In Nomine Iesu
Acts 1:1-11

May 9, 2013
The Ascension of Our Lord
Atmospheric Object Lesson

When Jesus had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus~


    So what?  That’s an awfully good question for tonight—forty days post-Easter.  “So what?”  “So what?” is a good question for those who don’t believe, AND for those believers who don’t see the point in making such a big fuss for a holy day that always falls on a Thursday.  (Why couldn’t the Lord have pushed back His ascension to the following Sunday?  Then again, if there’s a forty to be had, the Lord will have it.)  

    “So what?” might even be the question some of you are asking tonight—you who schlepped off to church this Thursday night after a long, hard day.  You know why you came, or at least you’ve got some vague notion.  Believers don’t need an excuse to worship.  But even believers might have a few misconceptions about what actually went down on Ascension Day—or more accurately, what went up.


    Good Friday—we get that!  Good Friday is perfectly clear—Jesus’ sacrificial atoning death on the cross for the sins of the world.  God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting our trespasses against us.  Easter Sunday rings clearer still—Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, Christ is risen, and in Him you too will rise—the beating heart of all our hope.  But Ascension Day?  That’s the odd one.  So odd, it isn’t even remotely on anybody’s radar screen.  Nobody bought a new dress for Ascension Day.  Nobody baked a ham—or a lamb—today.  Nobody told me, “Sorry we won’t be in church on Thursday, pastor, we’re heading up north to Grandma’s for Ascension Day.”  Didn’t happen.  Let’s face it, in comparison with Christmas and Easter, Ascension Day seems like no big deal.

In Nomine Iesu
Acts 1:1-11

May 9, 2013
The Ascension of Our Lord
Atmospheric Object Lesson

When Jesus had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus~


    So what?  That’s an awfully good question for tonight—forty days post-Easter.  “So what?”  “So what?” is a good question for those who don’t believe, AND for those believers who don’t see the point in making such a big fuss for a holy day that always falls on a Thursday.  (Why couldn’t the Lord have pushed back His ascension to the following Sunday?  Then again, if there’s a forty to be had, the Lord will have it.)  

    “So what?” might even be the question some of you are asking tonight—you who schlepped off to church this Thursday night after a long, hard day.  You know why you came, or at least you’ve got some vague notion.  Believers don’t need an excuse to worship.  But even believers might have a few misconceptions about what actually went down on Ascension Day—or more accurately, what went up.

    Good Friday—we get that!  Good Friday is perfectly clear—Jesus’ sacrificial atoning death on the cross for the sins of the world.  God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting our trespasses against us.  Easter Sunday rings clearer still—Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, Christ is risen, and in Him you too will rise—the beating heart of all our hope.  But Ascension Day?  That’s the odd one.  So odd, it isn’t even remotely on anybody’s radar screen.  Nobody bought a new dress for Ascension Day.  Nobody baked a ham—or a lamb—today.  Nobody told me, “Sorry we won’t be in church on Thursday, pastor, we’re heading up north to Grandma’s for Ascension Day.”  Didn’t happen.  Let’s face it, in comparison with Christmas and Easter, Ascension Day seems like no big deal.

    But (I’m here to tell you) the Ascension of Jesus is a big deal—a very big deal.  It’s the culmination of all His work—the big tickertape parade in which the conquering Christ takes His place at the Father’s right hand as angels and archangels and all the company of heaven sing, “Worthy is Christ, the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”  It is the coronation of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.


    Jesus is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.  But that right hand is not a place.  It’s not a destination to reach; but a power to exert.  Tonight’s epistle from Ephesians spoke of the “immeasurable greatness of God’s power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised Him from the dead and seated him at His right hand.”  Immeasurable power.  Great might.  For us.  That’s part of what the Ascension signifies for us.  Paul spells it out.

