5/2/2023 4:24:01 PM
On Christ's Ascension I Now Build - May, 2023
Ascension Day is the Rodney Dangerfield of church festivals – it don’t get no respect (and if you’re under 50 and wondering who Rodney Dangerfield is, watch THIS). Many (most?) churches – even WELS churches – don’t have worship services anymore because attendance was so meager. (Okay, some WELS churches with schools DO have Ascension Day worship.) A big reason why Ascension Day don’t get no respect is that almost always Ascension Day falls in May, and May is an incredibly busy month nowadays. This year, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s Assignment (of new graduates as pastors) Day – always the third Thursday in May – falls on Ascension Day too. And here at First Lutheran, with the Sunday before it being Mother’s Day and the Sunday after it being the day we have Confirmation and First Communion, Jesus’ ascension into heaven will be even less apparent. While we may not celebrate Ascension Day the way we once did, I pray that we never lose sight of the great comfort that the message of Ascension Day gives. To review, the Bible teaches that Jesus remained on earth in visible form for forty days after he rose from the dead. He wasn’t always with his disciples, but Luke records that he gave many convincing proofs that he was alive (Acts 1:3) during this time. On the first Ascension Day, Jesus took his disciples for a little walk, east out of Jerusalem, up to the top of the Mount of Olives near Bethany and then…he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight (Acts 1:9). We confess the fact in the Apostles Creed, He rose again the third day from the dead, he descended into hell, he ASCENDED into heaven. But what happened then? The Creed continues, he is sitting at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. I must confess that when I was a kid, I heard these words and pictured God the Father as having a huge right hand on which Jesus was sitting, like a celestial Lay-Z-Boy. But what the Bible describes is infinitely better. It’s the Apostle Paul who gives us the term “right hand:” [God] seated [Jesus] at his RIGHT HAND in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 1:20). And then he shows why that is so important and so comforting. The right hand of God is not a place, but a position of honor and glory: far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the age to come. And Paul then brings it all to a climax: And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be HEAD OVER EVERYTHING FOR THE CHURCH, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. In other words, Jesus – the God-Man – ascended into heaven and it is there that he is ruling over the whole world. More than that, he is directing the events of the world for the benefit of the Church, that is, his believers. Sometimes – maybe often – in our world and in our lives it may be easy to lose sight of that fact. The Bible declares that things are not always the way they appear on the surface. The Bible declares that Jesus knows what is going on in our world and in our lives. More than that, Scripture tells us that Jesus is in control. And most importantly, God’s Word tells us that he has a plan and a purpose to use everything that happens to us and around us in order to bless us and take us to his side in heaven. That’s why we can sing: On Christ’s ascension I now build the hope of my ascension. This hope alone has always stilled all doubt and apprehension, for where the head is, there as well I know his members are to dwell when Christ shall come and call them. Since Christ returned to claim his throne, great gifts for me obtaining, my heart will rest in him alone, no other rest remaining, for where my treasure went before, there all my thoughts will ever soar to still their deepest yearning. O grant, dear Lord, this grace to me, recalling your ascension, that I may serve you faithfully, in thanks for my redemption; and then, when all my days will cease, let me depart in joy and peace in answer to my pleading.