We will be celebrating Ascension Sunday on May 8th, the Seventh Sunday of Easter. The Ascension is one of the wilder miracle stories about Jesus, like his birth and resurrection, and like them it is full of symbolic meaning and joy and the greatest of hopes. The ten days between the Ascension (May 5th this year) and Pentecost are a Little Advent. Jesus said to wait and watch and pray with the expectation that the Holy Spirit that filled him would come and fill us and lead us out to do the same works that he did and more. These ten days are all about that waiting.
This Sunday will be full of excited anticipation, knowing that next Sunday is Pentecost when the disciples’ waiting was fulfilled, and knowing also that Christ and the Holy Spirit will come again for us in our lives over and over just when we need them, with just what we need. We will celebrate how we wait with hope, faith and love, and with joy. The scripture passages will include a responsive call to worship from Revelation 22, and the two ascension narratives of Acts 1:1-11 and Luke 24:44-53. We will read the beautiful prayer of confession from the New Century Hymnal that includes the words:
Grant us grace to be true words —
Not gentle when it is in anger that we live,
Not smooth when it is desperation that we know,
Not patient when time has narrowed down to now,
Not wise, not neat, not all our fences mended,
But words, broken yet honest words, and lost,
Stumbling their way toward silence.
We will sing a hymn from the New Century Hymnal, Now Is the Time Approaching (to the tune of Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus) as well as If Thou but Suffer God to Guide Thee and All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name. The choir’s introit will also be from the New Century Hymnal, the beautiful prayer, “Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me. Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.” The anthem will be “We Shall Walk Through the Valley in Peace,” the American Folk Hymn arranged by W. L. Hooper. John Atwood’s organ pieces will include three of the most beautiful of all time, “Arioso” by J. S. Bach, “Consolation” by F. Mendelssohn, and ” Gymnopedie No. 1” by E. Satie.
The Silent Meditation will be another most– one of the most famous sonnets in English Literature, by John Milton, on his blindness. Here is a recording of it. (Beware of an ad you may have to skip.)