May 20, 2007

Acts 1:1-11 Psalm 47 Ephesians 1:15-23 Luke 24:44-53 Tucked away in a corner of most “stained glass” churches is an “Ascension window,” which usually depicts Jesus floating upward in flowing robes while distraught disciples look upward or cover their eyes in fear and anguish. Although we do have the Ascension windows in our churches, most Presbyterians don’t think about or talk about the Ascension very much. It’s an option in the lectionary to read the Ascension texts on the Sunday before Pentecost, and so quite often we miss it altogether, having no special service on Ascension Day, and choosing the 7th Sunday of Easter readings on the Sunday before Pentecost. References to the Ascension are found in many places throughout the New Testament, but the primary texts that describe the Ascension are the two stories that we read today from Luke and Acts. In the first chapter of the Book of Acts, Jesus appears to the disciples and speaks to them about the Kingdom of God. He instructs them to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit who will make them into witnesses “to the end of the earth.” After this “Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” But as much as the Ascension may seem like a strange, magical — even bizarre story, it’s interesting to note that our forebears in the faith deemed it to be extremely important. In Scripture itself, the story appears in Luke and Acts, and in the … Read more »

May 24, 2009

Sermon by the Rev. Amanda Currie Acts 1:1-11 Ephesians 1:15-23 Today is Ascension Sunday, the day that the church celebrates Jesus’ ascension into heaven. After Jesus had died on a cross and been buried in a tomb, we believe that God raised him from death, and he appeared to many of his friends and followers. But the risen Jesus did not just keep hanging around with the followers of his way. The last chapter of Luke’s Gospel and the first chapter of the book of Acts tell the story of his ascension into heaven. He spoke a few final words to his friends, and then he was gone… up into the sky, into heaven, carried away by a cloud. That’s the way the story’s author describes Jesus’ departure. We may not want to take the description literally today, but we get the point that the early Christian community wanted to convey: Jesus was no longer physically present among them, but they did not believe that he was dead and gone, rotting in his grave. They believed that he was gone to be with God, seated at God’s right hand (like a prince beside a king) and that he would rule the world with all power and authority forever and ever. We hear the passage from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians on Ascension Sunday too, because in it Paul emphasizes very strongly that Christ lives in heaven with God, where he rules over all of creation with great power and might, … Read more »

June 5, 2011

“The Glorious Inheritance” (Ephesians 1:15-23) I don’t know about you, but I sometimes get worried about whether we’re going to manage to pass on the Christian faith to the next generation. It’s kind of a critical task, you see… not only because the church won’t last very long if our children and our grandchildren don’t receive the faith and continue the work of the church. But perhaps most importantly, it’s kind of a critical task because it’s exactly what Jesus told his first followers that they were supposed to do. As the book of Acts tells us, Jesus promised the power of the Holy Spirit and said, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. Those of you who have children or grandchildren of your own might spend even more time worrying about this problem than I do. You want your kids to learn the biblical stories of the faith. You want them to learn how to pray. You want to find a way to show them that God is real, to help them to know that God is present and active in the world, and that God is always there for them, and is always calling them to live in the way of Jesus. Some of the worrying may have to do with not really knowing … Read more »

November 20, 2011

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24 Ephesians 1:15-23 Matthew 25:31-46 I don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty used to all this sheep and shepherd imagery in the Bible. Granted, it’s not exactly something I have a lot of experience with – sheep, or farm animals in general. But I think I get the picture of what it’s all about. The shepherd cares for the sheep. Makes sure they’re fed. Protects them from predators. Leads them to green pastures and beside still waters. Sometimes the shepherd even goes off to look for a lost sheep, if he’s willing to risk the rest of the flock. And that’s the kind of shepherd that God’s supposed to be – one who cares about each individual sheep and rejoices over every one that’s found. The prophet Ezekiel is one of the Biblical writers who compares God to a shepherd who cares for, feeds, and guides the People of Israel. They’ve had a number of human leaders ruling over Israel at this point, but Ezekiel accuses these kings of being false shepherds – looking out for themselves instead of the people, ignoring the needs of the people, and allowing them to be scattered. Ezekiel’s talking about kings that totally messed up – failing the people and letting them be conquered by foreign powers – failing so badly that some of the people have been sent into exile in Babylon. So now God will be their shepherd, the prophet tells us – the true shepherd that these … Read more »

