The Ascension Of Our Lord – Vicar Schleusener

Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
One of the subjects that came up at our last men’s night was the way in which people look for God to show up in their lives in the here and now. While that conversation was focused largely on the subject of decision making, I couldn’t help but notice how much our first reading had to say about humans knowing the future and about how we should be looking for God to show up in our lives today. So rather than preach about some of the gems in the Gospel reading, I wanted instead to focus on some of the things our first reading says, particularly about the future or about finding God now.
“So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’ And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’”
Let’s begin with Jesus’ response to the ones who were still confused and thought that Jesus was focused on bringing about an earthly Israelite kingdom rather than a Church with no connection to any specific earthly government. “It’s not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” Or more literally, “it’s not of you to know…”. Jesus didn’t simply refuse to answer the question, He made it clear that such questions are fundamentally above our pay grade as mere humans. Of course, people have been involving themselves in matters above their pay grade ever since the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve decided to start exploring the idea of knowing good and evil themselves, so it’s not exactly surprising that other people might do the same thing.
What is it that’s above the mortal pay grade? “It’s not of you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” The pairing of the two Greek words for “time”, translated here as “times” and “seasons” is interesting. The one word, χρόνος, refers to time in the sense that we normally think of. It’s about the simple flow of time that we can see represented on a clock face or on a calendar. The other word, καιρός, is more focused on specific moments. The narrow windows of time in which an important event can take place, or the instant in which God Himself takes action. Taken together, we see that all things that involve the future are above our pay grade as humans. Attempting to predict the future either in terms of its broad sweep or in terms of specific big events, such as the day of the Second Coming, is to try and get involved in things that are not ours to know. Rather, we’re to act in accordance with the directions He’s given us and to trust the outcomes to Him.
The other major direction in this part of the account comes from the angels. “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” There are a few key points we can pull out of this regarding how Jesus will come to us in the here and now. First, He’ll come to us by an act of God rather than an act of man. Second, the time and place of that coming will be one of His choosing rather than one of our own. Third, when He comes it won’t be in some abstract or spiritualized sense, but in the flesh. The enthusiasts of Luther’s day who claimed that God was coming to them and directing them to find Him through some other means were wrong, and it’s no surprise to us that the voices they heard led them away from the faith. And so it is with the various enthusiasts of the present day, who also seek to find God in spiritualized ways. Or in their feelings, which makes it sound rather more like they think they’re Jedi Knights and God is just the Force than they probably realize.
All of which raises questions. Where are we to look for Jesus today? Does He come to us in ways that are in keeping with what the angels had to say? I mean, the last day will come on a day of God’s choosing. It will be His own action, and Jesus will indeed return bodily on that day. So yes, the last day definitely fits what the angels were saying, but is the last day the only thing that fits? Or is there a time and a place that He’s chosen to act and come to His people in the flesh outside of the last day? Well. Yes! There absolutely is. The time and the place is when and where His people come together to celebrate the Divine Service. The act of God is the speaking of His own word by the mouth of His called and ordained servant. And in that time and place, in that act of God, Jesus comes to you in the flesh.
That which was bread becomes the body of Christ. That which was wine becomes His blood. And Jesus, the crucified, risen, and ascended Savior comes down to His people “in the same way as [the apostles] saw him go into heaven.” And He feeds you with the heavenly food of His body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins. Week after week. Month after month. Year after year. Forgiving sins. Creating faith. Filling you with His life. And as you partake of that life-giving, faith-building, grace-granting feast, God Himself takes away your sins and fills you with His own peace that surpasses all human understanding, guarding your hearts and your minds through faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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