O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Where are you?
Where are you?
Based on Col. 3:1-4
Preached on May 09, 2013
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Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our ascended Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Text: Colossians 3:1-4
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your[a] life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Fellow baptized saints, you who are seated on high in Christ, where are you? It sounds like a perfectly normal question. A question I often find myself asking when I'm driving around Winnipeg. Where are you? It is also a question the disciples may have prayed to Jesus after His ascension. Lord, where are you? And it is a most fitting question for us today.
This day in the Church Year marks the Ascension of our Lord, a day when Christians remember that Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, who 'was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification" [Rom. 4:25], who alone is, "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29); and, upon whom "the Lord laid the iniquity of us all," parted His disciples and was carried up into heaven.
Wait a minute, did I say Christians remember this? I'm sorry. I must have been mistaken. The truth is we don't remember it. We forget it. Ascension is not something we value, something we celebrate. There is no turkey dinner at Ascension. No family gathering or gift exchange. We don't stop work on this day and tell our children what Christ has done for us. But why? There are three things the apostles taught that Jesus did in the Creed that bears their names. He was born. He died and rose. And He ascended into heaven. Why is our Lord's Ascension the only one we totally ignore?
Perhaps it is because the secular world around us hasn't caught on to the Ascension yet. They haven't commercialized it. This is not a good reason. St. Paul says, "Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." Yet our minds are so set on earthly things, that unless the mall reminds us it is Ascension we wouldn't think to celebrate it. We are so caught up in the fleeting glory of man, in the flashy, enticing things that we see right now in this dying world that we inadvertently ignore Christ and His heavenly things.
And here's the irony. Based on the way we groan and complain about how the secular world is abusing Christmas and Easter, you would think we would cherish Ascension all the more. Here is a totally untouched Christian holy day, one we could celebrate in peace and joy without the distractions of the world, but it isn't even on our radar. Where are you?
Or, - perhaps we don't pay much attention to Ascension because we don't relate to it as much. It is different than the rest of the things Christ did. Think about it. I was born. I've seen babies born, so I can understand and relate to the birth of our Lord. In the same way, I've seen people die. I know one day I will die, so I can capture and relate to the crucifixion and death of our Lord. And even though I've never seen it, I can picture the resurrection pretty easily, Jesus was dead and then He was alive again. That I can see, but the Ascension of our Lord. Not only have I never done this, but I can't even picture it. The moment those clouds hide Jesus from view my understanding ends. It is cut off half way, and all I'm left with is our question: Where are you Lord?
And so the irony continues. Again, you would think we would cherish Ascension all the more for this exact reason, for you and I have absolutely no ability to ascend into heaven. Not only do we not know the way, we wouldn't recognize it when we got there. Face it, if this is the path you must take to reach heaven, you are hooped. Where are you? Not in heaven. No matter what you do, no matter what you choose, no matter how you feel or what you think, you cannot get there. And this is absolutely terrifying, because it means "I am not as free as I supposed, and Christ is much more free than I realized." Where are you Lord? I need you desperately! Where are you, and what is really going on in your Ascension? What is this Ascension I have been neglecting my whole life?
What is Ascension? Simply the most glorious part of His work for you - His birth in the manager - not glorious - humiliating - His death on the cross - not glorious - humiliating - His resurrection - yeah, that is pretty glorious - but His resurrected body ascending into heaven - scorching a path for humanity that had never been travelled - blazing past the angels and archangels to take His rightful place on the throne - being fitted with a new eternal crown, one not made with thorns - this is the end goal of the plan - this is what Christ worked so hard for - what He suffered for on the cross - not only to atone for sin and rise from the dead, but that He might take humanity into heaven in His person, to be with His Father and reign with Him upon the throne for all eternity. - that He might make man the very glory of God - you and I the thing that angels look upon in amazement.
Christ, the Son of Man, the first man to enter heaven in the flesh, did not just step inside the door - He went past all the ranks of angels to the throne in the middle - He took weak humanity to the very seat of God and placed Him there forever. Man with God on the throne. For that is who Christ is. He was not a man when He left His throne, but when He returned He was crowned as man for you and me. He became man that He might take all of mankind back to His throne in His own body, having defeated their enemies, sin, death and the devil. His Ascension is not for Him, but for you.
For this is the great mystery that Paul speaks about in our text, "You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." Where are you? You are in Christ. Hidden there on the throne with Him. And, Paul says, this happened when you died. When I died? When did I die? In the waters of Holy Baptism. When you were baptized into Christ. Put in Him. Hidden in Him, by water and the Word. As Paul writes, "do you not know that all of you who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?" You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Your life sits on the throne of heaven. Your life has already conquered death. For you are baptized into Christ, you are located in Him, so wherever He is you are with Him.
No, you don't know the way to heaven, you were never going to make it there, but Christ said "I am the way." I am going there. And I will baptize you into me that you will ascend in me. You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
The simplicity of Paul's words fly in the face of all our human ideas. They are words from above, not words that are from earth. For they proclaim the Christian life is not about improving morally, or making the right choice, or becoming a better person. It is about dying. It is about this old Adam whose mind is set on earthly things, being crucified on the cross of Christ. Being put to death there in Christ by baptism. You do not go up to heaven, you are buried with Christ by baptism into death, in order that just as Christ sits on His heavenly throne, you too might be there hidden with Christ in God. You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
For Christ is your life, and when He appears, then you will appear with Him in glory. Then you will no longer be hidden. Then the glory He has made you in baptism will be revealed, and you will be able to celebrate and worship Him without distractions for all eternity. Where are you? You are in Christ who sits at God's right hand. Forgiven. Redeemed. Ascended. Set your minds on things that are above, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr