The Ascension of our Lord
May 15-16, 2021
“Somewhere to Go; Something to Do”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
Seven of God’s baptized will publicly confess their faith this day. This is a big day for them and it is a big day for us. They too will be receiving the meal at the Lord’s table beginning today. One of the traditions in this Confirmation Rite is to select a verse for a Confirmation verse. You are going to hear John 3:16, John 8 and the words of Jesus, “I am the light of the world, He who believes in me will never walk in darkness”, and the great words of I Corinthians 13 – the chapter of love, as well as others.
Today I give the Confirmation Class not just a verse but an entire psalm – Psalm 40. Using that psalm I have titled this message, “Somewhere to Go; Something to Do.” Listen to these verses. (Read Psalm 40)
“Somewhere to Go” begins with somewhere not to go. Two Wednesdays ago the Bible Class was studying the Lord’s Prayer and we had the discussion on the petition “Lead us not into temptation”. One brave soul spoke about their temper. At times, he just erupts, only to feel great remorse a few minutes later about his actions and words and demeanor. He knows that his anger is a poor witness of his faith in Jesus. But he struggles with it. Another of our most wonderful believers said that she battles the temptation to stay in guilt – long after she has heard and known that every sin has been placed on Jesus and that God declares her forgiven. She knows she is forgiven but doesn’t feel forgiven.
Do you know where both of them went? To a pit. A dark, slimy pit. And I bet you go there too. Maybe too often. You have a way in life that is dark and despicable. That’s the pit. Or you live with an overwhelming sense of regret, the choices you have taken have been wrong and now you feel that you have gotten to a place where you feel the load of your sin in your mind or on your shoulders.
If you want to know where God delights in taking you I want you to know where you can’t go. You can’t go into the pit – to stay there, to make it your home. Psalm 40 begins, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” (Psalm 40:1-2)
I think people get stuck in a pit, in the mud, in the problems of life and in the grief of their soul. And sometimes they stay there. Don’t. God has somewhere better to go. Another Psalm, 103, says, “He redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion.” (Verse 4) It isn’t that you won’t find yourself in the pit, because you will, but this Lord, our Lord – Jesus – has no plans to leave you there.
There is somewhere for you to go in every instance, in every step in life, in every trouble, difficulty or joy – go to Jesus. Psalm 40 – which now becomes the psalm of you seven, tells us how solid and secure is life when God Himself is our foundation. “He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord. Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust.” (Psalm 40:2b-4a)
A number of you have already made a difference in this congregation through leading us in worship by singing in the youth band. One of the hymns that we have sung in the late service, as well as our others is “What Wondrous Love Is This”. Verse 2 of that hymn says, “When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down, when I was sinking down, sinking down, when I was sinking down beneath God’s righteous frown, Christ laid aside His crown for my soul, for my soul, Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.” (LSB 543)
Do you remember our first in-person class this past fall? It was on September 9th in 2020 and I said that you could never forget the lesson that I taught you that night. You forgot?? Well, then I want to remind you of it. I said that Christianity is like no other religion in the world. All other religions, at their very core, are man searching for God – looking for Him. Christianity, alone, is the account of God looking for us. The sheep get lost and the Shepherd, Jesus, finds them, puts them on His shoulder and brings them home. The Prodigal Son runs away but the Father, from a distance, sees him, goes to him and embraces him. Christmas is the account of God coming to earth. Good Friday is about Jesus as the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world.
Do you see? You will always have somewhere to go. Do you see? Your heart should always trust that Jesus loves you, that He died for you and that He has defeated death. “Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust.” I like what David, in this psalm, would say, “Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done. The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.” (Psalm 40:5)
You are not without a direction. You have somewhere to go, every day, for many, many years. Go to Jesus – He will set your feet on a rock. He will give you a firm place to stand.
You are not without a purpose. God has given something for you to do. In the middle of the psalm we hear, “I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart. I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you know, O Lord. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly.” (Psalm 40:8-10)
There were times in these last two years that I couldn’t get you to be quiet. One of you would say something and two others, at the same time, would join in. It wasn’t long before I had no control – none – of the class. You had something that had to be said – right then, it couldn’t wait.
Well- I want you to take your love of speaking and use it for much good. “I speak of your faithfulness and salvation.” “I do not seal my lips.” Something to do, in this setting, is to proudly and boldly speak of God and His faithful actions and love.
But just don’t speak about Him with your words. “Speak” about Him with your life. May it become apparent to everyone that you are a disciple of Jesus. We spent a few of our lessons quoting I Corinthians 13, your Confirmation verse, Annaliese, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (I Corinthians 13:1-3)
God loves you deeply, right? He sought you and found you. He put you on His shoulder. He received all your sins. He won all your battles. He loves you. Love, truly love others. Love your parents and grandparents. Love your brothers and sisters. Love your best friend and the person who last week was your best friend and now you’re not speaking to. Do you see? You have so many wonderful things to do. Speak of your Jesus. Love Him. Love others. David concludes the psalm, “But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, ‘Great is the Lord!’ As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and deliverer; do not delay, O my God.” (Psalm 40:16-17, ESV)
I give Psalm 40 to you as your psalm. In my Bible I have dedicated that psalm to the 2021 Confirmation Class. Your seven names are in ink next to this psalm. Make it yours. This psalm tells you, “There is somewhere to go; there is something to do.” Amen!!