A Creation Litany for Ascension

by Christine Sine

by Christine Sine

Ascension Day is today, May 26th. In the post I wrote a few years ago Ascension Day is Coming – Do You Know What it Means?, I listed a number of resources for Ascension Day. This is not a celebration I grew up with and until recently I did not know that this is not just a celebration of the ascension of Christ, it is also a celebration of the new creation that God brought into being through the ascension of Jesus.  So this year I thought I would focus on Jesus as gardener of the new creation in my reflection.

I recently read Worshipping in Season: Ecology And Christ Throughout the Liturgical Year by Joseph E Bush Jr. and I was intrigued by his comment that when Christ ascended to the right hand of God he did not disconnect from the earth. In fact quite the reverse. Because God is everywhere, the right hand of God is everywhere too. When Christ ascended, Bush explains, he ascended to fill all things and to fulfill all things, reigning within creation not as some disembodied powerful ruler who stands over all creation. (p116)

The imagery of Christ as gardener is very special to me. As a keen gardener  I am intrigued by the concept of Jesus as the gardener of the new creation a concept which grows more powerful for me each year as I continue to garden and reflect on the God who is revealed as I do so. I have written about the Garden Walk of Holy Week on a number of occasions, but thought that this year I would extend it to Ascension Day.

From The Drogo Sacramentary a Carolingian illuminated manuscript on vellum of c.850, vis wikimedia Commons

From The Drogo Sacramentary a Carolingian illuminated manuscript on vellum of c.850, vis Wikimedia Commons

Some theologians think that the whole theme of the Gospel of John is that of new creation. Most of the book of John (chapters 12-20) takes place during one week in the life of Christ. John concentrates on themes. One theme is that Christ will redeem all of Creation (not just souls) through Re-Creation. In many ways, Jesus’ death was like the planting of a seed (Unless a seed is planted in the soil and dies it remains alone, but its death will produce many new seeds, a plentiful harvest of new livesJn 12:24).  Then in John 20:15 we read: “she thought he was the gardener”  Why did it matter that Mary Magdalene thought that Jesus was the gardener? I know I have written about this before, but I wanted to summarize it again as a prelude for my litany.

In the beginning God planted a garden – the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:8).  In the beginning of the new creation brought into being by the resurrection and ascension of Christ, God now in the form of the risen Christ is once more seen as a gardener.  The hope and promise of these words which we so often skim over is incredible.  As we read in 2 Corinthians 5:17

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.”

The new has come – On Good Friday Christ was planted in a garden – his mortal remains were placed in a garden tomb just as we plant seeds in the ground. On Easter Sunday we celebrate the hope that planting gave birth to. All around me seeds have sprung into life. New creation has indeed begun and we see in its birth the promise of many lives renewed, restored and bearing fruit.

A couple of years ago Good Friday and Earth Day coincided and I wrote a litany to reflect that. Then when Easter Sunday rolled around I knew I couldn’t leave it at the Cross but needed to bring the litany a step further as we celebrated Easter and the beginning of this new creation. Now I have embraced Ascension Day as well seeing the culmination of our celebration in God’s new creation and our responsibility to grow it.

Mark’s gospel is the only one that includes the story of ascension and invokes the idea of creation in the commissioning of the disciples to proclaim the gospel “to the whole creation.” We are called not just to bring healing and salvation to others but to the whole creation.

“Indeed the signs that accompany this proclamation demonstrate a resurgence of spiritual power for believers acting in Jesus name within the world of nature. In addition to speaking in tongues, these signs include casting out demons, healing the sick, being able to pick up snakes, and being able to ingest poison without harm. The power present among the believers is manifest in creation and signifies the ascended Christ’s reign in creation through these signs by believers “using my name” (Worshiping in Season Joseph E Bush Jr)


God all of created life is groaning waiting for the future you have prepared for us,
We hope for the day on which all you have made will be rescued from death and decay,
We wait for the redemption of our bodies and the restoration of our world.

In my opinion whatever we may have to go through now is less than nothing compared with the magnificent future God has planned for us. The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own. The world of creation cannot as yet see reality, not because it chooses to be blind, but because in God’s purpose it has been so limited – yet it has been given hope. And the hope is that in the end the whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay, and have its share in that magnificent liberty which can only belong to the children of God!

It is plain to anyone with eyes to see that at the present time all created life groans in a sort of universal travail. And it is plain, too, that we who have a foretaste of the Spirit are in a state of painful tension, while we wait for that redemption of our bodies which will mean that at last we have realised our full sonship in him. We were saved by this hope, but in our moments of impatience let us remember that hope always means waiting for something that we haven’t yet got. But if we hope for something we cannot see, then we must settle down to wait for it in patience. (Romans 8:18 – 25 (Phillips Translation)

God in this season of hope and promise, bless the earth rich and fertile with life,
God in this season of planting and growth, bless the seed we plant and nurture,
As it falls into the ground to grow, may we remember your body broken for us.

Unless a seed is planted in the soil and dies it remains alone
But its death will produce many new seeds,
a plentiful harvest of new lives (Jn 12:24 NLT)

God as we sprinkle our gardens with the water that gives life,
May we remember earth that is parched and that is flooded,
May we remember land devastated by war and denuded by misuse.
May we remember Christ that your life blood was poured out for us,
You were hung upon a tree and crucified,
So that together with all your creation we might be liberated into freedom.

Open up O heavens and pour out your righteousness
Let the earth open wide
So salvation and righteousness can sprout up together (Is 45:8 NLT)

As we watch for the first sprouts of new creation,
We remember your resurrection promise,
A new world is being birthed with justice and peace and love,
With abundance and wholeness and healing.

Look I am making all things new…
On each side of the river grew a tree of life
Bearing twelve crops of fruit with a fresh crop each month
The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations (Rev 21:5; 22:2 NLT)

Jesus our hope lies not in your death but in your resurrection,
Not in your dying but in your rising again,
We wait in hope for your promise to be fulfilled,
Death is conquered, resurrection has begun,
May your healing be revealed in our bodies,
May your healing power be seen throughout the earth,
May we all participate together in the coming of a new heaven and a new earth.

Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.  “Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”  She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”   She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”  “Mary!” Jesus said.  She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).  “Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”  Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.  (John 20:11–18 NLT)

Hallelujah, Christ is risen
You who are the gardener of the new creation,
Cultivate the new seeds that have sprung into life,
Bring growth, bring blossom, bring fruit,
May your new creation flourish in us, through us around us,
So that all the world may say together,
Christ is risen he is indeed Hallelujah.

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it. Mark 15:16-20 NIV

Because Jesus ascended  and sits at the right hand of God,
the sprouts of new creation are growing,
And a new world has broken into ours.
A  world in which justice does come for the poor,
freedom comes for the prisoners,
and healing for the sick.

Because Jesus ascended  and sits at the right hand of God,
a new community has been formed –
a community that loves and cares for all members,
a family that welcomes all who are abandoned and rejected,
a place where all find a place of belonging.

Because Jesus ascended and sits at the right hand of God,
a new creation has begun –
all that was distorted is being restored,
all that is corrupted is being renewed,
all that was broken is being made whole.

Because Jesus ascended  and sits at the right hand of God,
God’s new world has begun. 


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