St. Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh
Midweek Devotion 13th May 2021
Led by Rev Calum I MacLeod
God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.
Let us worship God
The lesson is Acts 1 :1-11
In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning 2until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. 4While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; 5for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
6So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 9When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.10While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
The word of the Lord; thanks be to God
The church makes the audacious claim that Jesus ascended into heaven. Our inquisitive well-formed progressive minds might be tempted to get bogged down in what it looked like, how it happened, to work out formulas for what Jesus’ rate of ascending speed must have been to overcome the power of gravity.
The ascension, though is not about geography (precisely where is the right hand of God?) or physics (how exactly did it happen?), it is much too mysterious for such categories. It is about the ongoing function of Christ in the world. When we say in the Apostles’ Creed, “he ascended into heaven,” we as Christians are making the bold claim that there is something cosmic at work here, something too big and grand to be limited by our narrow earth-bound categories.
This Jesus of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem’s stable, a teacher, prophet, healer, friend, son of Mary, the one who suffered and died on the cross, the same Jesus has now ascended to sit at the right hand of the Creator. The ascension of Jesus claims that Jesus is Lord, not just of his home habitat, of Jerusalem and the Galilean countryside, not just Lord of our hearts, but Jesus ascends to the right hand of the father, to reign as Lord over all of creation.
The Presbyterian preacher, Catherine Taylor, says Jesus’ Ascension means that Jesus took all of human life, which he cared for so deeply, and brought it into the very heart of God.
“Why do you stand looking up to heaven?” the messengers ask the disciples. It is a reminder that the work of God in Christ takes place right here in our world, and we have a part to play in that.
Prayer of St. Theresa of Avila – 16th century mystic
God of love, help us to remember
that Christ has no body now on earth but ours,
no hands but ours, no feet but ours.
Ours are the eyes to see the needs of the world.
Ours are the hands with which to bless everyone now.
Ours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good.
Jesus Christ, ascended One, mediator and high priest,
we give thanks that you emptied your self of all but love
and took on becoming human
experiencing the joys and sorrows of life,
which assures us that you know us,
share in our humanity and rejoice with us.
Hear our prayers for peace, Holy Lord,
peace in the lives of nations which would see weapons turned into welcome signs, praying
particularly at this time for peace in the Holy Land.
and, in the hearts of those who mourn, that peace which passes our understanding.
Hear our prayers for justice, Holy Lord,
that where inhumanity and oppression is drying up the seed bed of fullness of life;
where greed and exploitation parch the development of community life;
in these places may justice flow like a river, bringing new life and wholeness for all.
Hear our prayers for healing Holy Lord,
as we hope for light in these days of infection and lockdown;
giving thanks for those who labour on caring for the ill,
and providing essential services.
O Lord hear our prayers for ourselves and others as we join together in the Lord’s Prayer:
which 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,
the power and the glory for ever and ever, Amen.
Be of good courage, render no-one evil for evil,
but hold fast to the good; honour all of God’s people,
and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God,
and the Communion of the Holy Spirit
be with you
and all whom you love
this day and for ever.
J.S.Bach Heut’ triumphiret Gottes Sohn BWV 630