Bradenton-Sarasota Community of Christ
Online Service – May 24, 2020
Welcome! We share in worship today in anticipation of the Holy Spirit to receive blessings as the disciples did. The twenty-fourth chapter of Luke’s gospel states that Jesus was carried up into heaven. This day is now observed by tradition as Ascension of the Lord Sunday.
Hymn of Welcome – Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Prayer for Peace
Maker of all things,
Giver of life,
Commander of chaos,
Conductor of order,
Source of love,
Our souls sing to experience your fullness,
and tremble in your Being.
Open our eyes to witness your presence in and through all, that we might be in awe of our own existence.
May we be overwhelmed with gratitude, our spirits swollen with the undefinable knowledge of your reality.
As our hearts spill over, unable to contain the knowing, may it fall generously upon others that they too become aware of you.
Help us to see deeply, forgive gracefully, and to love thoroughly.
Guide us to opportunities to be your blessing of peace that heals brokenness and enlightens lives lost to darkness. Empower us with the courage to embrace the insecurities of our world, and be a people of peace. Amen.
Call to Worship – Open Our Eyes
Lord, open our eyes to see Jesus,
Open our ears to listen and hear His word,
Open our minds to understand the message you bring us through your Holy Scriptures to receive your blessings. Amen
Morning Message – Evangelist Al Mount
Our theme for this week is Receive Blessing. It is also the 7th Sunday after Easter when we remember the ascension of Jesus into heaven. The thoughts I’m presenting come from the Book of Luke; chapter 24: verses 36-53. I will be looking at the following: 1. The author. 2. What the scriptures say to us and the early disciples. 3. Blessings received.
1. The Author: If you want to know about the “Life” of Jesus, read the book of Luke. The author of the book of Luke might actually be Luke, and not someone else as plagiarism was allowed then. We do know Luke was a physician. It has been said that “a minister sees people at their best; a lawyer at their worst and a physician sees people as they really are.” As Luke was both a minister and physician, he saw people as they were and at their best or at least what they might become. I believe Luke saw people though the Lens of Christ even as we are called to do the same! Luke was a gentile, the only non Jewish writer in the New Testament. His book was written to a gentile, Theophilus; a high official in the Roman Government.
2. The Scriptures: Luke sets the stage in Chapter 24, verse 36 in his book: Here we find the disciples of Jesus huddled in fear, consoling each other in the “upper room”. As Jesus’ followers they feared suffering the same fate as Jesus. The Cross! Suddenly, out of nowhere Jesus appears. As the disciples do not recognize Him, they are terrified! Are they hallucinating?
Verse 38: Jesus seeing their fears tells them to fear not, it is me! Even today Jesus is always telling us as followers to “Fear not!” But Jesus, seeing their fear and shock, tells them to check out the nail holes in His hands and feet. Jesus says, “Touch me, I’m real, you aren’t hallucinating!”
Verse 41: Still these disciples were undecided, not knowing what to think. Napoleon once said “the greatest thing is to be able to decide.” The state of indecision is a place of torment.
Continuing with verse 41, Jesus tells them, “I’m starved!” Responding, the disciples gave Jesus a piece of boiled fish and, as He ate, “THEY WATCHED” still in shock and indecision. As I believe Jesus has a sense of humor, I’m guessing here that Jesus must have been amused and chuckling within himself as he looked at these, his disciples and best buddies.
Now, in verse 44, Jesus begins to get down to the meat. He “reminds” his disciples of what he had shared with them before the cross and how Moses and the teaching of all the prophets spoke of Him, now their prophecies are fulfilled! Jesus brings to their attention that “long ago it had been written how the Messiah must suffer and die and rise again.” It is now that Jesus OPENS their Minds to understand and know. They GOT It! It is their AHA MOMENT!
Remember your AHA moments and the excitement you felt when you finally understood! Imagine Jesus’ joy when His friends finally Got It! Think of our teachers when their students finally “GET IT”; the joy runs both ways between teacher and student!
Now in verse 47, Jesus gives his disciples their first assignment since the cross. Jesus says, “you are to take the message of salvation and forgiveness of sins for all who turn to Me beginning with Jerusalem and from there to ALL nations.” By now the disciples had to be ready to run out the door and dive into their mission! But Jesus says “No!” Say what? Jesus explains to them they are not yet prepared, that they must sit tight and be still “until I (Jesus) send you the Power of the Holy Spirit from on High!” Here we see these disciples had knowledge but not POWER. They would have to wait until Pentecost. Waiting can seem like a waste. But it is the best investment we can make. It certainly was for those disciples as they waited and did receive Power from on High. It was the key to their success in taking the gospel to us gentiles. It’s how we got here!
