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Sunday's Service

Every Sunday, across the world, Christians share an agreed three year cycle of Bible Readings in Sunday worship, this is called the Common Lectionary. We offer materials including prayers bible study and worship resources for each one of these Sunday's via our Lectionary Bible Notes Section.

Jesus praysSeventh Sunday of Easter

‘After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.’ Acts 1

We know that Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples. But these resurrection appearances did not go on indefinitely. Luke tells us that after forty days of teaching the disciples, Jesus was taken up (ascended) to heaven. The final meeting with the disciples took place on the Mount of Olives, outside Jerusalem. But what exactly happened ?

The Roman historian Dionysius wrote about Rhea Silvia (Ilia) being visited by a god, who tells her she will bear the twins Romulus and Remus. The god is then "hidden by a cloud and taken from the earth and borne upwards through the air". In the Hellenistic world, such ascent of a king, prophet, hero or holy man to the heavens, the place of the gods was a well known motif. It signified divinity. Hence Heracles was deified through ascent into heaven and Ganymede became immortal when Zeus lifted him into heaven to serve as cupbearer to the gods. It was also the Greek Philosophy of Plato which taught that human souls were immortal and ascended to the heavens. The point which I am making is that it was once very normal and understandable for people to think of a flat world with heaven above the clouds, to which people ascended. Hence over time we have thought of Jesus as taken up to heaven through the clouds and that in this solid area above there was a physical throne upon which Jesus would sit.

This was all thought before we had the opportunity to send spacecraft and satellites into space to reveal a huge universe bigger than any of us can fully appreciate. We now know that if Jesus embarked upon a physical journey through the clouds to place called heaven, then it would have been a very long journey indeed. Today some might prefer to think of the Ascension as a metaphor. Nowadays we do not regard heaven as place beyond the sky, we think of heaven as somewhere where God is where we will be forever. Jesus need not have floated up like Mary Poppins but could have been taken from the disciples in a much more ordinary way. Jesus going on up the mountain into the cloud is perhaps the most natural way for him to leave the disciples. However, if Jesus wanted to reassure his disciples that he was returning to glory with God, then the Ascension would need to make it clear that he was ‘going up.’ In the Old Testament when God met with people, a cloud often represented his presence and glory. The cloud may or may not have been supernatural, nevertheless is was most surely a cloud with deep symbolic significance.

For the disciples and for us the meaning is clear, Jesus has gone before us. He has left this world and is exalted to the place from which his reign will be acknowledged as he is Lord of all. This separation of Christ from his followers was the opportunity for the Holy Spirit to be given to the disciples to enable them to have God’s presence with them intimately, wherever they might be. The disciples lost the physical presence of Jesus, but they gained the spiritual presence of Jesus in a very real way. This we celebrate next week at Pentecost.

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Lectionary Material for every Sunday in Years A, B, C

 

Future Sundays with worship, prayer and teaching resources Sundays in Lectionary Year A

 

April 23
April 30
May 7
May 14
May 21
May 28

Third Sunday of Easter

Fourth Sunday of Easter

 

June 4
June 11
June 18
June 25
July 2
July 9

Trinity Sunday

Ordinary 11
Trinity 1

 

 

 

 

the cross is the way

Holy God, help us to clear space in our lives where your holy presence my grow and produce fruit worthy of our great calling. Remove far from us those things which cause hurt to others and hurt ourselves. Plant seeds of joy and peace that love might grow and be shown as we live in harmony with others.

We thank you generous God for the world in which we live. We praise you for the beauty of the seasons with the varied opportunities which they provide to enjoy creation. We give thanks for night and day, a time for rest and sleep, and a time for play and work. We give thanks for people, all so wonderfully different, yet each created in your image. We give thanks for Jesus, our Saviour, at whose birth in Bethlehem a star lit up the sky, who died on a cross to show your great love for us all. Amen.

Eternal God, in the darkness of winter, and in the darkness of our broken world, the light of Jesus shines to give us courage and hope. Light up our hearts as we praise you and our minds as we hear your word. Give strength we pray to those who seek to bring your light into the dark places of our world. Bless those who are called upon to fight as they serve in armies in conflict zones. Give wisdom to those politicians and world leaders who negotiate to bring about reconciliation. Strengthen all of those who work to protect the vulnerable or show compassion to those whose lives have been subject to physical and spiritual distress.

We pray that your Holy Spirit would work in us to help us to serve you day by day. Give us eyes to see you at work in our lives and those around us. May the joy of your salvation burn brightly in our soul that your lost children would be drawn closer you.

Hear our humble prayers that we may serve you in holiness and faith  and give voice to your presence among us  until the day of the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

 

 

Each morning and each evening
let the peace of the Father, be ours.
Each day and each night
let the peace of the Son be ours.
Each dawn and each dusk
let the peace of the Spirit be ours.
Let the blessing of the three in one be ours;
both now and for ever. Amen.
Carmina Gadelica