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Posts Tagged ‘Ascension’

Crown Him the Lord of Life
Who triumphed o’er the grave
And rose victorious in the strife
For those He came to save.
His glories now we sing
Who died and rose on high,
Who died eternal life to bring
And lives that death may die.

Crown Him the Lord of Love.
Behold His hands and side,
Rich wounds, yet visible above,
In beauty glorified.
No angel in the sky
Can fully bear that sight,
But downward bends his wondering eye
At mysteries so bright!

Ascension Day is the coronation celebration of the Lord as He is proclaimed to be King of the universe. Jesus’ ascension to the Father is His entrance to the greater existence beyond the confines of time and space, being no longer bound by the limitations of His state of humiliation. Jesus now sits at the right hand of God, which Luther correctly taught is everywhere, having again taken up the power and authority that were His since before time. Yet our Lord is present with us who remain bound by time and space. He is with us as true God and true man, exercising His rulership in the Church through the Means of Grace that He established, His Word and His Sacraments. We mortals in those Means of Grace can grasp the King of the universe and receive a foretaste of the feast to come.

The last Thursday we were gathered together as His Church in the Divine Service was Maundy, or Holy Thursday, during Holy Week.  Holy Thursday is “the night in which He was betrayed” and He took bread and the cup, gave thanks and gave us His Body and Blood in bread and wine.  “Maundy” is related to Latin word for “command”:  He commanded His Supper of His real Presence and commanded us to wash each other’s feet in loving service on that night. Ascension, 4o days after Pascha, or Easter, is always a Thursday.  He bodily and  spiritually ascended into heaven to be with us, heaven come to earth, in the Sacrament of Holy Communion which He instituted some 43 days ago, on the Thursday before Good Friday. The two Thursdays are intimately connected in Jesus Christ because the ascended Lord, bodily and spiritually, deigns to be with us in His Supper, proclaiming His death until He comes again.

Thursday is kind of a non important day in the secular world:  not like Saturday and Sunday the weekend or like Monday the first day of the work week, or like Wednesday, “hump day” or Friday, TGIF.  Yet, our Lord did something everyday of the week to hallow it, especially Thursday.  The world does not recognize any longer Maundy Thursday and Ascension Thursday.  Sadly, the Church does not give much heed to Ascension.  I have had many discussions with pastors, “Do you do anything on Ascension?”  “Nah, no one comes.”  As if numbers were the reason we have Liturgy and not the Word of God, Incarnate, preached and written.  Funny:  we don’t ‘have’ Ascension but we want the ascended Lord to have us! He does and we grab hold of Him in faith.

There is only one solution for our unworthiness: the worth of God. We have nothing in our hands to offer to God that He could. possibly want from us. Here is the mustard seed of faith that believes that God gives the fullness of His grace. Such faith does much more than move mountains and uproot trees. It moves the mass of our sins and uproots our wickedness, drowning them in the depths of the sea (Micah7:19). It has done good works before it is even aware that they are required (Matthew 25:37).

The servants of God must continually confess their unworthiness (Luke17:10). This would be an utter disaster if our standing in God’s sight were a matter of fulfilling our duty. It’s not! We are free to confess our unworthiness because the Lord meets our confession with acceptance and does not reject us for the sake of Christ’s precious blood offered for us. We may confess our weakness of faith, because we are invited to drink of the true fountain by Him. We know where our strength comes from. Not from ourselves. This is why the Church’s children ever confess our own unworthiness, for our worth is His. (From Pr. Murray’s A Year with the Church Fathers:  Meditations for Each Day of the Church Year.)

Almighty God, as Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, ascended into the heavens, so may we also ascend in heart and mind and continually dwell there with Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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  • Jesus was born of the house and lineage of David,  descended, according to the flesh, from King David.
  • His Mother was a devout Jew.  His step-Father also a faithful son of Israel. They observed all the required sacrifices in the Temple.
  • Jesus was born in the city of David, Bethlehem.
  • On His 8th day of life, according to the Covenant the LORD God established with Abraham and his descendants, Jesus was circumcised.
  • Jesus taught in the synagogue of Nazareth.
  • Jesus observed the great Festivals of Israel, in particular, The Pesach, the Passover.His last meal was Passover.
  • Jesus kept the Sabbath.
  • By His Word through His touch He healed the sick, the blind, the deaf, the mute, the dead.
  • By His Word He multiplied wine and bread.
  • His hands blessed and broke the bread.
  • His hands were bound as a common criminal.
  • His head was crowned with thorns shedding His blood.
  • He was a carpenter and bore the work of another carpenter:  the cross.
  • His hands and feet were nailed to the cross.
  • His side was pierced by a Roman spear and blood and water flowed out.
  • He was laid in a tomb.
  • And as He said, on the third day He rose again.
  • For for 40 days,  in His resurrected body He ate and drank and showed many His hands and His side.
  • On the 40th Day, He ascended into heaven: with the scars of the cross, the mark of the circumcision, the hands that healed and broke the bread blessed His apostles one last time…a true man, a Jewish man, was taken up into heaven and sits upon the right hand of God the Father.  Jesus is true God before all worlds were created.

