Learn more about the readings, music, and worship-service planning helps for the Ascension of Our Lord (May 10, 2018).
Season & Preparations
The Ascension of Jesus took place forty days after His resurrection. This means it is celebrated on a Thursday. Some congregations have Thursday worship services to celebrate Ascension. Other congregations choose to celebrate Ascension on the following Sunday (replacing the Easter 7 readings with the Ascension readings). This post will focus on the Ascension readings.
The paschal candle represents Christ’s bodily presence on earth. While we note Christ’s promise to be with us always (Matthew 28:20) and His presence is the Lord’s Supper, Christ does bodily ascend into the heavens, where He is seated at God’s right hand. One option for observing this is to extinguish the paschal candle after the reading of the Gospel during the Ascension service. The paschal candle should remain in the sanctuary unlit for Easter 7 and Pentecost Sunday. After Pentecost, congregations may choose to remove the paschal candle from the sanctuary or keep it in the sanctuary unlit through the Pentecost season. The paschal candle is lit for baptismal services and funerals regardless of the time of the year. The color for Ascension is white, just as it has been since Easter Sunday.
Readings & Theme
The first reading for the Ascension of Our Lord comes from Acts 1. This section records the disciples’ final question to Jesus and His final words to His disciples. He says in Acts 1:8, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Jesus’ final words to His disciples are a promise that is fulfilled beginning at Pentecost, a mere ten days away. The disciples continued to fulfill Jesus’ final words by being witnesses of His resurrection for the rest of their earthly lives.
In the Epistle, from Ephesians 1, Paul also testifies to Jesus’ ascension and continued reign, noting that God “seated him [Jesus] at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” (vv. 20–21).
In the Gospel, from Luke 24, we receive a bit more information regarding Jesus’ instructions to His disciples. He tells them, “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (v. 49). That promise is, of course, the Holy Spirit. The disciples respond to Jesus’ ascension in faithfulness. Luke finishes his first book with these words: “And they [the disciples] worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.” (vv. 52–53).
Hymns & Music
The Hymn of the Day for Ascension is “Up through Endless Ranks of Angels” (LSB 491). Stanza four is one of the simplest and most stunning doxological stanzas in all of hymnody.
Other Ascension hymns to consider include “A Hymn of Glory Let Us Sing” (LSB 493), “See, the Lord Ascends in Triumph” (LSB 494), “Crown Him with Many Crowns” (LSB 525), and “Christ the Eternal Lord” (LSB 829).
Additional Resources for Worship & Study
For teaching the story of the Ascension to children, consider using the Arch Book Jesus Returns to Heaven.
Interested adults should consider Luther’s Works, Volume 77 (Church Postil III), which contains some commentary from Luther on the Ascension.
Looking for additional information on planning for the Ascension of Our Lord? Download our planning sheet to help you get started!
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.