The Ascension, 2017 (tr)

Ascensiontide

The Lesson Appt. for the Epistle  

Acts 1:1-11

The Gospel – Luke 24:49-53

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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Both of our lessons come today from the same writer.  The Beloved Physician, St. Luke.

 

Luke in the beginning of both his Gospel account as well as his follow-up volume known as the “Acts of the Apostles” makes sure the recipient of these two writings is assured that what he is about to read is true, factual, orderly, and certain.

 

Today we get an example of that assurance when we hear the first words of the Acts of the Apostles.

 

“In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, [2] until the day when he [Jesus] was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. [3] He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:1-3, ESV)


This sounds similar to his introduction that he writes in the book we simply call Luke…or The Gospel According to St. Luke.

 

There he writes this, “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, [2] just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, [3] it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, [4] that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:1-4, ESV)

 

Very similar language.  Orderly account.  Following things closely…in order to get it right and accurate.  Passing it faithfully along to his reader…and to us.

 

 

 

 

Today our lesson again is the introduction to The Acts of the Apostles.  Luke explains here for us that in his last volume…his last installment, he dealt with what Jesus began to do and teach while He was with the Disciples.

 

How Jesus was with them in the Upper Room. How He told them that He must suffer and die but then rise to life again.

 

How Jesus appeared on and off after His resurrection to some or a few or all of them from time to time over a 40 day period. 

 

This is where we are today.  Just about the same 40 days after the Resurrection…we have been also looking at what Jesus said to them since Easter and even before…and living in that time between the resurrection and the ascension.

And now in his second volume Luke is preparing Theophilus for what he is about to report next….

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the work the Spirit would do in and through the followers of Jesus.

 

The Collect today expresses to God just what we desire.  As we do believe that Jesus Christ ascended into heaven …so we may also both in our hearts and in our minds ascend there also…and there, continually dwell with Him.

 

There is some important wording there.  As we do believe that Jesus ascended into heaven, may we too ascend there in heart and mind…

 

So we have to acknowledge first a truth about the work of Christ. 

We have to acknowledge and believe that Jesus ascended into heaven.

 

And then we are to in heart and mind ascend there as well.

 

So secondly we get this idea that our hearts must be fixed on the story …the true events of Jesus’ ascension.  And then we are to meditate on that.  We are to think on that.

 

We are to understand what it means and what it signifies for us as well.

 

And then we are to ascend there in those thoughts.

 

We have to use every effort of mind to ascend to where Christ is.  This is a theme that we find in the New Testament. 

To have this mind in us that was in Christ Jesus.

 

Or Paul says, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [2] Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2, ESV)

 

We are to set our minds on things above.

We are to seek the things that are above.

 

There is to be this new mindset that we are to have. 

One commentator phrases it this way, “Cease to concentrate your energies, your thoughts, on mundane ordinances, and realize your new and heavenly life, of which Christ is the polestar.”[1]

Seek the things that are above is “the region of the heavenly things of the Messianic salvation…”[2]

 

“Ascension follows resurrection: hence, if we are the members of Christ, we must ascend into heaven, because he, on being raised up from the dead, was received up into heaven, (Mark 16:19,) that he might draw us up with him.”[3]

 

“Let us therefore bear in mind that [this] is a true and holy thinking as to Christ, which forthwith bears us up into heaven, that we may there adore him, and that our minds may dwell with him.”[4]

 

That is what the Ascension doctrine calls us to do.  To turn our thoughts to what is to come for each of us.

 

Even in the past events of Christ’s death and burial and resurrection…all in the past….if we dwell on those things, it directs our minds to what is ahead for us.

 

If we dwell on those things that are above, our earthly thoughts will be displaced.

 

In all things we should be looking to what has been done and what is to come.  We should see all things created as things made in the past for us to enjoy and then as we see this world fading away under its own weight of sin, we look for the future Kingdom of Glory… and the restoration of all things in a new heavens and a new earth.

 

The writer to the Hebrews tell us this, speaking of a future glory…. “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” [6] So we can confidently say,

 

            “The Lord is my helper;

                        I will not fear;

            what can man do to me?” (ESV)

 

What can man do to me…since I am a child of the Kingdom to come?

