Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What are you looking at? What are you looking for?

Sermon preached for Ascension, 13 May 2010.

    What a strange sight it must have been.  Grown men standing staring into the sky with blank looks on their faces.  He was here... and then he was gone.  Where is Jesus?  What a strange experience it must have been for these disciples.  They had just been talking with Jesus and He had just opened to them the Scriptures, and shown to them how it speaks of Him and then in the midst of this conversation, he was gone.  Where did He go? And then the big Lutheran question: What does this mean?
    What were they waiting for?  What were they looking for?  For Jesus to come again?  For a world to be made right and perfect and good?  What are you waiting for?  For sins to be forgiven, for wounds to heal, for sorrows to be consoled, for sorrows to be comforted, for worries to turn out right, for questions to be answered...  We look to Jesus to keep the promise of the Father... but what is the promise of the Father?  That promise is nothing less then Jesus Himself and the Spirit whom He sends from the Father to reveal Him to us that we might know Him, believe in Him, and trust in Him.
    The promise of the Father is not some hidden wisdom, truth, event, or goal.  The promise of the Father is Jesus.  There is no hope or dream of sinful man that He does not fulfill – including saying NO to us when what we want from Him we should not have.  Jesus is the promise of the Father whose outstretched arms relieve the suffering of sinners like you and me.  Jesus is the giver of freedom who liberates captives like you and me from sin and its death.  Jesus is rich one who traded all His riches to pay down the debt of our rebellion, sin, and death, that all our duty and obligation might be paid.
    The promise of the Father is not some impossible dream we must believe in or some impossible truth we must accept but the Holy Spirit who comes in Christ’s name to visit our weary, stubborn, hardened hearts to teach us to see Jesus and believe in Him. The promise of the Father is not a goal we must reach, an achievement we must accomplish, or some greater event that the cross and resurrection.  The promise of the Father is Jesus and the Spirit of Jesus who gives to us the Christ of God in whom our every weakness, need or cause is met with grace unsurpassed and hope that cannot be destroyed.
    Many of us are tempted to stand like the disciples did, staring at God – or at least where we think He is – waiting until we see something we can believe in, waiting until we see enough little promises kept before we trust Him with the big things of our lives, and waiting until the world or we made different, transformed by something amazing.  If this is what we wait for, we will be disappointed.  But if we are waiting upon the Son who fulfills all things and for the Spirit who makes known this Son to us, then we will never be disappointed.
    Our lives are lived in the time of waiting between His ascension and His return in glory.  Our lives are filled with a waiting that sometimes seems aimless, sometimes seems long, and sometimes seems hopeless... a time of questions that have no answers, of wounds that continue to fester and hurt... of sorrows that tear at the fabric of our hearts... We can either gaze into the empty sky hoping to see something... Or we can focus upon who Jesus is, what Jesus Himself has accomplished for us, whom the Spirit has made known to us... That Jesus Christ died and rose again to bring forgiveness, life and salvation for all sinners, and most especially for you and me.
The question of Ascension is simple.  What will we focus on?  What will we look for?  What will we see?  Jesus has made it plain.  Unless He ascends, we will be left without the Counselor who will bring to our knowledge all that Jesus said and did for us and our salvation.  But He has ascended to do just that.  To make it possible for us to have what He has won, He leaves and sends to us the One who makes Jesus known to us.  Then we might view life itself through the lens of Jesus Christ, and there find revealed to us the presence that will not leave us orphans, the hope that will not disappoint us, the peace that passes all understanding, and the grace that is sufficient for all our needs.  Amen.

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