His ascension is man’s exaltation.  As much as we exalt ourselves, at the expense of others, we do so to distance ourselves from others. He is exalted to be close to us all.  His exaltation is His humiliation and in that humiliation His love and mercy for Israel and the whole human race is poured out through His life and crucifixion and resurrection.  He humiliated Himself to bring us close to His bosom and He ascended and is exalted to be close to us all.

For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly,
   but the haughty he knows from afar.

How high is heaven?  Very far away for the proud and self-exalted. But near for the lowly, for those who pray by looking up to Him Who came down for all.

 7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
   you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
   and your right hand delivers me. (Psalm 138)

His right hand has delivered us:  Thanks be to Jesus Christ!

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Let us pray...Almighty God, as Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, ascended into the heavens, so may we also ascend in heart and mind and continually dwell there with Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lessons:

Acts 1: 1-11;  Psalm 47;  Ephesians 1: 15-23;  St. Luke 24: 44-53

Ephesians 1:  22-23:

22And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Reflection:  43 days ago the Church met on another Thursday:  Maundy or Holy Thursday.  Maundy Thursday begins the 3 Days of Our Lord’s suffering, crucifixion and death.  On that Thursday He gave us the sacrament of His Body and Blood.  That Thursday ties into today, this Thursday:  the crucified and risen Lord, bodily and spiritually gives us His Body and Blood in the Sacrament.  It was only by His Ascension that the Word went forth from Jerusalem:  the Word made flesh, bearing our sins to be our Savior.  His Body and Blood is the Rock of our salvation.

A couple of days ago I posted the introduction to a book by Fr. Peter Toon and from that intro:

For God’s salvation to be a universal and everlasting salvation, the incarnate Son, Jesus the Messiah, returned to heaven where he could be the source of salvation everywhere to all who believe.  From heaven, through the agency of the Holy Spirit (whom the Father sends to the world in the name and for the sake of the exalted Jesus), the incarnate Son preaches the Word of God, builds up God’s church, and continues universally the divine work that began in the restricted area of Palestine.  

Notice that Fr. Toon has the “incarnate Son” as the subject/actor for the verbs in the quote above:  preach, builds up and continues.  After all the Lord said to Peter after his confession, “And upon this rock (confession of faith), I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (St. Matthew 16:  ; emphasis my own) Not I, not you:  He will build His Church.  As proclaimed in the creedal hymn in  1 Timothy 3:

16Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

    He was manifested in the flesh,
   vindicated by the Spirit,
       seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
    believed on in the world,
       taken up in glory. 

 He fills His Church with His Body and Blood by the Holy Ghost.  So if He preaches we do not need pastors and ministers to do so?  No.  He calls pastors to so preach and teach but when the Gospel is preached from the pulpit and administered in the Sacraments, the ascended Lord, bodily and spiritually (the ‘and’ here is not an additive but a connective) is preaching and administering for us and for our salvation. As the Head so goes His Body, the Church.   In likewise, be not doubting, but believing:  hold fast to His Word preached, taught and administered by your pastor (if he be faithful to the Scriptures).  Holy Communion, Ascension and the edifiction/building up of His Church are His promise to us for evangelization, or  if you  will, our program by which He gets His Word out.  Like Lutheran pastor, Helmut Thielicke pointed out:  Our job is not to master the public with public relations and the like, but to make public the Master.

I write this  in part counteract the pernicious works righteousness read in the motto of one denom (ELCA):  God’s Work, Our Hands.  Or in the face of dwindling numbers, now everyone is suppose to be an evanglist/missionary: YOU BETTER SPREAD THE WORD OR WE WILL DIE.  Not much faith in the Lord and His Word of promise:  the gates of hell shall not prevail against His building program!  The kingdom will come of it’s own without our help but in the petition, Thy Kingdom Come, we pray that it also comes among us (Luther).  As one pastor said that motto should read:  God’s Work, Christ’s Hands! This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous our eyes.

For the true Church who correctly teaches salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, utterly the Lord’s work, we sure do not act too terribly graceful.  Why?  We too will say and do that it is our works, our plans, our programs, our models of ministry and the like that will save the Church.  Yikes!  But as I look at all the things tried, none seem to have worked!

The Lord, His Church and His Word come together in the Holy Communion.  Without the Holy Communion, His Body and Blood, we become another religious organization.  And what fruther connects the Lord to us in Holy Communion and day by day is prayer and His people in prayer from the Scripture: the Psalter.  So for your congregation in His Church, a good prayer start is the prayer He taught us and the great petition for us all and so for evangelization, literally ‘good newsing’:  Thy Kingdom Come.

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