THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD 2009
Acts 1:1-11, Ephesians 1:15-23, Luke 24:44-53
Ø The Ascension of Our Lord is one of the more overlooked festivals in our Church Year – much less well-known than Christmas, Easter, or Pentecost.
§ There are very few Ascension greeting cards, or Ascension parties.
§ We don’t have Poinsettias or Lilies or Geraniums.
§ The world doesn’t declare it a major holiday.
§ It is hardly even known to the world.
Ø And, to make matters worse, it doesn’t seem like it should be something to celebrate.
§ Jesus leaving us to ascend into heaven?
§ Why would we celebrate that?
§ It makes a lot more sense to celebrate his birth, or his resurrection, or the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
§ So this is really an odd festival in our Church Year.
Ø But I am convinced that it is a very important festival, one that should be celebrated by the Church, and one that I am thankful to be celebrating with you today.
§ I am convinced that the Ascension of Our Lord teaches us some very important aspects of our Christian faith.
§ And particularly, I would like to summarize what this day teaches by saying that it teaches us of the POWER, the PRESENCE, and the PROMISE of our Lord.
Ø First, The Ascension of our Lord tells us about Christ’s POWER.
Ø As St. Paul puts it in our Second Lesson, God’s power was put to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion.
Ø What does this mean? It means that Christ is in control of our world.
§ Not any other rule or authority or power or dominion.
§ Christ is more powerful than of these, because he has ascended and sits at the right hand of the very throne of God.
§ And this is good news.
Ø Albert Einstein once suggested that the most important question in life, one everyone should ask himself, is this:
§ "Is the universe friendly?"
§ One of the gifts of the Ascension to me – of really believing that our Lord has ascended and is sitting at God’s right hand – is that we can answer that question with a definite ‘yes’ – the universe is friendly.
§ Regardless of what is happening in our lives or in our world, we can rest assured that our Ascended Lord is in control and has not abandoned us.
§ The Ascension reveals to us Christ’s Lordship, and therefore his power.
Ø The second word that describes the meaning of the Ascension for our lives might be surprising, but it is PRESENCE.
§ Through the Ascension Jesus actually becomes more present to us than he ever could before.
Ø Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he was confined to the rules of this world – he could only be in one place at one time.
§ He was the Son of God, but he was fully human. And so, he couldn’t be everywhere at all times.
Ø After Jesus ascended into heaven, he could be present everywhere at all times.
§ That is why he told his disciples at one point that it is actually to their advantage that he is going away to Heaven.
§ And that is perhaps why they rejoiced when they saw him ascending into heaven.
· They knew that he would now be with them in a much more powerful way than he ever was before.
Ø That is one of the surprising truths of the Ascension – that Christ can now be present everywhere at all times.
§ Jesus is present with us wherever we are.
§ And he is especially present to us when we gather to hear his word and share his meal.
§ The Ascension tells us not only of Jesus’ power, but also of his presence.
Ø The third word that describes the meaning of the Ascension for our lives is PROMISE.
§ Jesus promises, first of all, to be with us always.
· I think it is significant that Jesus does not promise to be with us always until right before he ascends into heaven.
· That is the way, it seems, that he fulfills this promise – by ascending into heaven and giving to us the gift of the Holy Spirit.
· He couldn’t be with us always until he ascended into heaven.
Ø But his promise is not just to be with us – it is also to come again and bring to completion the work that he has begun.
§ Listen to these words again from the Acts of the Apostles:
§ “While Jesus was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’”
Ø Our ascended Lord promises to come again.
§ And we look forward to that day.
Ø In the meantime, we have a job to do.
§ Rather than stand around gazing up toward heaven awaiting our ascended Lord’s return, we are challenged to go forth in the name of Christ to reveal his power, presence, and promise to the world.
§ We are called, as our Mission Statement at St. David puts it, to “love, serve and proclaim God’s eternal grace to all people.”
§ This is no time to stand around gazing up toward heaven, for we are called to be the body of Christ on earth.
Ø William Barclay tells the story of how an inquirer from Hinduism approached a bishop of the Christian church in India.
§ This Hindu had read the entire New Testament, on his own.
§ And as he read the story of Jesus, he was drawn into its power and promise.
§ As he read, Barclay says, this Hindu “felt he had entered into a new world. In the gospels it was Jesus, his works and his suffering. In the Acts ... what the disciples did and thought and taught had taken the place that Christ had occupied. The Church continued where Jesus had left off at his death. `Therefore,' said this man to the bishop, `I must belong to the Church that carries on the life of Christ.'"
§ That’s what we are, right? The church that carries on the life of Christ, through his power, his presence, and his promise.
§ And we are taught this in a unique way through this festival called the Ascension of Our Lord.
Ø It is, to be sure, a rather overlooked festival.
§ But it is so important, because this festival uniquely reveals to the power of Christ;
§ and affirms for us the presence of Christ;
§ and finally points out to us the promise of Christ to return again.
Ø Trusting in his power, presence, and promise, we live today – obedient to his authority, mindful of his presence, and anxiously awaiting his return.
§ For Christ has died. Christ is risen. And Christ will come again. Thanks be to God. Amen