Lectionary -- Easter 7 Year A (Sunday after Ascension; Christian Unity)

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Acts 1:6-14 The Ascension and the promise of the Spirit
Psalm 68:1-10,32-35 Let God arise
1 Peter 4:12-14;5:6-11 the Spirit of God is on you
John 17:1-11 Jesus prays for his disciples

Ascension Day
Ephesians 1:15-23 God raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand
Luke 24:44-53 Jesus' farewell and ascension

Possible Hymns
(Numbers refer to The Australian Hymn Book and Sing Alleluia.)
Shalom, we are one
They'll know we are Christians by our love [We are one in the Spirit]
At the dawning of salvation TIS 392 SA 9
Comfort, comfort all my people TIS 647 SA 25
Glory be to God the Father TIS 142 AHB 84
Christ, whose glory fills the skies TIS 212 AHB140
You servants of God TIS 215 AHB 144
Rejoice, the Lord is King TIS 216 AHB 147
All hail the power of Jesus' name TIS 224 AHB 159
What a friend we have in Jesus TIS 590 AHB 165
Hail the day that sees him rise, Hallelujah! TIS 369 AHB 291
The head that once was crowned with thorns TIS 378 AHB 301
Christ from whom all blessings flow TIS 440 AHB 364
All praise to our redeeming Lord TIS 442 AHB 367
Let us break bread together with the Lord TIS 511 AHB 433
I'm not ashamed to own my Lord TIS 562 AHB 470
Lead kindly light TIS 582 AHB 494

Sermon summary [click here for complete sermon,]

[Note: When this Sunday is Mothers Day, an alternative sermon could be considered]

One in the Spirit

It is easy enough for most people to see that Christian unity has something, indeed a great deal, to do with the presence of the Spirit of God, and unity has been a concern since New Testament times (eg 1 Peter 3:8; Ephesians 4:2-6). That is the same unity that John recalls in John 17:11: That they may be one, as we are one. The kind of unity Jesus asked for his disciples was nothing less than the unity he had with God the Father.

But what are those words of Jesus about being no longer in the world? In other words it is not so difficult to understand the relationship of Christian unity to Pentecost when the promised gift of the Spirit was poured out in abundance, but how is it related to the Ascension? The Ascension of our Lord to be with God the Father, might seem to the modern mind a peculiar thing, and it is. We need to go back a step and take in a little more of what is said in the epistles and gospels about unity in the Spirit, of believers being built up in unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God through the gifts of the Spirit in the church: Ephesians 4:11-13; and see how important is the gift of the apostles for building up unity, but remember too that the Spirit blows where it wills and you cannot say where it comes from or where it will go [John 3:8]

If we go back again to Ephesians chapter 4, we find between the passage about unity in the Spirit with which we began and the promise of unity through the gifts of apostles etc, some strange words about ascending and descending. First note the context, what was Paul saying before he introduced the Ascension? (Ephesians 4:4-7) Then Paul goes on to speak of "Christ's gift" and how it came about. (Ephesians 4:8) Therefore it is said, "When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people."

Imagine the Emperor coming in a triumphal procession into the city with captives and treasure following behind, and think of the promise to his loyal followers sharing in the fruits of conquest. And look now at what the conqueror Christ has captured, "captivity" itself. You might not think in terms of Jesus being lifted up above the clouds; but somewhere, somehow, in your understanding of Christ there must be that vision of triumph over the powers which had held people captive. Then the great outpouring of gifts can be celebrated. (John 3:13-17) That was the purpose of his ascension and their remaining in Jerusalem (Acts 1:4-5 and 6-9), why he had to go to go away (John 14:28-29) and they would be blessed (John 16:5-7).

So in that last great prayer he prayed first for his own glory (John 17:4-5), and then for their unity (John 17:10-11). So may we be blessed.

The commitment of the Uniting Church to unity is set out in our Basis of Union:

The Uniting Church in Australia lives and works within the faith and unity of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. The Uniting Church recognises that it is related to other Churches in ways which give expression, however partially, to that unity in faith and mission. Recalling the Ecumenical Councils of the early centuries, the Uniting Church looks forward to a time when the faith will be further elucidated, and the Church's unity expressed, in similar Councils. It thankfully acknowledges that the uniting Churches were members of the World Council of Churches and other ecumenical bodies, and will seek to maintain such membership. It remembers the special relationship which obtained between the several uniting Churches and other Churches of similar traditions, and will continue to learn from their witness and be strengthened by their fellowship. It is encouraged by the existence of United Churches in which these and other traditions have been incorporated, and wishes to learn from their experience. It believes that Christians in Australia are called to bear witness to a unity of faith and life in Christ which transcends cultural and economic, national and racial boundaries, and to this end the Uniting Church commits itself to seek special relationships with Churches in Asia and the Pacific. The Uniting Church declares its desire to enter more deeply into the faith and mission of the Church in Australia, by working together and seeking union with other Churches.

A Litany for Christian Unity is from a prayer of Fr. Couturier of Lyons, France, who initiated the Week of Prayer for the unity of all Christians. Uniting in Worship.

Alternative sermon summary for when this is also Mother's Day:

Should we celebrate Mothers' Day?

Jesus promised his followers that the Holy Spirit would come to them [John 14:15-21], and he would lead people who keep a close relationship with him to discover the way that God was leading them as things changed in the future. Today we look for guidance on the way things are changing in regard to mothers.

Beware of tribal religion
It is not unusual for loyalty to family, home, community and nation to be combined with religious commitment and it can result in the most terrible sectarian or communal violence as we have seen in recent times in Northern Ireland and Yugoslavia, for example. Jesus had no time for that kind of loyalty which failed to put God first and to accept all people as one human family. [Mark 3:31-35; Matthew 10:37; Matthew 10:36-39; Luke 14:26; cf. John 12:25].

