20 May 2020†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††††† ††††††††††† St. Athanasius Lutheran Church
Eve of the Ascension of Our Lord†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †† Vienna, VA
ďOn the ThroneĒ
Text: Acts 1:1-11; Luke 24:44-53; Ephesians 1:15-23
Alleluia! Christ is ascended! [He is ascended indeed! Alleluia!] Alleluia.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
In our Bible Study on the book of Ezekiel, we heard about Ezekielís vision of heaven, which culminated with seeing the Glory of the Lord, a man-like figure, sitting on a throne, above all creation. It was an awesome sight, but also a comforting one. Israelís king had been taken as a prisoner to Babylon, yet Israelís true king was on the throne in heaven, still ruling, still reigning. He had not been deposed. There was still hope. And in the same way, Israelís army had been defeated in battle by the Babylonians, but heavenís army was still in tact; the angel armies that serve the King were still at the ready. Israel was going through a most difficult time, but God was still the one in control.
In time, this man-like figure, the Glory of the Lord, came down from heaven and became a man. True man. His throne became the manger in which He lay and the cross on which He hung. But He had not been deposed or toppled. He had come to save all people from our captivity - to sin, death, and hell - the captivity that happened when Adam had been deposed and toppled from his place and exiled from the Garden. That was a most difficult time for him and his bride, Eve. But though they had been toppled, God had not. He was still in control. And He promised to come and rescue them from their fallenness and exile. And He did. The rescue and victory that we are celebrating this Easter season.
Yet one thing still remained to do. For the Glory of the Lord, the Son of God, to return to His throne. But He would not ascend as He came. He came humbly, He would ascend in glory. He came as the Son of God only, He would ascend as both God and man. And so not only would the Glory of the Lord return to His throne, but so would man. The fall of Adam from his royal dignity now restored in Jesus. Which is also what we just sang:
He has raised our human nature On the clouds to Godís right hand;
There we sit in heavínly places, There with Him in glory stand.
Jesus reigns, adored by angels; Man with God is on the throne.
By our mighty Lordís ascension We by faith behold our own (LSB #494 v. 5).
So with Ezekiel, we can rejoice that even though we are going through difficult and turbulent times of our own, our Lord is on the throne. He is still in control. He is ruling and reigning for us. Maybe it doesnít look like it. It didnít look like it in Ezekielís day either. Thatís why Ezekiel - and Israel - needed this vision. And itís why we need Ascension Day. To remind us, to comfort us, and to strengthen us.
Which maybe we need especially in these days of fear and death. When Jesus ascended, the disciples asked Him, Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? It may seem like a foolish question, and maybe they were still a bit confused and misguided. But it does reflect their faith in Jesus as the King - the one who can restore the kingdom to Israel. They just didnít know the how or the when.
And neither do we. We believe as the disciples did, that Jesus is the King. But we ask, too. Lord, now? Will you restore us now? When will this time come to an end? Why are you doing things the way you are? Why did this happen? And we ask that not just about the current pandemic, but all kinds of things in our world and lives.
And Jesus responds, to them and to us: It is not for you to know. Times and seasons have been set by the one whose thoughts are not our thoughts and whose ways are not our ways. We may think we know better how to run the world and how to run our lives, but the truth is that we donít. And it doesnít take long to see that! To see the mess weíve made of the world and often make of our lives. And yet the Lord has preserved us and blessed us and kept us in His care. Had He not, I have no doubt that none of us would be here.
But there is a King in heaven and sitting on the throne. A King we know and who knows us. A King whose ruling we need not fear, but whose rule we know is compassion and love. A King not far from us, but who wants to be with us, and wants us with Him. And so He ascends not to leave us, but to complete His work for us. He ascends to send us the Spirit, that we be clothed with power from on high. Not worldly power, but with power greater than that - the power of His love and forgiveness. To see us through this life to our own resurrection and ascension, when the Glory of the Lord comes again in glory to take us to glory.
And then the disciples returned to Jerusalem with great joy. Their Jesus was on the throne for them, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, with all things under his feet. All things, even death and the grave. So what is left for us to fear? And with no fear, what is left for us but joy? Even in the midst of a sinful world, a world where there is sadness and death. We know it cannot win, for it did not win. Our King is on the throne, and one day we will see Him there. One day, Ezekielís vision will be our own.
And so the disciples, filled with joy, were continually in the temple blessing God. Speaking of His mighty acts, and probably, especially His ascension, as they awaited the promised Spirit. For where else would you wait but the Temple? The place Jesus Himself had been so often. His Fatherís house, as He said at age twelve. A house of prayer.
And so we come, to His house here. We who do not know the times and seasons, but who have received His Spirit and know that our Lord is on His throne, ruling all things for our good. We come to receive that good from His hand and mouth, and we leave to give that good to others, filled with confidence and joy. And if weíre not filled with that confidence and joy, perhaps it is because we have lost sight of the Ascension and its significance, and lost faith in our King.
But today, we can get that back. And rejoice no matter what comes our way. Last year we were praying because of tornadoes and floods. This year, a pandemic and virus. And next year . . . ? But our Lord, our Saviour, our brother, is ruling and reigning for us. Nothing will happen to you that He does not know. Nothing will happen to you that He will not use for good. It may not be for us to know the times and seasons - the whys, the whats, the whens, and the wherefores - but it is for us to know Him, and to trust not in what we see happen or what we think is good and right, but trust in Him. No longer just the Glory of the Lord, a man-like figure, on His throne, but our brother Jesus on the throne!
For Christ is ascended! [He is ascended indeed! Alleluia!] And by our mighty Lordís ascension We by faith behold our own.
In the Name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.