    But there’s also another clue in the reading from Acts.  That clue is the cloud.  Did you catch it in the reading from Acts?  As Jesus was being lifted up, a cloud took him out of their sight.  You know all about the power of the “cloud,” don’t you?  Or at least Apple customers know about the cloud—a place to safely store all your photos, all your music, all your data.  Your devices may change, but your apps, music and photos are safely stored in the cloud.  Well, forget about that cloud.  Apple’s cloud is nothing compared to the Lord’s cloud—the cloud that received Jesus as He ascended. 


The meteorologist in me has always been interested in that cloud.  Was it a towering, billowing thunderhead?  Was it just a puffy, white cumulus cloud that happened to be blowing through?  Was it a layer of gray stratus clouds that obscured the view?  For that matter, how would things have been different if it had been a crystal clear blue sky?


    Beloved in the Lord, this was no ordinary cloud.  This was no routine puff of atmospheric moisture.  This was no spangled array of ice crystals.  This was the same bright cloud that descended on the mount of Transfiguration where Peter, James and John received a glimpse of Jesus’ divine glory—the cloud from whence the Father declared, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.”  This was the cloud of God’s glory that filled Solomon’s temple and settled over the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies.  This is the “pillar of cloud” that led the Israelites “by day” through the wilderness.  This cloud was the visible manifestation of God’s presence with His people.  Whenever and wherever that cloud made an appearance, it signaled that God was with His people to lead them and bless them.


    The fact that that cloud took Jesus out of the sight of His disciples—well, it tells the whole story on this Ascension Day.  That cloud sets the record straight—that when He ascended Jesus did not go away to another place far, far away.  Jesus disappeared into the cloud of God’s presence; He didn’t blast off into space into some heavenly orbit.  That cloud was an atmospheric object lesson.  It echoed and affirmed and reinforced those wonderful words from our resurrected Savior:  “I am with you—I am with you always to the very end of the age.”  He departed into that cloud so that He can be with us today in a yet greater way.


    That cloud tells us that Jesus hasn’t gone off to some other place, but that He has embraced this place—this mixed up world of war and terrorism—this world of corrupt boardrooms and adulterous bedrooms.  All of it—“all things”—have been placed under His feet.  He “is the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”


    If Jesus had not ascended we’d still be stuck in those forty days after Easter, with Jesus popping up here and there at particular times and particular places.  But because that cloud received Him, He is with us in a new and better way.  He is with us always in the power of His Word, preached and proclaimed.  He is with us always in the gentle splash of Holy Baptism.  He is with us always in the bread that is His body and the wine that is His blood.  He has gone away in one sense to be with us in a yet greater sense.


    The trouble is we don’t believe it—at least not always.  We face the struggles of each day as if Jesus were not with us.  We throw in the towel.  We give up in despair.  We imagine the worst in every time of trouble and resign ourselves to an inevitably bleak future.  Either that OR we buy into the lie that we have the power to make ourselves happy, wealthy and wise.  If we just try hard enough—check out the right inspirational books and DVDs—pray harder and longer and with more zeal—then things are just bound to get better.  But either way—either in despair or in the power of our positive thinking—Jesus is missing—disappeared, gone!  Either way, the power and the presence of Jesus is overlooked and ignored.  We simply don’t believe it.  And for this we need to repent.  This is why we need Ascension Day.


    The ascension teaches us two things regarding the struggles of this life.  First, you do not face them alone.  Second, you cannot solve them

alone.  You don’t have to.  Jesus is at the Father’s right hand.  He is the Father’s right-hand man, working all things for your eternal good—working in, with and under your struggles to refine your faith which is more precious than gold.  If Jesus—crucified, resurrected and ascended—is for you, who can be against you?


    His death on Good Friday means that your sin and guilt has been taken away.  Your sin and guilt can no longer put distance between you and your God.  As Jesus was received into that cloud of God’s glory, His hands were outstretched in blessing.  Those wounded hands, scarred for our sins—those same hands are blessing you tonight.  His resurrection on Easter Sunday means that you also will rise in Him.  And His Ascension into heaven—His departure in the cloud—means that Jesus is with you.  He is for you.  The weight of the world is on His shoulders, not yours.  Even your deepest suffering is not beyond His mighty power to redeem and bless.  Happy Ascension Day.  Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a