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Lift Up Your Hearts

May 25, 2017 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Verse: Colossians 3:1–3:6

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Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
May 25, 2017
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Ascension
Lift Up Your Hearts

If you, therefore, have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Fix your minds on the things that are above, not on the things of the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears then you also shall appear with him in glory. Therefore mortify the things that are earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry; on account of which things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.
Colossians 3:1-6

The Lord’s ascension is a vital element of our salvation, but you would never know it to hear Christian preaching. A faithful minister of the Gospel will never let a Sunday go by without giving voice to the Lord’s redeeming death, to the blood of Jesus that purifies us from every sin. But rarely does he mention the Lord’s ascension.

But fear not little flock because the church has not left us to our own devices; but has twice established the Lord’s ascension in liturgy so that we would never forget; never lose hope; and never be without the comfort the Lord’s ascension affords those who are weighed down by sin and sorrow!

The first place we proclaim the ascension is the Creed. Every Sunday of our lives we confess aloud that he “ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father; and he shall come again with glory to judge the quick and the dead.” But in order to understand the meaning of that little phrase we need to review St. Paul’s sermon to the Ephesians where he writes, “by the working of his great might … God raised Christ from the dead, and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:20-23)

What St. Paul writes here is a theological bonanza because it means that our gracious God and Savior Jesus Christ is King of kings, and Lord of lords. It means that the universe is not spinning madly out of control as many fear. But to the contrary that God has put all things under his feet; under his control. And so whatever it is that plagues you today be it sin or death, fear or foreboding, trouble or disquiet, your Lord is in control. And he will make “all things work together for good” for you. For if God be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

He who delivered himself into evil on the cross for our sakes, will deliver us from evil, and make all things new, all things good, all things right. Not just now in this present age. But in the life of the world to come. And there is nothing better than that!

And so take heart dear Christians. Be strong and courageous! Don’t be terrified or dismayed come what may, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. As he was with Moses he will be with you. As he was with Jesus he will be with you for he says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

The other place we recount the Lord’s ascension is in the Preface. As often as the celebrant calls out to God’s people … burdened as they are with the weight of the world on their shoulders … “lift up your hearts.” And as often as they respond with baptismal gladness “we lift them up unto the Lord” we are fixing our gaze upon the ascended, reigning and returning Lord who loved us and gave himself for us. We are heeding the exhortation of St. Paul, “Fix your minds on the things that are above.”

For the Eucharistic preface are not just a compilation of pious words, but a factual report of what occurs at the altar; where we actualize what we confess in the Creed, and in the preface.

The Holy Eucharist is many things. It is life and salvation; resurrection from the dead; the remission of deadly sins. But above all it is participation now in the glory that is about to be revealed in us.

This being the case St. Paul exhorts us to put to death the desires of the flesh: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry; on account of which things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.

But where do we find the thrust required to break free from earth’s orbit; sin’s trajectory and the gravitational pull of culture? Only here, dear Christians, at the altar. Where the ascended Lord descends in order to feed, nourish and fortify you with Living Bread. With his own glorified flesh and blood. To purify you. To remove every stain of sin, and to wipe away every tear from your eyes. For in our baptism we died, and our new life, our true life is presently hidden with Christ, in God. But when he who is our life appears, then we too shall appear with him in glory. Amen.