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Why This Dark Conspiracy (Psalm 2)

Scripture References

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

The confessions make it clear that the ascension of Christ opened the door to the rule of his kingdom. This fact is comforting to those who love him and is a fearful threat to those who despise him. The response therefore is praise and adoration from people of faith, and resistance from those who reject him.
 
Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 27 affirms “All authority, glory and sovereign power are given to him,” and reaffirms it in paragraph 43: “Jesus Christ rules over all.”
 
Consider the clear affirmation made in Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 19, Question and Answer 50: “Christ ascended to heaven to show there that he is the head of his church, the one through whom the Father rules all things.”
 
It is no wonder that those who despise him join together to conspire against him, for Christ’s aim as Lord is to “destroy the devil’s work…every force which revolts against you and every conspiracy against your holy word” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 48, Question and Answer 123).

Call to Worship

Almighty God,
as we prepare to worship today,
we ask that you will stretch our imaginations
to sense the majesty and mystery of your ascension.
Help us perceive how Jesus’ presence in heaven
can give us confidence in our praying
and hope for the future.
Through Jesus, our Lord. Amen.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

God has ascended amid shouts of joy,
the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets.
Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.
For God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.
God reigns over the nations;
God is seated on his holy throne.
—Psalm 47:5-8, NIV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Jesus ascended in triumph,
raising our humanity to the heavenly throne.
All authority, glory, and sovereign power are given to him.
There he hears our prayers and pleads our cause before the Father.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
Come, let us worship and bow down.
—from Our World Belongs to God, st. 27
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Lord God,
the words “Jesus is King” come easily to our lips,
yet we often fail to grasp the significance of what they mean for us.
In this service, help us worship you in spirit and truth,
and give us a vision for how we may live in homage to you
every day of our lives, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Words of Praise

We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty,
the one who is and who was,
for you have taken your great power
and have begun to reign.
Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Christ.
Great and amazing are your deeds, Lord God the Almighty.
Just and true are your ways, King of the nations.
Lord, who will not fear and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come and worship before you,
for your judgments have been revealed. Amen.
—from Revelation 11:17; 12:10, NIV; 15:3-4, NRSV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty;
the Lord is robed in majesty
and armed with strength;
indeed, the world is established,
firm and secure.
Your throne was established long ago;
you are from all eternity.
Your statutes, Lord, stand firm;
holiness adorns your house
for endless days.
—Psalm 93:1-2, 5, NIV
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Confession

Call to Confession
While we claim to celebrate the ascension of our Lord,
the way we live proclaims our lack of faith
in his power to deal with the world.
Let us confess the incongruity between our faith and practice.
Let us pray.
Prayer of Confession
We come, O Lord, on this day of glory to confess our lack of trust.
While we sing of your lordship over all creation,
we have too often acted as though you are powerless
in the face of today’s events.
Help us to live with confidence in your presence today
and in hope for life with you forever. Amen.
[Reformed Worship 11:22]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Assurance

