Ascension 2004

Acts 1:1-11, Luke 24:44-53
At Kramer Chapel

In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

For forty days He had suffered in the wilderness. He endured hardships greater than any other man has ever known or survived. He resisted the temptations that we didn´t. For forty days, He fought the devil by His weakness in that barren, dusty place. He overcame Him simply by not giving in, by suffering the abuse and the attacks. That passive resistance led to His ghastly death. He could have stopped it at any time but it was necessary. It was the price of our rebellion. So the devil did his worst. He had his way with Him. He raised up the cross beam of hate. He drove in the killing nails. He mocked and spat upon him. All that through men, his vassals in the Sanhedrin, in the Roman Army, and in the city.

The Lord of Life died, but then He rose. The grave could not hold Him. Death is dead. Life lives. Satan lost. Murderers like us and Barabbas go free. For forty days, Our Lord walked the earth in His Body and Soul. He ate broiled fish. He invited doubters to place their fingers into His side. But during those forty days He no longer denied Himself His Divine rights and attributes. He passed through the stone and through the door in the Body born of Mary. This Man is also God. God comes to us as a Man. God breathed the Holy Spirit out upon His disciples. God gave them authority to preach, baptize, and forgive sins. Finally, all things being complete, God ascended to the Father as a Man, forever elevating our nature and opening heaven for us.

But it was still ten days before the Holy Spirit would light upon the Apostles in fiery tongues. And even when that Spirit had come and anointed them for this preaching, it still was not given to them to know times and epochs. It was but given to them to be martyrs: to witness unto death.

They could not know that the letters they would write would be heard by hundreds of thousands, even millions; that cathedrals would be built in their memory; that pious men and women would forever calling their sons by their names. They could not know all the good their suffering preaching would accomplish. They saw little of it. They followed in the way of the cross. They lived their lives in poverty. They were rejected by men. They were killed for the faith. It was not theirs, this lightening brigade of grace, to reason why. Theirs was just to preach. That is what was given them. That was the charge. They were to be martyrs: to witness unto death.

The Kingdom is not restored to Israel. His Kingdom is not of this world. Instead, the Gospel calls a new Israel forth. He makes men who hated Him citizens in a kingdom of grace. The sons and daughters of Ham and Japheth are welcomed alongside of Shem´s. He raises up praise from stones. These holy apostles are sent to the ends of the earth, to the byways and highways, to the greatest and the least, to the Jews and the Gentiles. For His invitation is not discerning. There is no strategic planning session, no vision for the future, no goals, objectives, websites, or brochures. They just preach. God does the work.

The Word of God goes forth. He accomplishes that for which He was sent and it is to the amazement of those who preach it. The apostles breathe the Holy Spirit back out again. He changes the hearts of men. They proclaim the death Our Lord died and the Life He now lives. Their preaching is the power of God unto salvation. It raises up new men forgiven by the love of God in Christ Jesus. A new and greater Israel is born.

Thus you are free even while you yet endure the bonds of this fallen creation and suffer under temptation. You live even though you die and live the most and the fullest when you are most dead. You do not belong here. Your kingdom is not of this world. You will rise and you will ascend. Our Lord bids, “Follow Me.’ And where He bids, even to heaven, you go.

In +Jesus´ Name. Amen.

Rev’d David H. Petersen
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana

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