Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ascension Observed Sermon

Ascension Observed – Luke 24:44-52 – May 16th, 2010

Christ is Risen (He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia) Amen +
Today we are observing Ascension day. Technically speaking, Ascension was this past Thursday – 40 days after Easter Sunday. For 40 days after His resurrection our Lord appeared to the disciples in various places, preaching and teaching. And then came time for the ascension. Our Lord’s Kingdom is not of this world, He would not remain to be some showy and flashy King, but rather He would be the LORD of the Church, spreading faith and salvation through the preaching of the Word. And He ascends to heaven. This is something that is a vital part of our Christian faith – not a worship service goes by in this place where we do not confess that He ascended unto heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father and that He shall come again. The ascension is a great part of our hope and joy as Christians – so what makes it so important? That’s what we are going to look at this morning – and I think we can really talk about three things that the Ascension teaches us, that it proves to us.

The first thing that the Ascension proves is that Christ’s work is done. That it is finished. That every word of prophecy has been fulfilled and completed by our Lord. Note what our Lord says to the disciples – “These are My Words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Everything. All of it. Fulfilled. The Old Testament was written for one purpose – to point the people of God to the Coming Messiah, to show them who it was who would crush the head of the Serpent and win salvation – to show them who the true promised seed of Abraham was – to show who would be the One to give Israel true deliverance from bondage – to show what kind of Kingdom great David’s Greater Son would have. All of the Old Testament pointed forward to Christ – Luther is wonderful to read on the Old Testament – He says that every page drips Christ. It was written so that people might know what to look for in the coming Messiah, so that they might recognize Him. That’s why we still read the Old Testament today, why it’s still useful to us – it points to Jesus. Even our lesson today – you have Elijah taken up by the fiery chariots – who is Elijah? The great prophet of the Old Testament, and when his work is done, he is taken to the Lord, and Elisha, who remains, strives to follow in Elijah’s footsteps. That’s foreshadowing for our Gospel – our Lord’s work is complete, and the Apostles remain, striving to follow in Christ’s footsteps and proclaim Him to the world. It all points to Christ.

And it is all complete. It is all fulfilled. There is nothing, not a single line, stroke, or dot of the Old Testament that our Lord has not fulfilled. It’s done. Everything that is needed, everything that is necessary for the victory over Satan promised to our first parents in the garden is completed. Do you understand what a comfort this is? Nothing is going to pop up at the last minute, nothing is going to go wrong, we aren’t going to have to suddenly scramble to some how find more forgiveness or something silly like that. Christ has done in all. For so many things, for so many plans in our life, little details pop up at the last minute, and we have to run around like mad trying to fix things. With your salvation, you will never, never have to do that. It is finished. Christ has done it all, and your forgiveness is won. Your sin is paid for. The fact that Christ has ascended shows and proves that everything is accomplished.

One other note on Christ’s work being done. We hear - Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His Name to all nations.” This is something that we need to remember. Christ tells us what it means to understand the Scriptures. If you want to understand the Word of God, you don’t need to know some bizarre, hidden bible code. You don’t need a special decoder ring. You don’t need some guy on TV telling you that the 3rd cricket in chapter 6 of Jeremiah means in October of 2010 there’s going to be some disaster. In fact, all of that is bunk, is lying spurned on by Satan. Jesus tells us what the Scriptures mean – thus it is written – that the Christ should died and rise and because of this we preach repentance and forgiveness. . . we warn people of sin and then show them Christ Jesus who has died and has risen so that they are forgiven. If you want to grow in your faith – ponder our Lord’s death and resurrection and how it impacts your life. If you want to learn how to be a “better” Christian – ponder how our Lord shows love – while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Show love like that – and when you see that your love falls short, remember Christ’s death and know you are forgiven and hoping and trusting in Him go try again. Everything revolves around Christ – and He has done it all, all thanks and glory be to God. This is what our Lord teaches and proves with His ascension.

