Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Sermon, Ascension Day (Transferred) - Sunday, May 16, 2021


Ascension Sunday

May 16, 2021

The Rev. Maurice C. Frontz III


Alleluia! Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed! Alleluia!


Jesus is not with us in the same way that he once was with humanity – born as a child, growing up in Nazareth, then beginning his ministry. Calling disciples, teaching and healing, casting out demons, raising the dead. His feet covered with dust, his eyes filling with tears, his knees upon the floor, his calloused hands tenderly washing the disciples’ feet. Eating and drinking and laughing with sinners, beaten and spit upon.

He is not with us in that way anymore.


He is not with us even in the way that he was after three days had passed and the disciples, beyond hope, saw him risen from the dead. He ate and drank with them, and yet he came to them while the doors were locked. He showed them his scarred hands and opened side and Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ The voice, his voice; the face, his face. He is not with us in that way anymore.


Nor is he with us the way he will be – revealed as the ruler of the universe and the one who comes to judge the living and the dead. In that day he will gather his people and remove all sources of suffering from the cosmos. As Revelation says, ‘Death shall be no more; mourning and crying and pain shall be no more, for the former things have passed away.’


He is not with us in the way that he was, and he is not with us in the way he will be. But he is with us. He is with us because he is ascended into heaven and seated at the right hand of the Father. To be seated at the Father’s right hand is not to be confined to one physical place, somewhere else. Rather, it means that Christ is invested with all Godly authority. He is ruler both of angels and of humans.


What does it mean to be a ‘ruler?’ One does not see his rule evident in the world. Perhaps it might be better to understand the word ‘ruler’ in both a passive and an active sense. He is the ruler because he is the measure of all things just as a ruler measures an object. He is the measure of our thoughts, words and deeds. All religion is measured by him – which should make pastors and priests quake in their shoes. All politics is measured by him – and that means that all of our politics fall short. If we believe we are measured by him, we believe that he is our ruler, and we fall at his feet, asking for nothing but a crumb of his mercy.


And he is ruler in an active sense, because he calls his people still. Through the Church he forgives sins, he delivers from the evil one and his servants, and he raises the dead. Again, he is not with us as he was with Lazarus, calling, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ and, summoned, the dead man comes out from the tomb. Nor is he with us as he will be when those who have died and those still living come before him and his people gather around him. But he is with us as he is now, and therefore at the grave we may have confidence, remembering Lazarus and his own empty tomb and the promise he gave to Martha, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, even though he die, will live; and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die.’


He is not with us as he was then, and he is not with us as he will be. But he is with us. And here’s the amazing part. I can see him.


You may think, ‘Pastor, you just said that he isn’t with us as he was, visible, audible, tangible.’ You’re right. ‘You just said he isn’t as he will be, revealed to all as ruler of heaven and earth.’ You’re right again. Nevertheless, I can see him.


For you are here, and I am here, and we are here together. If we take the Bible seriously, we take the words in Ephesians seriously: ‘He is the head of all things for the Church, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all.’


We heard that we are the sheep and he the shepherd; we are the branches and he is the vine; we are the friends he has called and empowered to know his mind and carry his work forward. But to be his body, to be the extension of his presence in the world, a people hearing and speaking his Word and being washed in his bath and sharing his meal, that is perhaps a greater thing than all of these other metaphors. For it means that Christ who has come and Christ who will come still has a visible, audible, tangible presence. Not that we by our merits have earned this, nor can it be discerned by anything but faith. If we are his body, we bear wounds and sicknesses, but he takes them to himself, and through us still he acts.


He is not with us now as he was, and he is not with us as he will be. But I am here, and you are here, and therefore he is here – visible, audible, tangible – he who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Alleluia! Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed! Alleluia!