Doctrinal Tonic for Spring Celebrations

Resources for Ascension and Pentecost

Our Ascension and Pentecost worship can sometimes use a healthy dose of spring tonic. A robust swig of solid Reformed doctrine will help to kick us out of our lazy, monochromatic approaches to these traditional festivals. Granted, a spoonful or two of Heidelberg or Westminster may be hard to swallow. But they will revitalize our worship planning by steering us to some rich biblical perspectives that we so easily ignore.

So let's take a closer look. There are enough resources here to shape at least two services, and perhaps more, as we celebrate our life in Christ and our life in the Spirit throughout the year.

The Ascended Christ

Our Ascension services often focus on Jesus' kingship. That's a marvelous, even crucial theme. But it's hardly the only one that we should celebrate! This year, why not feature one (or more!) of the other important themes? Our doctrines point us to some amazing Scriptural perspectives. "How does Christ's ascension to heaven benefit us?" (Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 49):

  • "[The Lord Jesus] ascended into heaven ... at the right hand of His Father, making intercession ..." (Westminster Confession, Ch. VIll, 4). I know that's where I'd like my rep to be, permanently enjoying the undivided attention of top management as he pleads my case.
  • "It pleased God... to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus ... Judge of the world" (WC, Ch. VIII, 1). Can't imagine whom I'd rather see on the judge's bench of the highest court in the universe than the One who has already settled my debt!
  • "We have our own flesh in heaven—a guarantee that Christ . . . will take us ... to himself in heaven" (HC, A. 49). No airy fairy, pie-in-the-sky destination for us! Our real-life, flesh-and-blood, material Brother already lives there. That's how tactile and real our hope is!
  • "He sends his Spirit to us on earth. ... By the Spirit's power we make the goal of our lives, not earthly things, but the things above where Christ is..." (HC, A. 49). With Christ's two feet firmly planted in heaven, we live each day with our head above the clouds. We're completely reoriented to "set our hearts on things above" (Col. 3:2).

The Spirit Sent Down

Pentecost Sundays can become listless if we only focus on the Spirit's power to make us evangelize. Of course that's a crucial theme. But it's certainly not the only one!

  • "Through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part... overcome[s|; and so, the saints grow in grace perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (WC, Ch. XIII, 3). That ever-renewing energy Source keeps the really new cleansed me in charge of my rotten and rotting old self long after the Energizer Bunny has gone dead.
  • "[The Holy Spirit] has been given to me personally, so that, by true faith, he makes me share in Christ and all his blessings, comforts me, and remains with me forever" (HC, A. 53). Enough here to keep us celebrating the next decade of Pentecost Sundays.

Have we covered the landscape? Hardly! But we hope the following resources get your creative sap running. They're a small taste of what's coming in The Worship Sourcebook (see p. 37 for more information).


Calls to Worship

Clap your hands, all you peoples;
shout to God with loud songs of joy.
The Lord, the Most High, is awesome,
a great king over all the earth.

The Lord is king, he is robed in majesty;
the Lord is robed, he is girded with strength.
He has established the world,
it shall not be moved.

Since then, we have a great high priest
who has passed through the heavens,
Jesus, the Son of God,
let us hold fast to our confession.
Let us approach the throne of grace with boldness,
so that we may receive mercy
and find grace to help in time of need.

-Words for Worship, based on Psalm 47:1-2; 93:1-2; Heb. 4-14, 16 [1]

Lift up your heads, O gates!
And be lifted up, O ancient doors!
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
he is the King of glory.

Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples.
Worship the Lord in holy splendor.
Tremble before him, all the earth.

—Psalm 24:9-10; 96:3, 9, NRSV [2]

Opening Prayer/Prayers of Adoration

Almighty God,
grant that, as your only-begotten Son, our Lord
Jesus Christ,
ascended into the heavens,
so may we also ascend there in heart and mind,
to dwell continually with him,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end. Amen.

—Book of Common Prayer [3]

Father, O God Most High,
who dwells in the highest of heavens,
we praise you.
Father, O Lord Most Exalted,
beyond our thoughts and imaginations,
we praise you.
We celebrate the victory of your Son
who has overcome death
and saved us from the power of sin.
We rejoice in his exaltation!
Our Great High Priest
has gone before,
has entered into the Holy of Holies,
and opened up a way for us to follow.
In his name, we, too, would enter into your eternal
for he is our priest forever
after the order of Melchizedek.
To him be all praise,
together with you, O Father,
and the Holy Spirit.
One Lord, the same in every age.
A men and amen.

