Faithlife Sermons

Why do you stand looking up to Heaven

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lass=MsoNormal>Lord, may our ears be open to hear you, our eyes open see you, and our hearts be open to receive you and your transformative message - from sin into forgiveness. And may the witness of our lives, in word and deed - proclaim you; Lord of all, in heaven and earth.  - Amen – 

Today I am going to start out the sermon a little different – I am going to try something a little interactive – so please help me out if you would

If today was Easter Sunday and I was to say in the greeting…

            The Lord IS Risen

                        You would respond with …?

                                    People:            He IS Risen IndeedHallelujah

            Well in case you didn’t hear that I said - The Lord IS Risen

                        And you respond with

People:            He IS Risen IndeedHallelujah


            So let’s try that again – everybody all together this time…

The Lord IS Risen

                                    People:            He IS Risen IndeedHallelujah

Thanks be to God – and thank you

Today we gather together to worship God, to pray together and for others, to read and hear God’s word, to sing hymns of prayer and praise… and to celebrate

            Today we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord

The actual day is 40 days from Easter and falls each year on Thursday – However we are celebrating Ascension Day today

And what an important day it is

            So when we declare, together, that - He IS Risen Indeed – Hallelujah

                        We are stating something even more than we do in Easter

At Easter we are declaring Jesus the Christ’s victory over death and all that is death

–        We are declaring that we, as His followers and by our baptism, are blessed by God to have a full share in that victory

–        That our sins are atoned for – and we are made whole and right with God

Today we declare that, that very same Jesus not only had and has that victory – but also has risen from this earthly realm – and as our passage from Ephesians declares


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 age to come. 22And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:20b-23)


One of us, a man, in the flesh has ascended to heaven and is Lord over all

                        Hallelujah! – Thanks be to God!

The Ascension of our Lord is definitely a time of celebration, it is the stuff of The Revelation of St. John which we have heard so much of in the last few weeks

Scripture that declares the Son is seated on the throne – the sacrificial lamb ruling in majesty and all power and dominion belong to the one that cares for us so greatly that He gave his life for us.

But today as we mark the ascension of Jesus the Christ there is more still

            More than the victory, and our man in heaven

                        Today, and this time each year, we are brought to the moment right before Jesus departed

                                    We are at the moment of Jesus’ final words of wisdom

His message that He wanted to leave with His disciples as a final instruction

–        this instruction, or mission if you like, is what the Church has ever since strived to achieve

–        it is the very purpose of the Church

And so the church has given it a big title

– We call it “The Great Commission”

It is recorded in all four Gospels, each with a slightly different approach, but each with the same clear purpose – and today I think the best way to explain what the scripture says is to hear it

Luke writes - 46And [Jesus] said to them, “Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day 47 and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. (Luke 24:46-48)


Matthew writes - “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.(Matthew 28:18b-20a)

Mark and John are more direct in telling of the commissioning and the full ramifications

Mark writes - “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. 16 The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16)

And in John 20: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When Jesus had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:21b-23)

This commissioning carries a shocking undertone

It is not only a message of goodness and light – but of a responsibility and the way in which we are to lead our lives

– in Going – Doing – Repenting (turning away from, and turning towards God) - in obedience                 (pause)

The other detail that would have been shocking to the disciples

            This group of Jews - who would have been raised with a very specific identity

“The chosen people”

            Christ commissioned them into all world, or all the nations…

No longer was this to be an exclusive group - but a group that was to look beyond their racial upbringing

                                    They were to start in Jerusalem to be sure

But as our reading from Acts today puts it

            In Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth

                        We are given ever increasing circles of influence

                                    Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth

                                                all the world, all the nations

Christ calls them special believers in the world - He says “You are witnesses”

            …One is only a witness if they tell someone else…

In the ascension not only do we see:

  • The ultimate moment of Christ’s triumph over death
    • That Jesus is truly God as he is taken to Heaven
  • A summary of the gospel - the good news - of repentance for the forgiveness of sins

But we see the mission set out for all of us in what is known as ‘the great commission’

    • The expanding of God’s people to all nations


But just when you might be feeling overwhelmed by the task set out before us - consider this also

            That the Ascension of our Lord helps us find joy in what had terrified us before

                        God takes our understanding of the world and transforms it

                                    … Takes the fear out of it…

The disciples who (as John’s gospel so dramatically portrays) had before been hiding out, in an upper room, behind a locked door ‘for fear of the Jews’

Now they “returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God.”

When you believe in the one that has defeated death - your fear is transformed to Joy…

Our fear of death, is transformed to Joy

Today as we commemorate and celebrate the ascension of our Lord,

                        We know that Christ’s finishing act, Christ’s closing message on earth;

is in fact… our beginning – is our co-mmission!

So we should not be surprised at all when two men dressed in white garments come alongside the disciples and say – “Why do you stand looking up toward heaven?”

We can certainly marvel about the ascension of Jesus Christ and glorify God in it

And we may wonder about what awaits us all in the heavenly realm

But we are not to look up towards heaven ….but look out all around us

                                    To Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth

                                                We are to look to all the world - and Go and Do

Empowered by the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit

We are to preach – to proclaim – to witness – to baptize

            To forgive - and by forgiving – share God’s blessing

And today I marvel at God’s timing in aligning details up

Yesterday we had the opportunity of welcoming our community of Brantford with our Family Fun Day – where we looked at the world right around our neighbourhood and invited them in

            We showed all that came to see… a community with open arms

                        A church community that cares about the whole people of God

                                    True we showed off our wonderful new addition, our Narthex

But we did more than that – we invited them in – we declared by our witness… God’s love

And today, following the service and Chancel communion

            We have a special missions meeting – with a few special presenters

We have an opportunity to consider what we have done in the past – Going and Doing mission work

And we have an opportunity to consider how we might Go and Do from this church in the future

            And all are welcome and encouraged to attend this meeting

Both of these significant events are happening the very weekend that we are blessed with the Ascension of our Lord and The Great Commission

The Lord IS Risen

                                    People:            He IS Risen IndeedHallelujah

So as the angels put it … Why do stand looking up to heaven

In God’s plan – The Gospel… is the message and …You are the Solution

God wants us to live with our hearts set on the message Jesus gave as his final words

Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send … you

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