May 21, 2023

Prayer of the Day

O God of glory, your Son Jesus Christ suffered for us and ascended to your right hand. Unite us with Christ and each other in suffering and in joy, that all the world may be drawn into your bountiful presence, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Acts 1:6-14

6When [the apostles] had come together, they asked [Jesus], “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.”
12Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. 13When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.

Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35

1Let God arise, and let God’s ene- | mies be scattered;
  let those who | hate God flee.
2As smoke is driven away, so you should drive | them away;
  as the wax melts before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the pres- | ence of God.
3But let the righteous be glad and rejoice | before God;
  let them also be mer- | ry and joyful.
4Sing to God, sing praises to God’s name; exalt the one who | rides the clouds;
  I Am is that name, rejoice | before God! 
5In your holy habita- | tion, O God,
  you are a father to orphans, defend- | er of widows;
6you give the solitary a home and bring forth prisoners | into freedom;
  but the rebels shall live in | desert places.
7O God, when you went forth be- | fore your people,
  when you marched | through the wilderness,
8the earth quaked, and the skies poured down rain, at the presence of God, the | God of Sinai,
  at the presence of God, the | God of Israel.
9You sent a bountiful | rain, O God;
  you restored your inheritance | when it languished.
10Your people found their | home in it;
  in your goodness, O God, you have made provision | for the poor. 
32Sing to God, O kingdoms | of the earth;
  sing praises | to the Lord.
33You ride in the heavens, O God, in the | ancient heavens;
  you send forth your voice, your | mighty voice.
34Ascribe pow- | er to God,
  whose majesty is over Israel; whose strength is | in the skies.
35How wonderful you are in your holy places, O | God of Israel,
  giving strength and power to your people! | Blessed be God!

1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11

12Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. 14If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.

5:6Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. 7Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. 8Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. 10And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. 11To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.

John 17:1-11

1After Jesus had spoken these words [to his disciples], he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
6“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.”

Sermon – Pastor Meggan Manlove

Baptisms, Affirmation of Baptism, Last Sunday

In an almost offhanded way, it is written that Jesus appeared to his apostles for forty days after his “suffering.” But 40 is significant. We find the number forty throughout the Bible. It rained for forty days and nights while Noah and his family were safely aboard the ark. The Hebrew people wandered the Sinai wilderness for forty years. Two pillars of faith, Moses and Elijah, went into the wilderness for forty days and nights to discover the will of God. Jesus, himself, was led into the wilderness, where he was tested by the devil for forty days and nights.

Gail Ramshaw suggests that perhaps the origin of this metaphor lied in the fact that forty days exceeds the lunar pacing of 30 days. In other words, 40 is a long time. But forty is also mythically alive. It is a time pregnant with a religious future. Fort is how long we must wait for God’s intent to be realized. Forty is the delay which all humans experience. It is the legendary period of hope, the duration of either joy or sorrow that opens to emotions unknown. It often takes forty to open the door.

Maybe Christians adopted this number, this chronology, because we accepted the historicity of a literal even on the hill near Jerusalem. Or maybe it was because we know that even after the transformation of Christ’s resurrection we need to wait yet longer for his full manifestation. Today is full of mystery, mythic imagery, truth, and hope.

So back to the church year and the end of the Easter Season. The festival of Pentecost, which we will celebrate next week, is followed by ordinary time, the time of the church, the time when our sanctuary is adorned in green. The Day of Ascension was Thursday, 40 days after Easter. So, Ascension prepares us for Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit.

It has been a roller coaster ride of emotions since Jesus’ friends followed Jesus into Jerusalem. They have felt hope, fear, despair, and then the unbelievable presence of Jesus. Jesus is no longer dead, but alive. But they knew he would not stay. 

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” This is the same Spirit that rested on Jesus in his baptism. It is the same Spirit that anointed Jesus to preach good news to the poor and freedom to the oppressed. This same “power from on high” would now be given to the disciples and, by extension, to us. This is a gift from beyond us. It is not the same as “team spirit” or inner peace or anything we create on our own.

How can we speak of something we have never seen? Could the Spirit be anything we imagine? Though we cannot see the Spirit, we can see where the Spirit has been.

There’s a wonderful woodcut of the Jesus’ Ascension by Albrecht Durer. If you look closely at the picture, you can see footprints on the earth. Durer has carefully outlined Jesus’ footprints down on the level where the disciples are standing with their mouths open. Perhaps the artist was simply imagining a detail that is not in the text. Or perhaps, he is asking us, “Why do you stand looking up into heaven?”

Look at Jesus and we will see where the Spirit has been. Jesus’ feet carried him where others would not go. His feet brought him to tables surrounded by odd companions, grounded him as he children on his lap, and carried him as he questioned disparities between the wealthy and the poor. 

One scholar says the Holy Spirit “is nothing less than the mystery of God’s personal engagement with the world…the mystery of God closer to us than we are to ourselves.” This is staying power.

Listen for the Holy Spirit in the faith stories we will hear and see today. Listen for the Holy Spirit in the baptisms and affirmation of baptisms, and even leave-taking litany. It is the gift of the Holy spirit which sustains and leads each of us and the church collectively. Now let us hear how the Spirit has been at work specifically in two people’s lives.

Faith Statements by Confirmands

Prayers of Intercession

The prayers are prepared locally for each occasion. The following examples may be adapted or used as appropriate.

United in the hope and joy of the resurrection, let us pray for the church, the world, and all in need.

A brief silence.

God of harmony, as you drew your Son to your side, you draw us to you and unite us with the planet and one another. Weave your church together in a web of mutual love for the sake of the world. Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

As your Spirit hovered over the waters of creation, so your Spirit hovers over all that you have made. Bless the water that sustains the planet and grant wisdom to use it wisely. Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

You empower your people with the fire of your Spirit. Challenge activists and organizers, teachers and politicians, and all in leadership to speak a message of peace and justice. Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

You care for all your children. Show your steadfast love to those suffering isolation, especially exiles, refugees, or prisoners. Break the chains of all held fast by systemic oppression of any kind. Comfort all who are afraid or suffering from illness (especially). Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

We give thanks that humankind serves as your body in the world, stewarding your abundant gifts. Guide this congregation’s leaders as they seek your will. We pray for our staff and council (persons can be named). Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

Here other intercessions may be offered.

You raise your saints to new life in Christ. We give you thanks for (Helena and) all your saints who have given us glimpses of your redeeming love. Hear us, O God.

Your mercy is great.

Rejoicing in the victory of Christ’s resurrection, we lift our prayers and praise to you, almighty and eternal God; through Jesus Christ, our risen Lord.


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