As usual, midweek sermons are based on a more outline-ish form of manuscript. In this case, it is almost word for word. I had intended to record it, but forgot the card for the recorder. (Or, the recorder didn’t read it. So, either oops, or rats.)
Anyway, after the jump is my sermon fro ascension, in which I answer the question: What is the theological significance of saying “The conclusion of the Holy Gospel according to St. Mark…”
In Book of John, Jesus tells disciples, I am going away to the Father. In Matthew, it’s “Lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.
How can both be true? Today we celebrate day when Jesus ascended into heaven, and sat down at right hand of Father. And yet, as we gather, have promise that “where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in midst of them.”
Jesus is not gone, as we think of it. And yet, he is not here as we think of it. St. Leo great said, “What was visible in our Savior has passed over into His mysteries – that is, into the sacraments.” From earthly perspective, Jesus is gone. He has returned to Father. He is no longer locally present to talk to, as disciples were used to doing. He is no longer standing here or there, moving from place to place in this world.
And yet, now that he is ascended to heaven, he is more present than before. Eyes of body can’t see this. Eyes of faith do see it. Are those who say, “Jesus in heaven, and so can not be here.” Usually used to deny presence of Christ in Blessed Sacrament. To say, not really his body, after all his body and blood in heaven. How can they be here?
And yet, Jesus said, “This is my body.” Lo I am with you always. Not leave. Going to right hand of father, but that is position of power and glory, not location where Jesus is glued to seat and can’t be anywhere else. Now that ascended and enthroned, can be more here than was during earthly ministry. During that, he was here or there, but not both. Today at churches around world, celebrate ascension of Lord, receive body and blood of Christ in sacrament. Each Sunday do that as well. Jesus is truly present here and in Cheyenne, and Germany, and Timbuktu. Wherever two or three gathered together to hear his word. Not possible without the ascension.
Luther: “God has given us Baptism, the sacrament of the Altar, and absolution to bring Christ very close to us, so that we can have Him not only in our heart but also on our tongue, so that we can feel him, grasps Him, and touch Him” That is, God works through specific things. Doesn’t just randomly zap people with spirit out of blue. Spirit works through means. Word and sacrament. Though those things, Jesus is given to you. Are given Jesus in Holy Baptism. Not just act of obedience on our part. Actually Jesus being given to person. Jesus there claiming as own. See font, and know, I am baptized. Every font is font of baptism. Can say, “I am baptized by Jesus in this water, even though water different from the water used at your baptism, font is different font. Why? Because Jesus is same Jesus. And Jesus is here for you at font. Even if font is somewhere else entirely. And Jesus here for you at altar. And if go to other altar, there for you there as well.
Ascension is day of glory and triumph for Christian – Died for sins, raised again for justification. Ascended so that you would have advocate with father, who is here for you in his word, in the water, in the bread and wine. For not just bread and wine, but true body and blood of Jesus. Here at this altar. And at the altar in Cheyenne, and Germany and Timbuktu. Jesus for you.
In days of early church, many tried to deny that Jesus was true man. Jesus was only true God. Not joined to humanity inseparably. So that, when Jesus ascends into heaven, he is returning to what he truly is, abandoning the earthly form. Leaving behind humble things of this world. But that’s not the case. Jesus is still true man, born of virgin Mary. And now sits enthroned for you. Your brother, your friend, your savior, sitting at right hand of God, for your salvation. And yet also here tonight for you. This is festival of incarnation – festival of God made flesh for you. Because today we see end of that. Not end as in – finished with it now, but end of that, that is what will be for you. As Jesus ascended to heaven and now sits in glory, so you will also be taken to be with him. Because he is made to be one of us.
Two days when church uses different introduction for Gospel reading. On Christmas, say, “The beginning of Gospel according to Saint John.” Read first verses of John’s Gospel. And tonight say Conclusion of Gospel according to saint Mark. Read last few verses of Mark’s Gospel. The two are tied together – true man born of virgin Mary is your Lord. And now ascended where sits enthroned, not only as true God possessor of all glory and power and might, but as true man, who now elevates you who could not elevate yourself. Where he went, (that is into death) you shall go, where he is (that is in glory with the Father) there you shall be. Today we hear the end of the history of your salvation being earned for you. Beginning of salvation being given to world. He will return and will take you to be with him. Until then, we wait. He has not gone, he is just hidden from your eyes. You see him by faith. You are washed by him through Baptism. You are joined to him in his body and blood through Sacrament. He is with you. He will return to you. Come Lord Jesus, Come quickly, and take us to be with you.