Worship the Ascended King
RUMC May 28, 2017
On this the seventh and final Sunday of Easter, our focus this morning will be on the Ascension of Jesus, the time when Jesus returned to his Father in heaven. While Christ directs his church from heaven, it is important for us to continue Christ’s mission, and, at the same time, be in a state of readiness.
My text is Luke 24:44-53.
Then 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, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” 50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53 and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
Jesus’ ascension was the final earthly event in the life of our Lord; I realize there are different viewpoints as to what it means. There is the “Historical Jesus” interpretation where the focus is on the life of Jesus minus the supernatural. Those who adhere to this viewpoint find their inspiration in the ethical and spiritual teachings of Christ. And there are others, like me, who accept the supernatural aspects of Christ, which nurtures our faith.
The Ascension is a mysterious event. It is one continuous movement tied in with the resurrection. As a result, our Lord’s glorified body now operates on a higher level without any spatial limitations. You see, when Jesus was on earth, he could only be in one place at a time. Now that he reigns from on high, he can be in relationship, all at once, with as many who desire to have a closer walk with the Lord. Jesus just didn’t vanish into thin air, but the laws of gravity were suspended so he could publically take his rightful place next to his father.
When we recite the Apostle’s Creed, we do it as an affirmation–a means to express what we believe:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, dead, and buried;
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
The spiritual message that we can take from the gospel text and the Apostle’s creed in regards to the Ascension is that Jesus is Lord and will return. But as believers we need to be watchful and do what he has called us to do. It is like we are citizens of the Kingdom of God and of the United States; we have responsibilities towards both.
Nationally known minister, Pastor Chuck Swindoll, wrote about the time he worked at a machine shop prior to going into the ministry. He wrote about a co-worker named George. George’s job was to sweep and clean out the metal shavings underneath the machines. As Swindoll told it, George would sing hymns as he worked. Many of the songs had to do with the second return of Christ such as the “Sweet Bye and Bye,” “Mansion over the Hilltop” and “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder.” About ten minutes to quitting time, all the men would get cleaned up and change out of their dirty clothes before they punched the clock. One particular time Swindoll looked at George and noticed that he had on his dirty overalls. Swindoll asked, “George, are you ready?” George answered, “Uh huh.” In Swindoll’s mind, George was not ready. In fact he looked like he was ready to keep on working. Then Swindoll said, “George, are you ready to go home?” And George said, “Yeah, I’m ready.” But Swindoll said, “Look at you. You’ve gotta go clean up.” Then George said, “Now let me show you something.” He unzipped his coveralls and underneath were some of the neatest, cleanest clothes that you could image.” He said, “You see, I stay ready, just like I’m ready for Jesus.”
The need to be ready for Jesus should affect the way we live. Paul the Apostle wrote in Romans 14:10 “For we shall all stand before God’s judgment seat.” Knowing that I will have to give an account of my life is enough motivation to do what is right.
There was once a man named Henry Himmer who was in failing health. Henry was disappointed he couldn’t get to hear a dynamic evangelist named Charles Fuller who was to preach at Henry’s church on the subject of heaven, so Henry wrote this letter:
“Dear Rev. Fuller, I would like so much to be in church Sunday night, to hear your sermon on the subject of heaven. But my physical condition will not allow me to be there. The reason I would like to be there is because I have great interest in that place.
I own a piece of land with a clear deed and title in that wonderful place that you are going to be talking about. I didn’t buy it. It was given to me without price and without money, although the One who gave it to me purchased it at great cost.
I don’t have it as an idle investment, but I have been busy sending materials to the master architect for more than 50 years and he is building for me a house of my dreams. It will never have to be painted or remodeled because it is being made just for me. Termites will never eat away at its foundation because it is built on the Rock of Ages.
Fire will never destroy it. Winds will never blow it away. There will be no locks on its door because no evil people will ever live in that blessed land. Between me and my home, there is a valley, a dark valley.
And I must cross it. I am not afraid, because the One has gone before. And He will lead the way. I am ready to take his hand. My house is almost finished. I would like to hear your sermon on heaven because I have a great interest in that land.”
It sounds like Henry was more than ready to meet his maker; may we be the same.
This coming week, our country will observe Memorial Day. One of the positive attributes of the American military is their state of readiness. When I was on active duty, the mission of the US Army was drummed into us so much that I still remember it to this day: “to deploy anywhere, anytime, either by air, land or sea and conduct combat or peace time operations.” Translated: to be ready to go, anywhere, anytime, to do what needs to be done. I see a similarity to today’s message. We need to be in that state of readiness and do those things Christ would have us to do.
At the Ascension:
- Jesus left here for everywhere.
- He left time for the eternal.
- He left the first century for all the centuries.
When you get a chance, look for the YouTube video of “The Hallelujah Chorus” performed by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. As you watch, you will see the words on the screen that G.F. Handel wrote. I want you to pay particular attention to the words from Revelation 11:15 which says “The Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ and He shall reign forever. King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” This was made possible through the Ascension and this is the Jesus we worship.