Devotion for Thursday, May 21, 2020
Readings for the Ascension of our Lord:
Collect: Almighty God, as Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, ascended into the heavens, so may we also ascend in heart and mind and continually dwell there with Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Hymn of the Day: “Up Through Endless Ranks of Angels” (LSB 491)
Usually on Thursdays, I talk a bit about my confirmation lesson for the day, but that mostly because I have no idea what else to talk about. Today, however, I do have a topic handed to me by the Church Calendar that we look to in order to keep our worship and readings in the services orderly, structures and in step with the rest of the Christian Church on earth.
Today we are observing the feast of the Ascension of Our Lord. It was forty days after His resurrection that our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, and today is the day–forty after Easter. It’s always on a Thursday in mid-to-late spring that we have this festival – and in many churches, this feast, which used to be the third greatest celebration in the Christian Church, is observed with a worship service of it’s own, though probably not in even most of those places this year.
While the Hymn of the day for the Ascension of our Lord is “Up Through Endless Ranks of Angels” as I listed above, several others set aside to celebrate this day as well. Today, I thought I’d take a look at one of them in a bit more detail and explain a bit what we’re confessing when we sing it together in celebration of this blessed event.
LSB 492 – On Christ’s Ascension I Now Build.
On Christ’s ascension I now build the hope of my ascension;
This hope alone has always stilled all doubt and apprehension;
For where the Head is, there as well I know His members are to dwell
When Christ will come and call them.
As with Christ’s resurrection from the dead, His ascension is also a promise to us of things to come for ourselves. Just as He was raised form the dead, we too will be raised, and just as He ascended into heaven, we too will one day be welcomed into that blessed paradise.
Two Sundays ago we read in the Gospel lesson how in His death, He was going to prepare a place for us, then we heard on Good Friday that His work was finished, His death having paid for our sins and made us right with God once more, and finally on Easter Sunday, His triumphant return to make that announcement to us, that he has conquered sin, death, and the devil.
Just as He assures His disciples their final destination in John 14:3, He also assures us with the same words passed on to us by those who first heard it: And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. These are the words we hearken back to in this verse, the promise of Christ to bring us home to be with Him.
Since Christ returned to claim His throne, great gifts for me obtaining,
My heart will rest in Him alone, no other rest remaining;
For were my treasure went before, there all my thoughts will ever soar
To still their deepest yearning.
Ascending into heaven on the day of His Ascension, He has ‘returned to claim His throne’ in person, but at the same time, continues to use His authority, and His divine nature to deliver the gifts that He won for us that first Good Friday. He comes to is in bread and wine with His very real body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar. He comes to us in His Word, as He has promised to do. He comes to us through the words of His called and ordained servants in their words of absolution and encouragement. He continues to come to you through the working of the Holy Spirit each time you read His Word, and spend time with Him. It is in this reality, this promise, that we find our rest, as sheep looking to their shepherd.
He leads us to the still waters and quiet pastures, along the way encouraging us and teachings us through His Word. From that teaching, the Holy Spirit works faith in us, strengthening us to produce the fruit in keeping with that faith, and as those fruit are produced, God’s love goes out from us to all those around us, storing up not temporal treasure that moth and rust can destroy, but treasures in heaven, where wee will one day be, and that we yearn to see even now.
That is what the Ascension of our Lord us all about; it’s about remembering that His death bought us back from eternal death, and that one day we will, due to that sacrifice, join Him in heaven, and celebrate the Lamb in His kingdom which has no end. It’s a promise of deliverance, a reminder of God’s grace, and an encouragement to all who struggle in this life that He will not forget you, and will bring you to be with Him at the time appointed.
This leaves us only with the last verse which is a beautiful prayer. In it, we come to our God and ask His help in keeping these truths firm in our mind, to help us be an encouragement to others that they too would know of our God’s great goodness, and when that last day finally arrives, to take us home to Him, where they were there will be only peace and joy in His presence for all eternity.
O grant, dear Lord, this grace to me, recalling Your ascension,
That I may serve You faithfully in thanks for my redemption;
And then, when all my days will cease, let me depart in joy and peace
In answer to my pleading.
A blessed Day of Ascension to you all, and if you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet, I encourage you to go to: https://youtu.be/NkajeHDV6gc and watch the Ascension Day service as led by most of the pastors in this circuit, myself included.
For some reason, they asked me to do the bulk of the singing parts… 😉
In Christ and His service,