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May 2014

What Goes Up… (Ascension Sunday)

From Saving the Ants, by Ruth Gilmore

For the 7th Sunday of Easter

Acts 1:6-14 “‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing here staring at the sky? Jesus has been taken away from you into heaven, And someday, just as you saw him go, he will return!'”

Preparation: Bring one helium-filled balloon, preferably white. You may attach a long string to it if you wish to retrieve it after the service. Beware of obstacles, such as ceiling fans, during the sermon.

Today is the last Sunday of Easter in the church year. The white cloths on the altar will be taken down and replaced with red ones next Sunday. During this last week of Easter, the church celebrates the Ascension of Christ. Does anyone know what ascension means? (Child may answer correctly.) It means going up or rising. This balloon that I’m holding is trying to ascend.

That is just what Jesus did, he ascended. After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples at different times for about a month. He told them that he would be going home to heaven, returning to the Father, and that the Holy Spirit would come to them.

If I let this balloon go, it will rise up, won’t it? Will it ever come back down? Eventually, it will –  you know the saying, “What goes up, must come down.” The helium inside eventually seeps out and the balloon comes back down. If I let it go now, does anyone know exactly when it will drift back down again? No we don’t know for sure.

Jesus also told his disciples that he would be back someday. He didn’t tell them when, but he promised to return.

Have you ever lost a balloon, or seen someone let go of one? They’ll stand there watching the balloon go up and up until they can’t see it anymore. If it’s a little child who has lost the balloon, there may be some tears.

When Jesus went up into heaven, his disciples were watching. They watched him disappear into a cloud and then they all just stood there, looking up, staring at the sky, until two angels appeared and told them that Jesus would come back some day. The disciples were probably very sad to see Jesus go, and I’m sure they couldn’t help standing there, staring for a while. Do you think they were supposed to just stay there, looking up, waiting for Jesus to come back? No, there was plenty to do while they waited for Jesus to return. The world was waiting to hear the good news, that Jesus was alive!

We can let this balloon go, watch it rise up, and probably sometime during the next few days it will float down. Now when you look at that balloon, remember that while we wait for Jesus to return, we can tell people the good news.

Prayer:  Thank you Jesus, for your promise that one day you will return. While we wait, help us to spread the good news of your love.


4 comments to What Goes Up… (Ascension Sunday)

  • Thank you for the idea to use a white helium filled balloon, it’s a great idea to help the children understand how Jesus left and some day HE will return but we don’t know when. ☺

    • ruth

      You’re welcome, Geraldine. This message has worked really well as the children tend to keep their eyes on the balloon way up high for the rest of the service. Eventually, of course, the balloon does descend, but not for quite a while. Blessings on your ministry!

  • mark

    But it makes Jesus look like an astronaut. If use this sort of illustration when they become teens they will reject Christianity as incompatible with science. I think we have to find deeper ways to tell kids the meaning of this story. It’s not about the direction Jesus went. It’s about us continuing to do the things Jesus did, now that he has gone.

    • ruth

      Mark, I agree that we need to go deeper with older kids about what our mission and calling should be while we wait for Jesus to return. This message is geared towards younger listeners, but it does make the connection at the end about what we should be doing while we wait for the Lord’s return. It encourages listeners to not just stand there staring at the sky, but to share the Gospel. (“While we wait for Jesus to return, we can tell people the good news.”
      The angels that appeared after Jesus ascended did help to shake the disciples out of their dazed reverie. Jesus was lifted up into heaven but there are tasks to do and words of hope to share. We are God’s hands here on earth.
      As for the comment about science… I do not think that Christianity is incompatible with science. God created an amazing and complex universe using fascinating scientific principles that we continue to uncover. Sadly, history shows that the church (not God) has often felt threatened by science and instead of marveling at new discoveries has sought, instead, to squelch them.
      Blessings, Ruth

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