Dear brothers and sisters in Christ our risen, resurrected and ascended Savior; the peace of our Lord be with you. (Response) Today is triple-header day in the church. It is the Sixth Sunday of Easter on the church’s liturgical calendar. On the secular calendar it is Memorial Day. And on Thursday of this coming week the Day of Ascension is observed.
On Memorial Day we observe, remember with humble thanksgiving, and honor all service members who sacrificed their lives in defense of our nation. On the Day of Ascension we observe, remember with humble thanksgiving, and honor the salvific work of our Lord and Savior, who willingly sacrificed His life on the cross for the sins of the world and was raised from the dead for our salvation; opening the way to eternal life in His heavenly home for all believers: The home to which - on the occasion of His final physical appearance on earth – Jesus was carried up by God to enter into glory at His Father’s right hand.
And in John’s inspired Gospel for today, we hear the comforting assurance in Jesus’ own words that, even as we remember the trials and tribulations of the past that brought so many to give up so much for the cause of peace and freedom, we still may “have peace.” “In the world you will have tribulation,” Jesus said. “But take heart;” He added, “I have overcome the world.”
There always will be wars and rumors of wars, battles and skirmishes, fights and arguments, threats and inuendo’s, name callings and tweet-takedowns. Such is the reality of life in a fallen, broken, destructive world. In spite of all that we have peace. Jesus said it Himself. “In Meyou may have peace.” How is that possible? Jesus gives us the answer as He speaks to His disciples in the days immediately preceding His arrest, trial and crucifixion: “…For the Father Himself loves you, because You have loved Me and have believed that I came from God.” Jesus follows that reassuring message to a worried and fearful band of disciples, with a foreshadowing of His Ascension: “I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”
We have peace now in Christ Jesus. We have peace now in the truth of God’s Word and in the person and work of Jesus; work that led to His death and our new life in Him. For forty days after rising from the dead, Jesus went about dispelling any doubts about His resurrection, appearing to His disciples on several occasions and to over 500 people – offering absolute proof with the marks of the instruments of His death still visible for all to see.
For forty days Jesus poured the cement into the foundation that He had laid for His disciples in the three years of His public ministry: a foundation of a Gospel of love and mercy, kindness and compassion, teaching, truth, and steadfast faith and trust in God’s holy Word. And now, once again on the Mount of Olives in Bethany, just outside Jerusalem, Jesus’ long road trip comes to an end. Luke writes of Jesus’ last words from the Mount: “You are witnesses of these things. And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (24:48)
That clothing of “power from on high” is, of course, the Holy Spirit, who would descend upon the disciples ten days later on the Day of Pentecost – the first day of the church being built upon the foundation of Christ Jesus. From the Day of Pentecost, the church on earth, despite many false prophets, heretical teachings and powerful political opposition, would grow in the firmness of the foundation built on Christ and anchored by the work of the Holy Spirit.
Thirty years after Jesus’ death, Paul, writing “To the saints in Ephesus who are faithful in Christ Jesus,” expressed His joy hearing of the church’s faithfulness: “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” Isn’t that what this day calls us to? Thanksgiving. Remembrance. Prayer.
With thanksgiving we remember on Memorial Day that the price of that valued commodity “Freedom” was paid for with the blood and lives of so many. Every Sunday we gather with grateful hearts to acknowledge our undeserving position before God. We remember that the blood and life of One man was poured out onto the sins of all mankind, that we might live freely in Him. And, as we observe the Day of Ascension we prayerfully remember with thanksgiving and grateful hearts that the life we live is not to self, but is lived in Christ
Paul then points his audience (of which we today are blessedly a part) of what it is that is at work in them (and us) to fortify us in Christ: “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of Wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him…” The Spirit is “what is”, as Paul describes it, “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened.” The Spirit is what is at work in you “that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you…”
Each of you was called to be in God’s house today. You answered. Here there always is hope through faith in Christ Jesus. Here hope lives and enlightens your hearts to stay in Christ. The Spirit fills you with the knowledge of the love of Christ and those things that “are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints…” That inheritance was first made available to us when we were adopted by God and reborn into His Holy Family and were made heirs to His kingdom.
The Holy Spirit, indwelling in us, enlightening the eyes of our hearts, blessing us with the wisdom and revelation to know God, shows us what is “the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us [and all] who believe…” God is. God does all this “according to the working of His great might that He worked in Christ Jesus when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places…”
Paul speaks of that place where Jesus now resides “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.” But like the Father, the Son is not distant from us. His heavenly seat is not a place that confines Him. It is a symbolic picture of His saving power, for nothing can confine or contain Him.
God’s power, displayed in the extraordinary acts of Christ’s resurrection and ascension, is also displayed in us by Baptism. God’s power raised us up from the dead and brought us new life by water and God’s Word. Christians need not fear for their lives, for their lives are in Christ Jesus, sealed in our adoption, stamped with the Blood of the Lamb of God Himself.
God gives to Christ Jesus, the Second Adam, the victorious Son, dominion over all creation. That Lordship bestowed upon Christ is not just for the benefit of one congregation, one church, like the Church at Ephesus. Christ’s Lordship is for the benefit of His Bride – the universal church on earth – and all Christians everywhere. Paul writes of that power: God “Put all things under His [Christ’s] 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.”
Christ our Rock and our Foundation. In Him and through Him we find peace. No matter what happens around us, He is our ever-present help, our Prince of Peace. The church at Ephesus remained faithful in the face of persecution. Churches today face any number of assaults designed to separate the body from the Head.
In other parts of the world, Christians are being martyred daily. In some countries, women are stoned, men are dismembered for their dogged determination to worship Jesus. Right here in our own country we face a powerful progressive machine that wants to do away with Jesus and God and any appearance of Christ-centered organizations and businesses. Social media and extremist groups invade, threaten, demean and demonstrate against places of worship and people who call themselves Christian.
What is the answer? What are we to do about such things? We might well take a cue from the disciples who stood on the Mount of Olives as Jesus left this world: Luke writes, “And they worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.”(Lk.24:52-53)
We might also look at the back of the insert in the bulletin for today and prayerfully give thanks for God’s loving gift to us: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him glory.” (Col. 3:1-4)
Thanks be to God that today, in spite of the determined effort to diminish God’s church on earth, the church still grows. Armed with the Helper, The Holy Spirit, may we use the same gifts given to the congregation at the church of Ephesus: The Spirit of Wisdom, of the revelation in the knowledge of God, to grow our part of the church.
That, with enlightened hearts and eternal hope we too may live in peace and in awe of the greatness of the power of God, who redeemed us from the depths of sin and death by giving up His Son; by the mercy of God, who through Baptism adopted us and made us heirs of His kingdom; and by the love of God who, in Christ Jesus, has overcome the world. Amen.
-Rev David Brockhouse
Sixth Sunday of Easter -May 26, 2019 (Ascension Day 5/30 – Observed)/ “What Is?” Ephesians 1:15-23/ Mt. Olive Lutheran Church (LCMS)
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Mt. Olive Lutheran Church - LCMS 3200 W Loop 1604 S San Antonio, TX 78245
Mt. Olive is a congregation of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod