This sermon is more celebratory than doctrinal or reflective. More of a “Rah-Rah Go-Team!” sort of a sermon. I don’t often preach these, but on ascension day it seemed appropriate. This may be especially helpful if you transfer the feast to Sunday, and have not yet written your sermon. (Although it’s a little short for a Sunday.)
He will return in the same we he left. That’s what the angels said to the disciples. So, should we stare at the skies until he magically reappears? No. He was taken up, and was hidden from their sight. When he returns, he will be unhidden from our sight. One minute he was there, and then we wasn’t. At some point, one moment he won’t be there, and then he will.
Except he never left. Mark says he was taken up to the right hand of God. Matthew says “Lo I am with you always.” Some claim that because he is at God’s right hand, he can never be present here, besides spiritually present in our hearts. He is chained to that chair until the end of time when he returns.
But that’s just ridiculous. Jesus said, I am with you always. Not just in our hearts when we think about him. He is where two or three are gathered together in his name. When we come together to hear and receive his gifts, he is here. He sends pastors to give those gifts. But he is the real giver. He is the real gift.
His body and blood, given and shed for you, now offered here. The feast of victory for our God, given at the altar for you. The salvation won on the cross, offered for you to eat and drink. This is the meeting point of heaven and earth. The place where the veil is torn, and the angels join us in song, Holy Holy Holy Lord God of power and might. That hymn is the song of the angels in the presence of the Almighty God. They hide their faces, and sing to him. When we sing that, we confess, Yes, Christ is enthroned and yes he is present here.
He is present here for us in a way more real than when the disciples saw him walking around. Because he is here at this altar for you, and he is at the next altar for those Christians as well. He is here and there, wherever his little flock is, giving forgiveness life and salvation to all who believe on his name. To all who hear the words, “For you” and trust the word of promise.
Today is the great day of enthronement. The resurrection is the victory. This is the victory parade, the inauguration, the coronation. The day when we say, “Our Lord, who was slain has begun his reign, and sits enthroned surrounded by angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. Now, our advocate with the father is in the presence of the Father as our mediator. We no longer need to wonder if God hears our prayers. He hears, and our Lord Jesus Christ intercedes for us. And because of his work, we are now heard by our heavenly Father himself.
The sin of our first parents – the sin of everyone since then – is that we want to be like God. We want to make ourselves into gods. But it never works. That path leads to death. Jesus, became like us. God with us. We could not become like God, so God became like one of us. How blessed, how honored, we are. And because our sinful path led to death, he took up that path and went into death for you. And now, God with us, who is still with us, is enthroned at the right hand of the Father. How much greater our glory and exaltation through Christ Jesus. Not that we have won anything of our own, but that he has raised us to where he is.
And now, we see him in the mysteries, in the sacraments. That is where he meets us, where heaven and earth collide. Where the glory of God is seen in this world – forgiveness, and life and salvation being given to sinners.
What a great and glorious day this is. The shame of the cross now turned into glory, as Christ – wounds still and eternally visible, takes his place, enthroned and glorified forever. The wounds of the cross now his glory, now the testimony of our salvation, as we join the angels around the throne singing, “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever!”
Thanks be to God.