THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD (OBSERVED) AD 2019
TRINITY EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
REV. KURT E. REINHARDT
Acts 1:1 In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, 2 until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 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.
4 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; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? 7 He said to them, It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 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. 9 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. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 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 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 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, 18 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, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 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. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Luke 24:44 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. 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 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.
50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple blessing God.
A little prince and a King gathered the faithful together in Halifax Nova, Scotia this past Thursday evening. They drew them out of the world into the forecourt of heaven to witness their coronations.
Thursday was the feast of the Ascension of our Lord, when the Holy Christian Church pauses in silent awe, to see her Lord ascend as man, to be crowned and seated on His heavenly throne at the right hand of the Father. For centuries on the 40th day after Easter she has stood still with the apostles, on that hilltop near Bethany. With bated breath, she has turned her eyes to the skies to see the Lord Jesus taken up into the clouds.
For the Church that day always ranked right up beside Christmas and Easter as one of her highest feasts. Sadly, for many even of the faithful, it can pass with little thought. Few churches even have a service anymore to mark this great day. It’s hard enough to get people to sit in a pew at Christmas and Easter, let alone trying to draw them out on a Thursday evening, after the May long weekend has already ushered in summer.
Of course the devil is pleased as punch about all of this, because the last thing that he wants is for people to take a moment to witness Christ’s ascension, because if they do, they just might take a thought about what it means for them. And that, beloved, would be sheer disaster for him, because his lie would be completely undone. As the prince of this world, the old serpent wants you above all things to believe that you are in his power.
That lie, though, simply cannot stand with your heart and mind fixed on Christ, seated at God’s 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. No, the lie cannot stand, when you see Christ crowned in power and might at God’s right hand, with His wounded foot firmly planted on the ancient serpent’s crushed head.
With your heart and mind filled with that truth, beloved, it doesn’t take much to drive the devil away when he tries to deceive you into working your way into heaven by trying to be a good person, or drag you down to hell, by accusing you of all the ways that you’ve failed to be that good person. With your eyes on a crowned enthroned Jesus it’s easy to say, “Shove off Satan, because I’m not buying what you’re selling.”
“Work my way into heaven? No, why would I bother trying to do that? For a poor sinner like me, that will only lead me to live a lie, that I am what I am not, or drive me to despair. And besides all that why waste my time trying to do what Christ has already done for me? Look at Jesus seated at His Father’s right hand as flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone. Work my way into heaven? Why, you old snake? In Christ I am most surely already there.”
And my sins? Well, what of them? Foul? Rotten? Stinking? Indeed! Great and terrible too! And most definitely damning! Straight to hell that’s where they should take me! But no, they can’t and they won’t, because look up there to the right hand of the Father, you foul fiend, and see my High Priest, seated in power and might, after having made the sacrifice to pay for each and every one of them. Finished. They are finished, and so are you!
A prince of heaven that is what I am. No, I may not look like it, and sadly, I may not always act like it, but that is what I am. No question about it. Because like little Frederic Cyr who was baptized in Halifax this past week, I too was claimed by the Father in the waters of Holy baptism and crowned with Christ, as I was royally anointed with the Holy Spirit. Conceived in sin as a son of Adam, and born into the world deceived into being your child Satan, I was, however, reborn in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’s name, and torn out of your hands to become an eternal child of the most high God.
Since the Son of God came down from heaven and lived, suffered and died for me that I might ascend into heaven in and with Him, in my Baptism, a circlet of heavenly gold was placed upon my head, as truly and surely as it was placed on little Frederic this past Thursday night. As Christ’s life was my life and His death my death, so too His crowning was my crowning. He was not crowned as God after all, because as God He always was, has and ever will be crowned. No, He was crowned as man, so that I could be crowned in Him.
A prince of heaven, that is what I am, beloved. No, it may not be as easy to see it in me as it was to see it in little Frederic the other night, as he was prized and cherished by his parents and family as the true gift from God that he is, but it is true nonetheless. As it is most surely true for each and every one of you in Christ. Here you must turn your eyes away from yourselves, and take your stand with the apostles’ on that hilltop near Bethany, and look to Christ and Christ alone, as He ascends to the Father, and know that through your Baptism you are being carried up into the clouds with Him.
Living in this broken world, with the brokenness of sin that still clings to us, and Satan and our consciences endlessly accusing us, I know that this can be hard to believe and hold on to, beloved. But the Lord doesn’t want you to doubt it, but know that it is all true. It is why He didn’t simply disappear from sight, but ascended in His flesh and blood before the apostles’ eyes, so that through their witness, the Holy Spirit might ever set it before the Church’s eyes, as He has set it before our eyes today.
Royal children of the most High God, that is what you are through your Baptism into Christ. And that you might not only cling to that reality, but boldly take your stand in it, the King of Heaven comes to you in His flesh and blood, to renew you in that baptismal truth. “Take and eat. Take and drink.” He says. “You are in me and I am in you. Where I have gone, I have already carried you in my heart, and made a place for you there. And so do not doubt, but believe that one day, I will take you there to live and reign with me.”
A little prince and a King, gathered the saints in Halifax together on Thursday evening, to witness their coronations, as we have surely gathered here today to witness our Saviour King’s crowning at the right hand of the Father in our own turn. As we depart from this forecourt of heaven back into the world, may what we have seen and heard here, make us a little more aware of that circlet of heavenly gold that also rests on each of our brows, that we may live in the truth of our Baptism into Christ, and know the peace and joy that comes from living in that reality. Amen