May 10, 2018: Ascension

Let us pray: Dear Savior, how wonderful it is to be a part of Your heavenly homecoming!  Although it has already occurred, we still get to participate in praising You and in living in the joy of what awaits us because You have already paved the way!  May we continually live on this high, heavenly plane of existence until the day comes when we can embrace it in glory! Amen


TEXT:  Luke 24: 50-52

Dearly Beloved in our Glorious Lord, Christ!  

Being a part of an event bigger than you are is an amazing experience.  Looking back, I suppose I first felt that rush of emotion when I was about 16.  Our high school concert choir was invited to sing at Concordia College, in northern Minnesota, and to participate in the group concert under the leadership of the legendary Paul Christensen.  His choral music was classic. Everyone who had ever sung sacred music in a choir well knew who he was and appreciated his Godly talent. So, we were bused up on a 3 hour trip. We entered the large Field House where it was held.  The crowd seemed enormous. Then the sopranos, altos, tenors and basses were divided up and mixed in with other singers from around the state. There were about 800 voices that day who would sing together. I still recall Paul Christensen coming to the director’s podium and having us go through the music he had written.  I had never realized or experienced the raw power of an 800 voice choir! But, there I was and the emotions were glorious, all-encompassing, and they transported me to another plane of existence for the next hour or so. It was a choral “mountain-top” experience.

I suppose the same thing occurred for WWII soldiers when they came home and had the famous ticker-tape parade in New York city after winning the war.  And for Lutherans, well, if you ever get the chance to attend a really large joint Reformation service—you’ll experience it there, too.

During such moments, you feel very small, yet very large.  You realize that your voice is one among thousands, yet your voice is special.  Suddenly you’re not alone. You’re part of a tremendous like-minded army that you didn’t even know existed.  And you feel very, very special and very, very blest.

40 days after Easter, Jesus took His disciples and a few others outside Jerusalem to the back-side of the Mount of Olives.  There He blest them, gave them the Great Commission to “go and make disciples of all nations” and then visibly and physically ascended up into the sky before a cloud finally hid Him from their sight. Two angels appeared and reminded the awe-struck disciples that “this same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven will come back in the same way that you have seen him go into heaven.”  In other words, they provided that comforting promise of God that Christ would come again visibly at the end of the world to assume them into glory, too. Meanwhile, they were told to get busy doing His work of sharing the Gospel and saving souls through its life-giving power. And get busy they did! They went to Jerusalem, praised God continually, and finally when Pentecost came 10 days later, the Spirit more fully equipped them to literally set the world on fire for Christ!  

To say the disciples were awe-struck that day is an understatement.  To be sure, they didn’t fully realize exactly what was happening and what it all meant.  They didn’t fully realize that every single angel in heaven was at that instant throwing for Christ the biggest party in the history of the universe.  After all, He was coming home! And yet, over time Ascension became one of those “mountain top” experiences for each of them. For at that moment they became a part of a much greater whole.  To be sure, they apparently said very little as they watched. But the angel choirs filled in for their voices. And after Pentecost they joined with their own full-throated praise, as well!  They realized that they were not alone at all. They were part of God’s army of saints. And tonight, you are too.

St. Augustine spoke of Ascension as being celebrated in the early church way back in Apostolic times.  It was considered one of the three great festivals of the church. The others being: Easter and Pentecost.  Sometimes the symbol for Ascension is a Lion vanquishing the dragon. The Lion is Christ, the dragon is Satan.  This wasn’t to discount Easter at all. It’s just that Ascension was viewed as the final nail in Satan’s coffin.  

In any case, to me it signifies that we poor sinners who have been recreated into saints by the power of God’s grace which engenders faith; we poor sinners are part of an  unseen army. We are powerful and strong, not because we are many, but because Christ is all-mighty! And at the Ascension, He once again proved it, visually, for all to see.  

So tonight embrace the experience.  Lap up the swirl of heady emotions. And lend your hearts and voices to sing His praises once again.  For His homecoming will someday be your homecoming. Never forget, He went there to “prepare a place for you!”  Amen