Saturday, May 23, 2020

Sermon for 5/24/20: Ascension of Our Lord (Observed)

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Ascended and Still Here

Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

What a difference forty days makes! The Evangelist St. Mark records that, on Easter morning, the women fled from the empty tomb, saying nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. Forty days later, everything changes! From now on, no matter what we face, God never abandons us, never leaves us alone. The apostles, once hidden in the upper room for fear of the Jews, now venture forth, armed with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Jesus has sent His men to preach His good news to all creation. He has put His name on us in the waters of Holy Baptism, promising that whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved. He has reclined with us at Table, feeding us His body and blood for the forgiveness of all our sins.
God won’t abandon us. How do you know? Jesus was taken into heaven and now sits at the right hand of God. Jesus, who is both true God and true Man, sits right next to His Father and our Father, whispering in His ear that Jesus has died to redeem sinners. A flesh-and-blood Man has the eternal attention of the Father, speaking to Him on our behalf, and His innocent crucified body and shed blood testify on our behalf. This is the miracle of the Ascension of our Lord: in ascending to His Father, in sitting at the right hand of God, Jesus lifts and exalts humanity in Himself.
How often does the Ascension Gospel get bumped from your mind? Or to ask the question another way, how often do you think about the Ascension of our Lord and what it means for you? Do you consider it at any other time than when we mention it in the Creed? How often do other things take over and leave you sad, mopey, and despairing? How often do you wonder if God loves you—or does He even bother to think about you at all? How often do you allow yourself to believe that you’re too great a sinner, that you’re too bad a person for God to forgive? How often do you despair of God’s goodness for you?
When these thoughts confound you and cloud your thinking, remember that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God. Don’t despair anymore! Whatever else is true about you and God, this is the most sure: the One who died on the Cross, who rose on Easter morning—Jesus Christ, God with us in human flesh—now sits at the right hand of God for you. Everything that God does, He does through His right hand for your good. Jesus is there for you: your friend, your advocate, your high priest, your Savior.
With Jesus at the right hand of the Father, there is no power, no event, no authority in heaven, on earth, under the earth, or anywhere else, that can lay back on you the sins you have committed, so that you need to despair ever again. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Satan may prowl around like a roaring lion, but his teeth have been pulled; he has no more power over you, no accusation to make against you. You belong to God; Jesus has set you free!
What a difference forty days makes! Like the disciples, we have been tempted to live in fear, whether from disease, financial disaster, or any other tribulation that afflicts our daily lives. But Jesus has entered into our shuttered, fearful hearts, and has breathed on us to give us His peace and the Holy Spirit. He has made Himself known to us in the breaking of the bread of the Holy Supper. And now He stands with us and promises to be with us now and always, even to the end of the age. We have nothing more to fear, for Jesus, who sits at the right hand of God, promises that He will be with us now, and He promises that we will be with Him forever. Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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