Good morning folks,
I hope that you are keeping well and coping as well as you can in this time of shutdown and isolation.
Many are appreciating the slower pace of life as well as catching up with many jobs which have been waiting a while to be done.
However, I know that there are many who are struggling with the isolation, more specially those who are on their own. A slower pace gives more time to think, and more time to think can bring its own issues. Staying calm, deep breathing and relaxation techniques work for me.
May I ask you to remember in your prayers, those who have lost loved ones during this time and have had to suffer the added sadness of not being able to give their dear ones a ‘proper’ farewell.
Saying ‘goodbye’ is the theme of our Service for this morning.
Today we are looking at the Day of the Ascension, when Jesus returned to His Father in Heaven and ‘handed over the baton’ to His followers to carry on with the work He had begun.
The disciples were saying goodbye to their close friend Jesus. They had spent many happy times with Him, as well as some scary times too. But now He was going to leave them – “don’t give up” He says to them, “you may not seem me but I will see you – so I want you to carry on with the good work – I’m relying on you!”
Words for us, today – whoever said that the Bible is out of touch with reality and of no relevance to today’s world??
But before all that – let us pray ~
we come today reminded of your greatness, your glory, your sovereign power and eternal purpose expressed so wonderfully in Jesus Christ, risen and ascended.
We thank you for the wonder of Ascension, that marvellous yet mysterious moment in the life of the Apostles which left them gazing heavenwards in confusion yet departing in joy.
We thank you for the way it brought the ministry of Jesus to a fitting conclusion, testifying decisively to His oneness with you, demonstrating your final seal of approval on all He had done.
We thank you that through his Ascension Jesus was set free to be Lord of all —no longer bound to a particular place or time, but with us always
and able to reach to the ends of the earth.
We thank you that through His departing Jesus prepared the way for His coming again, through His Spirit, His Church, and His coming again in glory.
forgive us for so often failing
to grasp the wonder of Ascension,
for living each day as though it had never been.
Forgive the smallness of our vision,
the narrowness of our outlook,
the feebleness of our love,
the nervousness of our witness,
our repeated failure to recognise the fullness of your revelation in Christ.
Give us a deeper sense of wonder,
a stronger faith,
and a greater understanding of all you have done.
Almighty God, like the apostles,
we too will never fully understand all Ascension means.
We accept, but we do not fully understand.
We believe, yet we have many questions.
Help us, despite our uncertainty,
to hold firm to the one great truth that the wonder of Christ goes far beyond anything we can ever imagine, and in that faith may we live each day.
Listening Lord, as we prepare ourselves for worship – we sit for a few moments to clear our minds of the events of the past week – we bring to you our sadness’s – and our joys – our disappointments – our frustrations and our regrets – and so we pray that you will draw close to us as we bring you our own private prayer of confession for all that we have said, done and thought – things that we are not proud of – things we pray you will forgive us for – in Jesus’ name……… so be with us Lord – in the peace of our silence……
…..take time to reflect on these things….. ………
Listening Lord – as undeserving as we are – we pray that you will forgive us and bless us with your Mercy and your Grace.
Lord we know that you hear us when we pray in faith – so hear us now as we say together – the prayer which brings us together as one family – the family prayer – the Lord’s prayer ~
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.. LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION.. BUT DELIVER US FROM EVIL .. FOR THINE IS THE KINGDOM.. THE POWER AND THE GLORY FOREVER…. AMEN.
Today we have 2 readings – one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament.
2nd Kings 2 : 7 – 12 & Acts 1 : 1 – 11
We have all been given life for a purpose –
In our Old Testament reading this morning ~ we hear of the prophet Elijah who was at the end of his earthly ministry. He had done all God had sent him to do – and he knew that it was his time to leave this life and to go to be with God –
His successor – Elisha – was waiting in the wings to follow where Elijah had led.
But before Elisha could take over the reigns – Elijah first had to leave.
In our New Testament. Reading we hear a similar story to that of Elijah and Elisha.
The earthly ministry of Jesus was complete – He was returning to the Father – and His disciples were waiting in the wings to carry on His work –
They weren’t too happy to see Him go – but Jesus knew it was necessary if the disciples were to move forward and be effective witnesses in the world………..
So let us read our first Reading for this morning –
2nd Kings 2 : 7 – 12 New International Version (NIV)
“7 Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. 8 Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.
9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?”
“Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.
10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.”
11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.”
Acts 1 : 1 – 11 The Passion Translation (TPT)
“To Theophilus, the lover of God.
I write to you again, my dear friend, to give you further details about the life of our Lord Jesus and all the things that he did and taught.
