Sermon — Rev Tony Sikora — Ascension Day

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  AMEN

Beloved in the Lord,

Having opened their minds to understand the scriptures Jesus led His disciples as far as Bethany.  And with hands stretched over them in blessing, a blessing that never ends, the savior of the World was received into heaven by means of a cloud.  With His ascension goes our humanity. Therefore, our humanity rises above the nature of animals.  Our humanity rises above the dignity of the heavenly hosts.  Passing the angelic orders our humanity rises above the heights of the archangels.  As the Son of Mary goes, so go the sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve.  Far above the realms of a broken creation our human nature ascends with Christ, ceasing only at the seat of the right hand of God the Father almighty.  There, on the throne of His glory sits our Human nature united with the Divine nature in the person of Jesus Christ.

The ascension of Jesus is our elevation to the right hand of God.  Wherever Jesus is He is there in His flesh and blood whether its in heaven, on earth, or under bread and wine.  There is no separation of the divine and human natures.  His body has not been abandoned to the grave.  His divinity is not above a union with flesh and blood.  No!  God has exalted Christ Jesus, the Son of Mary, to the right hand of power, and with Him our own human nature.  What Adam forsook by eating the fruit of the wrong tree; namely, the image of God and dominion over all creation, Jesus has restored and triumphantly seals with His ascension today.  For all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him, given to Him as a man, as flesh and blood, as the Son of Mary and the Son of God.

Therefore, it is not with saddened hearts that we gather this day/night.  Jesus has not left us.  He has not abandoned us to make our own way to heaven.  Quite the contrary beloved!  With great joy we sing to Jesus, we pray in the Spirit, we listen with faith, we feast on His flesh and blood and with all the saints and martyrs who now enjoy the bliss of eternity we revel in the salvation God has wrought for us through His Son today.

Such salvation must be done for us.  As the Savior says, “Thus it was written and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day.”  These things were necessary to free a people held in the clutches of sin and death.  Such is the lot of fallen humanity, such is the curse of the Sons of Adam and the daughters of Eve.  We are born slaves, slaves to sin and destined to death.  Through the “ill will of the devil” humanity lost the joys of heaven and our place before God in heaven.  As slaves to sin humanity obeyed its master. It is a master we are very much aware of, for we too have fallen prey to its deceit.  Trapped in its clutches since conception we have been born into a world captivated with sin.  We have been selfish, lazy, greedy, uncaring, hurtful and hateful.  At times we have demeaned our neighbor with our lips rudely voicing the depths of our heart.  While at other times our silence has surrendered into death the dignity of our human race, even the unborn.  We have ignored God’s word to our detriment and have heeded the voice of false prophets like Dr. Phil and Oprah.  Our families are easily broken.  Our children are too easily forsaken.  Our parents are dishonored and our vocations neglected.   Sin has had its way with us and with those whom we love.  Sin has found a willing cohort in our members as well as a captive victim.  We have sinned and we have been sinned against. Our humanity has fallen so far from God that we can do nothing about it.  Apart from Christ Jesus we are dead in our sins and trespasses.  Apart from Jesus all humanity is dead, for the wages of sin is death.  Who will save us from this wretched body of death?

Thanks be to God!  Christ Jesus has come!  He has come as a man, fully human, fully flesh and blood.  He nobly bears our humanity while also “being the brightness of the glory of the Father and the express image of His person.  He upholds all things by the Word of His power and when He had by Himself purged our sins, He sat down at the right hand of God the Father almighty” (Hebrews 1:3). These things were necessary for us and for our salvation.  If Christ is not fully flesh and blood, then humanity is not redeemed.  If Christ is not God, then humanity is not raised from the dead.  As the Incarnate God Jesus wins the victory, not for Himself alone, but for all of our human race.  By His flesh and blood, our flesh and blood is redeemed.  By His life, our life is restored.  By His death, our death is vanquished.  By His descent into Hell, Hell has lost its power over all believe.  By His Resurrection comes our resurrection.  Sin, death, devil, and hell; all which glory in captivating us, has itself been taken captive by Christ Jesus our Lord.  The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the Law!  But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! (1 Corinthians 15:56).  The chains which once bound us are no more.  The fetters have been broken! The prison door opened wide.  The guards chased away with an earthquake!  The warden crushed under the weight of the Righteous One who is risen for us all.

Now, this righteous one binds our captivity captive and ascends into heaven as the mighty conqueror.  He has seized and taken captive those that had taken us captive.  He takes my captivity captive.  He captures my executor, bars my transgressions, eradicates my mortality and damns my accuser!  He ascends to the Father’s right hand with the spoils of war bound by the might of His death and resurrection.

By faith in Christ, we behold the exaltation of our humanity to the glories of heaven.  Where Jesus goes we go also.  We go free from sin, death, and devil.  It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Therefore, confident of the forgiveness of our sins and victory over death, we live in this freedom. We do not persist in sin, but glory in the freedom of Faith.  For if you truly believe in Christ you also believe that He ascended to heaven and has led your captivity captive(that is, your sins).  “Now, your sins can no longer terrify you and accuse you before God.  Try as they may to burden your conscience with guilt and despair, you may confidently say, ‘Sin, your accusation means nothing to me; I believe in Him who sits above at the right hand of the Father and has taken you captive.  For this reason I know of no sin but that which has been taken captive and is already condemned and damned before God and will have its head chopped off at the end of the world.  I know you like to drive me into depression, into despair, into foolhardiness, into idolatry; but you have no claim on me.  You have been taken captive, your tyranny is done with, and your dominion is at an end.  Now you are the prisoner!.'” (Luther’s Ascension Day sermon, 1534).

Free from such tyrannical masters we Christians are now slaves to righteousness.  Our humanity has been exalted to the Father’s right hand.  We exceed the glories of all creation.  The image of God has been restored to us and is freely given to all who are baptized into Christ.  United to God through the flesh and blood of Christ we are “set free from sin and have become slaves of God, our fruit is holiness and our end is everlasting life.  For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:22-23).

Beloved in the Lord, having earned all authority in heaven and on earth by His devoted passion, our Mighty conqueror mounts in triumph!  He ascends to the Father’s right hand exalting our human nature to the highest of heavens.  This is not a cause for sadness as though He has left us orphans.  The disciples rejoiced and returned to the temple praising God, confessing Jesus as the Christ saying, “I believe in Jesus Christ His only son our Lord!”  Such is the fruit of faith!  Praise, glory, worship, and feasting.  For Christ does not leave us orphans.  He does not abandon us.  “Lo I am with you always unto the very end of the age.” He says.  Though He has gone up with a shout, He continues to descend in humility.  Now, ascended to the Father’s right hand, He fully and always makes use of His divine powers as a man, in His flesh.  Therefore, as a man, in His flesh, Jesus can be and is, wherever the Father’s right hand is.  Because the Father fills the heavens and the earth, so also does Jesus,  . . . as a man, in His flesh.  Therefore, as a man, in His flesh Jesus is with you when two or more gather in His name.  As a man, in His flesh, Jesus is with you when you pray.  And as a man, in His flesh He can be and is present under the forms of bread and wine.  “I with you always unto the very end of the age.” Indeed, He is with us now, as a man, in the flesh, right here in this place, under this bread, and in this wine.  All for you, all for your salvation all because He has ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.  God be praised!  AMEN!

 

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

 

Pastor Tony Sikora
Hope Lutheran Church
De Witt, MI


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