When social pressure has the opposite influence
We have a difficulty of another kind. People are being exploited today by being cut off from their roots, so that in the absence of family and other traditions they are more easily manipulated. This makes the role of mothers in direct teaching of the faith most important.

Mothers should be honoured
As long as we avoid the traps of commercial and nationalistic exploitation and put God first, it is good to celebrate motherhood. Jesus quoted with approval the old Jewish law [Matthew 15:4; and see Exodus 20:12], and took care to provide for his mother [John 19:25-27]. Mothers also embody important attributes of God. We speak of God as Father, saying he is our creator. [Acts 17:24-25 and in the Apostles Creed]. To create means "to bring forth" in much the same way as giving birth, and both men and women are made in the image of God [Genesis 1:27]. He is both Father and Mother. A mother's love lays the foundation of trust on which all future relationships with other people and with God are built. Today public policy needs to be changed to strengthen the role of mothers and families in our economic system, not by going back to old ways but by discovering new ways to value what is important.

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Order of Service - Easter 7 Year A (Sunday after Ascension; Christian Unity)

[Note: This order of service was developed for a "family service" having an emphasis and children and all age participation as part of the celebration of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which is observed at this time of the year in Australia. The service included a group discussion in the place of the sermon and a drama with congregational participation, however a sermon on the lectionary One in the Spirit is provided here also with an alternative for Mother's Day. The local Interchurch Council had also arranged combined services and a progressive dinner at several churches during the coming week.]

Two orders of service
The first is for a regular communion service and the second for an all age celebration with children taking a major part.

First Order

THE GATHERING OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD
LIGHTING THE CANDLE
After the candle has been lit, we prepare in silence for worship.

CALL TO WORSHIP
Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed!

HYMN Hail the day that sees him rise, hallelujah! TIS 369

GREETING
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
And also with you.

PRAYER OF ADORATION AND CONFESSION
During this prayer we sing (remaining seated):
Lord, have mercy TIS 756

DECLARATION OF FORGIVENESS
…. Hear then Christ's word of grace to us: your sins are forgiven.
Thanks be to God.

For the DOXOLOGY Comfort, comfort, all my people TIS 647

INTRODUCTION TO THE THEME
Children's talk

THE SERVICE OF THE WORD
BIBLE READINGS
Acts 1:6-14 The Ascension
John 17:1-11 Jesus prays for his disciples
This is the word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God

SERMON
MEDITATION

NOTICES, JOYS AND CONCERNS OF THE CHURCH
OFFERING
PRAYER OVER THE OFFERING

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
A LITANY FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY Uniting in Worship People's Book p. 181
THE LORD'S PRAYER

THE SACRAMENT OF THE LORDS SUPPER
The peace
Hymn: All praise to our redeeming Lord. TIS 442

The Service of the Lord's Supper continues:
Uniting in Worship, People's Book p. 65

THE SENDING FORTH OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD
HYMN The head that once was crowned with thorns TIS 378
BLESSING

DISMISSAL
Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
In the name of Christ. Amen.

Hymn: Father, bless us as we go TIS 781

Second Order

The Gathering of the People of God

CALL TO WORSHIP
HYMN 84 Glory be to God the Father

PRAYER OF ADORATION
CONFESSION
DECLARATION OF FORGIVENESS
If we confess our sins,
God is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins
and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [1 John 1:9]
Hear then Christ's word of grace to us:
Your sins are forgiven.
Thanks be to God.

HYMN SA 25 Comfort, comfort all my people

WELCOME AND GREETING EACH OTHER

KUCA SONG

Service of the Word

INTRODUCTION OF THEME: Christian unity

[with interviews]

SONG Shalom, shalom [Sunday School and KUCA children]
Shalom, we are one,
Shalom, we are one.
Shalom, shalom.
He gives us his peace,
He gives us his peace.
Shalom, shalom.

FIRST READING Acts 1:6-14 The Ascension and the promise of the Spirit

ANTHEM Choir Faithful God

[PSALM 68:1-10,32-35 Let God arise
[EPISTLE 1 Peter 4:12-14;5:6-11 the Spirit of God is on you
GOSPEL John 17:1-11 Jesus prays for his disciples

HYMN 301 The head that once was crowned with thorns

SHARING THE WORD Group discussion

HYMN 367 All praise to our redeeming Lord

OFFERING AND DEDICATION
SHARING TIME [Notices, celebrations, requests for intercessions]
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
A Litany for Christian Unity
Across all our barriers of language,
race, and nationality:
Unite us, Jesus.
Across all our mutual ignorance,
prejudice and hostility:
Unite us, Jesus.
Across all our differences of thought,
outlook, and religious allegiance:
Unite us, Jesus.
O God, for your greater glory:
Gather together your separated people.
O God, for the triumph of goodness and truth:
Gather together your separated people.
O God, that there may be one flock
and one shepherd:
Gather together your separated people.
O God, to confound the pride of Satan
and his assaults:
Gather together your separated people.
O God, that peace may reign in the world at last:
Gather together your separated people.
O God, for the greater joy of the heart of your Son:
Gather together your separated people.

A SYMBOL IN ACTION In the boat representing the whole church of God [A drama with congregational participation and strong visual effects.]

THE LORD'S PRAYER [Front of the Hymn Book]

The Sending Forth of the People of God

HYMN They'll know we are Christians by our love
They'll know we are Christians by our love by Peter Scholtes is copyright F.E.L. Publications Ltd, assigned to Lorenz Publications 1991, and not reproduced here.

WORD OF MISSION
BLESSING
DISMISSAL Go in peace to love and serve the Lord:
In the name of Christ. Amen.

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