2 Just before he ascended into heaven, he left instructions for the apostles he had chosen by the Holy Spirit 3 After the sufferings of his cross, Jesus appeared alive many times to these same apostles over a forty-day period. Jesus proved to them with many convincing signs that he had been resurrected.
During these encounters, he taught them the truths of God’s kingdom realm 4 and shared meals with them
Jesus instructed them, “Don’t leave Jerusalem, but wait here until you receive the gift I told you about, the gift the Father has promised. 5 For John baptized you in water, but in a few days from now you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit!
6 Then they gathered round him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’
7 He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’
9 Right after he spoke those words, the disciples saw Jesus lifted into the sky and disappear into a cloud! 10 As they stared into the sky, watching Jesus ascend, two men in white robes suddenly appeared beside them. 11 They told the startled disciples, “Galileans, why are you staring up into the sky? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but he will come back the same way that you saw him ascend.”
15 “If you love me, you will obey my commandments. 16 I will ask the Father, and he will give you another helper who will be with you forever. 17 That helper is the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept him, because it doesn’t see or know him. You know him, because he lives with you and will be in you.
18 “I will not leave you all alone. I will come back to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. You will live because I live.”
This is the Word of the Lord – Thanks be to God.
Have you ever read a good book – and got to the end, only to find the last page is missing ?? – it’s really annoying isn’t it !?
You’ve read the story – you’ve followed the plot – but without the last page – you’re left hanging at the end – wondering how it all ended.
We probably wouldn’t start to read a book – if we knew it was going to be cut short……… but that’s what this wonderful story of Jesus is like – without the Ascension.
We celebrate His birth at Christmas – and His death and Resurrection at Easter – but the very last page – the Ascension – is often overlooked.
The Ascension is the culmination of His physical presence on earth – and now, here He was, returning back to His Father in Heaven.
He’d gone full circle – if you like – He came down from heaven – He’d done what God had asked of Him. “Mission Earth” was complete – and now He was going home.
In our reading from the book of Acts (written by Luke) – Luke describes this strange ‘Ascension’ business for us.
Jesus chatting with His friends – telling them many things – and then He was “taken up before their very eyes – and a cloud, hid him from their sight!!”
What a strange business !
And that left the disciples – not only alone and frightened – but with a major challenge – they were to carry on Jesus’ work ! – but how would they do that without Him !?
Don’t worry Jesus had said to them – I’ll send a helper who will give you all the power you’ll need to carry on the good work……… and as promised – a few days later – the Holy Spirit of God came down – and we hear about that at Pentecost – which the church remembers next Sunday…. The day of Pentecost….
But meantime – Jesus had left his followers – and as sad as it must have been for his close friends – to lose someone they cared so much about – it was something that Jesus knew was essential – if they were ever to stand on their own two feet.
He had done what He had come to do – which was to tell us of God’s love – show us how to live – and explain what we must do if we are to hope to gain an eternal life that makes sense of our lives.
“What is the purpose of life?”
Were we simply ‘born to die’ ?? – are our lives a pointless exercise ? – do we live – then die – end of story ?
Absolutely not ! – Jesus came to tell us that there is much more to it than that!
Paul the Apostle wrote these words to the emerging Church in Corinth – “If this whole business of Christ were not true, then surely we are to be pitied among all people. But of course, Christ WAS raised from the dead!” (1st Corinthians 15 : 19 – 20). And we know that because there many witnesses.
And to help us understand all this – He gave us a book of instructions to help us along the way….. His word – the Bible..
It has stories- quotes – poems – helpful hints – useful tips – songs – tales of olden times – amazing characters – advice on what and what not to do – and so much more. It’s all there for us – if we would only take the time to read it……..
Jesus had completed His work here –
That’s what He meant when He said on the cross – just before He died – “it is accomplished”… God’s great plan had been accomplished.
He had accomplished all that the Father had sent Him to do – and now – it’s down to us – you and me to carry on the good work – which is to help in the work of bringing His kingdom to earth – just as it is in Heaven, and we pray those very words, every time we say the Lord’s Prayer – ‘May His Kingdom come – His will be done – on earth – as it is in Heaven” – and it is important that when we pray – we appreciate that we have a responsibility to do what we can to make that prayer come true.
Prayer is much more than simply handing things over to God and standing back and letting God get on with it. It is incumbent upon us to work in partnership with God to make things happen.
For example – if we ask God to help the poor and the hungry – but then walk by a poor, hungry person on the street without offering even the small amount of help – than our prayers are just hollow words.
