Ascension Sunday Acts 1:1-11 5/16/2021

Do you want wisdom?

For more than 50 days since Jesus rose from the dead, he spent time with his disciples giving them final instructions.  Now the time came for Jesus to return to his father and just before leaving, he tells them after he ascends to his Father in Heaven they are to go to Jerusalem, pray and await the coming of God’s power from on high, the Holy Spirit.

Reluctantly they leave to go back to Jerusalem knowing that a new age is about to come upon earth.

We have been celebrating for over 6 weeks Jesus’ resurrection and the time he spent with his disciples before returning to his father.  We have been spending our time gathering awaiting the time when the Covid-19 pandemic has been beaten down by wearing masks, practicing social distancing, washing our hands, and spending as much time at home as possible.  But there are now signs that we are coming closer and closer to being free of this horrible plague.

We will soon be entering a post-pandemic world.  What would Christ have us do as a congregation as we prepare for that time?

We are already doing one of those things.  We are regularly gathering for worship regularly on Sunday morning and celebrating Holy Communion.  Each week as we gather to receive this holy meal, we know we are receiving life, forgiveness, and salvation from Christ himself.  Some have called this Holy Meal bread for the journey.

Don’t miss the importance as we gather regularly.  There is something special and holy as the church gathers to worship the living God and to receive his food of scripture, and communion, sing and share a liturgy of his praise, and hear his word read and reflected on.

I study the scripture regularly, often in preparation to lead public worship.  But there is something about gathering with God’s people and prayerfully proclaiming a sermon.  It is a special moment when Heaven and Earth meet, and faith is born and nurtured.

The promised Holy Spirit comes into our midst, and there is a special sacred moment.  It is a true miracle.

Next there is the specialness of praying together.  We do not recite the Lord’s Prayer; we pray it as an outline of what all prayer should be.

We begin by praying; “Our Father who art in Heaven…”  We speak to God because God has first spoken to us by sending his son, who the Gospel of John calls the Word made flesh.  When God speaks the universe is born.  When God speaks God is in our midst as a flesh and blood human being.  Now that Jesus has returned to heaven God is present in his church, his body of believers.  God himself is truly present in your life and mine reaching out to others as our brothers and sisters.

“Hallowed be thy name.”  It is here we discover God’s name is so sacred and holy we are only to use it in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.  God’s name is so special to the Jew, they never say it, but utter phrases like; “the Lord”.

And so, we continue; “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.”  Now that is a mouthful.  We are praying, asking God’s holy reign that is always happening in Heaven might come and fill the entire earth with everyone everywhere loving, and forgiving each other, including themselves.

“Give us this day our daily bread.”  This petition reminds us that God supplies us with all our needs, even the ability to work and get what is needed for life.  But never think that what you have you earned.  It is all a gift from God.  And one way that belief is expressed when we give at least 10% of our income to the Lord an offering.   Another way is sharing with those who are hungry, or poverty stricken.

I love an old hymn called the Doxology.  “We give thee but thine own, whate’er the gift may be.  All that we have is thine alone; a trust O Lord from thee.”

A central part for me comes next.  “Forgive us our sins; as we forgive those who sin against us.”  There are two Seas in the Holy Land.  One is the Sea of Galilee.  It teems with fish and aquatic life that has fed the people there for thousands of years.  The second is the Dead Sea; several thousand feet below sea level.  It is so salty that nothing can live in its water.

What is the difference between these two bodies of water?  The Jordan river enters both bodies of water.  But the Sea of Galilee allows the water to pass through ever refreshing and renewing the Sea.  On the other hand the Dead Sea just takes the water but gives nothing away.

I believe forgiveness is this way.  For me to experience the healing power of the forgiveness I must let it flow through me to another person or I become as spiritually dead as the Dead Sea.

“Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”  When we pray these words, we are proclaiming God leads us wherever we need to go as we fulfill our reason and purpose for being alive, and will protect us from evil that attempts to destroy our hope.

This is why it is so terribly important for us now as a congregation and as individuals to seek God’s direction and guidance.  A new age is being born, what is our role.  God will show the way.  Pastor Hilbinger at First Lutheran encases prayer with this call.  “Lord of the journey.”  And the congregation responds, “Show us the way.”

That is to what I believe the Holy Spirit is now leading us.  God led us together as pastor and congregation.  It is now time to ask what is God preparing us to be and do.

“But deliver us from evil.”  God has made the church so strong, that when it is deeply connected to God it can storm the very gates of Hell.

Yes, gathering, receiving the holy meal, listening to and reflecting on the scripture and praying together will give us the wisdom to learn from the past, deal with the present and enter God’s future.  Amen.