Ascension Sunday/Easter 7
Text: Charles Wesley (1707-1788) Tune: LLANFAIR/ Welsh folk tune arr. Robert Williams (1781-1821)
1 Hail the day that sees him rise, Alleluia!
to his throne beyond the skies. Alleluia!
Christ, the Lamb for sinners given, Alleluia!
enters now the highest heaven. Alleluia!
2 There for him high triumph waits; Alleluia!
lift your heads, eternal gates. Alleluia!
He has conquered death and sin; Alleluia!
take the King of glory in. Alleluia!
3 Highest heaven its Lord receives; Alleluia!
yet he loves the earth he leaves. Alleluia!
Though returning to his throne, Alleluia!
still he calls us all his own. Alleluia!
4 Still for us he intercedes; Alleluia!
his atoning death he pleads, Alleluia!
near himself prepares our place, Alleluia!
he the firstfruits of our race. Alleluia!
5 There we shall with you remain, Alleluia! partners of your endless reign, Alleluia! see you with unclouded view, Alleluia! find our heaven of heavens in you. Alleluia!
WE DID NOT SEE OUR LORD ARISING
1. We did not see our Lord arising
But we have heard the news
Good news and still surprising
And we believe it's true
For we have heard the news.
2. We did not see him in the garden
Or hear his tender word
To Mary whom his love had pardoned.
She knew she'd seen the Lord!
And we believe her word!
3. We did not see our Lord ascending
Into a shining cloud
But we believe that he is sending
His Spirit to us now
Out of a shining cloud!
4. We do not see but we believe him,
His promise to be near;
For through his Spirit we receive him,
The Spirit brings him here,
And so we know he's near.
5. Through Christ we see the Father's glory
And catch a glimpse of heaven.
And when we hear our Savior's story--
What glory we've been given
We catch a glimpse of heaven.
Text Copyright 2009 Wayne Leupold Editions, Inc.
Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer in John 17, the text for today, after his farewell discourses to the disciples, is rich. Here we get an intimate picture of our Lord’s relationship to his Father. In it we overhear his love and concern for us as he prays that we will be kept close to him and his Father.
One of the pieces of it that I get and love is the prayer that used to be prayed after the reading of the Gospel—"These were thy words heavenly Father. Sanctify them in thy truth; thy word is truth.”
I can see my own father praying that prayer after he had read the Gospel lesson for the day, bowing his head solemnly. The gravity and holiness of the moment seemed almost to overcome him. Those of us who were paying attention felt it as well. Here we were, standing in a church somewhere, usually rather simple, hearing from the lips of an ordinary person words that were the truth, that were holy. It was a moment, one could sense.
Through Christ and through the mouth of a human being we were receiving the glory of the Lord.
Although I am not an ecstatic by any means, I live by words and these words bring us glory—one might think of fire breaking out in the air where the words are settling in and doing their work in our hearts. No wonder tongues of fire landed on the heads of the apostles as they were waiting in the Upper Room and received the Spirit. Or wind rushing into the room with a great sound.
I believe it happens every time the word is proclaimed. We haven’t tuned our hearts and minds to see that, nor can we. I am always amazed to hear in the Matthew account of the ascension there were still doubters standing in the crowd with the risen Christ. To believe, they teach us, it is not enough to see, we need the Holy Spirit to help us see. This is what the Spirit is all about—bringing us the presence of Christ wherever his word is proclaimed. No matter how hard we try to see these miracles, we cannot, until the Spirit comes to us and reveals the glory of the Lord in the simplest things where God seems hidden, only to be revealed as we take in the good news. This is why many in the church observe this week, until Pentecost, as a waiting time, remembering how bereft the disciples must have felt, absent their Lord, not yet knowing the coming of the Holy Spirit. While we can ponder what that must have been like, we are not waiting the coming of the Spirit. It has come and we pray daily for it to come again. We can be joyful that we have been quickened by the Spirit who gives us the vision to see the ordinary miracles of grace all around us.
Charles Wesley wrote this for the hymnal he and his brother John published in 1739. It originally had ten stanzas, but three of them have not been sung much and various hymnal editors have condensed and shortened the original in many different ways. It is still one of the most glorious Ascension day hymns and popular throughout the world. The tune is a Welsh folk tune probably known and arranged for this hymn by Williams, a blind Welsh composer.
My hymn was written as a farewell present for my former pastor and his wife, Per Inge and Karin Vik. What struck me as I wrote it was what Jesus says to Thomas, "blessed are those who have not seen, but believe." Every thing we know of in Jesus’ life we believe because of the Spirit.
Mt Olivet Church Arlington, Virginia
The Hymn Club
My book of sonnets Jesus the Harmony has been released and can be ordered both on Kindle and paperback on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Christian Books websites. Here is the Amazon site.