Sermon - 5/9/18
2018.05.10 22:55:50

ASCENSION/ABC (2018): Acts 1:1-11; Eph. 1:15-23; Luke 24:44-53


Heart-Eyes,           …that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you… (vv. 17, 18a). 


Salvation consists in this, that one beholds the heart of God, given in Baptism; a circumcision of man’s own heart. Baptism cuts away the fleshes binding of myopic hearts.  By release from imprisonment hearts are remade the chief organ of sight for the kingdom of heaven.  This is the gift of faith of the HS.


St. Paul urges us to employ “the eyes of our hearts” for knowledge of God in his instruction and will.  We see Jesus for who he is, teacher and expositor in his body of the Father’s will, that we “love one another” (Jn. 15:12, 17).  The wisdom of heaven’s teaching is in context of the cross with the fruit of his love delivered in Jesus’ word leading to the Supper of his body and blood. 


By heart-eyes Christians aspire to the mind of Christ, who is the exact imprint of the invisible God; the Truth and Revelator of his Father. During the table talk of the Supper, Jesus explained, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9b). 


To behold Jesus crucified, Son of God and Son of Man, handing over the Spirit of Truth to his church is to behold the things of heaven with new eyes of what the Father sees in Jesus lifted on the cross. For John the cross is the glory of God and the commencing of Jesus’ Ascension. 


The Baptized never look to our own hearts for enlightenment. Instead seeing with circumcised heart-eyes we see like St. Paul, who received the HS as something like scales falling from his eyes (Acts 9:18).  The Truth comes from outside; it is solely the gift of God.


On this eve of the Ascension we look upon the Father’s heart with new hearts. Formerly, sin’s flesh and the Mosaic Law veiled hearts.  But, in the NT, God has cut away that veil to reveal a Father’s tender heart in Jesus’ torn flesh for sin. 


Today on the Mt. of Olives Jesus is “parted” from our eyes.  If we behold his lifting into heaven on clouds we must behold the event with eyes bestowed from circumcised hearts.


Heaven’s celebration of the Ascension affirms Jesus, to be the One who alone is worthy to open Scripture (Rev. 5:2b, 3, 4, 9) rightly testifying to the Father’s heart and witness (Jn. 5:37-40) to his only Son.


Scripture’s “Binding of Isaac” and the “Prodigal Son” reminds the church of the Father’s witness to his Son and so his own heart (cf. Luke 24:45). Each account speaks of two sons by which we apprehend a father losing a beloved child.  The death of a child is a terrible thing; worse yet is the loss of a child’s obedient affection. 


The sacrificial binding of Isaac is drenched in pathos.   God commanded Abraham to kill his son, as a sacrifice.  It is all the reader can do not to curse God at the “outrage”; and many do, elevating human hearts above God’s.  But man’s indignation from flesh-bound hearts is but the mock of a faux “righteousness”. 


Fallen men are killers by nature. By sin Adam chose death and curse over life and blessing (cf. Deut. 30:19) condemning all generations of men to the same choice for death and curse.  From the Fall, man’s history repeats the killing of Abel by his brother Cain.  We habitually deal out death in word and deed without any ability to restore the lives we take or otherwise mangle. 


God in the midst of his creation ordained himself, the Lord who “kills and brings to life” (1 Sam. 2:6).  This is the knowledge of God given came Abraham by faith’s heart-eyes.  By faith Abraham knew the eternal character of God who in his being is author of Life and blessing. 


On the cross Jesus revealed the Father’s heart. Abraham discerned on some level in God’s command to kill, heaven’s Wisdom and Truth; that out of death, God issues new life.  Likewise, the faith of Isaac, knowing his father’s love of him, beheld also the heart of his father’s God, as the “God of the living” (Luke 20:38) who makes dead hearts to God alive when circumcised from a sacrificial blade. 


The faith of Isaac points us to the faith of Jesus crucified, and by his Son’s death, the Father’s will for the life of all men. Because our flesh-bound hearts are incapable of choosing aught but death and curse, God chose the death of his only Son.  In the gift of Baptism’s faith we are united in God’s choice for the death of his Son and also united with Jesus’ faith that knows our Father’s resolute heart to bestow life.


Jesus tells the parable of the Prodigal Son, a revelation of Adam, created son of God. The Prodigal perversely despised his father, demanding a share of the father’s fabulous material fortune to effect the estrangement. 


The father does the unthinkable; he accedes to the demand. At first blush the father’s acquiescence appears to make him complicit in the loss of his son.  The son was digging a hole and the father provided the shovel. 


The picture does not put family reconciliation on the horizon. And yet the father’s indulgence reveals his character and wisdom.  The son in his deepest distress perceived fatherly love.  The father is broken hearted at his son’s rejection of hearth and home; still he did not respond in kind; nor did he accept as inevitable the loss of his child, but waited in longsuffering love. 


One day the Prodigal looked-up from the dug pit and imagined a horizon; if not reconciliation with his father, at least a servant’s return home. By his own lights, the son from a worldly heart did not know the extent of father’s mercy, love, and forgiveness; deeper than his unfathomable material wealth or any hole the son could dig. 


The heart of the father is disclosed in love beyond worldly experience. On the son’s return home, the father vested him with the robes of household office, the father’s authority for gracious mercy and forgiveness in the midst of the village. 


In these Scriptures are posited two fathers; two hearts oriented toward two sons. Jesus is Isaac who received the sacrificial blade on the altar of wood.  The Father did not spare his Son; and the Jesus so trusted the Father to open through his flesh what was once hidden, the tenderness of God’s heart for man delivered through the Life of his only Son. 


There is nothing for the Prodigal, i.e., you and I, to do but wear the garments of God’s household Office in the new creation, sons and daughters of the Father, priestly witnesses to the love of God in Christ.


All of which returns us to the Ascension of our Lord, our celebratory feast of man restored to the household and right hand in the reign of God.


Acts and the Gospel find Jesus’ disciples looking up in prodigal-like hope to heaven; their eyes are following Jesus’ ascent below heaven’s horizon. Two angelic persons express curiosity at what seemed the disciple’s uninformed gaze. 


The Ascension must be viewed by heart-eyes, not from below, but from heaven’s Eucharistic perspective. By Jesus’ word, Scripture is now opened for us to behold with St. John our homecoming in the Father’s killing of Christ. 


Jesus ascended to heaven on clouds of Divine presence. As a Man, he trod over the crystalline sea that separated heaven and earth.   Jesus stood amid the 4 living creatures and 24 elders before the throne of God.  From the Ancient of Days the Man received the sign of his Office, the sealed scroll, which Jesus alone as the sacrificed Lamb is worthy to reveal the mind and will of God toward men.


Forty-three days after his blood drenched Passion we see on the state occasion of the Ascension that Jesus cleans-up very well. In response the saints sing a new song that the ascended Lord is the slain Lamb of God, who by his blood ransomed a people for God and to make them a kingdom of priests to reign on earth (Rev. 5:9, 10). 


The sight of the Father’s heart is difficult to bear. It remains for us in Baptism’s circumcision of hearts to bear the sight and behold the cost of the Father’s heart through “heart-eyes”.


In Scripture, opened to us by the ascended Man, we see and know what the Father sees in the face of our sin: bleeding Jesus, the Prodigal who bears our rebellion and Isaac utterly trusting his Father for Life.  


This is the sight the Father’s heart eternally beholds, affirmed by the witness of the Spirit, the water, and the blood (1 Jn. 5:8), given for our baptismal instruction in rightly locating the Father’s heart, dwelling with men in Christ by word and sacrament for Life. Amen.





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