The Ascension Of Our Lord
May 24, 2020
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
We have many great kids and youth at this place. One of them, Ben Williams, 10 years old, finished up the fourth grade and had one more project to complete before school ended for him this past Tuesday. He had to recite word by word the entire Gettysburg Address. Can you do that? I know you’ve got the “Four score and seven years ago…” But what is after that? 271 words to it. For most of us we are not as smart as a fourth-grader!!
Ben is the guy, who at the end of the mini-services we had a few weeks ago had a question for me. It was, “Why did God send the Coronavirus to us?” After stumbling for a bit I should have told him, “Go ask your mom or dad about that one.”
There are some tough things going on right now. There are some tough questions that are being asked looking for a good answer. The one thing that I have noticed among some of our people is that some folks are losing hope. They’ve had it. Some have run out of patience. Some are discouraged and overwhelmed. They have had enough.
A number of times in the Bible we are able to see what happens when someone is running on empty and doesn’t anticipate anything better. In the Old Testament, Elijah, the one who would later come to Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, was on the run from Queen Jezebel. In I Kings 19 this account and prayer are recorded, “He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord, take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’ Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.” (Verses 4b-5a) I think Paul had had enough when he prayed time and again for God to take away the thorn that bothered his life. “Enough” is what we holler to another when we want them to stop something. “Enough” is what we think when our habits and compulsions have taken over our life and we’re disgusted with ourselves.
Today our worship centers on the Ascension of Jesus Christ from this earth. This was a huge change in the life of the followers of Jesus. Just think of what they had experienced – some witnessed His crucifixion, or spoke about it with others, then many saw Him following His resurrection from the grave, and for 40 days were able to see Him once again. But His words to them said that He would be leaving them. He told them plainly, “I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” (John 16:28) On Easter Sunday when Jesus showed His resurrection to Mary Magdalene, He says to her, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17)
I wonder if that was hard for them to take? In our reading they ask of Jesus, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) “Lord, now that You are here and have died and risen, can we get rid of the enemies of our people? Is this the time for Your rule on earth?” They had had enough of idolatrous and cruel Rome and wanted a new day. Enough!! Now and then. Problems in the world and struggles within self. Enough!!
I had my first Coronavirus wedding last weekend. Bride and groom, moms and dads for each, best man in charge of the Zoom videotaping, photographer, organist, preacher – 10 – we couldn’t hold one more person. I use this prayer from Louis Evans at the weddings I officiate. Part of it says, “Lord, Give them enough tears to keep them tender, enough hurts to keep them humane, enough failure to keep their hands clenched tightly in Yours, and enough success to encourage them in their walk with You.” That’s a great prayer. Enough tears, enough hurts, enough failure. In life those things can be good things. They teach us how much we need our God and how much He needs to do within each of us. A good marriage demands much growth of character.
To all of us who have had enough of troubles, uncertainties and problems we have a God who gives us enough grace and strength. “Our cup runneth over.” The Ascension of our Lord Jesus is the time when He showed that He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. This is the prayer of Jesus about this, “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” (John 17:5) In the Apostles’ Creed the majesty and dominion of Jesus Christ is stated like this, “The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.”
Now the word “enough” isn’t one of exasperation but amazement. Our God does enough, in fact, more than enough for us and our salvation and forgiveness. Jesus died as Sacrifice. He rose as Victor. He ascended as Lord. If we had had church today at Ascension, within these walls, you would have heard the epistle from Ephesians. Look at how our Lord Jesus does more than enough – “That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title than can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 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.” (Ephesians 1:19-23)
His death and resurrection and ascension are enough for us. This is a mighty God we have. Trust Jesus.
Know this – Jesus didn’t leave you when He left. He didn’t neglect you, having you stand alone to face all those things that are more than enough for you to handle. Do you know who the Holy Spirit is? Do you know the power and presence of God’s Spirit? On the fortieth day after Resurrection Day He ascended. On the fiftieth day after the Resurrection He poured out on His people the Holy Spirit. We call that day Pentecost. Next Sunday the sermon and service will highlight God’s Holy Spirit. This is what Jesus told us about how He was going to provide for them more than enough, “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit…You’ll receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:4b-5,8) He didn’t leave you alone. He didn’t tell you to make a go of it by yourself. You’ll receive the Holy Spirit. You’ll receive power. You’ll receive enough of God.
Not only will you receive enough of God’s Spirit, power and direction, you’ll also receive enough of His calling to do great things in this world. The apostle’s were watching as Jesus was taken from them, and when He rose from the earth a cloud hid Him from their sight. A couple of angels were there (they always seemed to show up of the biggest days of the life of Jesus!) and asked a question of the 11, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky?” (Acts 1:11a) Here is my paraphrase, “Get off your rear end!! There are things to do!! Get busy!!” A week or so before this He had given the Great Commission to them when they were up in Galilee – “Go and make disciples of all nations…” (Mathew 28:19) Now he said they would be telling others what they saw and heard in every place they went. They wouldn’t lack for a purpose. He gave them enough to do. Don’t just stare into the sky there is a calling for you. For such a time as this – more people need to know of the grace and love and hope of Jesus than just a few months ago.
Enough!! It can be a word of desperation. Enough. I can’t take it anymore!! But it also can be a word of amazement and faith. Enough. Your hope and Savior, Jesus, has done more than enough for you to live in faith and confidence. Enough – God has a plan for your life to be a light to this world and a giver of goodness to all.
On this Ascension find contentment in our God who does more than enough for us now and forever. “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21