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Ascension (observed) 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
May 16, 2021
Acts 1:1–11, Ephesians 1:15–23, Luke 24:44–53

 

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                           pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                        bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:   bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

 

            Have you ever been on a pilgrimage?  There are many different kinds of pilgrimages.  Muslims are supposed to take a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia at least once in their lifetime.  Roman Catholics take pilgrimages to holy sites around the world to seek to atone for their sins and sometimes to gain an indulgence which is supposed to remove the penalty for sin.  Some baseball fans make a pilgrimage to watch a game in every stadium in the major league. Some folks make a pilgrimage every few years to Florida to see a mouse.

            Our trip to Germany every four years might be called a pilgrimage to see some the sites of Martin Luther’s life, and our upcoming trip to Israel could be called a pilgrimage to see where Jesus lived and worked when He was on earth.  There a lot of different kinds of pilgrimages. 

All of you have been on a pilgrimage.  In fact, you are on a pilgrimage right now. You are on a pilgrimage from the baptismal font to standing before the throne of God. 

In our readings today we hear about Jesus’ ascension into heaven to be with God the Father.  This is the end of Jesus’ earthly journey and the beginning of the Church’s pilgrimage on earth.  The Church has been given to proclaim to the world that the way of Jesus is the way to the throne of God.  Jesus is the way.  When you wonder about your pilgrimage, look to Jesus to see the shape of your journey. You are on a pilgrimage through life, death, resurrection and ascension with the goal to stand, in your resurrected, imperishable flesh, before the throne of your heavenly Father with your earthly brother, Jesus. 

Give thanks that Christ has already brought humanity to the throne of God; preparing the way for you.  1 Corinthians 15:20–26 (ESV)  20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 

            In our Gospel lesson today we read how Jesus teaches the disciples how He fulfilled everything written about Him in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms.  Luke 24:45–49 (ESV)  45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” 

Jesus ascends into heaven 40 days after His resurrection.  Ten days after His ascension, the power from on high is bestowed upon the followers of Jesus at Pentecost.  They receive the Holy Spirit and become witnesses for Jesus.  The Church, the Body of Christ on earth, is born and begins its pilgrimage from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth to invite all people to join on the journey and personally make the final pilgrimage with Christ and ascend on high on the last day.  Two thousand years later the Church is still on this pilgrimage to bring the Good News of Jesus life, death, resurrection and ascension to all people. 

The children of Israel are delivered from Egypt through the waters of the Red Sea into the wilderness and finally into the Promised Land; an exodus from slavery to freedom. 

Jesus goes through the waters of John’s baptism, into the wilderness of temptation, through a time of ministry fulfilling the scriptures, and then into suffering, death, resurrection and ascension; an exodus from death to life. 

You gather each week as people on the pilgrimage. Worship begins with a remembrance of where your journey began at the baptismal font, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  You hear the Word of God which has been fulfilled in Jesus and learn more about your journey.  You receive the true Body and Blood of Christ in a mysterious way in the bread and wine at the Lord’s altar to strengthen and preserve you in body and soul to life everlasting.  Ponder this mystery.  You receive the very body and blood of Jesus that are at the throne of God saving a place for you.  You gather together and sing praises to the Lord as a foretaste of what is coming on the last day when you will praise God face to face. 

You know the way.  Jesus is the way.  So pilgrim, remain faithful on your journey.  Cling to the Word of God which guides you on your pilgrimage.  Love God and love your neighbor.  Pause in your vocation as a worker to gather in worship each week to remember why you are on the pilgrimage and receive strength for the journey.  Remember that Jesus is the leader of your pilgrimage. He has gone ahead to blaze the trail and you get to follow in His footsteps.  Invite others to join you on the pilgrimage where you have meaning and purpose and death has lost its sting.

You are on a pilgrimage; an exodus from slavery to sin to freedom in Christ; an exodus from death to life; a journey from the waters of baptism to the throne of God.

So many in this world do not see Jesus’ ascension as giving shape to their journey. So many are not on a pilgrimage to the throne of God, but instead are just wandering through this life without direction. They have been told that they are just the meaningless byproduct of an endless series of random mutations; that they are just stardust residue from a great explosion.  Lost in the world they live in constant terror of death which is always lurking and gets closer every day.  So many folks live like this, desperately trying to find meaning and purpose in the things of this world.  They can feel that they are missing something, but they don’t know what and so they seek peace by following their every urge or desire, thinking this will bring them fulfillment and yet they are disappointed.  They should be on a pilgrimage to the throne of God, but they have rejected the narrow path for the wide, easy way. 

You know the way.  Jesus is the way.  So pilgrim, remain faithful on your journey.  Cling to the Word of God which guides you on your pilgrimage.  Love God and love your neighbor.  Pause in your vocation as a worker to gather in worship each week to remember why you are on the pilgrimage and receive strength for the journey.  Remember that Jesus is the leader of your pilgrimage. He has gone ahead to blaze the trail and you get to follow in His footsteps.  Invite others to join you on the pilgrimage where you have meaning and purpose and death has lost its sting.

Jesus is on the top of the Mount of Olives with His disciples.  He has said His final words and ascends up and a cloud takes Him from their sight.  The disciples just stare upwards when two angels appear standing nearby and tell them, Acts 1:11 (ESV) 

11 … “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” 

Jesus will come back and raise you from the dead and take you up to be with Him forever in the presence of God.  Until then you are on your pilgrimage following Jesus. As you ponder Jesus ascension, know that you can honestly say, as you picture Jesus ascending, “That will be me one day.” Amen 

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