THE FEAST OF THE ASCENION OF OUR LORD [c] May 13, 2021
15For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far 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. 22And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
IN THE NAME OF JESUS.
If we want to know what is the blessing of the Ascension of our Lord, we need not look far.
We see fear, despair, confusion.
We see angry faces, social media arguing, name-calling—even many in authority playing on divisions instead of instilling calm.
The confusion, the antagonism against even natural law and the gifts of creation, against what we are given to be as men and women, as families and neighbor. What does tomorrow bring in the economy, in rising costs, in a failing job market, in cultural decline?
In the uncertain times following World War I, William Yeats wrote a poem describing our world. He used the imagery of a falcon circling ever further and further from the falconer at the center, until, as Yeats wrote,
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
Yeats’s imagery works for our generation, we know that.
What does a Christian do in a world coming loose at the center where no one knows what comes tomorrow?
These are the times in which our Lord has placed us. He has us here. This is no accident. Paul gives us the prayer to pray. Paul told the Ephesians what he prayed for the church:
I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.
We are given our prayer. We pray, first of all, for each other, giving thanks to our Lord—I do not cease to give thanks for you, says Paul, remembering you in my prayers.
The thankfulness is prayed in confidence. The prayer recognizes that what we possess is not of our own making anyway, but is gift from the Lord.
The fellowship we have with each other, the joy we have together in hearing the word of Gospel and in addressing each other not according to our sin but according to the righteousness given us in Baptism, the honor we are given to care for each other, to speak encouragement, to see one another, each brother and sister, as unique gifts from the Lord—this is all by the Lord’s gift, so we give thanks.
[I pray,] says Paul,
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you.
This is a prayer for our times!
In an unhinged world and uncertain tomorrow, in a world is shaken by fear, so that, at Yeats put it, Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold, we may boldly say, But we belong to the Lord!
As his, we are given to pray for our brothers and sisters in the church that the Father give us wisdom that we may have the sureness that in every uncertainty, we belong to him—for his Son redeemed us with his own blood.
And we are given to pray that our eyes are enlightened, so that we are called back from what Yeats described as “things falling apart and a center that cannot hold,” and called into the certainty of knowing that Christ is raised from the dead, he is ascended to Heaven, and, despite all which we see in our unhinged world, he is seated upon the Throne, above all rule and authority and power and dominion.
All this, Paul says, so that you may know what is the hope to which your Lord has called you. [Ephesians 1:18]
Our Lord gives us the great reversal—the reversal of living fearful in our times, the reversal of malice we see around us, of the divisive language of those in authority, the reversal of all the despair of tomorrow, of things falling apart and a center which cannot hold—it is all reversed by the knowledge of the hope to which your Lord has called you.
For this hope is not an empty wish that things somehow start centering themselves again.
Rather, it is looking at tomorrow with a certainty.
It is the confidence of the resurrection of Christ Jesus—that it is your resurrection, no matter what comes tomorrow in our world.
It is the confidence in the Ascension of our Lord Jesus, the knowledge that he reigns upon the Throne, so that nothing comes to us outside of his knowledge and care. It is the faith that he is the One who has given us his Name and has promised us he will never depart it.
The hope is the sure and certain confidence, then, that we do know what comes tomorrow.
We don’t know what comes tomorrow in rising crime rates or riots in streets, nor with rising prices or anything else—our predictions are no better than anyone else’s, but we know what comes tomorrow.
For our tomorrow belongs to the hope to which our Lord has called us.
This hope is the sureness and certainty that our Lord hears our prayer and answers with his forgiveness; of knowing that he reigns in Heaven to intercede to his Father on our behalf and that on the last day he comes again, the day promised in our Baptism, the day of the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
The center does not fly apart. He is ascended; he is upon the throne. Our tomorrow, our eternity, belongs to him.
IN THE NAME OF JESUS.