 

He goes on to say, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” (Hebrews 13:14, ESV)

 

 

 

You should be seeing how many of those verses that we hear week after week from Paul regarding our conduct are contextualized here…are fleshed out and given reason.

 

If we are strangers and aliens as Paul says, then heaven is our home and that is where the gaze should be fixed.

 

Our fixed residence is in heaven.

 

Whenever we are driven from somewhere or some sort of drastic change occurs in our life, this is the sort of mind we are to have.

 

There is no certainty in this life in this matter.  But the heavenly dwelling is without change.

 

The certainty is in what Christ promises.

Heaven’s doors have been flung wide open through the resurrection of Christ… and His ascension into the same signifies where our true destination lies.

 

Here there is no lasting city for us to dwell in permanently.   Our inheritance lies in the world to come.

 

At times of trial we have to think on this even more vehemently. And we are to be assured of this very thing each time uncertainty and doubts fill our minds.

 

The glimpses of this are only found in the pages of Scripture.  Assurance of this is only found in the Bible. To have our doctrine right is to have our minds assured.

 

 

We must understand what the Bible teaches about these things and have our hearts and minds fixed on those things that are true and never changing.

 

But at the same time we should not be lazy.  Though we have no lasting city here and our dwelling place is elsewhere, we do not take the time we have now for granted…nor the work we have to do now for granted.

 

Though certainties lay ahead, the process of them being fulfilled is still in motion here and now.

 

Our life is to do all such good works as He has prepared for us to walk in. 

 

 

 

If our hearts and minds are ascended or focused on heaven, or to say it more fully…

if our hearts and minds are thinking and recalling again and again the great work of Christ that He has done for us….

and how He has gone into heaven to be our advocate and to rule and reign until His coming again, then it seems the way this collect is written it becomes a seamless transition.

 

It says again, that like as we believe Christ to have ascended into heaven, may our hearts and minds also ascend there now and with Him continually dwell.

 

It doesn't just say have heart and mind thinking on these things now and one day it will be realized.  That is true in one sense.

 

 

But it seems to be constructed in such a way so as to convey this image that though we live here and now and await the return of Christ or our death… whichever comes first…and keep our hearts and minds fixed in heaven, then we will continually dwell there.

 

It is only a matter of final fulfillment.

 

It doesn't seem to be saying just close your eyes and pretend you are there now and then when you open your eyes you will be there.

 

It is saying that as we live in this life now and our hearts and minds are so fixed on the eternal and turned away from the earthly and we are considered to be dwelling there….

 

 

guaranteed by Christ’s ascension, then on the last day, when we do fully and finally attain heavenly glory, it will be more of a completion of what we began in heart and mind here and now.

 

Because to be there in heart and mind is not physical.  It is more conveying a fully convinced mindset.  A trusting secure assured mindset of these things now. A spiritual reality.

 

It is through the Holy Spirit that we now have the very real present connection and relationship with Christ.

 

Because being of that heart and mind is what propels us to rest in the hope and the assurance of getting there.

 

Jesus, after He presented Himself to them alive after three days in the grave, to told His Disciples…it says He ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem.

 

Stay in Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Father.

 

They were to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

 

Don't leave town.  Wait where I want you to wait.  Remain in the place that I call you to remain in so that at the right time you will receive power from the Holy Spirit and you will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth.

 

 

 

So as we wait, not for the Holy Spirit, for He dwells in us right now…and at the same time have our hearts and minds fixed in heaven, we, like the Disciples have a similar task.

 

We are to be His witnesses in every area of our lives. 

In every relationship in our lives.  

At home and at work.

 

The Disciples were corrected for staring up into heaven as Jesus ascended.

It was as if to say, quit standing there looking around, get busy.

 

Get to work with the task that I have given you to do.  Go into all the world.  Make disciples of all nations.  Baptize them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Teach others to have their hearts and minds fixed on the heavenly reward.

 

For this Jesus will come in the same way He was seen going into heaven. You will not miss His return.

 

And when He does return let Him find us about the business to which He has called us.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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[1] Lightfoot, J. B. (1997). Colossians and Philemon (p. 104). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Braune, K., & Riddle, M. B. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Colossians (p. 61). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[3] Calvin, J., & Pringle, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (p. 205). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[4] Calvin, J., & Pringle, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (p. 206). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.