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 Ascension Day 2020

'May God arise, may his enemies be scattered; may his foes flee before him….Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him - his name is the LORD….When you ascended on high, you took many captives; you received gifts from people, even from the rebellious - that you, LORD God, might dwell there. Praise be to the LORD, to God our Saviour, who daily bears our burdens. Our God is a God who saves; from the Sovereign LORD comes escape from death… ...Praise be to God!'  [Psalm 68.1, 4, 18-20, 35b] (NIV)

 

'... all that Jesus began to do and to teach | until the day he was taken up to heaven,
after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. | ... |
After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. |
They were looking intently into he sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in
white stood beside them. | 'Men of Galilee,' they said, 'why do you stand here looking up into
the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the
same way you have seen him go into heaven.'  [Acts 1.1b-2, 9-11] (NIV)
 

'Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe thy only-begotten
Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart
and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell, who liveth and reigneth with
thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.'
[The Collect for The Ascension Day in The Book of Common Prayer]
 
'God our Father,
you have raised our humanity in Christ
and have fed us with the bread of heaven:
mercifully grant that, nourished with such spiritual blessings,
we may set our hearts in the heavenly places;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.'
[Post Communion Prayer for Ascension Day in Common Worship]

 

from Reading Between the Lines Volume 1 Old Testament Daily by Glen Scrivener

 The God-forsaken God

'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?' [Psalm 22.1] (KJV) cp Mark 15.34

' ... As Jesus hung on the cross, he prayed these words - known as the prayer of dereliction - to a black and silent heaven. Through his death Jesus was plumbing the very depths of our human condition - all the way down to godforsakenness.

How should we understand this? God the Son godforsaken! On the one hand we must affirm that Christ is fully God - the eternal Son of the Father. But also we should maintain that he is fully human - our Brother, bone of our bones and flesh or our flesh.

Therefore, since he enters our situation, who can deny that our experience of life is indeed 'godforsakenness'? Godlessness is one of the most keenly felt aspects   of our humanity. Where is God? How can he feel so remote when 'in him we live, and move, and have our being' [Acts 17.28]? How can we be so estranged from the Source of our life? Why does God seem so far off?

Jesus enters into all of that, and not just the feeling of it, but the reality of it. On the cross, Jesus shares our alienation from God due to our sins. He doesn't have a bungee cord wrapped around him, descending only so far but no further. No, he falls to the depths. The Lord of heaven endures hell.

This means that Christianity has a surprising response to the age-old question: 'Where is God when it hurts?'  The Christian can say, 'I know a God who asked that question himself!'

This means that the experience of hurt can never disprove this God. He has been the godforsaken God. He has so identified with you in your plight that he has asked that question with you and for you.

Therefore if God takes even godforsakenness to himself, then there simply is no situation in which we need to despair. Even in the most profound experiences of abandonment can be a participation in the suffering of Christ – and therefore an experience of the deepest divine fellowship!

Whatever depths you are plumbing, Jesus has gone deeper, and he's done it for you. The answer to Christ's question is given in the gospel: why was he forsaken? Answer: for you – so that you might be adopted. He was forsaken so that, no matter what you feel, you never will be. He prayed a prayer of abandonment so that you can pray a prayer of approach. Call on him now.' 

Graham Thrussell

From: The Valley of Vision - A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions  
The Valley of Vision

'Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly,
Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.

Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite heart is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;

Let me find thy light in my darkness,
thy life in my death,
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty,
thy glory in my valley.'

Graham Thrussell

Hymnbook: No 261 Christian Worship

John Ryland 1753-1825

Sovereign Ruler of the Skies

'Sovereign Ruler of the skies,
Ever gracious, ever wise!
All my times are in Thy hand,
All events at Thy command.

His decree, who formed the earth,
Fixed my first and second birth;
Parents, native place, and time,
All appointed were by Him.

He that formed me in the womb,
He shall guide me to the tomb;
All my times shall ever be
Ordered by His wise decree.
 

 

 

Times of sickness, times of health,
Times of penury and wealth,
Times of trial and of grief,
Times of triumph and relief.

Times the tempter's power to prove; 
Times to taste a Saviour's love -
All shall come, and last, and end
As shall please my heavenly Friend.

Plagues and deaths around me fly;
Till He bids I cannot die;
Not a single shaft can hit
Till the God of love sees fit.' 

Graham Thrussell 

A hymn for Holy Week by Fred Pratt Green

To mock your reign, O dearest Lord,
They made a crown of thorns;
Set you with taunts along that road
From which no one returns.
They could not know, as we do now,
How glorious is that crown;
That thorns would flow'r upon your brow,
Your sorrows heal our own. 

 

In mock acclaim, O gracious Lord,
They snatched a purple cloak,
Your passion turned, for all they cared,
Into a soldier's joke.
They could not know, as we do now,
That, though we merit blame,
You will your robe of mercy throw
Around our naked shame 

 A sceptred reed, O patient Lord,
They thrust into your hand,
And acted out their grim charade
To its appointed end.
They could not know, as we do now,
Though empires rise and fall,
Your kingdom shall not cease to grow
Till love embraces all.
 
Gaye Reynolds