In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ is a Feast of the Incarnation. It is a celebration that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, became Man. He took up our flesh by means of our distant kinswoman, that royal peasant of David’s line, from Nazareth, the Virgin Mary. His Holy Spirit overshadowed her. He was conceived in her without the aid of a man, with only God as His Father, His only-begotten from eternity and His only-begotten of a woman in time. All this that He might raise up for Himself in Himself a worthy sacrifice to atone for all the sinners who ever sinned. God has provided the Lamb for the offering. The cords that bound us to Hell’s altar were severed. By being Man, God has fulfilled the Law in His dying, rising, and, in His ascending.
By becoming one of us, a Man, God elevated our position. One of the Holy Three is one of us. God is Our Brother. By virtue of that holy Incarnation His Father is Our Father. Likewise, by that holy Incarnation, the Spirit processes to us and is Our Guide. In this way, we enjoy greater honor and privilege than Adam and Eve did before the fall. Heaven is better than Eden.
To there, to heaven, the Body mocked, beaten, and nailed to the cruel tree, but raised again to life, has gone. From there He sends His Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth who lives in us and leads us into all Truth, who bears witness of Him and what He has done. From there He mediates and intercedes. He advocates. At the right hand of the Father He pleads our case in the scars of His holy Office. But His Body in heaven is exalted, glorified, for this Man, flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone, ransom for our sin, is also God, has always been God and will never cease to be God. There is no division between His natures. There is only one Christ. He is capable of being everywhere for He is omnipresent. He has no limitations, save those He sets for Himself. So it is that He who ascends into heaven promises to His disciples, and also to us, “Lo, I am with you always.” And He is.
His Body ascended. But He, His Body borne of Mary, is not gone. He is present for us in Word and Sacrament. He is present for us in His Body in the Holy Communion. He who died, lives. He who went away, is here. For in His last testament, His dying promise, He said, “This IS my BODY given for you. Do it. Eat it.” It was given on the cross, a sacrifice for guilt, and it is given now as the benefit of that sacrifice, the removal of that guilt, by being eaten. It is the Body crucified, risen, and ascended for you. It joins you to Him by His entrance into you. It is a Holy Communion, a uniting of the God-Man to your sinful flesh, sinful no more, but pure and immaculate as He is pure and immaculate. This Body is Jacob’s ladder. In the Holy Communion, the Feast of His Body, we join with angels and archangels, they descend by this living Bread, and join us. Christ ascended into heaven, but Christ is here. He joins us to heaven, to angels, and to the saints before us. We are in heaven though we are on earth for we are with Christ and the holy angels. Our sins are removed, forgiven by Divine declaration and Grace! We feast on the foretaste of the feast that will not end.
This is what the Ascension is about. Not about Christ leaving us, for He has not left. It is about Christ preceding us. He goes to prepare a place for us even as He is still with us, still for us, still in us. He who broke down the gates of Hell that locked us in has also broken down the gates of Heaven that kept us out. His holy, precious Blood and His innocent suffering and death has paved the way, broken the trail. He is Our Captain. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. There is no one to accuse you. There is no more guilt, shame, or regret. Your sins are forgotten.
Death is dead. Life lives. Heaven is open. For Christ, Our Brother and our Savior, has ascended, has gone up with a shout. Let the shout be: “Hallelujah!”
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Rev’d David H. Petersen, Pastor
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana