The Feast of the Ascension of our Lord
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
May 9, 2013
Central Passage
Mark 16:14-20

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The festival half of the Church Year is coming to a close. Pentecost is just over a week away, and then the Trinity Season, what’s been called “Ordinary Time” begins. The festival half of the Church Year is from Advent to Pentecost, and contains all the major feasts of Christ. Most notably, Christmas and Easter. But also Epiphany, which has gained some popularity again over the last several years, and of course, holy week. Today is also a high feast: Ascension.

Like t is Feast of the Nativity of our Lord is always on December 25th, the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord is always 40 days after Easter, always the Thursday before Exaudi Sunday, or the last Sunday of Easter. And as you well know, the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord celebrates our Lord’s ascension to the right hand of God the Father.

I don’t prefer to say that He ascended into heaven because “heaven” has become the name of any sort of afterlife place of soft light and winged cherubs – not cherubim – floating around with harps. But the scriptural use of the word that we translate “heaven” really means the place of God’s abode, where God is in His full divine glory. Our societal use of the word heaven does not mean the place of God in His full divine glory. Many people can talk about heaven without even mentioning God. Like when we send and receive cards that talk about our deceased loved ones being in heaven, but not talk about them before the throne of God. Moreover, pagans and heathens also speak of heaven, the place of the afterlife. So maybe “heaven” should be reserved for the creed which has every other line to define what heaven is.

Better to say – rather than He ascended into heaven – that He ascended to the right hand of God the Father, which the Bible also says. This eliminates any heaven or ascension that denies the holy Trinity, or that puts forward a generic heaven. Heaven is wherever Jesus is because Jesus is always before the Father. That means this is heaven. Or at least this is the portal and gateway of heaven, this gathering where our Lord gathers us to Himself to give us His heavenly life and blessings. That’s why the ancients called the holy liturgy, the Divine Service, Jacob’s Ladder and the doorway to paradise and the gate of heaven. This is where heaven meets earth. Here the ascended Lord breaks through creation and reveals Himself in preaching and the breaking of bread. Jesus loves you, and this is where you meet Him.

And that is good.

I used to think it’d have been better if Jesus had not ascended but remained on earth according to the flesh so that we could see and touch Him, like Thomas got to do. But Jesus says it is better that He goes. It is better because when He went, when He ascended, He completed His work of salvation. He says on the cross, “It is finished,” and it is. The work of atonement is finished. But there is one thing left to do: ascend to the Father. Unless I go, He says, I cannot send the Helper, the Holy Spirit. And because I go, you will do greater works and whatever you ask, the Father will give you. Because Jesus ascended, we can pray to the Father. Without His ascension, we would not pray to God as our Father.

But now there is before the Father one of us, our Brother. He is ascended. He is like the team member that has scored, crossed into the end-zone. He scored, but the whole team has been blessed by it. He made it, but we benefit from His accomplishment. And because He is there, we are there also. Our life is hidden in Christ.

It is better that Christ ascended. It is better because He sends His Spirit that unifies us with Him and by whom we pray to His Father as our Father. It is better because now He who ascended makes Himself known over the whole world in the breaking of the bread and the preaching of His gospel. And when we gather in His name, we gather before the Father in the unity of the Spirit in the glory of God, gathering in heaven while on earth.

+ In Nomine Iesu +