May 24, 2020: Ascension Sunday

Let us pray: Lord, on this glorious Ascension Sunday we join with saints and angels in praising You for Your victory over all evil on our behalf and we join them in celebrating Your victory in heaven.  We’re thankful  that after all the pain and suffering You finally got to “go home” and bask in glorious bliss.  Your happy heart makes our hearts joyous, too!  May we never grow tired of that feeling!  Amen


TEXT:  Acts 1: 1-11

Dearly Beloved in Christ:

          In order to truly appreciate the meaning of the Ascension, we need to go back and ponder some of the truths of Christology.  We know all about how Christ was true man, or fully human.  All of  us can recite the Christmas story from memory where it is spelled out.  Being true Man isn’t a cliché.  It means that Christ as both God and Man possessed all the essential characteristics which make us, us, with one exception: He was without sin.  Recall the passage: “Christ was tempted in every way that we are, yet He was without sin.”  That means that Jesus had a human emotional side.  He laughed, He cried—Jesus wept, He got angry—think of the money changers in the temple, He was sad—as He wept over Jerusalem’s plight on the way to Golgatha, and on it goes.  There are various passages which spell out these emotions.  And where did such emotive responses come from?  Where did they originate for Him and for us?  Obviously, the answer is: God.  For God Almighty has an emotional side.  He gets angry—Sodom and Gomorrah.  Prayer is a “sweet-smelling offering” to Him, so it makes Him happy.  The same was true after completing creation—“Behold it was very good.”  God even felt grief over the sorted state of  mankind before the Flood.  So, the emotional side of Christ was present in both the God side and the human side of Christ.  

I fear many often view Jesus as a robot creature–that He was detached from all those raw emotions that make us, us.  Or, that such emotional responses in life are somehow misguided or wrong.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  Emotions are neither.  Emotions aren’t the problem, but sin is.  And Christ was without sin.  Evil had no hold over Him.  In fact, His whole work was about saving us eternally from evil’s influence.  And on the cross, feeling unimaginable pain, Christ did just that.  He died to sin and in the process put sin to death—all this for us.  Then He arose to restore lasting life to us.  All this made Him relieved, vindicated, and satisfied.  It made us glad beyond measure.  And now, 40 days after Easter, it would further fill His heart with joy because He finally got to go home and reap heavenly accolades.


          So, for me, Ascension is all about joy.  It is my favorite church holiday. For on Ascension He finally reaped His much-deserved heavenly homecoming party!  All the other holy days are about Christ doing something, working out our salvation.   But Ascension is all about Him receiving something—praise and adoration, from joyous saints and angels.  And now this would never cease!  The victory over the dark powers was complete!  They can never be resurrected because death lost and Christ won!  Yes, forgiveness conquers power.  The King of forgiveness has made it so.

          I guess I would liken  Ascension to a Medal of Honor winner coming back to his or her hometown for the first time.  They had already saved lives, thus winning the medal, defeated the enemy, gone to the White House for the grandiose ceremony, and made headlines.  They were basking in thankfulness and satisfaction.  In this case, it was God’s Son, basking in that glory.  But when He came to His hometown, heaven, and was welcomed by its inhabitants, well, the sound shook the cosmos, the trumpets brayed even louder, and the applause and celebration was beyond all compare.  How must Christ have felt over all this!?  It swelled His human heart and soul.  And as to His Godly side, well, it made God glad and extremely satisfied over a joyous victory!  The Giver of all good things finally became the Receiver of all good things.  And this party has no end.


          Celebrating a loved one’s well-deserved accolades is a joyous time in our lives.  The disciples got to do it with angels announcing His departure to them.  They celebrated in hearing that announcement that someday: “He will return in the same manner as you have seen Him go.”  Then He will take them into glory, too.  And so it is for us today.  For that promise of God extends to each and every faithful believer in Christ.

          Meanwhile, we have no lasting fears.  For our Lord is in heaven at God’s right hand exercising all power for our benefit.  He’s in heaven listening to our every groaning and laying our petitions before His Father, knowing that the Almighty will hear, listen to, and grant them better than we can ever express.  He knows our emotional state.  He truly has felt our pain.  And from heaven He can do something—everything—to alleviate it. 

          Ascension is my favorite holy day because it is all about genuine joy without end.–  Christ’s joy that we get to share in.  What a privilege it is to be a part of such joy.  Every Lutheran knows from confirmation class that “Amen” means: This is most certainly true!  And so we end this little homily with: Amen, Amen, and Amen!


Pastor Thomas H. Fox     

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