There is a second great comfort that comes from the Ascension – something that gets pointed out throughout the Epistles of the New Testament. We have an advocate with the Father. Right now, Christ Jesus, true God and true Man is seated at the right hand of the Father, and He reigns in Heaven. All things are under Christ’s control – and He is there in heaven. And do you know what? You are connected to Christ. I like this word “connected” – a lot of people will talk about having a “relationship” with Christ. . . and we do. . . but the thing is, well, a lot of relationships in this world are messed up. Or they are long distance. Before my wife and I got hitched, we had a relationship – but she was in Norman and I was in Lahoma, and that meant that most of the time. . . well, long distance relationships stink. She’s here now, much better. You do not have a long distance relationship with Christ – it’s not that he’s just up in heaven and you’re down here but you get to call Him every once in a while. . . no – you are connected to Christ. Think on your Baptism – the Triune God claimed you as His own – Christ Jesus said that you would be His dwelling place. You are connected to Christ – personally – you are part of His body – you are more closely connected to Christ than you are to anyone. This is why we are taught that we are part of the Body of Christ – that’s how connected we are to Christ – He is always with us, even to the end of the Age. It makes any “relationship” that we think of pale in comparison.

And right now, your Ascended Lord is seated at the right hand of the Father – and you are connected to Him. Do you see what this means? Right now, heaven is yours. Right now, you get to participate in the heavenly things, in the heavenly life. Because Christ has ascended, we know that our prayers are joined in by the throngs of heaven – you never pray alone – the hosts of heaven pray with you. You never sing alone – you sing off key, who cares, the Angelic Choirs aren’t, and they make your voice sound good… make even my voice sound good. We touch upon heaven now, especially in our worship and our reception of the Sacraments – we are connected to Christ, and so we are connected to something much, much bigger than we often think about. And should Satan ever come and tempt you, ever bother you – tell you that you are alone – you can tell him to go hell, literally, for you are of the Body of Christ, you are connected to your Ascended Lord who reigns in Heaven, and Satan has no right to be in your presence, for where you are Christ is as well. That is what the Ascension shows and gives to us.

And then, there is one final thing that we learn, that we are reminded of with the Ascension of our Lord. I love what we hear in Acts – the Angel who says, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.” The final joy of this Ascension is that we are pointed forward to the Last Day. We need to get rid of this fear that has arisen about the Last Day, the End of the World. You realize that this was what spurred on the reformation – folks were terrified of the Last Day – Luther was worried that Jesus was going to come back and kick his backside all over creation and into purgatory because he wasn’t good enough. That’s what almost drove Luther to despair – and the joy that He discovered is the fact that Christ has done everything for salvation, so we need not fear the last day – rather, as we confess in the Creed we “look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting.” Christ shall return – and it will be good. These stupid things we have to deal with now because we live in a world of sin – then they will be gone. Aches and pains - they will be gone. Difficulty and strife – they will be gone. Even death – it will be gone, and the people it has tried to rob from Christ will return unto us at the blast of His trumpet. This is the promise of the Last Day – and we behold our Lord ascend, we see Him go up, and we know that at some point He’s coming back – and if it’s in our life time, fantastic, if it’s hundreds of years down the line, fantastic – because our Lord shall return, and in our own flesh we will rise perfected and glorious and we who are connected to Christ by the gift of Baptism and faith will rise and shine like His is risen and shines and we too will bodily go into heaven, never more to worry about sin or death or Satan or any of these old familiar foes that we struggle against daily. The Ascension is the promise of that – the promise that He will come again. The promise that we too will ascend to the New Heavens and the New Earth and receive everlasting joys.

This, dear friends, is why we make mention of our Lord’s Ascension in every, every service we have here – it is why we pray “Thy Kingdom Come”, it is why we look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Our Lord is victorious, He has done everything that you need for salvation – and because you are His and His is yours, because you are His Body, you have access to the joys of heaven now even in this world, and you have the sure guarantee of deliverance from this world on the last day, all praise and glory be to Christ Jesus our Risen and Ascended Lord and Savior. Christ is Risen, He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia

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