Thursday, May 14, 2015

Bishop's Note: May 14, 2015 - The Feast of the Ascension

Bishop Eric Menees

“[50] Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. [51] While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. [52] And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, [53] and were continually in the temple blessing God.” (Luke 24:50-53 ESV)

Today, throughout the church, we celebrate one of the major feast days of the church – the Feast of the Ascension.  Whenever we gather for worship and confess our faith we proclaim: “He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty: From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.” (Apostles Creed 1662)

How awesome it is to ponder that, on this day some two thousand years ago, our Lord, following his resurrection, was bodily ascended into heaven where he sits enthroned at the right hand of the Father.   

Jesus does not sit there aloof from the cares and concerns of his adopted brothers and sisters here on earth.  No, the Father, through the Son, sent His Holy Spirit as His eternal presence.  In addition, Jesus himself intercedes with the Father on our behalf.  Imagine that for a moment: Our Lord and Savior hears each and every prayer that we utter – from the trivial to the sublime – and then he turns to his Father and advocates for us.  What an awesome fact that is – our God hears and responds to every prayer we offer up! That answer is generally one of three: “Yes!” “No!” and “Not Yet.”  While we always enjoy the first answer, and never enjoy the second two answers, because God is God and we are not we have to have faith and trust that our Triune God desires the very best for His children – even when that means that He chooses not to save a life or stay the hand of a terrorist.  This does not mean that we are simply fatalists and sit back passively.  No, Jesus taught us to make prayers and supplications to the father the way that a poor widow entreated for Justice from a Judge in the Parable of the Persistent Widow (Luke 18:1-8).  And St. Paul gives the very best advice to the church in Thessalonica: “[16] Rejoice always, [17] pray without ceasing, [18] give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV)

In addition to interceding on our behalf, Jesus also prepares for his return to “Judge the living and the dead.”  The thought of being judged is always unsettling.  It should be terrifying to those who have denied Jesus.  But for those of us who have received him into our lives and submitted to him as Lord and Savior, we can absolutely rest secure in the fact that the Judge of our lives is the same one who died for us.  And so it is with confidence that we pray the Collect for Ascension: “Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe thy only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end.” AMEN!

I pray you all a truly blessed Ascensiontide!

Catechism Questions 109 - 111

109.    What signs of the Holy Spirit’s work do you hope and pray to see as a result of your baptism?
I hope and pray that the Holy Spirit who indwells me will help me to be an active member of my Christian community, participate in worship, continually repent and return to God, proclaim the faith, love and serve my neighbor, and strive for justice and peace. (Hebrews 10:25; 12:14; 1 Peter 3:15; 1 John 1:9; 2:1)

110.    Why did Christ institute the sacrament of Holy Communion?
He instituted it for the continued remembrance of the sacrifice of his atoning death, and to convey the benefits the faithful receive through that sacrifice. (Luke 22:17-20; 1 Corinthians 10:16-17)

111.    What is the outward and visible sign in Holy Communion?

The visible sign is bread and wine, which Christ commands us to receive. (1 Corinthians 11:23)

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