Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Ascension - Easter 7C

Ephesians 1:15-23

15I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason 16I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, 18so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.

20God put this power to work 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 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.

Easter is 50 days, a week of week! Today is day 43, and we'll celebrate both Easter 7 and Ascension Day that always happens on the 40th day of Easter. A week from today we'll celebrate the Day of Pentecost and remember the descent (opposite of ascent) of the Holy Spirit of life to enliven and revitalize all creation. We receive the HS in our baptism.

Although we sometimes refer to an object like a balloon or a plane ascending, or we may mention a person has ascended to a higher station in life (like a better job or fancier house), "ascension" isn't a very common word. In Jesus' context, it refers to his reign, rule, sovereignty, power, lordship, kingship, authority—"dominion" as in our reading. His stewardship of all creation, all life everywhere. Unlike with human governments and organizations, Jesus' authority has no checks and balances. It is supreme. It is absolute.

This morning we'll study a passage from the letter or epistle to the church at Ephesus. Today's not a time to discuss the social and cultural situation there except to mention Ephesus was the location of the Temple of the goddess Diana with almost the entire city involved in her cult. Though it's also not a time to dwell on it, Ephesians is not one of the seven undisputed or authentic letters written by the apostle Paul. The grammar, vocabulary, and sentence structure are different from his. The theology has a slightly different emphasis, though many scholars point out it may represent the direction Paul would have taken later on in his ministry. Back in those days, using someone else's name on your writing wasn't the legal and moral offense it is today; it complimented the person whose name you used, and (as Pastor Peg pointed out), it also could give the writing wider readership than a piece by someone less well-known would get.

This short snippet from Ephesians provide three poignant (body part!) images of Jesus' ascendancy, lordship, leadership, rule:

• 1:20 seated at God's right hand
• 1:22a all things under his feet
• 1:22b made him the head over all things for the church...

...1:23 which is Christ's body! The past couple weeks we've mentioned when the disciples asked the risen Jesus if at this time he would "restore the kingdom to Israel," he replied, "the question is wrong," and tells them to wait in the city and they will receive power (the dynamite word) and then be his witnesses everywhere. In other words, Jesus' disciples (that's us!) would be the ones to restore the reign of heaven on earth, the people who in the power of the pentecostal Spirit of Resurrection would be the body of Christ, and it would be God's works – our hands.

Before we closed I mentioned the famous account of reformers Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli in their encounter at Marburg. Arguing the eucharistic/real presence concern, Zwingli claimed the real or authentic presence (Geneva Reformer John Calvin preferred true presence) of the risen Christ in the Lord's Supper wasn't possible, since Jesus Christ ascended sits (is incumbent, rules from) at the right hand of God the Father.

Though along with Zwingli he acknowledged Christ's ascension to God the Father's Right Hand, in response to Zwingli Luther pointed out the Right Hand of God – God's sovereignty and dominion – is everywhere and throughout, under and over all creation, thus the Right Hand of God to where Jesus Christ ascended and from where he now reigns is everywhere: in Zurich, in London, at Marburg, in Los Angeles, in Tokyo—absolutely all places at all times.

The fourth gospel, the gospel accord to John, has Jesus making a round-trip from heaven to earth, back to heaven.

Wear red next Sunday and let Pastor Peg or the church office know if you can read Psalm 104:30 in a language other than English.

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