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Going up: Ascension Day

An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive

Suitable for Key Stage 3

Aims

To reflect upon the meaning of the Ascension for Christians.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and two readers, who will need time to rehearse prior to the assembly. The limericks, in particular, need to be clear and slick in their delivery.

Assembly

Leader: All religions have their festivals. Sometimes, we can join in, even if we don’t belong to the religion in question. In this country, everybody knows the Christian festivals of Christmas and Easter, and many people join in. However, fewer people know about the Christian festival of Pentecost or Whitsun and, when it gets to Ascension Day, very few people know what to say about it - even some Christians, whose religion it belongs to.

Reader 1: Ascension Day is when Jesus went up (or ascended) to heaven. Listen to how Luke describes it in his book, the Acts of the Apostles.

Reader 2: ‘When Jesus had finished speaking, as the disciples were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud received him out of their sight.’ (Acts 1.9)

Leader: This belief in the ascension of Jesus to heaven was important enough to get into the official Christian creeds. One of them says:

Reader 1: ‘He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father’ - at the right hand of God!

Reader 2: The words are simple enough, but what do they mean?

Leader: Let’s listen to a limerick by Terence Copley that might help us to understand.

Reader 1: Once a year comes a day called Ascension
                To which Christians pay little attention -
                Jesus soared to the sky
                And is seated on high -
                He’s with God in another dimension.

Leader: Let’s listen to Luke’s short account again.

Reader 2: ‘When Jesus had finished speaking, as the disciples were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud received him out of their sight.’

Leader: Here are some clues to explain it.

Reader 1: In the ancient world, people thought and talked of heaven, God’s place, using words such as ‘up’ and ‘above’.

Reader 2: In the Hebrew Bible, a cloud often refers to the glory of God.

Reader 1: So, the story is another way of saying . . .

Reader 2: . . . that Jesus went to be with God, into God’s presence, and he wasn’t seen here on Earth any more.

Leader: Being ‘called up’ is still a symbol of reward or recognition.

Reader 1: In school, someone can be called up to receive a prize, sports colours, a cup or a trophy.

Reader 2: In university graduation ceremonies, students are called up to receive the degrees they’ve worked hard for.

Reader 1: God calls Jesus into his presence and awards him the best place . . .

Leader: . . . so Ascension Day isn’t really about whether Christians believe that Jesus went into a cloud and vanished, but their belief that God called him up for the top award.

Reader 2: Jesus did not stick around for a pension,
                He did not stay behind in detention,
                He went home to his dad
                Like any good lad -
                And that’s what is meant by Ascension!

Time for reflection

Leader: Christians believe that Jesus was alive when he ascended to heaven. They therefore believe that he is alive today. This is a fundamental belief of the Christian church. Christians believe that Jesus can help them in any situation because they believe that Jesus is alive. They believe that they can pray and receive answers to their prayers. They believe that they follow a leader who is alive forever.

Publication date: May 2018   (Vol.20 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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