Our hope for a new creation
is not tied to what humans can do,
for we believe that one day
every challenge to God’s rule
will be crushed.
His kingdom will fully come,
and the Lord will rule.
We long for that day
when our bodies are raised,
the Lord wipes away our tears,
and we dwell forever
in the presence of God.
We will take our place
in the new creation,
where there will be
no more death
or mourning
or crying
or pain,
and the Lord will be our light.
Come, Lord Jesus, come.
—from Our World Belongs to God, st. 55-56
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Christ, while his disciples watched,
was taken up from the earth into heaven.
He remains there on our behalf until he comes again
to judge the living and the dead.
Christ is true human and true God.
In his human nature Christ is not now on earth;
but in his divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit
he is never absent from us.
Christ is our advocate in heaven in the presence of his Father.
We have our own flesh in heaven
as a sure pledge that Christ our head
will also take us, his members, up to himself.
Christ sends his Spirit to us on earth as a corresponding pledge.
By the Spirit’s power we seek not earthly things
but the things above, where Christ is,
sitting at God’s right hand.
Christ is seated at the right hand of God
to show there that he is head of his church,
the one through whom the Father rules all things.
Through his Holy Spirit he pours out gifts
from heaven upon us his members,
and by his power he defends us and keeps us safe
from all enemies.
In all distress and persecution,
with uplifted head,
we confidently await the very judge
who has already offered himself to the judgment of God
in our place and removed the whole curse from us.
Christ will cast all his enemies and ours
into everlasting condemnation,
but will take all his chosen ones to himself
into the joy and glory of heaven.
—from Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A’s 46-47, 49-52
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Our ascended Lord gives hope for two ages.
In the age to come, Christ is the judge,
rejecting unrighteousness,
isolating God’s enemies to hell,
blessing the new creation in Christ.
In this age, the Holy Spirit is with us,
calling nations to follow God’s path,
uniting people through Christ in love.
—from Our Song of Hope, st. 5
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Ascended Lord Jesus, help us to turn our thoughts toward you. We confess to
you this Ascension Day that we so often fail to take you into account. Sometimes
we do not set our minds upon you because of sheer laziness—it’s easier just to go
with society’s flow. Sometimes we do not take you into account because of simple
inattention—we just forget to look for ways in which we could serve your gospel
in a given situation. At other times we have not turned toward you because we have
actively and willfully decided to turn away from you.
When and where we fail to be transparent to your cosmic lordship, please
forgive us. By your Spirit of Pentecost, sent to us precisely because you are reigning
on high, help us to see this world the way you see it. From your exalted throne you
are able to see us and this world and its many hurting people clearly and well. Help
us to open our own eyes. Grant us vision and insight to view the people around us
through the lens of your own compassion.
Sometimes, O God, we conceive of your lordship as regal, powerful, and
perhaps a bit distant. We think your sovereign rule involves mostly quashing evil,
pursuing justice, and judging sin. Remind us by your Spirit that your lordship is
also about being close to people in need. Prod us to recall that in your kingdom,
rulership comes through servanthood and that the hands that uphold our world are
the pierced and tender hands of Jesus. Help us to remember (so that we may imitate
this ourselves) that you see not just evil that needs judging but also suffering that
needs ministry.
For you, O Lord, see the tears of the widowed, the sobs that overtake them when
the rest of us are not looking. You see the disorientation in which so many people
live every day—confusion borne of war, poverty, abuse, or chronic illness. You
see the people in dead-end jobs who trudge to work every day filled with so much
despair that they can hardly breathe. You see those who search a loved one’s eyes
for traces of love but find only an empty stare. As Lord of the earth, you spy every
instance of one person cutting another to the quick, every place where a child lives
in fear, every bar where someone tries to drown their sorrows.
Yet you are our world’s every hope. You are tender enough to weep with those
who weep and yet strong enough to lend comfort and not be consumed with the
sorrows that overwhelm us. You are discerning enough to see where our lives run
off the rails and yet gracious enough to forgive our foolishness and open again
the better path that leads into your kingdom. You are the bright center to all of
life, O God! Your lordship helps us glimpse our future with you in your kingdom,
even as it points the way home.
Make us into people of the ascension, Christ Jesus! Make us your hands of mercy,
your voice of grace, your presence of love. Whatever we do, whether in word
or deed; whatever we see, whether sinful or salacious; whatever we hear, whether
uplifting or depressing; whatever we face in this world, help us to face it in your
power and with the knowledge of your grace and goodness. Help us to be gentle
with prodigal children. Help us to be stalwart in the truth with people in love with
lies. Help us to be radiant with hope with people who fear death. Help us to be your
people, Lord God.
For today, as always, this world needs your shalom-filled presence. Bring peace
to war-torn places and help people everywhere to see in one another your image.
May those who delight in the paths of suicide and destruction be turned instead to
delight in life and in mutual flourishing. End the terror in which so many live, and
thwart the dreams of those who plot still more terror on the unsuspecting. Where
there is hunger, bring bread; where there is drought and thirst, send refreshing
rains; where there is hatred, bring your peace; where there is greed, bring your own
fullness and so turn appetites run amok away from short-term pleasures toward
things that last and that foster richness and plenty for all.
We are the people of your ascension and reign, Holy Christ of God. Whatever
we do, help us never to forget who we are, whose we are, and where true joy may
be found.
In the power and blessing of your name we pray. Amen.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

