ASCENSION (OBSERVED) AD 2020
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Acts 1:1-11 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you 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.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “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.”
Ephesians 1:15-23For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked 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, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Then he said to them, "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."  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, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.  And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high."
 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them.  While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.  And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy,  and were continually in the temple blessing God.
Having something to look forward to helps you get through so much in life. We’re living that out in ways that we never could have imagined in these pandemic days. Life back to normal, kids back at school, parents back to work, gatherings with friends and family, as many hugs as we want and need, yes, looking forward to these things can help us to get through these long hard distancing days. Looking toward, and even planning for the better days to come, can help you get through what you have to get through to get there.
Yes, looking forward to the good things that lie ahead helps you to do what needs to be done now, so that those good things can one day come. This, beloved, is no small part of what the ascension of our Lord Jesus is all about - setting the good things that lie ahead before our eyes to help us to do what needs to be done now, so that those good things can one day come. Jesus not only ascends before the disciples to show them where He is going, you see, He ascends before them to show where they will follow. He had promised after all when He left them to go and die on the cross, that He would come back and take them, that where He was they might be also.
In His ascension the Lord Jesus in His human body rises up above the clouds to show, that as one of us He has taken His rightful place of power and might at the right hand of the Father. As the Son of God this place was always His, as it has been since eternity, but on the Mount of Olives forty days after His resurrection the Son of God ascends in His flesh and blood according to His human nature to show us, that the One who became man to be our brother and so make us children of His Father, holds all the power of heaven and earth in His hand. As His resurrection from the dead showed Christ’s power over sin, death and hell, His ascension shows it over all things.
Yes, with Christ’s ascension God sets before our eyes the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us (something that is good to have in mind in these trying anxious filled days of the Covid 19 pandemic). As He lifts up our Saviour far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come, He wants to build up our faith in what this Saviour can do for us now and into eternity. Yes, beloved, while He wants us to know that we have a Saviour who truly became man and took on our weakness so that He could suffer and die for us He wants us to know now, that nothing can or will overcome Him.
And since the Father has put all things under His feet as the head of the Church, He wants us to know what that means for each one of us who have been baptized into that Church to be members of His body. I know, beloved, with all that’s going on in our world in this age and in these days, in the trials and struggles that we face as a Church and as Christians, that it can be hard not to live and act as though we still have a Saviour who can be beaten up, scourged and crucified at the hands of sinful men, as we are spat upon and despised in society, even deemed “non-essential,” when our world and land need our prayers more than ever and are in desperate need of the forgiveness and life that we have to give out.
And so this day the Lord in His mercy sets before our eyes again the glorious ascension of Christ, to ground and deepen us in what is really real when it comes to our place in this world and in the one to come. Yes, even now with everything turned upside down all around us, with normal life unhinged in so many ways, the Lord wants us to see His Son our Lord and Saviour ascended in power at His right hand crowned with glory over all things that we may not doubt but believe, that He is in control of all that is happening, and that we are being shielded from it all by His almighty hand. Yes, beloved, we truly can breathe easy in these trying anxious days because Christ truly has all things under His feet. There really is nothing to fear or be anxious or worry about. The Lord Jesus really does have it all under control.
And yes, we do have wonderful things to look forward to, that is put beyond all shadow of a doubt, as through the eyes of the apostles we see Christ ascend outside of Bethany to the place, that He has promised one day to take us to be with Him. Yes, beloved great things lie ahead for us - things that are far greater and better even then life getting back to normal with kids at school, parents at work, gatherings with family and friends and even overdosing on serotonin, the feel good chemical you get a dose of with every hug. Far greater (as hard as that may be to imagine) and far surer as well. Yes, beloved, far greater and far surer, because unlike all those things that in these pandemic days we long and hope to get back to someday, when its safe to do so again, the things that God sets before our eyes this day come with no condition or threat, that they might have to be withdrawn from us.
Yes, at times it can be hard to get through what we’ve got to get through now, by looking forward to what we’ll do when life is allowed to get back to normal, because the powers that be are always talking about something that they call the “new normal” and how even that might be taken away from us, if they think at some future time they need to do so for safety’s sake. Hope? Yes, there is a hope that things will get better, but, no, it’s not a sure and certain hope, not by a long shot. A sure and certain hope, however is what we have set before our eyes with the ascension of Jesus today, as He shows us where He is and will be taking us. Sure and certain because in a very real way what lies ahead is already all ours in Christ.
As the Head ascends, after all, He already takes His body with Him. One day, yes, we will have our eyes opened to see it, feel it and know it fully and completely, but as surely as we have been baptized into Christ the fullness of it all is already ours, even if it can only be held onto by faith. As a baptized child of God, beloved, you need to know that there is a glorious inheritance for you in Christ Jesus, one that cannot and will not be taken away from you. There is a place waiting for you in joy and glory at the right hand of the Father, that Jesus has prepared for you, and is keeping for you, even as He is at work in this time through His Spirit to keep you for it, by building you up and sustaining you in your faith in Him.
Something to look forward to, something indeed, look through eyes of the Apostles this day, beloved, and know that for certain, as your Lord and Saviour ascends before you to the place, that He has promised you too will go. With that truth before our eyes and planted deeply in our hearts truly we can get through anything, even the trials of life under Covid 19. May God by His Spirit keep it before us and plant it deeply within us and so ever sustain us in the sure and certain hope that He has called us to in Christ Jesus. Amen.