Soli Deo Gloria. Amen.
Invocation In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1 In Christ's ascension there is more than meets the eye. The apostles see Jesus as he is received up into heaven. They watch with their own eyes as a cloud hides Jesus from their sight. But St. Mark, in his gospel also reveals that when Jesus ascended into heaven, he
[St. Mark 16.19b]
sat down at the right hand of God.
This is the unseen aspect of the Ascension. Together with St. Mark, St. Peter, St. Paul, and the author of Hebrews all say the same thing: that Jesus, now ascended into heaven has taken his seat at the right hand of God the Father.
2 This sitting down at the Father's right hand is Jesus' coronation as King of all creation. The right hand of God is the seat of the majesty and the power of God. The right hand of God is the divine office of all heavenly authority. And Christ, ascended up into heaven, now gloriously occupies this office of Heavenly King, Redeemer of Creation, and Savior of all mankind.
3 And yet, we do not see it. While we live on this earth, our eyes do not behold Christ upon his throne. We do not see him sitting in glory at the right hand of God the Father. We do not perceive with our own eyes, our Lord occupying his office as King. Because we do not see Jesus, we are tempted to sorrow at his ascension. We're tempted to sorrow because it seems as though he has left us, and gone away. But such sorrow is, in fact, sin. It is sinful to sorrow at the ascension of Christ because Christ has not left us at all. Even though we do not see him, he is with us even now. In all his majesty and all his glory, Christ fills heaven and earth with his glorified presence. St. Paul says:
. . . when he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men. Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth. He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.
4 By his ascension, Christ fills all things. By his ascension, Christ reveals the glory that is rightly his. By his ascension to the right hand of God, Christ establishes his reign not only in heaven, but throughout the earth, too. The right hand of God, where Christ sits enthroned, and from whence he reigns is everywhere! It's not so much a specific place as it is an expression and explanation of Christ's mighty power and his omnipresent reign over heaven above and the earth below. Where the word is preached and taught in its purity, there Christ reigns as King and there is the right hand of God. Where the sacraments are administered as Christ has taught, there Christ reigns as King, and there is the right hand of God. In every place on earth, where Christians gather in Jesus' name, Jesus is there, reigning as King. And right here in this place, Christ reigns as King at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Christ has promised that it must be so. He says:
[St. Matthew 18.20]
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
[St. Matthew 28.20b]
. . . lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.
5 There is no need for sorrow. Christ has not left us. No, we cannot see him, but he is here even now; with us; among us; forgiving our sinful sorrow by his sweet word of absolution. Christ is here, strengthening our faith by the strong word of his promise. Christ is here, saving us from sin, death, the devil and hell. And he does all this as our ascended Lord and heavenly King. Now, we see him only with eyes of faith, but Christ will once again reveal himself in the fullness of his glory. So the Holy Spirit holds Christ's ascension before us today, that we would repent of any sinful sorrow that lingers in our hearts, and by the grace of God, in faith, behold our ascended Lord.
6 When we put our sorrow behind us, and rejoice along with the apostles, we hear once again the promise of Christ's return in glory. The two men in white, angels really, spoke the promise to the apostles. By the Holy Spirit, they speak it to us again today:
. . . Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
Just like he was lifted up into the clouds, he will come once more. And when he comes, we will experience an ascension of our own. St. Paul puts it this way:
[I Thessalonians 4.16-17]
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
7 When Christ returns in glory, he will take us up into the clouds. When Christ returns in glory, we will ascend into the heavens, too. Those of us who have died will rise from our graves, and those who are still alive will all together be taken up into the clouds, just as Christ was taken up while the apostles watched. When Christ returns in glory, the ascension we celebrate will not be that of Christ alone, but of you and me and all the saints of God. Then we shall see with our eyes what is seen only by faith today. Then we shall behold Christ our Lord, with our own eyes, just as the apostles did on the day of his ascension. Then, ascended into heaven ourselves, we shall live forever in the presence of Christ our Lord where sorrow exists no more.
8 While we await that glorious day, we heed the words of St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians:
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
As faithful Christians we seek those things which are above, and as we do, we see Christ, ascended and enthroned at the right hand of the Father. As those redeemed by our Lord, we set our affection on things above, and we set our hope in the ascended Lord. As those promised an ascension of our own, we put away our sorrow, and hold fast to Christ's promise to return in glory, just as the disciples saw him go.
9 As that great and glorious day approaches this word of the Lord sustains us in our faith in Christ's ascension and our certain hope of his return. Christ, when he first met Nathanael spoke words to him that apply to us all:
[St. John 1.51]
Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.
We hold fast to this promise of our Lord, today, and every day, for when we see our Lord coming on the clouds, we will see the fulfillment of Christ's promise with our own eyes. What has been hidden from our sight will be revealed, and we will celebrate with unspeakable joy as Christ takes us to live forever with him at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Come Lord Jesus. Come quickly. Amen.
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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