I think that one practical implication of the ascension for our corporate worship is that the general tone of the Lord’s Supper should be joyful and celebratory. When we receive the Lord’s Supper, we are not re-creating the Last Supper on the night before Jesus died. Rather, we meet in real time in the present with the risen, ascended, and glorified Christ! When we focus on the cross in our communion songs or meditations or prayers, it ought to be a joyful proclamation of the victory that he won in his death. On this side of the resurrection and ascension, we can now see the cross as the place where Jesus reigned, where he destroyed the old creation order and in doing so, released the world from its bondage to Sin, Death, and the Devil. And of course our communion songs and prayers and meditations should not only be about the cross but also about the resurrection, ascension, and the future fullness of the kingdom yet to come. And that means it is an occasion of supreme joy at the victory of God, of supreme hope in the coming consummation of the kingdom, and of supreme love for the presence of the ascended Christ.
—Michael Farley, Worship Reformation Network post
The dust of the earth is on the throne of the Majesty on high.
—Rev Prof John Duncan (1796-1870) (a minister of the Free Church of Scotland, a missionary to the Jews in Hungary, and Professor of Hebrew and Oriental Languages at New College, Edinburgh; he was affectionately called Rabbi Duncan because of his knowledge of Hebrew and his heart for the Jewish people)
The Ascension doctrine helps us to keep a balance between seeing God in Christ as “one of us” and Christ as “from the heart of God.” Too great an emphasis on the Incarnation can distort this balance, so that worship is centered exclusively on the human aspects of worship—our concerns, our needs, our agenda, and our material world. Worship, unless corrected by the dimension of heaven, can become earthbound. The Ascension doctrine reminds us that there is another dimension to worship. We join Christ—rather than Christ coming down to join us – in the eternal nature of heaven, and there our worship is caught up with that of the angels and archangels and the apostles of every generation.
—Peter Atkins, Ascension Now: Implications of Christ’s Ascension for Today’s Church, 83-4
Q. If you could name one theological theme that worship committees could well spend time reflecting on, what would it be?
A. Christ’s ascension.
As our ascended Lord, Jesus not only receives our worship but also perfects our prayers. In fact, Jesus “always lives to intercede for us” (Heb. 7:25). Jesus (and not any other human worship leader) is the true lead worshiper. As we worship it is fitting to think of Jesus as active: praying for us, perfecting our prayers, giving us full access to God. This is pastorally significant because it welcomes us to offer worship even in weakness (Heb. 4:14-16).
Importantly, when we imagine what our ascended Lord is like, we need a balanced view, remembering the one who appears like both a Lion and Lamb (cf. Rev. 5), the one who is both cosmic Lord (Col. 1) but also “who has been tempted in every way, just like us” (Heb. 4:15).
As you study this theme, ask yourselves how well your congregation’s musical diet conveys these themes. Ask worshipers how they imagine what Jesus is doing today (we often fail to realize how active in prayer Jesus is today). Finally, ask whether and how your congregation celebrates Ascension Day. Most of us can do better at giving attention to this remarkable event.
And when we do celebrate Ascension, we need to do a better job of keeping in mind not only Christ’s ongoing role as King, but also his role as Priest (and Prophet). For more insights and practical suggestions on this theme, see Gerrit Scott Dawson’s Jesus Ascended: The Meaning of Christ’s Continuing Incarnation (Presbyterian and Reformed), and the fine article by Laura Smit in Reformed Worship 79.
—John D. Witvliet, Reformed Worship Issue #80 (June 2006)
TODAY IS ASCENSION DAY!
How does Christ’s ascension into heaven benefit us?
First, He is our Advocate in heaven before His Father. [Rom 8:34; 1 John 2:1]
Second, we have our flesh in heaven as a sure pledge that He, our Head, will also take us, His members, up to Himself. [John 14:2; 17:24; Ephes 2:4-6] [As John Duncan put it, “The dust of the earth is on the throne of the Majesty on High.”]
Third, He sends us His Spirit as a counter-pledge, [John 14:16; Acts 2:33; 2 Cor 1:21, 22; 5:5] by whose power we seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God, and not the things that are on earth. [Col 3:1-4]”
—Heidelberg Catechism, Question 49
The Ascension of Christ doesn’t mean absence; it means sovereignty, exercised through the Spirit.
—N. T. Wright
In the ascended Christ there exists our human nature rendering to the Father the glory which Man was created in order to render.
—Arthur Michael Ramsey, The Glory of God and the Transfiguration of Christ, 94