Sunday, May 20, 2007

Don’t Get Carried Away

The Ascension of Our Lord [Observed]
Seventh Sunday of Easter
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Luke 24:44-53

Do you think maybe Jesus got a little carried away? He was literally carried up into heaven after having been with His disciples for three years. After having come here to earth to establish His Church. And now He was leaving? Going back to heaven? Did He really have that much confidence in them that He could train them for three years and then leave them to get the Christian Church up and running? And what about us? Do we maybe get carried away in our thinking about Jesus and His role in the Church?

The Ascension of Christ is really somewhat of an odd event. God becomes a man. Jesus comes to earth to be among us. He takes on human flesh and even promises to be with us always—

But then He leaves. He ascends into heaven. He promises to return again on the Last Day, but He’s no longer with us as He was during three decades in which He walked and talked among us. Yes, He promised to send the Holy Spirit. And He did that.

But look around you. We cannot escape the fact that Jesus is nowhere to be seen. He is not alive on this earth as He was two thousand years ago. We can’t see Him. It doesn’t feel like He’s with us.

We can tend to get carried away. If Jesus were walking the earth we’d have something to see, wouldn’t we? We could offer to people to come see Jesus in the flesh. To talk with Him. Get a hug from Him. He could display His power to us. If we had any questions, if there was anything we were unsure about, we could go directly to the source.

But that’s not the way it is. When we tell people about Christianity and Christ Himself we can’t say, “See, here He is, see for yourself.” We have to give them something else, right?

This is the way it seems. And this is how we can get carried away. Since it doesn’t appear that Christ is present with us we look for ways to feel His presence. Look all around you in life and you see things you know are real. Now we all have different interests and things that are appealing to us. But in our society these things are readily available to us. The kind of music you like to listen to. All kinds of different TV shows. Many different activities, whether it’s sports, or going to the beach, or browsing museums, or different kinds of books, or different kinds of clubs or groups to belong to. All these things are part of our culture and they bring satisfaction and enjoyment to us.

But we get carried away when we import this stuff into the Church. Not that this stuff is bad. It’s good. God gave us all that stuff for our enjoyment. But they’re not what Jesus leaves us with to meet our spiritual needs. Since they’re readily available, we can easily use them in the Church to reach people. Since they bring enjoyment to people we may tend to use them to appeal to people.

Why would we do things that people don’t understand? Why are we singing hymns that are so different from the music people normally listen to? Why is our worship so formal and ritualistic when people are much more open to free expression? We want to bring the things of God down to where people are at. But we can get carried away with it. God doesn’t want to leave us where we are. He wants to carry us away from it all. He wants to transport us from our ordinary lives filled with sin and guilt, hardship and questions.

And this is what we want. We want to be transported to another place. Be removed from the common world, of the problems of our everyday life. Well when we insert the things of our ordinary life into the Church we are letting the culture change the Church. The Church is here to transform the culture. God has given us the Church to transform our lives. To transform us. God actually carries us away from our ordinary lives through the majesty of His gifts.

Jesus wasn’t getting carried away at all. The very act He was doing for His disciples while He ascended into heaven was to bless them. This is what our Lord does, He blesses us. And He does it by coming to us. It seems odd, since He parted from them and won’t return in that way until the Last Day. But our Lord does indeed continue to come to us—in His Holy Word, in our Baptism, in His Holy Supper.

He told the disciples to wait for that day they would be clothed with power from on high. That day came at Pentecost and our Lord never ceases to clothe us with power from on high as He sends His Holy Spirit to work forgiveness of our sin and new life in us through the Holy Word, our Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper.

Because of this, there’s actually something we should get carried away with; in a good way. Jesus came to this earth. As He said, as it had been written, to suffer and rise from the grave. What we get carried away with is the repentance and forgiveness of sins proclaimed in His name to all nations. This is what the Church is here for. It’s here for the world, not the other way around. The world needs the Church. The Church is not in need of what the world offers. We shouldn’t get carried away bringing our own feelings into the Church. We should get carried away with the many blessings God gives to us in His Church and the task of bringing the Gospel to all nations.

Jesus knows how we can get carried away. That’s why He opened the disciples minds to understand the Scriptures. It’s only in the Scriptures that we are given the mind to understand the Scriptures. Left to our own devices we get carried away and are left in our sins. But Christ has ascended into heaven and has left us with Himself.

We are Baptized. In Baptism we are united with Christ. We hear His Holy Gospel and by that we are saved and continually forgiven. We eat and drink the very Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins and the strengthening of our faith. You might say Jesus does get carried away in His lavish love for us. We certainly don’t deserve it. But it’s what He loves to do, and that’s all we need to know. Amen.


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