Today, in our time of waiting, we have the opportunity to prepare for what is yet to come. Read scriptures and all good books, Sit in silence with God etc. By doing so, we will experience our own AHA moments as we too receive Power from on High. The Power necessary for future successes!
Verses 50-53: Here, Jesus leads his disciples to Bethany. “He raises his hands to heaven and blesses them and ascends into the air and up to Heaven.” The world is changed forever! What a blessing Jesus must have lain on His friends. Even though Jesus in the flesh was leaving them for good, they didn’t mourn but were filled with “mighty” joy! This was not the end but a new beginning. They had a friend in Heaven! They no longer feared death as they went fearlessly back to Jerusalem and to the Temple praising God for ALL to see!
3. Blessings: What blessings did these disciples receive? Not limited to the following:
A. They received the blessing of knowing the resurrection is REAL. They could share the good news with conviction and not with fingers crossed. Decision made!
B. They received the blessing of KNOWING the cross was a divine plan from the beginning. Jesus told his disciples, “Thus it is written, that the anointed one should suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.” The cross wasn’t plan B because plan A failed. The cross was a divine plan from the beginning. While it is too deep for me (Al) to understand, it was necessary. If nothing else it shows how deep God’s love is for all creation, including you and me!
C. They were blessed to know and receive the blessings that come from waiting, pondering and preparing and not just “diving in”; the pool needs to be filled with “water”! The time of waiting is precious; it is an opportunity to be taught and blessed from On HIGH and be filled with “water” running over!
D. With the ascension of Jesus, they were blessed to know they had a friend in Heaven; blessed with the KNOWLEDGE that death is not some dark dead end. Yes, fearlessly back to Jerusalem they went and out into the world. And, having received the blessings of KNOWLEDGE, LIGHT AND TRUTH they were set FREE!
May we too receive the blessings of knowledge, light and truth and be set free into the world!
Ministry of Music – God Forgave My Sin in Jesus’ Name sung by Priest Linda Mount
Disciples Generous’ Response
In the classic film, The Red Balloon, a young boy named Pascal befriends a red balloon that is seemingly alive and follows him through the streets of Paris to his home, to school, and even to church. But his mother doesn’t let the balloon in the house, the teacher doesn’t want the balloon in the classroom, and even an official of the church turns the balloon and the boy away.
Pascal and the balloon are confronted by a group of older boys who throw stones, shoot slingshots and eventually stomp all the air out of the balloon. The film ends with a triumphant scene, however, where Pascal ascends into the sky lifted by a whole community of balloons.
Some see a Christology in the film where the stomping of the red balloon represents the death of Christ and the triumph of all the balloons ascending represent how Christ brings eternal life to the world.
How might we respond to the boy? Can we envision hospitality and generosity among us? How do you feel like your generosity enables others? What is “triumphant” about being generous?
Let us respond generously to the ascendant triumph of God’s blessings in our lives. As you share financially through mission tithes, or if you give regularly through eTithing, please use this time to consider your commitment and how you will tithe to your true capacity of time, talent, and testimony.
As you share your mission tithes or if you give regularly through eTithing, use this time to express gratitude for God’s many gifts in your life and to reflect on how we respond faithfully to those blessings. When we understand God’s love and grace are given freely to us, we respond out of gratitude and are liberated to share freely in return.
Closing Hymn – Blessings by Laura Story
“Beloved Community of Christ, do not just speak and sing of Zion. Live, love, and share as Zion: those who strive to be visibly one in Christ, among whom there are no poor or oppressed. As Christ’s body, lovingly and patiently bear the weight of criticism from those who hesitate to respond to the divine vision of human worth and equality in Christ. This burden and blessing is yours for divine purposes. And, always remember, the way of suffering love that leads to the cross also leads to resurrection and everlasting life in Christ’s eternal community of oneness and peace. Trust in this promise.”
Go forth from this moment with open eyes, open ears, open hearts, and open minds to find your AHA moments and receive His blessings! Amen
This service was prepared by Carolyn Deering and Al Mount.