Sermon for Ascension

“What was visible in our Savior has passed over into his Sacraments.” St. Leo the Great.

That was on the bulletin cover, along with a really cool picture from the Seeon Sacramentary. In the sermon, God’s Word was preached in this manner:

The same Jesus Christ, who was crucified, dead and buried, who rose from the grave on the third day, has now ascended into heaven, where he sits at the right hand of God the father almighty. The Lamb who was slain has begun his reign, alleluia!

In the Garden, Adam and Eve wanted to be like God. That was the temptation of the serpent – you can do something to be even more like him. This God fellow is hiding something good from you, and if you take things into your own hands, you can get the good things that he doesn’t want you to have. Your work can make you like God. 

It did not matter that Adam and Eve were already made in the image of God and after his likeness.  It did not matter that they were already in perfect communion with God. The serpent deceived, our first parents ate, and the promise of the serpent that they – that we – would be like God? Well, it didn’t work out that way. The idolatry of doing something to be more like God,  of ascending to God, of becoming God, leads not to being like God, but rather leads to total separation from God – it leads to death, for it is sin. And sin is so powerful that not only were our first parents condemned to death, but all of their offspring, even to this present generation. For all have inherited this sinfulness.

Adam and Eve brought sin into the world, but we are really good at sinning all on our own. The condemnation we earn is our own doing – not theirs.

Mankind can not do anything to be like God. Our attempts at it always fail, because they are attempts not to remake ourselves in his image, but to remake God in our image. To be god’s ourselves. To push aside the creator of heaven and earth and say, it’s all about me.

And so, death reigned. But God, in his mercy did not leave us in that condition. We could not ascend to him, so he descended to us. He sent his only begotten Son into the world, God, begotten of the substance of his father before all ages, and man, born of the substance of his mother in this age. We could not become gods, so God became man.

He lived, died and was raised again. And on this day we celebrate that he ascended into the heavens.  Now man does dwell with God. Now man is seated at his right hand – for Jesus, true God and true man, sits at the right hand of the father, interceding for us with His heavenly Father. And promising to return to us – to come back and take us to be with himself. When he returns he will raise up al the dead, and give to all those who believe in him  eternal life.

For now we wait. And it seems like maybe he won’t come back. After all, it’s been a long time. It seems like he isn’t here anymore at all. But, scripture never says that Jesus left them, or that he is gone. In Matthew he says the opposite – lo I am with always, even to the end of the age. In Acts, which we heard a few moments ago, it says that he was hidden from them.” And that he will return the same way we saw him go into heaven – that he will suddenly be unhidden.

Today was the day of the annual solar eclipse. It was only visible in Australia and the south pacific, but for a few minutes, the moon passed in front of the son. For the lucky few in the path of the eclipse – the sun was totally hidden. Around the outside of the moon, you could see, not the sun, but a ring of fire only visible when the sun is totally hidden behind the moon. And then, the sun came back.

Today, Jesus is hidden. We don’t see him. But he has given us his mysteries – a Greek word. The Latin word is sacrament – As St. Leo said, “What was visible in our Savior has passed over into his mysteries. Has passed over into his sacraments.” Now that Jesus has ascended, now that we have an advocate with the father, now that we have seen one of our own elevated above even the angels, we see Jesus not in his body, walking from place to place, and talking and eating and sleeping, as the disciples saw him, but we see him in his mysteries – in his sacraments. We see Jesus in the water, as he saves sinners from Death hell and the devil. We see Jesus in the body and blood as he feeds us poor sinners with the food of immortality. We see Jesus, now ascended into heaven and hidden from our earthly eyes, in his holy church, as he comes to feed us with his word and his mysteries, his sacraments. With the eyes of faith, we see Jesus in a way the disciples could not during his earthly ministry. We see him here each week, coming to us, joining himself to us, forgiving, renewing and feeding us. And in doing this, we, who spend our lives trying to ascend to God, and failing, are finally joined to him by the one who descended to be like us, who is still one of us, and yet has ascended to the highest place, and who is now in glory with the Father. Where he has gone, there we will one day go, when he returns to take us to be with himself. Thanks be to God, who has given us a Savior in Jesus Christ, true God, but also true man, who now lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

 

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