Note: Today, is Ascension Day, and the following Order may be used as you meditate on Christ’s ascension and what that means for you.  You may wish to use this as your family devotion.  The verses are marked so two groups of people may speak the parts for worship at home.

The Invocation
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

The Verses
Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea;
hear me and answer me.

Evening, morning, and noon
I cry out in distress, and He hears my voice.

Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you;
He will never let the righteous fall.

Glory be 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.

The Readings

The First Reading:  Acts 1:1–11
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. To them he presented himself alive after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

The Verse:
Alleluia.  We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him.
Alleluia.  Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.  Alleluia.

The Holy Gospel:  Luke 24:44–53
Then [Jesus] 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 and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”  Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them,  “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you.  But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them.  While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.  And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.

The Meditation:

“The Risen and Now Ascended and Glorified Lord Blesses You!”
We ‘interrupt’ our Lectionary Reading schedule as today is Ascension Day, the fortieth day after Easter.  While we would encourage you to continue in your daily Lectionary (those readings being Numbers 11:1-23, 31-35 and Luke 17:1-19), today marks a special day as we confess in our creeds that “Jesus ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

Those words of our creed come from knowing the account of His ascension into heaven as recorded by Dr. Luke, in both the Gospel bearing his name as well as the accompaniment volume of the Acts of the Apostles.  Luke’s witness in two places as well as in fulfillment of other Scriptures, come on this day the Church holds in reverence for Christ.  

The number ‘40’ is significant in the Old and New Testament:  Consider 40 days and 40 nights when rain fell in judgment on the earth during Noah’s day.  Consider the 40 years wandering in the wilderness after the Exodus from Egypt.  Also consider the 40 days the twelve spies searched the Land of Canaan and the 40 days Jesus was in the wilderness without food.  There are more.  But now we have a joyous reason to count!  On that fortieth day after His resurrection, Jesus quietly ascends into heaven, witnessed by the disciples.

Imagine being with those eleven disciples on that day.  They must have had mixed emotions.  Jesus had told them previously in Galilee, (Matthew 20:19) that He would not leave them.  He also told them that He was going to prepare a place for them in His Father’s mansion (John  14:2).  Now, at the Mount of Olives just near Jerusalem, He leaves them.  And all they could do was silently watch Him as He ascended into heaven.  

But the evangelist also tells us just how Jesus left those eleven disciples:  “Then [Jesus] led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up His hands He blessed them.  While He blessed them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven.”  

Did you catch that?  As Jesus left, He was blessing His disciples.  That blessing was actively being made as Jesus was received into the clouds of heavenly glory.  So what does that mean for you and me today?  Remember what Jesus said earlier in Luke’s Gospel:  “Temptations to sin are sure to come…” (Luke 17:1).  Our world today is certainly full of temptations.  I won’t go into the sordid details, but since the ‘Safe-at-Home’ mandate in March, we’ve been tempted to ‘explore’ the outdoors, to go shopping, visit with friends…in short, being tempted to do those things which are not safe, sane, or healthy at this time.  

But our Lord continues to bless us. If it is one thing we take with us this Ascension Day 2020 it is this:  Jesus blesses us as He ascends into heaven. and we trust that He will return to take us to Himself, that where He is, there we will be also (John 14:3).  

We build the hope of our ascension on what Jesus has shown us in His ascension.  He left earth, but in so doing, He blesses His disciples, those who confess His saving name.  As blessed children of God, we can withstand those temptations.  We read the Scriptures as Jesus taught us; we pray; likewise we remember our baptismal identity, and we live repentant and faithful lives of service.  All the while knowing that someday, some time, we will be called from this world to eternal rest in heaven.  

It will be then when we will be blessed as Simeon was, as we also read in Luke’s Gospel: “Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace, according to Your Word.”  (Luke 2:29).  At the beginning of Luke’s Gospel we learn of the peace from God in heaven which comes to us in Christ.  Then at His ascension, Jesus prepared the way for us to receive complete peace in heaven, where He, as the Prince of Peace, reigns with God the Father and the Holy Spirit forever and ever.  

“This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.”  That is one assurance that we won’t miss Jesus when He returns to judge the living and the dead.  We may not know what our earth will look like in the next few weeks, months, or possibly years.  The COVID-19 has changed our world, and as we try to sort out the pieces to this broken planet, we do know this:  Jesus continues to bless us, to preserve us, and to keep us in His grace, mercy, and peace. 

Let us not fall into the temptations of this world; rather, let us walk on and in the path of righteousness for His name’s sake.  For Jesus rose from the dead, lives as the ascended Lord of all, and sits glorified at the right hand of God the Father, and He blesses you now and always.  Amen.

The Hymn:

“On Christ’s Ascension I Now Build”
Text by Josua Wegelin (1604-1640); translated by William M. Czamanske (1873-1964).
Words used by permission of Concordia Publishing House, © 1941.

On Christ’s ascension I now build
The hope of my ascension;
This hope alone has always stilled
All doubt and apprehension;
For where the Head is, there as well
I know His members are to dwell
When Christ will come and call them. 

Since Christ returned to claim His throne,
Great gifts for me obtaining,
My heart will rest in Him alone,
No other rest remaining;
For where my treasure went before,
There all my thoughts will ever soar
To still their deepest yearning. 

Oh, grant, dear Lord, this grace to me,
Recalling Your ascension,
That I may serve You faithfully,
Adorning Your redemption;
And then, when all my days will cease,
Let me depart in joy and peace
In answer to my pleading.

The Collect for Ascension Day:
Almighty God, as Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, ascended into the heavens, so may we also ascend in heart and mind and continually dwell there with Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen. 

Heavenly Father, send Your Holy Spirit into our hearts to direct and rule us according to Your will, to comfort us in all our afflictions, to defend us from all temptation and error, and to lead us into all truth; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Amen.

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 trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.  Amen.  

Benedicamus
Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Acknowledgments
Noon Service from Lutheran Service Book
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Created by Lutheran Service Builder © 2018 Concordia Publishing House.

 

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