Christ has Ascended, the Spirit’s Come . . . Now What?

I wonder what it was like to have a conversation with a friend who then disappeared in front of your very eyes. Can you imagine being part of a prayer meeting that lasted nine days while you prayed for, well, you weren’t entirely sure what to pray for, but you were told to wait and pray so you did? I wonder what it was like to be at that first Pentecost, to have felt and seen the Holy Spirit move in such a powerful way? I wonder how many times during those days the disciples turned to each other and asked, “Christ has ascended. Now what? The Spirit has come. Now what?” This issue of Reformed Worship asks that same question: Now what? What difference do Christ’s ascension and Pentecost have on our daily living and our worship? Christ has ascended, the Spirit’s come . . . now what?

We begin with Christ’s ascension. In this issue we focus on the connection between Christ’s ascension and Pentecost. In doing so we consider the practice of using the nine days between the two celebrations to focus on the fruit of the Spirit and to pray that the fruit may grow in our own lives and in the church universal. See “The Fruit of the Spirit: Connecting Ascension and Pentecost” (p. 3) for service plans and a link to devotionals. For a confession litany related to the fruit of the Spirit, see page 10. Brian Hehn provides us with songs of mystery and diversity that are appropriate for Ascension Day and Pentecost Sunday worship (p. 11). Continuing our recent focus on including children and youth in worship, Michael Huerter looks at songs that encourage us to consider the experiences of different age groups in our congregations (p. 14).

The Spirit’s presence in our lives as our comforter and advocate reminds us that we are not alone. Throughout the centuries the church has found particular comfort in the words of Psalm 23. This issue’s worship series provides twelve Sundays’ worth of worship suggestions as well as prompts that encourage faith practices to help us open ourselves up to the work of the Holy Spirit throughout the week. In addition to its many creative suggestions, this series also highlights the art of a high schooler and shows again how we might include our youth in various aspects of worship (p. 18).

One way the Holy Spirit is at work in our worship is through the preparation for and preaching of God’s Word. The whole congregation participates in that work by listening intently and intentionally to God’s Word as it is proclaimed. John Witvliet suggests some practices for strengthening sermons (p. 29), while Scott Hoezee encourages the preaching of both trouble and good news (p. 34). Between the two articles is a reproducible resource intended to help all ages in your congregation listen to what the Spirit is saying through the preached Word (p. 31). This issue ends with two articles and a resource assuring us that the Holy Spirit is at work not only on Pentecost, but throughout the whole year and in all places, and then encouraging us to join in that work.

Our hope is that just as the Holy Spirit is part of each article and resource, both explicitly and in less obvious ways, so too may you experience the working of the Holy Spirit in both the unexpected and the everyday. It is that faithful, daily work that is the answer to the question “Now what?” Now we allow our hearts, lives, and actions to be shaped by the Holy Spirit as we work alongside the Spirit to usher in God’s kingdom here on earth.

Rev. Joyce Borger is senior editor of Reformed Worship and a resource development specialist at the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.

Reformed Worship 147 © March 2023, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Used by permission.