Happy Objects of Grace
When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.
St. Luke has been gathering together on Ascension for so long, you may be surprised to know that many a church is dark this evening. The Ascension, long a pillar in the church year, has lost its standing even among our own Synodical fellowship. But this is no modern problem. St. Mark reports Christ “upbraided [the disciples] on account of their unbelief and hardness of heart.” He upbraided them—rebuked them, chastised them, corrected them. God is no lover of faithlessness and though well-pleased with His Beloved Son, often in His disciples He was less than pleased—less than pleased with their hardness of heart, and unbelief. Does unbelief seem harsh? Well it is unbelief, for it was rooted and grounded—made manifest—in their not believing the reports of Jesus’ resurrection.
And sharing the faith of our father Adam, just like the Disciples we have hardness of heart and unbelief. We’d like to think that we’re different, but perhaps not? Scripture reports over and over that when Christ would come to this or that place, the whole village shows. Yet here, though Christ has come just as surely now as then, the whole village has not gathered; much less our whole congregation. But before you mistake me, I am not here preaching to you about those who for whatever reason have not come. This day is no different than any other—there are no days of holy obligation, that is, this is not a day that it is required that one attend to the Service of the Church, indeed Christ’s Holy Communion. And that’s why you’ve come, isn’t it? You, like those precious saints of old have also come asking, “Sir we would see Jesus!”
If that’s why you’ve come, you’ll not leave disappointed. You, just like me for so many years, you may have come to church tonight thinking that Ascension Day is a great day of celebration—and it is—a great day celebrating the Lord Jesus’ leaving for heaven—but it’s not. A great celebration it is, but we celebrate not His leaving, but rather we celebrate as the One True Church always celebrates: His coming—again and again and again until that day when, He shall come once and for all bringing that Eternal Feast which we partake of tonight now as a foretaste. Continue reading