Ascension Sunday – Sermon 253

Ascension Sunday

10.0am Holy Communion

17th May 2015

Bible References :

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Prayer to start

May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ

 

AMEN

 

INTRODUCTION

 

A business moved into some new offices – and received some flowers from a well-wisher – but there was a mix up at the florist – The card read “with our deepest sympathy” –

 

The florist apologized – but became even more embarrassed – when they learned that the floral arrangement sent to the funeral home read – “Congratulations on your new location” –

 

Today – ‘Ascension Sunday’ – we celebrate Jesus moving to a new location!

 

Following His death on a cross and resurrection from the dead – He ascended to heaven to take His place with the Father –

 

This was the final event of Jesus’ visible ministry – on earth – and part of His returning to His heavenly throne – it also signaled the start of the great Commission – and the releasing of the Holy Spirit – to help fulfill it –

 

the disciples who witnessed it – saw it as an ending – but it in fact  – it was very much a new beginning –

 

Point 1        Luke’s explanation in Acts

 

In our reading from Acts – Luke provides us with a summary of Jesus’ last days after the resurrection

 

‘After His suffering He presented Himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.’

 

In the period between the Resurrection and the Ascension – Jesus was preparing them for the days to come –

 

He re-assured them that it was really Him – talking and walking with them – and He – gave them specific commands – to go out and tell others what they had seen and heard

 

But to begin with – they were to wait ‘for the gift promised by the Father’ – the Holy Spirit –

 

It was only when each of them had been baptised with the Holy Spirit – that they would become an effective witness for Him – a witness that would extend to the ends of the earth”

 

For Jesus it’s the end of His earthly ministry – and for the disciples – the beginning of theirs – Jesus would no longer be with them as he had been – before –

 

Luke tells of the disciples gazing up towards heaven – clinging on to the hope that He will soon return –

 

and it was only after being spoken to by the two men dressed in white – that they realised it was time for them to move on and begin the next chapter in their lives-

 

The Ascension is a watershed moment for the Disciples and for us –

They had followed Him during His ministry believing Him to be the Messiah – rejoiced in His resurrection – and greeted Him as the Risen Lord – and now they would truly know Him as the Son of God – and could only but wonder what life would now be like for them – and for Him –

 

Point 2        Ephesians the Fullness of Christ

 

But the Ascension is not only about leaving – it’s also about arriving – and it marks the coronation of Jesus as Lord and King – over everything

 

The bible is very clear about what happened when Jesus was received in heaven –

 

As Paul reminds us in our NT lesson – ‘God put his power to work in Christ – when he raised him from the dead – and seated him at His right hand in the heavenly places’

 

The right hand is the seat of honour and power  – and sitting there means that God has given Him that honour and power permanently –

 

His place and standing in heaven – is far above all other ‘government – authority – power and dominion’ –

 

its a place of sovereignty that commands allegiance  – not only in this age – but also in the age to come’

 

Just as the resurrection expressed the reality of Jesus’ death – revealing Him as the Risen Christ – so the Ascension assures us that Jesus is ever present with God – at His right hand – in heaven

 

‘and in heaven’ as Paul says – Jesus puts all things in subjection under His feet’  –  and God made him the head over all things for the church – which is the body

 

No matter what happens – from this time onwards – Jesus has authority over it  – nothing is outside of His control –

 

For us – as followers of Jesus – that means that –  no matter what situation we find ourselves in – no matter what sin we have committed against God and others – Jesus has the power and authority to ‘overcome’ it – and to provide us with forgiveness –

 

Paul also tells us that – Jesus is head over all things to the church –

 

Jesus who is the absolute Lord of the universe – is given to the church – for her advantage – and benefit – and His greatness is directed towards it –

 

That means that – the same power that accomplished His resurrection – His Ascension – His coronation and His headship of the church is also available to His church – and to each one of us

 

As head – of the body of the church – He is our shepherd – our protector – our guide – our friend and comforter – and as people of His community – His body – we have nothing to fear – we only need to stay obedient and follow His ways –

 

Point 3        “The Great Commission”

 

 

which brings us to our Gospel reading  –  and the  third aspect of the Ascension –  the  great Commission – and the releasing of the Holy Spirit

 

The opening verses begin with a reference to Scripture –

Jesus reminds the disciples that His death and

resurrection – is no error of judgment – it was foretold – by the prophets  and taught by Jesus –Himself –

 

and that all the things that have happened to Him – have been part of God’s plan  – and the way God has chosen to show the world – His eternal love –

 

Jesus made reference to His death and resurrection many times – in His teachings and parables – Luke has six references –

 

The disciples had listened to Him – but not properly understood – or believed it would actually happen –

 

And it was only when Jesus now explained it all – and recounted it to them – in His resurrected state that the penny finally dropped –

 

Jesus tells them that – Repentance and forgiveness of sins are to be proclaimed to all nations in His name – beginning with Jerusalem – and that the whole world must be brought into the arms of God’s embracing love

 

‘You are witnesses of these things’ He said.

 

Turning away from sin and celebrating God’s forgiveness is at the heart of being a Christian – and of the Lord’s Prayer and each one of us – is required to respond to this message  –

 

but as disciples – we are to go further – beyond the individual – to whole nations – the gospel message can not only change a person –  it can change the agenda of the whole world –

 

and for this we will need the Holy Spirit – who will be released by Jesus on His Ascension –

 

The Holy Spirit – will bring the power – create the opportunities and help us to respond and radiate Jesus’ presence to others –

 

How we behave – will not only affect our salvation but also the salvation of those who look for Jesus in us.

 

Through Jesus we are made new people – with a story to tell – and people to reach – Our story must witness to the power and presence of Jesus – in our lives – and in His church –

 

Conclusion

 

Jesus’ Ascension is a great landmark in our Christian Faith – it not only signals the transfer  and crowning of Jesus to His rightful place in heaven but also the start of a new era – of Christ’s authority over all – and the proclaiming of His  gospel message to the whole world –

 

At our Baptism service – we are given a lighted candle – and commanded to go out – and “Shine as a light in the world – to the Glory of God the Father” – Wherever we go – we are called to take the light of Christ – with us –

 

Jesus’ disciple had to wait for the power to come to them – for us – today – that power is already here – We can count on Jesus and the Holy Spirit to do their part  – can they count on us to do ours?

 

Closing prayer               AMEN