Ascension Sunday – Sermon 144

13th February 2011 Off By Derek Buckthorpe

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

There can be few things worst –

than reading a book – and then finding that one of the key pages are missing –

or starting a jigsaw puzzle – only to find – that when we get to the final stages – one of the most important pieces is missing –

Most of us wouldn’t have started it if we knew it was going to be cut short –

But when it comes to Jesus – that’s sometimes – what we do –

We celebrate His resurrection – and the gift of His Spirit – but virtually overlook His Ascension – we cut short the full picture – why?

Is it – the way – He’s portrayed – as vanishing ‘up’ into heaven – or – maybe its because – we have doubts about what the ascension really means – like some of His disciples?

Even if the details – of what happened are still a bit of a mystery – the significance of the Ascension – is clear – this was a mind blowing – moment for His followers – because – for the first time they would realise the full magnitude of who Jesus is – and what it really means for them –

Lets look at our readings to see if they help make things clearer

 

Point 1       Elijah & Elisha – “ Change and responsibility

Change and responsibility are not words that many of us relish

When we know there will be changes affecting our job, our houses, our daily routine, our church, it can be very unsettling, even distressing –

We like things to stay the same –

We plan our lives on a system of routines:
Breakfast, dinner and tea
Wash days
Shop days
Church days

Most of us want our village to stay the same – not to expand – not to contract –

We like fixed points to focus on and build from

But changes in responsibility are inevitable – particularly in church – people get older – new families come in –

new people mean new responsibilities – for regular worshippers as well as new ones –

We all know how important it is that God’s message of love and salvation is passed on to the next generation – for their sakes as well as ours –

That was certainly the case in our OT reading –

Here- we have a story that virtually mirrors the story of the ascension –

The transfer of Elijah’s mission and authority over to his apprentice – Elisha

For Elijah it would soon be his last day –time for his ministry to be passed on to someone who would carry it forward in the same spirit that he had done.

For Elisha it was time to break the ties with his master – embrace the gifts God had given him – and take up his new responsibilities

Our reading tells us – how Elisha’s resilience and vision for the future – was tested – in every part of his journey he was discouraged – told to turn back – sit it out – and not get involved – even by Elijah

But Elisha wanted God’s spirit in his life so much that he was prepared to go to extraordinary lengths – to get it – He openly asked for a greater share to make sure that he was fully equipped for what God had in store for him –

The Holy Spirit is our most important ally for dealing with change and new responsibilities – the Spirit brings gifts that are essential for our ministry and mission – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control – through the Spirit we have a direct link with the past – the present – and the future – and with God Himself –

And when Elijah was finally taken up – in a world wind – his love and sorrow at losing his teacher was there for all to see – when he saw him no more – he took hold of his mantle – and tore it in two as a sign that the transfer was complete –

Elijah and Elisha were giants of their time – both had to minister in times of national decay – and worked tirelessly against Baal worship – but even though one took over from the other – their ministries were quite different –

Elijah was noted for his great public acts – ephasizing God’s Law and judgment – thundering out a message of repentance for sin – like John the Baptist

Elisha on the other hand was known for his many miracles – for demonstrating God’s grace, love and tenderness –

Both men cast great shadows of influence and faith on the people they met – and stood firmly based on the word of God – so that future generations might also experience God’s grace and power in their lives

  

Point 2      Jesus and the Disciples – “The Great Commission”

And so we move to the Ascension itself –

For Jesus it’s the end of His earthly ministry – and for the disciples – it’s the beginning of theirs –

Jesus’ last words were to give us great assurance of His authority and power – and to provide us with His great Commission –

‘Full Authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me’ – said Jesus –

‘Go – therefore to all Nations and make them my disciples – baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’

Unlike Elisha – who clearly – thought he had got it all worked out – some of the disciples – were still doubtful – and must have wondered what was happening to them –

The Jesus – who they had followed throughout His ministry – seen put to death – on a cross – and then come back to life – after three days – rejoiced in His resurrection – was now in front of them – declaring Himself to have the authority of God – and giving them a task – which must have left them shaking at the knees –

No mention of what skills they would need – or whether He thought they were up to it – only that they had to ‘make disciples’ – and immerse them through Baptism – into the full trinity-life and love of God –

in other words – convert people who would be prepared to lay down their lives to follow Jesus – and continue to make disciples by giving instruction on everything Jesus said and taught –

What the disciples would eventually realize – was that God doesn’t just call the qualified – but qualifies the called-

It’s not the magnitude of the Task that matters – but the majesty of the Master –

Jesus wants us to go out into a world – that – He is Master of – and open peoples hearts to the love that He brings.

Just as Jesus – called the Fishermen – and trained them up as ‘learners’ – to imitate His way of life – – so He wants us His follows – to call people to follow Him – and do the same –

In truth its – nothing short of a great adventure – that we are all called to share in – and help to fulfill
and what’s more – although now going – to join the Father – Jesus will not leave us alone to do it – for He ‘promises to be with us always – to the end of time’

Conclusion

Elijah’s power and authority was handed over to Elisha – the mission and authority of Jesus was handed over to His Church – and in the Church the reigns are handed over from year to year – from generation to generation – and sometimes from day to day – to us

We are not all called to be prophets
We are not all called to perform miracles
We are not all called to a high profile leadership
But we – are – all called to be disciples of Jesus – in Jesus’ words – to ‘make disciples’ for Him – through teaching and encouragement – and by taking on the changes and new responsibilities He presents to us

Above all lets – not forget what the Ascension really means – for without it we don’t get the full picture – and with it we are reminded – that Jesus is sovereign of all – and far greater than words could ever express-

Prayer

In the name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit

AMEN