Thursday, April 28, 2011

Year A - The Sunday after the Ascension of Christ (June 5, 2011)

The Ascension is not one of the best known stories about Jesus, but it offers several rather diverse possibilities for children.  It…

1.      provides an “end” to Jesus’ story and answers the question “where is Jesus now?”
2.      clearly insists that Jesus “passed the baton” to his disciples and us
3.      is an opportunity to review Advent through Easter

So, I suggest using the Ascension texts on the last Sunday of Easter. 

Acts 1:1-11 and Luke 24:44-53

R   Display pictures of Jesus’ birth, healing, teaching, Palm Sunday, Crucifixion, Empty Tomb, and Ascension.  With the children review Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.  Then tell the story of the Ascension in your own words.  Stress that during his life on earth, his disciples knew Jesus as a very special person, after Easter Jesus was different.  He appeared and disappeared sometimes in locked but still ate fish and bread.  Thomas could touch him.  Since the Ascension, people have seen Jesus only in visions and dreams.  Jesus is still alive and is not just with God, but part of God. 

R   Instead of using pictures, bring out seasonal paraments from Advent through Easter.  If you have season banners, hang them all in sequence and walk your way through them.  Or, lay out your stoles in order and match them to their seasons.  Recall things you did during each season to remember that part of Jesus’ life.  Even add them (or let a different child add each one) to your robe as you talk about their seasons and then wear all of them for the rest of the service. 

R Both accounts of the Ascension make it clear that Jesus passes his ministry to his disciples.  Near the end of school many elementary schools have field days featuring, among other events, relay races.  Describe or ask some children to help you demonstrate the passing of a baton in a relay race.  Children could run the perimeter of the sanctuary, carrying a baton which they pass to the next child at the front of the sanctuary.  Then explain that though Jesus did not actually pass a baton to his disciples, he did tell them very clearly that they were to take up his ministry on earth.  His earthly part of the race was complete, but theirs was just starting. 

If you have a wood worker in the congregation, ask him or her to prepare a baton for each child or each worshiper.  Dowels can be cut into 8 inch lengths and the ends sanded.  Wood burn or draw with a marker a cross on each baton.  As you give one to each child say, “NAME, Jesus needs you to be his disciple.”  At the benediction raise a baton in one hand offering it to the whole congregation with words of challenge.  With the other hand bless them, reminding them that God will be with them as they carry their baton.

R Tell the story with movements which you invite the children to do with you.  Begin with hands and faces looking up (as Jesus ascends).  Drop your hands to your sides (as you ponder what the angels said).  Then, go into marching pose pumping your arms (as the disciples take up the task).  Repeat these motions and the angels words during the benediction.

RThe Ascension is about both endings and beginnings.  The end of the school year is also very much about endings and beginnings.  The school year just passed is over.  It is past, but everything children learned, the people they knew, and the things they did during the year will be part of them forever.  Jesus’ life on earth is officially over.  It is now in the past.  But Jesus is still alive in a new way.  Everything he said and did continues to matter.... 

The truth is I think this connection could be useful, but I also followed it to several really dead ends.  If you follow it a conclusion that really works, what about sharing it in Comments.

Acts 1:1-11

R   Have children bring pew Bibles with them to the front before the scripture reading.  Help everyone find the Table of Contents, then the list of New Testament books.  Together read the names of the first four books aloud.  Briefly note that these books contain all the stories about Jesus.  Then read aloud “The Acts of the Apostles” and introduce it as the story of the beginning of the church.  Without reading all the long complicated names of the letters, point out that all the rest of the books, except the last, are letters that people wrote to each other during the stories that are told in Acts.  Then, help the children find Acts 1:1 (give the page number) and read it stopping immediately after “In the first book, Theophilus.”  Identify Luke as “the first book” and introduce Luke – Acts as a two book set that was written for a friend named Theophilus (maybe Theo today).  Then read the rest of verses 1-5.  Briefly summarize the big change that is happening here as the disciples move from being with Jesus to becoming the church.  Send them back to their seats with their fingers holding the place to follow along as you read the whole text for the day.  (This will obviously work only when most of the children are readers.)