True faith is a combination of Words and Actions (see the book of James, Chapter 2)
Jesus has told us of God’s Kingdom…… He has shown us His amazing power…. And now it’s up to us to take the next step.
He was saying – “I’ve explained what you must do – I have shown you how to do it – now I’ll leave you to go and do it ”
But then He added the all important – “ but don’t forget…… I’ll be watching – and I’ll be back later to see how you’re getting on !!”..
And that’s another thing the disciples were concerned about – when was Jesus going to return ??……..
None of us know – that’s what Jesus said – “it’s not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set..”
He’s keeping us on our toes!
And maybe it’s just as well – human nature being what it is, we would probably become complacent – leave it to the last minute – and think to ourselves “there’s plenty of time yet” – “what’s the rush !??” –
Perhaps some are saying that now ! – “what’s the rush?”
But none of us know the time or the date when He will return for us – and is it not time that we put our life in order ?
How prepared are you – if God were to call for you this very day ?? – Is your life in order – or have things still left undone ??
Tell that person with whom you are at variance that you love them – mend that rift – be the first one to hold out the hand of friendship – phone that person who you have been thinking about phoning – do it today ! – we never know the day or the hour – nor ought we to know – when He is coming to take us home.
“I’ve left you in charge” Jesus says – but the world turned their back on Him.
And so when we look around – we must ask ourselves “how have we done since God left us in charge !?” – well – I suppose the honest answer is – not too good !
We hear of wars and death everyday……..
There’s starvation in some parts of the world while others gorge themselves.
There’s a great need in many parts of the world – and massive stockpiles elsewhere.
Children are stabbing other children in the streets – in broad daylight. No respect for each other – or for any kind of authority, is pretty much non-existent.
People are reduced, in many cases, to mere numbers on a balance sheet…..
The vast majority no longer believe in God – far less come to church. Many are willing to receive his daily blessings – but fail to acknowledge Him or give any kind of thanks for His goodness….
Preferring instead to go to Tesco’s or Morrison’s on a Sunday morning – going down a very different kind of “aisle” ! – or find some other reason (‘excuse’?) why worshipping God can’t quite be fitted in to there busy schedule. How pleased we are that God is never too busy for us!
“Don’t complain – comply !! – Jesus is saying to us, “go out there and change things – go and carry on where I left off and make this world a better place!”
You may not think it, but we can make a difference in the world about us – you can – I can – each one of us can.
Maybe we can’t change the whole world – but we can change the family unit, society and community in which we live.
We can tell those who are suffering that life doesn’t have to be like it is…
We can tell others that there IS a loving God.
We can show others that we don’t want to live as the world lives – cut throat – dog eat dog – gossiping about those around us…….. trying to get one up on others….
We can and should live as examples to others, living ‘just and upright lives’ just as our Saviour did.
We can show the world that whether rich or poor – we can live by higher standards – standards set by a loving Father who
Loves us so much that he allowed his only Son to die for us.
A caring Father who provides for us – who watches over us and who – through his Holy Spirit – guides us to that ‘heavenly place’ where we are promised that we will receive the eternal blessings of peace and calm and endless love.
All this is promised to us – to you and to me – to everyone who stands up to be counted in God’s glorious Kingdom…….
The world has largely turned its back on Jesus.
Now it’s time for the world to turn back to Jesus…
And we can help with that – you and I CAN – if we get up and get going –
As Jesus said in verse 8 – “and be his witnesses.”
So the question is – will we stand up for Him who came to save us. ? Or will we ‘stand and stare in to space’ just as the disciples did – on that day of the Ascension ??
That – He leaves in your hands
It’s a wonderful, awesome challenge to each one of us.
You might like to think about it !!
But don’t think about it for too long – remember – we know that He’ll be back to see how we’re getting on……
What we don’t know – is when !!……
Will He find you working for His kingdom – or will He find you idling away your time – “looking up to the skies” ?
It makes you think – doesn’t it !?
– or at least – I hope it does !!
And in Jesus precious name.
And may God bless this preaching of His Holy Word – and may all the glory and the praise, be His.
LET US PRAY ~
Caring Lord, we give you thanks for not only being our Creator, Sustainer and Saviour,
but also that through Christ’s life, death, resurrection and ascension, He is beside us in everything we do, everywhere we go – in all we say and think – in our joys as well as our sorrows – offering love, support and care.
We thank you that because of Christ’s Ascension His ministry to us is no longer restricted by the limits of an earthly life.
Now He has been lifted up we can be assured of His presence with each of us at any time, in any place and whoever we are.
Lord, we thank you for those moments when we are aware of you all over again.