As followers of Jesus Christ,
living in this world—
which some seek to control,
and others view with despair—
we declare with joy and trust:
Our world belongs to God!
From the beginning,
through all the crises of our times,
until the kingdom fully comes,
God keeps covenant forever:
Our world belongs to God!
God is King! Let the earth be glad!
Christ is victor: his rule has begun!
The Spirit is at work: creation is renewed!
Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!
Jesus ascended in triumph,
raising our humanity to the heavenly throne.
All authority, glory, and sovereign power are given to him.
There he hears our prayers
and pleads our cause before the Father.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
Our hope for a new creation is not tied
to what humans can do,
for we believe that one day
every challenge to God’s rule will be crushed.
His kingdom will fully come,
and our Lord will rule.
Come, Lord Jesus, come.
Our World Belongs to God, st. 1-2, 27, 55
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Additional Prayers

Mighty God and Creator of all, we are made in your image,
yet many deny you and despise the Messiah who is your Son.
By your Spirit, keep us humble and faithful
so that our lives may proclaim our Savior’s love
and inspire others to find their refuge in you.
We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
 

Tune Information

Name
CHRIST IST ERSTANDEN
Key
a minor or modal
Meter
7.7.7.7.4 refrain 4.4.4.7.7.4

Musical Suggestion

Singing “Why This Dark Conspiracy” any Sunday to celebrate the reign of Christ would be appropriate, but it’s especially appropriate on Ascension Day, given the stanza 2 reference to “this Coronation Day.” Beginning the service with this hymn would wake people up to the startling challenge they are laying before all earthly rulers in honor of Christ. Or perhaps this could be sung after a sermon that challenges all leaders, large and small, to “Honor Christ as Lord of all.” Sing with full voice and bold accompaniment.
(from Reformed Worship, Issue 103)
— Emily Brink

This overt Christological paraphrase coupled with the Easter tune CHRIST IST ERSTANDEN (Christ Is Arisen) commends its use in the season of Easter and/or Ascension.

Hymn Story/Background

Psalm 2 may be best known through that famous aria in Handel’s Messiah in which the bass thunders and the strings shudder: “Why do the nations so furiously rage together? And why do the peoples imagine a vain thing?” Psalm 2 doesn’t exactly start off in a way that invites congregations to sing! Yet this royal psalm is one of the most frequently quoted in the New Testament, and it’s applied to Christ, the Anointed One, the great Son of David.
 
This text and tune combination was published for the first time in Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship (2012). Martin Tel, senior editor of that collection, “It is a great match, [especially] for those who have associations with the Easter text.” Norman Goreham agreed: “When I saw the proposed setting for my psalm, I was really delighted… the ‘Lord, have mercy! Christ, have mercy!’ and ‘Alleluia!’ lines respond very well to the intention of the stanzas they follow.”
— Emily Brink

Author Information

Norman J. Goreham (b. 1931) is a presbyter in the Methodist Church of New Zealand. Born and educated in England, he developed a love of Christian hymns as a boy during the Second World War, when, his mother, a devout woman, would sing hymns to her family during air raids to keep everyone’s spirits up. However he did not start writing hymn texts himself until he retired.
 
Ordained in 1958, he served in England, West Africa and the United States of America before taking up residence in New Zealand in 1976. He holds honors degrees in theology from two British universities, is married and has two adult children and two adult grandchildren.
 
He was the winner of the 1977 contest for a hymn to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators and a co-winner in the 2011 Macalester Plymouth Hymn Contest.
 
Other hymns and psalm settings of his have appeared in Hymns for the Journey (Gemini Press International), Singing the New Testament (Faith Alive Christian Resources), Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship (Faith Alive Christian Resources) and Gifts in Open Hands: More Worship Resources for the Global Community (The Pilgrim Press).
— Norman Goreman

Composer Information

Dale Grotenhuis (b. Cedar Grove, WI, 1931; d. Jenison, Mi, August 17, 2012) was a member of the 1987 Psalter Hymnal 1987 Revision Committee, and was professor of music and director of choral music at Dordt College, Sioux Center, Iowa, from 1960 until he retired in 1994 to concentrate on composition. Educated at Calvin College; Michigan State University, Lansing; and Ohio State University, Columbus; he combined teaching with composition throughout his career and was a widely published composer of choral music. He also directed the Dordt choir in a large number of recordings, including many psalm arrangements found in the 1959 edition of the Psalter Hymnal.
— Bert Polman
Hymnary.org does not have a score for this hymn.