Friday, June 3, 2011

Lamentable Lapse...

The good brother Will Weedon has written a lament over the slow death of Ascension Day services among Lutherans (and other liturgical churches).  I must admit I too lament their demise.  God has gone up with a shout (says the Psalmist); today He goes up with nary a glance or thought -- a whimper more than a trumpet.  Something wrong here.  In my parish we have a morning service AND an evening service of Holy Communion on Ascension Day (and unless I am wrong we may have a combined 50-70 folks).  But it is also slowly declining in numbers.

I am away for a family wedding and found that very few of the local Lutheran parishes here had an Ascension Day service -- nearly all transferred the day to Sunday following.  How sad!  Why could the LCMS parishes not combine for at least one festival Ascension Day service in a town -- and a well attended one?

Funny how God comes in nearly anonymously -- a few shepherds and some singing angels -- while a world snored away.  His triumphal ascension to the right hand of glory and power was not anonymous.  He spoke clearly about His leaving and the coming of the Paraclete.  His disciples did not want to hear of it ("Where are you going and how are we to know where?") but Jesus was talking about it all along.  Now we face Pentecost (so late this year on June 12) and summer vacations will find Pentecost nearly as forgotten as Ascension Day.  So much for leaving with a shout and the sound of a trumpet.  No one left standing staring into the heavens (except some disillusioned Camping followers).  We are too busy to come Thursday or to gather for the promised Spirit who comes as promised.  We are just too busy then....  The hymn bids us but there are few to hear its urging:

Look, ye saints, the sight is glorious; See the Man of Sorrows now!
From the fight returned victorious, Every knee to Him shall bow.
Crown Him! Crown Him! Crowns become the Victor's brow.

Crown the Savior! Angels, crown Him! Rich the trophies Jesus brings;
On the seat of power enthrone Him While the vault of heaven rings.
Crown Him! Crown Him! Crown the Savior King of kings.

Sinners in derision crowned Him, Mocking thus the Savior's claim;
Saints and angels crowd around Him, Own His title, praise His name.
Crown Him! Crown Him! Spread abroad the Victor's fame!

Hark, those bursts of acclamation! Hark, those loud triumphant chords!
Jesus takes the highest station; Oh, what joy the sight affords!
Crown Him! Crown Him! King of kings and Lord of lords!


Anonymous said...

To celebrate Ascension Sunday is
a way to keep this important church
festival alive rather than lament
small attendance on Thursday night.s

Richard Habrecht said...

To a somewhat lesser degree, I see a declining number of people attending Advent, Lenten, and Holy Week midweek services. I pray this is only in my corner of the LCMS.

Janis Williams said...

I don't know if it's because I was bought up Baptist, (with Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday evening services, and Visitation for the faithful on Monday or Tuesday evenings) or that coming from the heterodox into the clear light of the orthodox makes me LOVE these type services.

It is so great to hear Lutheran pastors speak on this:

The disciples weren't just standing there like deer in the headlights; they stood in wonder and adoration.

The focus is not on us, the 'left behind,' but on Christ! He is ascended to the Father. He sent the Holy Spirit as Comforter and to point to Him. He is gone up so that now we may share in His Body and Blood (a thing not possible while He was still here on earth?). He is Intercessor for all believers now, not limited to about 500 disciples.

What is the Church thinking? This is REAL History, not just the shadowlands of men's industry.