May 22, 2015

The Good News of the Ascension

Ascension Sunday 2015
Ascension Sunday 2015
First, the good news about Ascension Lutheran Church of San Felix de Guayana, Venezuela. One of the largest and oldest congregations in the Lutheran Church of Venezuela, it had been threatened with expropriation of its property by local government authorities. However, it seems that the alcalde (mayor) has reversed this position and has assured the congregation that there will be no such action. We thank God for this and also we thank the many persons who joined in prayer for Ascension Lutheran Church. Please continue to pray for all of us here as reports of harassment and intimidation against religious groups increase.

We celebrated the event for which Ascension Lutheran Church is named on Sunday, May 17, 2015. I made a  a comparison between the Old Testament reading (2 Kings 2: 9-15) and our gospel (Mark 16: 14-20).  The book of 2 Kings reads: "And when they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, Ask what you want me to do for you before I am taken from you. And Elisha said, I pray that a double portion of your spirit be upon me. "
Learning about the Ascension in our preschool.

We confess in the Nicene Creed that we believe in the Holy Spirit, who spoke through the prophets. All the prophets spoke by the Holy Spirit. So all the books of the Old Testament are written testimony of the prophets and, therefore, are inspired by the Holy Spirit and are the Word of God.

It was the will of God to replace Elijah with Elisha as the prophet of God sent to Israel, and for Elijah to leave this world in a miraculous way. Elisha received Elijah's mantle and the Holy Spirit to preach the Word to Israel, that is, the office of the prophet Elijah.

Christ ascended into heaven to be seated at the right hand of the Father. To be seated at the right of the king at that time meant that someone was charged with all the authority of the king. Many times Jesus told His disciples that He would return to the Father who sent Him to send them the Holy Spirit in His name and that of the Father.

As Elijah was the teacher and Elisha his disciple, Christ was the Master and the apostles were His disciples. Elias gave up his job to Elisha, Christ gave His authority to His church to preach the gospel in all parts of the world. This is the good news of the Ascension.

As the last words of Mark's Gospel say, "Go ye into all the world; preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” And then, “After the Lord had spoken unto them, was received up into heaven, and sat at the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with the following signs. "

Also, it says in Acts 1: 1-11, "In the first book, Theophilus, I talked about all that Jesus began to do and teach, Until the day in which, having given commandment through the Holy Spirit to those apostles whom He had chosen, He was taken up; To which, having shown Himself alive by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the kingdom of God. And when they were together, he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which you heard from me. "

Of what did Jesus speak when he commanded them not to leave Jerusalem until the day when the Holy Spirit came? This is a prophecy of Pentecost, which we will celebrate next Sunday. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the whole church.

The disciples were gathered in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost and suddenly came the sound of a strong wind and flames of fire over the heads of them and all spoke several languages. These were the signs that the church had received the Holy Spirit.

From that day forward, the apostles testified of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit, so, the books of the New Testament, as the written testimony of the apostles, are inspired by the Holy Spirit also. In our Bible today we have all the revelation, all the testimony of Christ by the Holy Spirit.

Christ has promised us to return in the clouds, as He ascended into the clouds, to judge the living and the dead. However, the hour of judgment has not yet arrived. Between Ascension and the Second Coming of Christ, the church has the mission to call the world to repentance of their sins and proclaim the good news of forgiveness in Jesus Christ. Now is the time of grace, when a person can hear the Word of God from the church, and reject it or not. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

Between Ascension and the Second Coming is the time of the church. And the Lord has told us, this is a time of testing. The Lord told us there will be signs in the heavens and the earth, for example, earthquakes in Nepal and other parts of the world. What does these things mean for us? Not to calculate the time of the Second Coming of Christ. The Bible prophesied signs in heaven and earth to assure us that all things are in God's hands. We should not be frightened, but we trust in the good will of God. As Psalm 27 says, "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?" Amid all the disasters and the difficulties of this world we must trust in God.

When Christ returns in glory, there will be the final judgment and the victory of the church forever. Therefore, in this Ascension Sunday we look forward to Pentecost and to the Second Coming of Christ that is our hope. We thank God for this hope and peace that passes all understanding. Amen.

To read my complete Ascension Sunday sermon, please click here.

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