Thursday, May 21, 2020

May 24, 2020


At Home Worship
First Presbyterian Churches of
Paris and Deport, Texas
ASCENSION EASTER
May 24, 2020

GREETINGS
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
And also with you.
Trusting in the word of life given in baptism, we are gathered in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Amen

OPENING SENTENCES                                                                Ps. 118:24
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.

CALL TO WORSHIP
In awe and wonder, we lift our eyes to the heavens.
We raise our songs of joy to the Ruler of all time and space.
          Sing praises to God, sing praises;
          Shout to God with loud songs of joy.
We gather to remember the One who shared our common lot.
Jesus Christ, who visited earth, dwells in heaven.
          We celebrate the life and ministry of Jesus.
          We rejoice in the hope to which Christ has called us.
We open ourselves to baptism with the Holy Spirit.
We expect to be empowered as witnesses in today’s world.
          We seek a spirit of wisdom and revelation.
          We are here to be filled with power from on high.


LET US PRAY
As Christ ascended to heaven, our spirits are lifted to you this day, O God. Your Spirit fills the entire universe. We dwell within your embrace and cannot escape from your watchful care. You are with us here, choosing us as apostles and instructing us in the way we should go. Focus our limited understanding on the person of Jesus, that all he did and taught might come alive in us during this hour. Grant to us convincing proof of your promises as we welcome your winds of change in our lives.

Amen


On this day of mystery and wonder, we reflect on our record as an Easter people. Is there evidence that Christ is alive within us and among us? Is the work of the Spirit obvious to any who observe our words and deeds? Let us admit how things are with us, as we seek God’s forgiveness.


PRAYER OF CONFESSION
Hear us, God, our hope, for we have too easily denied our heritage amid the competing claims all around us. We declare ownership of what is only lent to us for a time. We strive for knowledge and control beyond our capacity, wanting power on our own terms rather than through the unpredictable empowerment of you Spirit. Sometimes we stand on tiptoe to view what is out of sight, then arrogantly conclude that there is nothing to see. O God, open our eyes and our hearts that we might be forgiven and find true life in you.

Amen

ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS
Repentance and forgiveness of sin are proclaimed to all people in the name of Jesus Christ. Forgiveness is God’s gift to us, one we can never earn but are welcome to accept. When we agree to God’s freeing offer, we are also agreeing to let God’s’ love change us. We are blessed by this opportunity for newness of life.

GLORIA PATRI
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen. Amen. Amen. THE WORD

PRAYER OF ILLUMINATION
Let us pray:
God of all times and places, whose promise of the Holy Spirit is for us as well as for generations past, let your blessings fall on us while we are together, clothing us with the resources to be you witness through the church, Christ’s body. May the glorious inheritance that is ours be shared that our communities may be enlightened and transformed.

Amen.

LISTEN FOR THE WORD OF THE LORD

Acts 1:1-11

1:1 In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning

1:2 until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.

1:3 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.

1:4 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;

1:5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."

1:6 So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?"

1:7 He replied, "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.

1:8 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."

1:9 When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

1:10 While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them.

1:11 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."


This is the word of the Lord.        Thanks be to God.



Psalm 93

93:1 The LORD is king, he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed, he is girded with strength. He has established the world; it shall never be moved;

93:2 your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting.

93:3 The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring.

93:4 More majestic than the thunders of mighty waters, more majestic than the waves of the sea, majestic on high is the LORD!

93:5 Your decrees are very sure; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore.



Ephesians 1:15-23

1:15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason

1:16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers.

1:17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him,

1:18 so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints,

1:19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

1:20 God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,

1:21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.

1:22 And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church,

1:23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.


The word of the Lord.          Thanks be to God.

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus according to Luke (24: 44-53)

Luke 24:44-53

24:44 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."

24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,

24:46 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,

24:47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

24:48 You are witnesses of these things.

24:49 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."

24:50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them.

24:51 While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.

24:52 And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy;

24:53 and they were continually in the temple blessing God.



The Gospel of the Lord.      Praise to you, O Christ.

A Reflection on the Ascension from Jane Els:

Jesus just seems to come and go a LOT, doesn't he?  After he is crucified on a cross and buried in a tomb he disappears then reappears alive and spends the next 40 days with his friends teaching and giving them some final instructions (in case they didn't get it the first time, which I'm not sure they really did).  Then he goes up to a mountain and tells them he'll be back and just rises up into the air.  He doesn't even say WHEN he'll be back.  And he's gone again.  And they are left standing there.  

And I think now we here in North Texas we understand how the disciples felt.

Don't we get it now? If we were ever to understand the concept of “physical absence”… how the disciples felt at Jesus floating away into the clouds and leaving them, surely we understand it now!  Haven't each one of us missed the physical presence of a loved one in the last two months? Somebody that we miss hugging?  A particularly precious friend here at church that we're used to seeing every single Sunday for the last several years and now since the middle of March we've had to keep six feet of distance between us if we've even been allowed to be around them at all.  Do we get it now?  Physical distance is a thing that maybe we didn't fully understand before, but, boy, we do now! 

Maybe before we didn't fully grasp that Jesus was a human being, a friend, a man that these disciples lived with and loved.  They camped out with him, he built fires with and cooked fish for them; and ate together with them. He shared bread with them.  He washed their feet. He touched them, over and over.  And now he had left them.  Don't we get it now?  Surely now we understand how vacant life is without being able to touch the people we love. Surely now we understand how they felt standing there watching him float up into the sky in a way we didn’t understand before.