May our prayers of thanksgiving be transformed into lives filled with gratitude that will bring faith, hope and courage to others and to glory to God.
But Lord, we know that there are many who do not feel your presence – many who feel alone and cut off from any kind of love or concern ~ who fail to feel the warmth of the love that you have for them……… and today we pray for them ~
Father, we pray for all those who are suffering and confined. We pray especially for those who see no hope, no new beginning, no relief or freedom; for those who today are suffering political oppression, persecution or imprisonment because of their faith in Christ.
May the hope of Christ set them free.
We pray for all victims of violence; for all who are despised or rejected; for all who are diminished or frustrated by illness, pain, illiteracy or poverty. We pray for all who are slaves to addiction:
May the power of Christ set them free.
We pray for all oppressors; for all leaders and governments who dare not give their people freedom to think, act or choose for themselves; for all who are making other people’s lives miserable; for those who exploit other people’s weaknesses and fears.
May the truth of Christ set them free.
We pray for all relationships where there is a desire to dominate; for families that are ruled by authoritarian parents or where children receive no proper discipline; for relationships where emotional blackmail is used to gain power or control over each other; for those who are never allowed to blossom, to be free, to be the people they were meant to be.
May the joy of Christ set them free.
We pray for all who have been crushed by insensitive words or damaged by unthinking actions;
for those broken by lies, abuse or the failure to be loved unconditionally;
for all without hope, peace or the ability to love and be loved.
May the love of Christ set them free.
We pray for those who sigh and cry for freedom; for those who long to know that the past is dealt with, the future is in God’s hands
and today is His gift to us all. We pray for those who hold the broken, share the pain of the hurting and walk with those who are lost.
May the mercy of Christ set them free.
We pray for ourselves. Let us ask Christ to touch our thoughts, our words and our dreams. Let us pray that every corner of our lives might be open to His will;
that His love and truth will give us hope, and his presence will fill us with joy. Let us ask for the power of the Spirit to light up our lives with peace and understanding.
May the light of Christ set us free.
Lord hear us now as we sit in silence – bringing to you our own thoughts and prayers for those we know and love – for those who we know need a prayer at this time ~ Lord, hear our silent prayers……
……think of someone you know who needs a prayer and whisper his/her name (s) …………
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers, both silent and spoken, for we bring them to you in the name of the one who Blesses us beyond all our expectations and deserving – our dear sweet Jesus Christ.
‘THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK’
In the time before combine harvesters and large tractors – there was a farmer who was teaching his son how to plough a field, with a horse-drawn plough.
He set the horse up – faced it in the right direction, told his son how to hold the reigns – and gave him this piece of advice – “to be sure that you plough a straight furrow – fix your eye on something at the other end of the field, and don’t take your eyes off of it..” Okay dad” the boy said to his father – and set off down the field.
The farmer then left his son and went off to busy himself elsewhere on the farm – thinking “what could possibly go wrong!??”
A few hours later he came back to see how his son was getting on with the horse and the plough – only to see the lines of the plough were all over the place – hardly a straight furrow in the field.
“What on earth are you playing at!?” The farmer shouted “I thought I told you how to plough a straight line !” – “but I did what you said – I kept my eyes fixed on a cow which was lying at the top of the field – but it got up and started walking about!” J J
Jesus is the one permanent thing in a world of change.
Keep your eyes firmly fixed on Him – and your path through this life will be a straight and undeviating journey up to the very Gates of Heaven.
And that’s a promise !
So here’s a thought for us all –
Are there things which distract us from living as Jesus wants us to live?
Do you follow the ‘straight and narrow’ way ?
– if not – what is stopping you?
Food for thought for us all…
As we have felt the presence of God’s love in this place this morning – be assured that as you go – the love of God goes with you – wherever you go and in whatever you do –
And may the blessing of Almighty God – Father – Son – and Holy Spirit – be with you – be with your families, your friends and all who you know and love – and ought to love – this day – and everyday.
Today we have heard how Jesus returned to Heaven to be with His Father. His purpose had been served, His mission had been accomplished.
But before He left He promised that He would never leave us alone or without a helper.
Next Sunday is the Day of Pentecost. The day that God sent down His Holy Spirit, our ‘Holy Helper’ to watch over us and be our guide through the ups and downs of life.
This is the ‘Sprit of Jesus’ – and He guides us to live our lives ‘in the Spirit of God’.
Be sure to join us next Sunday – a big day in the life of the Christian Church – to see what it’s all about – it was quite a day!
May God Bless you and your loved ones.
Keep well and stay safe.