Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 4: 1-10
May 21, 2020 A+D
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The times are hard. The future is uncertain. Emotions are high. The science on all sides is sketchy. Only a fool of the highest order would think he knows what is best. All of us chafe to be under anyone else’s authority or in our inability to make others do what we think they should and what would be best for everyone. Nonetheless, despite our various opinions and theories, the sundry wrongs and injustices and slander we’ve all suffered, and though I am not myself without sin, I urge you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called. I urge you to walk with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering. Bear with one another in love. Endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you, though you were many and from scattered families and tribes, were called in one hope of your calling. For there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of us all, who is above all, and through all, and in you, in us, all.
We all know some fear, sadness, disappointment, and frustration. Nor is any of us free of regret or shame. We’d all love to live our lives over again and do better. Nonetheless, God has given grace to each us according to the measure of Christ’s immeasurable gift. God is gracious and has declared us righteous and promises to bring us out of the vale of tears.
When Christ ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men. Having finished the recreation, our salvation, on the cross and shown Himself to the world alive on Easter, instituting the Office of the Ministry and issuing the mandate to preach and evangelize the world, He ascended on high, leading captivity captive. He has led all of our enemies, not just fear, sadness, and frustration, but also sin, death, and the devil, all our enemies have been taken captive, led away from us and rendered them impotent.
And He gives gifts to men. Grace drives and defines all of His gifts. They include Baptism, the Absolution, Holy Communion, the Church, the Keys, Holy Marriage, Prayer, and so forth.
Before Christ ascended, He descended into the lower parts of the earth. He descended to us to win us by sacrifice, to atone for us in His death and resurrection, and to set us up as His own brothers and bride. Then, the task complete, the victory won, He ascended far above all the heavens that He might fill all things.
He ascended to fill all things. In order to descend, He became a Man, but He is not only a Man. He never stopped being God. He died and yet He lives. He is a Man, yet He is God. His ascension to the right hand of His Father is as a Man. He is now and forevermore a Man, but now, as a Man, He does not restrict Himself to a single physical location which He did do for a time. From the time of His conception until His resurrection, He did not always or fully exercise His divine rights and attributes as a Man. But now He does. Always and fully. He ascended as THE Man who goes to His Father for us by right. He is not in His humiliation at His Ascension. He is not seeking mercy or permission from the Father. Rather, He is storming heaven and taking what is His by right and giving it to us by grace.
This is why the angel admonishes the disciples to stop staring into heaven. Christ’s ascension wasn’t a departure. It was a filling. He wasn’t leaving earth. He was filling heaven and all things which the Father has put under His feet and that, as a Man, one of us, for us. So it is that the Sacrament of the Altar, according to His Promise, isn’t simply a reminder of what Jesus once did, but is the risen, Divine Body and Blood of the Man Jesus which joins us to Him, forgives our sins, and proclaims His death. The Sacrament, like the Ascension, is the Christ, as a Man, filling all things. What things are filled in the Sacrament? We are. Without the Ascension there would be no Sacrament.
In Baptism, you were not only drowned, you were also raised and ascended. In the Holy Communion you not only have your sins forgiven, you are also filled with Christ and His righteousness. You ascend with Christ and you reign with Him. Yet, like the disciples left on the mountain, we are still in this world. We have tribulations and we have sin, guilt, and regret. How then can we claim to be filled with Christ? How can we say that we have ascended with Him? St. Paul puts it thus: ”Your life is hidden in Christ with God” (Colossians 3:3) That is it. Your ascension and your glory, your life, is now hidden. “In the world, you have tribulation,” says Christ, “but take heart. I have overcome the world. I have led captivity captive. I give gifts to men.”
Here is your hope in the midst of tribulations for those tribulations have been led captive by Christ. You reign over them. Let that encourage and enable your daily walk that you would walk according to your calling, that you would reflect Christ’s glory and mercy to the world. And rest in this certainty: there will come a time when your life and your glory will not be hidden, but will be made visible to all.
This sermon was helped by the following article: Aaron Moldenhauer, https://lutheranreformation.org/theology/the-reformers-on-the-ascension/