Sermon Text for Ascension Sunday 2020, Our God is not far from us!

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Ascension Sunday 2020, Our God is not far from us!

  1. Ascension has a long history in the church going back to the 4th century, celebrated 40 days after Easter, as we learn from our reading in Acts.
    1. Theologically, at the Ascension Jesus ended the period we call His humiliation – when He left Right Hand of God to become man born in Bethlehem
      1. He reassumes His place at God’s Right Hand with all glory, honor, majesty as Paul attests in our epistle lesson, “the Father of Glory…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…”
      1. We should celebrate and give thanks for that victory because we worship a mighty King…a glorious God…or as the author of Hebrews says a consuming fire
      1. We don’t praise Christ as we should for His majesty. We don’t fear Christ as we should as our righteous judge.
      1. We don’t marvel as we should at His omnipotence in creating and sustaining all life and the universe
      1. The Ascension gives us a moment to celebrate that, Jesus is at the right hand of God which is not a physical location but the place of honor and power and dominion, where He was before the foundation of the world (Jn 17:5).
    1. But while theologically this is the glorious, victorious consummation of Jesus’ ministry it can leave us feeling a little left out.
      1. After the big game do the heroes know or care about what happens in the fans’ lives?
      1. No, their moment of victory provides a temporary escape for the rest of us from whatever is going on in our lives.
      1. LeBron James, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods or any other sports hero may be nice people but their glory is their own, and their victory doesn’t resolve your problems – you are just a nameless face in the crowd.
    1. It would be easy for us, especially at a time like this, where we’re all separated in our homes, isolated from family and loved ones to think that maybe Jesus has left us, too – He’s back in heaven basking in His glory and we’re left here to deal with our problems on our own.
      1. In those dark nights of the soul it’s easy to ask, “God do you know what I’m going through (illness, loss, financial ruin, isolation…) at this moment?
      1. There was an accident earlier this week just down the road from my house, a 13 yo boy was killed on his bike, I don’t know the family but that incident really shook our whole family, perhaps because of the physical proximity of it
      1. There is a family for whom the world just stopped but the rest of the world (including its heroes) doesn’t notice nor can they do anything if they did.
  2. But unlike any of our human heroes whose victories only redound to their glory our Lord’s victory is our victory,
    1. Paul tells us in Eph 2, But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, our Lord did not leave us after His ascension He raised us up to be with Him  
      1. Paul also tells us that, “Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
      1. He’s not just basking in His glory He is our High Priest continually bringing our praises and prayers to His Father and our Father
      1. At His Ascension Christ displaced Satan who sat as humanity’s accuser before the throne, the book of Job records, “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the LORD and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.
      1. But after Christ’s ascension the book of Revelation tells us, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb…”
      1. Christ is now our heavenly Advocate who pleads our innocence before God because He shed His blood to cover our sin.
    1. But more than having raised us up to be with Him, He promised to be among us even as He intercedes on our behalf in heaven
      1. As you have heard me say before He promises to be wherever two or three are gathered in His Name
      1. And we know He is present in our Baptism by which we have been clothed with Him and in His very body and blood in the Sacrament
      1. Our God is not far from us!
    1. But He is also present in the world and to its people through us, we continue to incarnate Jesus (bring Jesus to life) for the world through what we say and do
      1. So that when anyone wonders whether God cares about their anguish or knows about their pain, yes He knows it because of His omniscience.
      1. But that’s all abstract and meaningless to the person living through hell
    1. However, He knows about it and cares for people and their needs through us – we are His hands and feet, our God is not far from us He is present through us!
      1. When we walk through the valley of the shadow of death with those grieving, suffering, mourning or dying we incarnate Christ’s love…we give voice to His words of love, promise and comfort
      1. Our Lord may be risen and ascended into heaven but He is present and active in world caring for its people, alleviating suffering, comforting the bereaved, carrying their burdens through us.
      1. And as we serve others in their hour of need, in time each of us will be served by our Lord in the same way through His faithful people bringing His words of healing to those who have done it for others.
      1. Beloved in the Lord in this time of isolation and loneliness our risen and ascended Lord is here for us through each other. Our God is not far from us!