—Loading In Prayer [4]

Prayer of Confession

Almighty God,
you have raised Jesus from death to life,
and crowned him Lord of all.
We confess that we have not bowed before him,
or acknowledged his rule in our lives.
We have gone along with the ways of the world,
and failed to give him glory.
Forgive us,
and raise us from sin,
that we may be your faithful people,
obeying the commands of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who rules the world
and is head of the church, his body. Amen.

—The Worship Book: Service. [5]

Prayer for Illumination

Open our minds to understand the Scriptures, O God,
so that when sin cripples our hope,
we may discover the freedom of your forgiveness;
when suffering and death overtake our lives,
we may know the joy of the risen Christ;
and when we feel abandoned,
we may comprehend the power of the promised Spirit,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

—Revised Common Lectionary Prayers [6]


Child 1: The Word of the Lord from Philippians 2.

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God

Child 2: did not regard equality with God

Child 3: as something to be exploited,

Child 4: but emptied himself,

Child 5: taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.

Child 6: and being found in human form, he humbled himself

Child 7: and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.

All children: Therefore,

Child 7: God also highly exalted him,

Child 6: and gave him the name that is above every name,

Child 5: so that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under
the earth,

Child 4: and every tongue should confess

Child 3: that Jesus Christ is Lord,

Child 2: to the glory of God the Father.

Child 1: The Word of the Lord.

Congregation: Thanks be to God.

— Philippians 2:5-11; from A Child Shall Lead [7].

Call to Prayer

Since we have a great high priest
who has passed through the heavens,
Jesus, the Son of God,
let us approach the throne of grace with confidence,
SO that we may receive mercy
and find grace to help in time of need.

—from Hebbrews 4:14, 16, NIV [8]

Jesus ascended in triumph
to his heavenly throne.
There he hears our prayers,
pleads our cause before the Father,
and rules the world.
Blessed are all
who take refuge in him.

—Contemporary Testimony [9]


Why do you stand here looking into the sky?
This same Jesus will come in the same way as you have seen him go into heaven.
Go and make disciples of all nations, says the Lord;
I am with you always,
to the very end of the age.

—from Acts 1:11, Matt. 28:19-20, NIV [10]


Grace and peace to you
from him who is, and who was, and who is to come,
and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness,
the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the
kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins
by his blood,
and has made us to be a kingdom and
priests to serve his God and Father—
to him be glory and power forever and ever. Amen.

- Revelation 1:4-6, NIV [11]


Call to Worship

Child 1: This is the day that the Lord has made.

Child 2: Let us rejoice and be glad in it! Child 1: This is the day when the Spirit came.

Child 2: Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Child 1: And again I say—

All children: Rejoice!

—Ps. 118:4, Phil. 4:4, from A Child Shall Leod [12]

Opening Prayer/Prayers of Adoration

The love of God has been poured into our hearts,
through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us:
we dwell in him and he in us.
Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his name:
make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises to him:
and speak of all his marvelous works.
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty:
who was and is and is to come!

—Canadian Book of Alternative Services [13]

Refrain: Send forth your Spirit, Lord, renew the face of the earth.

Reader 1: Lord, you have made so many things. How wisely you made them all.

Reader 2: The earth is filled with your creatures.

Reader 1: There is the ocean, large and wide,

Reader 2: where countless creatures live, large and small alike.

Reader 1: The ships sail on it, and in it playsLeviathan,

Reader 2: the sea monster which you made.


Reader 1: All of them depend on you

Reader 2: to give them food when they need it.

Reader 1: You give it to them, and they eat it;

Reader 2: you provide food, and they are satisfied.


Reader 1: When you turn away, they are afraid;

Reader 2: when you take away their breath, they die and go back to the dust from which they came.

Reader 1: but when you give them breath, they are created;

Reader 2: you give new life to the earth.


—With All God's People, adapted from Psalm 104:24-30 [14]

Prayers of Confession

Come, Holy Spirit!
Rain upon our dry and dusty lives.
Wash away our sin
and heal our wounded spirits.
Kindle within us the fire of your love
to burn away our apathy.
With your warmth bend our rigidity,
and guide our wandering feet. Amen.

—Daily Prayer [15]

The Spirit of the Lord fills the world
And knows our every word and deed.
Let us then open ourselves to the Lord
And confess our sins in penitence and faith.
You raise the dead to life in the Spirit:
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
You bring pardon and peace to the broken in heart:
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
You make one by your Spirit the torn and divided:
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

—Enriching the Christian Year [16]

Gracious God, who pours out freely the gift of your Holy Spirit: we confess before you and to each other that we have failed to recognize this most precious gift. We have been satisfied with ordinary things, suspicious of different things, and blind to spiritual things. Cleanse us, O God, with your celestial fire. Burn away our presumptuous self-sufficiency, and open us in faith to receive the renewing touch of your hand. Amen.

