us hear again and know again, in heart and soul and mind and strength, the unshaken affirmation of the faithful through the generations who know you as their rock and as their shield; as shelter from the stormy blast, as eternal home, and hope.  Help us hear again and know again the unshakable assurance of your Son  -  loving Saviour, dear Companion, holy Friend  -  whose promise is, “I will never leave you or forsake you; I will not leave you desolate; I am with you always, even to the end of the age; I will come to you, wherever you may be.”

 

Gracious Saviour, hold us all as one  -  with you and with each other and your world  -  that we may navigate the days that are before us, and walk with you the way of life and hope for all.  Dear Lord, we pray for peace; and all in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Trinity United Church Thorold 

905-227-4644  /  tuc@vaxxine.ca