Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sermon: Ascension of our Lord

21 May 2009 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA Text: Acts 1:1-11

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Our Lord spent three years walking with His disciples, teaching men and women of every station in life; preaching in the Temple, on hills and plains, and in synagogues; calling sinners to repentance, healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead, and proclaiming the kingdom. He established the Holy Supper, instituted baptism, ordained the apostles into the ministry, went to the cross, defeated death by dying, trampled the serpent’s head, rose from the dead, descended into hell to proclaim His victory, appeared to the disciples, and promised the Holy Spirit.

And as He appears to the Church for forty glorious days, the one thing left to do is to go back to His Father.

For that is where He belongs. He is God, after all. And the Triune God is bound together in a mysterious way. Having completed His mission, having redeemed the world, our Lord Jesus prepares to leave the world – and yet He doesn’t leave us as orphans.

He and His Father send us the Holy Spirit. Our Lord Jesus Christ has given us His Word and His Sacraments. He has established His ministry to be present with us through those whom He has sent. He continues to forgive sin, to cast out demons, to open the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf, to call sinners to repentance and to call the repentant to new life.

He goes back to the Father, for that is where He belongs: “at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” And yet, that is where we all belong as well. It is indeed where we are headed.

And in the fullness of time, we will join our Lord, we will find a joyful reunion in the Unity of the Trinity and the Trinity in Unity, as creation finds rest in the Creator, and Creator calls creation anew to Himself. When all things have been made anew, we are promised never to again be separated from our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.

And yet, the sad reality for the disciples, and for us, is that while our victorious Lord’s place is at His Father’s right hand, we still live in the fallen world. And, we still have work to do.

We, the Christian Church, are a rescue mission. The war is over but the shouting, and it is our job to be heralds of peace, to call combatants to lay down their arms, to beckon and bid those who continue to wage war against God that God Himself has proffered a peace treaty, a Shalom, a Salem, a peace that passes all understanding – the very “peace” the Lord blessed us with when He first appeared to us after His resurrection.

As with any peacemakers, our job is to bind up wounds, to clean up messes, to gather rubble and begin rebuilding that which was destroyed. Our job is to fend for the survivors, to comfort the widows, to provide for the orphans, to show compassion to those traumatized by the war.

We are in a transitionary government, moving from the old order of sin, death, and the devil to the new order of righteousness, life, and the Holy Trinity. We are moving away from the fallen government of sinful men in which men seek out power to gratify their lust for sake of domination, and are moving toward the glorious reign of our righteous God in which Power seeks out men to bring them love for the sake of mercy.

And while the Lord has gone into heaven to prepare a place for us, He has left us to manage His Kingdom here in this world. He bids us to be good stewards, not merely for the sake of personal gain, but for the salvation of all creation.

And we have no idea how long this operation is to continue: “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority.” But we are charged to remain faithful and carry out our orders. And we are not alone, dear brothers and sisters. Our Lord promises: “[Y]ou will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The Lord continues to be present, to work, to carry out His ministry of reconciliation through His witnesses – in this corner of the globe and everywhere where life is to be found on the planet.

We are to be busy. His work is our work. It is urgent work. It is hard work. It is not work that is rewarded in the eyes of the world. But it is the greatest work of all: bringing the Good News of the forgiveness of sins, peace with God, eternal life, and a new creation to those in dying need of that Gospel. There is no time to stand around idling, gazing up at the sky, and pining away. We are to work while it is day, and we are to be ready lest our Lord return as a thief in the night.

He is coming again, and He is coming when the world no longer expects Him. He is coming to establish His eternal kingdom and to draw us to Himself at God’s right hand.

Hear again the word of the angels, the holy messengers, who asked: “Why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus who was taken up from you in heaven will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.” We should be too busy to look blankly into the heavens, and yet at the same time, we can’t help but take His encouraging words to heart: “I am coming soon,” even as we pray earnestly with the apostles and saints of every time and age: “Come, Lord Jesus!” Amen.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Amen.

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