Psalm 47

R   Psalm 47 begins with a call for applause.  After pointing this out, teach the congregation a simple short clapping pattern which they then repeat after a worship leader or the choir says each verse or after verses 1, 4, 7, and 9.  You might try clapping the rhythm of the first line of “Peoples, Clap Your Hands!” (Genevan 47 which is # 194 in The Presbyterian Hymnal) or enlist the aid of a music leader in selecting another good pattern. 

R Tie Psalm 47 psalm to the Ascension by reminding people that Jesus was God in human skin.  That makes this a fitting praise for Jesus as he acends.

Psalm 93

R   Psalm 93 celebrates God who is more powerful than the flood waters or the sea surf.  If you have a sound team, work with them to produce a recording of powerful water sounds to play as the congregation reads the psalm aloud – loudly to be heard over the recording.  (Hint, hint: if you produce such a recording, could you post it, and let the rest of us know where to find it, the less technically able among us would be oh so grateful J.)

Verses 1,2,5    any water sounds
Verse 3            rushing water sounds (flood or big waterfall)
Verse4             heavy surf sounds

Ephesians 1:15-23

I think the Contemporary English Version (CEV) may offer the best translation of this text for children.  Today verses 19-23 can be heard as Paul’s comments to the Christians in Ephesus about the Ascension.


19 I want you to know about the great and mighty power that God has for us followers. It is the same wonderful power he used 20 when he raised Christ from death and let him sit at his right side in heaven. 21 There Christ rules over all forces, authorities, powers, and rulers. He rules over all beings in this world and will rule in the future world as well. 22 God has put all things under the power of Christ, and for the good of the church he has made him the head of everything. 23 The church is Christ’s body and is filled with Christ who completely fills everything.


Verses 19-21 describe Jesus Ascension power.  Verse 22-23 then describe the passing of Jesus’ ministry to the church.  Jesus is the Lord of the church.  The church is Jesus body present to do his ministry in the world.

RSpin out specific examples of today’s “forces, authorities, powers, and rulers” and celebrate the fact that Christ is more powerful.  For the children, list all armies (whether ours or theirs); terrorists who kill people to get their way; all presidents, prime ministers, and kings (the ones we like as well as the ones we don’t), any bully, etc.

R   The church as the body of Christ is a metaphor.  To help children explore both sides of the metaphor detail how different people and groups in your congregation serve as different parts of the body.  This would be an easy way to draw children into the “real” sermon.  Laugh with everyone about the idea that the minister might be the mouth of the church.  Then, point out that your mouth will not be around at the swimming pool or at the office this summer when someone needs to stand up for Jesus’ ways or say Jesus’ kind, loving words.  Insist that each of them must be Jesus’ mouth where they are.  Then go on to imagine who are the hands describing what they do being sure to include children serving as hands and so forth.  (Hmmm, I wonder how Jesus’ feet would play soccer?)  Offer children a sermon worksheet with outlines of the body parts you will explore.  Invite them to write or draw in each part at least one way they can be that part of Jesus’ body.

Get someone to improve on this and to feature the parts of Jesus' body
discussed in your sermon. 
As a last resort copy it with my permission and print it "as is."



  1. I love the water idea listed above. Rather than having a recording, though, I'm thinking of having the whole congregation form the background "soundtrack" to the reading, by using our hands and feet as percussion instruments. I found a great, simple way to do this online (originally from a school lesson on how to recreate a thunderstorm):
    I'm picturing the reader up at the lectern, while I and a group of kids "lead" the congregation in making the background sounds. Thanks for the idea!

  2. Love the link to all the water sounds for a thunderstorm! It is a saver! The sounds can also be used to as a backdrop for Psalm 29 which follows a thunderstorm coming in from the sea, rattling the mountains, then moving out into the meadow. If you use those slapping, clapping, snapping motions to create the pulsating sound of the surf this week, people will be ready to turn them into a thunderstorm when Psalm 29 shows up in worship.

    Thanks for pointing us all to this link and possibility.


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