Lord, Open Our Minds ...
Text: Luke 24:44-53
Ascension Day, B
Christ’s Ascension can be hard to wrap your mind around. There is just so much happening, after Easter, before Pentecost. In fact, after celebrating the ascension here today on Sunday we will go back to celebrate the resurrection one more time ... almost like this didn’t happen! And along with this is the confusion of what this ascension day means both here on earth and up in heaven. Important things are happening all over the place! There is so much that is a part of this high festival day of the Church. Why does Jesus leave? What about those left behind? What are we to think about it all? What does it all mean for us? Christ’s Ascension can be hard to wrap your mind around.
And that is why our prayer for today, based on the Gospel reading begins “Lord, Open Our Minds ... To see You in Your Word” For that is where Jesus begins. 44Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,
This world and life will bring many troubles and tribulations, never-ending pains and problems. Why needlessly make matters worse by forgetting the many gracious promises of our risen, ascended, and victorious Lord? We need God’s help to understand the true scope of the promises in God’s Word. Everything must be fulfilled, including His promise to be with us to the end of the age, His promise to work good for us in all things (even the difficult and painful things of this life) and His promise of the crown of life, the new Jerusalem, and His return one day to take us home to be with Him forever.
The whole of the Scriptures points to this saving work of Christ for us sinners and the hope, the joy and the peace that is ours through His life, death and resurrection ... and now also His ascension. The prophets attested to it. Moses foretold of it. The psalms sing of it. The disciples will be witnesses of it.
And So we pray, Lord Open Our Minds ... To hear You through Your Witnesses. 46and [Jesus] said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49And 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.”
That Jesus is parted from His disciples on that Ascension hill side reminds us of that other parting, that parting which is at the very foundation of the Gospel. That parting of the Father and the Son on the cross. This parting, caused by our sin was indeed as very sad as Jesus’ dying cry intoned: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” The Son burdened with our grievous sins was indeed parted from His loving Father. Jesus was damned for us. A complete and total separation of the most heart wrenching kind. For that is what it took to save us. But because that is done, because He died and rose again, this ascension day parting at Bethany takes on a joyful understanding.
He is not leaving them alone, but sending them the promised and powerful Spirit to guide and sustain them in the very important task before them. They are to take the good news into all the world. Christ Is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia. And in this victorious, risen and ascended Lord and Saviour there is forgiveness of sins and the hope of eternal life and a joyful reunion to come. It remains the work of the Holy Christian Church to this day. To proclaim in the long line of witnesses, the glory and victory of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To share the Good News. To forgive sins and comfort the troubled with God’s love in Christ. But it will be a long and difficult task. It has always been thus.
And so our final Ascension Day prayer is Lord, Open Our Minds ... To receive Your Blessings with Joy! 50And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. 52And they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53and were continually in the temple blessing God.
To be in the House of the Lord is a blessing indeed! For there we receive the many blessings that are ours in the risen and ascended Christ. He may be in heaven once again, but He is there on the throne to rule over all things for the sake of His Church. From there He blesses every Christian equally with His gifts of the Word and the Sacraments. Granting eternal life and a place with Him through our great Baptismal exchange. Strengthening and nourishing our faith in the Heavenly Bread and Wine that are His true Body and Blood. Sustaining and encouraging our faith and life as His witnesses through the preaching of the Gospel. Each of these is blessing enough to be joyful over. Yet they are all ours through the blessing of our Saviour.
And, if you can wrap your mind around it, this joy out-poured in the blessings received is our primary and most effective witness to the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. How do we reach this lost and hurting world? How do we make a difference? How do we grow in our discipleship and effectiveness? By Looking to our Risen and ascended Lord in joy! By living our lives before the Heavenly throne of the Lamb of God and in the House of our Lord God and Father. By telling the Good News with joy and enthusiasm. By looking forward to the day we will be welcomed into the Father’s Heavenly Home with all the Saints before and after us! For everything WILL be fulfilled! Even though He is ascended Jesus will be with us to the end of the age. Even though troubles will remain Jesus will always find some way to make good come of it, either for us or for those around us. And one day very soon He will appear as He once left, to place the crown of life on our head, usher us into our home in the new Jerusalem.