—worship Vessels It [17]

Assurance of Pardon

There is now no condemnation for those who are
in Christ jesus.
Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit
of life
sets us free from the law of sin and death.
And if the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the
dead lives in us,
God who raised Christ from the dead
will also give life to our mortal bodies through the Spirit, who lives in us.

-from Romans 8:1-2, 11 11 [81]

The mercy of the Lord
is from everlasting to everlasting.
I declare to you, In the name of Jesus Christ,
you are forgiven.
May the God of mercy,
who forgives you all your sins,
strengthen you In all goodness,
and by the power of the Holy Spirit
keep you in eternal life. Amen.

—Book of Common Worship [19]

Prayers for Illumination

Lord of heaven and earth,
pour out on us the abundant gifts of your Holy Spirit.
May the work begun by the Spirit on the day of
continue in us as we hear your word and do your will.

—Pentecost liturgy [20]

O God, whom we long to know,
O Burning Fire within our souls,
grant to us the tongues of fire,
the sound of rushing wind, your descending
Spirit, that in knowing your Word we might know your
that in following your ways we might live in your
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

—Leading In Prayer [21]

Confession of Faith

In his divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit
Christ is not absent from us for a moment.
By the Spirit's power
we make the goal of our lives, not earthly things,
but the things above where Christ is,
sitting at God's right hand.
Through the Holy Spirit
Christ pours out his gifts from heaven upon us his
The Spirit, as well as the Father and the Son, is
eternal God.
The Spirit has been given to me personally,
so that, by true faith,
he makes me share in Christ and all his blessings,
comforts me, and remains with me forever.

—Heidelberg Catechism [22]

Offertory Prayer

Life-giving Spirit,
bring to the bones of these gifts
the flesh of our actions,
and the breath of our caring,
that our church and our service to others
may come to life in your name. Amen.

—Celebrate God's Presence [23]


Now may the God of hope
fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that by the power of the Holy Spirit
you overflow with love and hope.
Thanks be to God.
Remember that the harvest of the Spirit
is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
The Spirit is our source of life.
Let us therefore walk by the Spirit.

—Pentecost Liturgy [24]

Go forth into the world,
rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia!
The blessing of Almighty God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
be with you this day and forever.
Amen! Alleluia!

—The New Handbook ol tht Christian Year [25]

O God of Strength,
may the boldness of your Spirit transform us,
may the goodness of your Spirit guide us,
may the gifts of your Spirit enable us to serve and
worship you,
now and for evermore.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Vancouver Worship Book [26]

God of power,
may the boldness of your Spirit transform us,
may the gentleness of your Spirit lead us,
may the gifts of your Spirit equip us
to serve and worship you now and always. Amen.

—Celebrate God's Presence [27]


Artwork by Tonja Butler, Irom Icon: Visual Images for every Sunday (O 2000, Augsburg) Fortress 1-800-421-0239), Used by permission.

[1] Words for Worship, Arlene Mark. ed. (Scottdate; Pa.: Herald Press. 1995), 53).
[4] Hughes OUphant Old, Leading in Prayer (Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmam, 1995), 53.
[5] The Worshipbook: Services (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1970).
[6] Revised Common Letionary Prayers (Minneapolis: Fortresss Press, 2002), 124.
[7] Child Shall Lead, John D. Witvliet, ed. @ 1999 by Choristers Guild, published in cooperation with the Calvin Institute ol Christian Worship, distributed by the Lorenz Corp., p. 82.
[9] Contemporary Testimony: Our World Belongs lo God (Cmnd Rapids, Mich: CRC Publications, 1987), 29.
[12] See [9], 88.
[13] Canadian Book ul Alternative Services
(Toronto: The Central Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, 1985), 60
[14] With All God's People John Carden, ed (Geneva: WCC Publications. 1989).
[15] Dally Prayer (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1987), 186.
[16] Enriching the christian year (Coltegeville, Minn: The Liturgical Press), 58.
[17] F. Russell Mitman, Worship Vessels (Cambridge Harper and Row, 1987), 56.
[19] Book of Common Worship (Loulsville: Westminster/John Knox Press. 1993), 56.
[20] Pentecost Liturgy, Church ol the Servant, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

[21] See [4], 158.
[22] Adapted from the Heidelberg Catechism, A. 47, 49, 51, 53.
[23] Celebrate God's Presence (Etobicoke): United Church Publishing House, 2000), 207.
[24] See [20]
[25] The New Handbook of the Christian Year (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986, 1992), 224.
[26] Vancouver Wonhlp Book (World Council ol Churches. Ceneva), 592.
[27] See [23], 210.

Robert De Moor is editor of The Banner. He has also sered as theolgoical editor for RW.


Reformed Worship 67 © March 2003, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.