Let us say that 2020 was the year we came to understand the Ascension.

SERMON

What now?                                               Armel Crocker CP

So what do we do now? Do we sit around and wait for something to happen or do we go and do something? Hanging out and waiting for something to happen is the misguided view of some disciples in Luke’s account of the ascension which we heard in today’s reading, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) They had a mistaken view of Jesus and his mission. The Roman Empire spread east and conquered Palestine in 63 BC and these disciples mistakenly thought Jesus would do something to drive out the Romans and restore self-rule to Israel. But that was not Jesus’ mission.
In the Old Covenant the Chosen People were called by God from their slavery in Egypt, led through the sea during the exodus, and led into the Promised Land of Canaan. But everything changes in the New Testament.
The inheritance is not the physical land of Israel. Now the inheritance is heaven; the journey from slavery in Egypt is now a journey from sin crossing through the sea of baptism.
Now in the New Covenant the journey is from sin to heaven. Land is not part of the New Covenant. The inheritance in the New Covenant is heaven but these disciples mentioned by Luke in our reading did not yet understand the huge change from the Old to the New Covenant.
After Jesus’ ascension what are we to do? Do we sit around and wait for something to happen or do we go and do something? How did Jesus respond to the question of the disciples in today’s reading about restoring the kingdom to Israel? He said,
“It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8)
We are not to sit around and wait, we are to do something, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Clearly we are not to sit back and just let society and the culture around us fall into chaos. We are called to make society and the culture of our times, to follow the ways of Jesus teachings and we can do that by witnessing that we follow Christ.
Our elected officials local, state and federal are voted in to make laws that reflect who we really are, children of God. If someone believes she/he is a Christian outside but it changes inside the ballet box, to me that seem to suggest insincerity.
After Jesus’ ascension what are we to do? Do we sit around and wait for something to happen or do we go and do something? Before Jesus ascended, he entrusted his mission to the Apostles saying, “Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...” (Matt 28:19) While that mission was entrusted to the Apostles, the successors of the Apostles, their assistants, ministers, members of this congregation, you can assist in their mission to evangelize by praying for them and by giving witness that you follow Christ, living by Jesus example, especially in those situations where you are the one to witness to Christ. Is Christ relying on you to witness to him where no one else will?
May God our Father...enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers. (Eph 1:17-19)
So what do we do now? We don’t have Jesus with us in bodily form. But we do have him in Spirit form; all the time, everywhere we go. We have Jesus himself living inside of us. The Ascension proved to be a blessing as it prepared the disciples for the coming of Jesus’ spiritual presence, no longer confined to the limitations of time and a physical body.
The Ascension of our Lord indicates that there is now work to be done by us. The Ascension of our Lord is a feast that is intended to transform us from mere observers to active participants. The Ascension is meant to transform us from people who only receive, who only consume, into those who go out and give, those who go out and act.
Next Sunday, we will celebrate the great Feast of Pentecost, as the Holy Spirit on that day poured out upon the disciples, as the promised power from high comes upon them. But we are mistaken if we think this is only something we will watch and celebrate, because that power from on high that Jesus promises in today’s reading,  that is the power that poured out upon you at your baptism, when that water touched you. That is the power that poured out upon you anew at your acceptance of Christ and baptism. That is the power that flows into baptism, within your soul and heart, when you drink that wine and eat that bread.
Jesus’ words in today’s reading from Acts are words for you: “You will be my witnesses.” Jesus’ words in today’s reading from Luke are words for you:  You will preach repentance and forgiveness to all.
What sort of witness are you, as you go through your daily life and work? Do you witness to people that suffering will not have the final word? Do you witness that no brokenness, no sin, is beyond the healing love of God? Do you witness that God invites people in? Do you invite people in? What sort of witness are you?
Beloved, don’t simply receive and consume—give and act. The power of God is indeed poured into your hearts. Though you may fear that you are not wise enough, not strong enough, not good enough, the power of God is poured into you. In the Ascension, we say goodbye to Christ’s bodily presence on earth because you are now called to be that presence.
Go into this world, go forth from this place, and be a witness to God’s undefeatable love. Amen.

 
APOSTLES’ CREED
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Catholic Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION
Lord, in your mercy:
hear our prayer.
Almighty God, in Christ you taught us to pray,
and promised that we would receive all that we ask in his name.
Hear now our prayers:
for the church universal …
for this congregation, its mission and ministry …
for the healing of the earth …
for peace and justice in the world …
for nations and leaders …
for our local community and those who have passed …
for the poor and oppressed …
for the bereaved and lonely …
for all who need healing …

We ask this through Christ our Lord who taught us to pray;

Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name; Thy kingdom come: Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever.
Amen.

CHARGE AND BLESSINGS

The risen Jesus appeared to friends in many ways.
Christ is seen by person today in people like us.
The life and teachings of Jesus point us to God’s reign.
God promises to empower and witness.
We will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
This is the promise Jesus made to us.
          Through revelation, we will know more of Christ.
          Through the work God gives us, we will grow.
Our worship sends us out to work and witness.
We scatter to continue our worship through service.
          God sends us out with love for all the saints.
          We commit ourselves to care for all God’s children.
Amen.       Amen.


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