July 15, 2012

2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 Ephesians 1:3-14 I’ve always liked today’s Old Testament story about David dancing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. I think, at a time in my life, when I was finding traditional Presbyterian worship services rather reserved and focused on the head rather than the heart, the thought of David “dancing before the Lord with all his might” was rather inspiring. It seemed to me that in his dancing, David was worshipping God, not only with his words and his mind, but with his whole self – body, mind, and spirit. And that’s the way that I wanted to worship as well. Of course, when you read the story from the perspective of someone who is longing for freedom in worship, David becomes the obvious hero. He goes to retrieve the Ark from the place of storage where it has been neglected, if not forgotten, for a long time. For tribal Israel, the Ark was the chief symbol of God’s presence in the midst of the people. It was a gilded box made of acacia wood surmounted by winged cherubim, which served as a pedestal for the invisibly enthroned Yahweh. So David returns his attention to God’s presence with him and with his kingdom. He worships God, and celebrates the fact that God is the true ruler of Israel, the one responsible for Israel’s victories, the one who will guide and direct them into a victorious future. And David worships with abandon. He’s not wondering what … Read more »

May 17, 2014

Acts 1:1-11 Ephesians 1:15-23 Luke 24:44-53 “Ascended and Present” Tucked away in a corner of most “stained glass” churches is an “Ascension window,” which usually depicts Jesus floating upward in flowing robes while distraught disciples look upward or cover their eyes in fear and anguish. Although we do have the Ascension windows in our churches, most Presbyterians don’t think about or talk about the Ascension very much. It’s an option in the lectionary to read the Ascension texts on the Sunday before Pentecost, and so quite often we miss it altogether, having no special service on Ascension Day, and choosing the 7th Sunday of Easter readings on the Sunday before Pentecost. References to the Ascension are found in many places throughout the New Testament, but the primary texts that describe the Ascension are the two stories that we read today from Luke and Acts. In the first chapter of the Book of Acts, Jesus appears to the disciples and speaks to them about the Kingdom of God. He instructs them to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit who will make them into witnesses “to the end of the earth.” After this “Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” But as much as the Ascension may seem like a strange, magical — even bizarre story, it’s interesting to note that our forebears in the faith deemed it to be extremely important. In Scripture itself, the story appears in Luke and Acts, and in … Read more »

November 26, 2017

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24 Ephesians 1:15-23 Matthew 25:31-46 “Thin Sheep, Fat Sheep, This Sheep, That Sheep”  I don’t know about you, but I’m getting pretty used to all this sheep and shepherd imagery in the Bible. Granted, it’s not exactly something I have a lot of experience with – sheep, or farm animals in general. But I think I get the picture of what it’s all about. The shepherd cares for the sheep. Makes sure they’re fed. Protects them from predators. Leads them to green pastures and beside still waters. Sometimes the shepherd even goes off to look for a lost sheep, if he’s willing to risk the rest of the flock. And that’s the kind of shepherd that God’s supposed to be – one who cares about each individual sheep and rejoices over every one that’s found: Thin sheep, fat sheep, this sheep, that sheep! The prophet Ezekiel is one of the Biblical writers who compares God to a shepherd who cares for, feeds, and guides the People of Israel. They’ve had a number of human leaders ruling over Israel at this point, but Ezekiel accuses these kings of being false shepherds – looking out for themselves instead of the sheep, ignoring the needs of the people, and allowing them to be scattered. Ezekiel’s talking about kings that totally messed up – failing the people and letting them be conquered by foreign powers – failing so badly that some of the people have been sent into exile in Babylon. So … Read more »

May 13, 2018

Acts 1:1-11 Luke 24:44-53 Ephesians 1:15-23 “Stay with me, Mummy!” In the church today, we celebrate Ascension Sunday – remembering the day that the Risen Jesus was taken up into heaven. In the world today, we celebrate Mothers’ Day – giving thanks for the women who nurtured, loved, and protected us in our growing up, and perhaps still today. The two celebrations are not related, but they happen to land on the same day this year, inviting us to make connections between our faith and our family life. We may note that God is often described as being like a heavenly Father to us – providing for our needs, loving us unconditionally, guiding and directing us to become the faithful people he hopes we will be. But the Bible does not refer to God exclusively in masculine metaphors. There are, albeit few, feminine metaphors used to describe God in the Bible too. One of the common images is God as a mother bird sheltering her children under her wings. We see this in Ruth 2:12 – “May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” The psalms also pick up this mother bird image, like in Psalm 57 where the psalmist prays, “I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” And then Jesus uses the same metaphor when he laments over Jerusalem. He says, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets … Read more »