Let us pray: Dear Savior, thank You for leaving heaven and coming to earth to save our souls. Thank You for offering Yourself up as a sacrifice to the heavenly Father for our sins. Thank You for going back to glory to prepare a place for us when we leave earth, too. And finally, thank You for listening to our prayers each day and making sure that all things work for our eternal good and our eternal joy. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM OUR RISEN AND ASCENDED LORD JESUS CHRIST!
TEXT: Psalm 47: 5-6: “God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets. Sing praise to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.”
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Have you ever felt homesick? Have you ever been far removed from family and friends and found yourself longing to return to that special place, that place of love and joy we all call: home? Think of the soldiers in Iraq today. Do you think they are counting the days until they return home? Do you think they are looking forward to the welcome that they will receive?
What exactly is home? It’s the place where you feel totally at ease. It is the place where you feel safe and happy. It’s the place where you experience real joy. The joy of love without end. Yes,
HOME IS WHERE THE JOY IS!
Ascension is my favorite church festival. I hope after tonight it’s yours, too. And it’s my favorite for a lot of reasons. First, I love the ascension hymns. Second, I take great comfort that Christ has gone on to glory to prepare a special place, a home for me in heaven. Third, from heaven He can hear my prayers and the prayers of all other believers and answer them immediately instead of being confined to some physical dwelling on this earth where a long line awaits an audience with Him. But, most of all I enjoy Ascension because it was the day of joy for my Lord. It was the day when He went home.
Put yourself in His shoes. Imagine leaving heaven and coming to earth. Imagine leaving never-ending joy behind and coming into this world of sin, hate, fear, sickness, heartache, and death. Imagine knowing that at age 33 you would suffer horribly and die miserably on a cross after being tortured. Imagine knowing that most would reject Your loving sacrifice for their souls. Truly, love, real love, filled Christ’s heart and soul. For what other reason would cause God’s Son to spend 33 years feeling all of our pain?
Now, imagine His work being done! He has completed His mission. Eternal forgiveness has been won. Death has been defeated. Satan and all the pain and sadness he brings has been put in chains. And now it is time to go home. Christ was not sad when He left this world. He was joyful! He was going back home. He was picking up the fullness of His Kingship over all creation so that He could continue to help and assist His children without any kind of hindrance—without being confined by time and space. No longer would He be able to help people one at a time. Now He could be present everywhere and help us at every moment. Imagine His joy at all this? Imagine His Father’s joy? Imagine the Spirit’s joy over having Him back home? Imagine the party in heaven! Well, you don’t have to imagine because in our Psalm it is described. “God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.” That’s what the sons of Korah wrote about 900 years before the event even took place. Yes, right here we see how eagerly God anticipated His Son’s ascension.
Do you feel joy over Jesus’ ascension? When I was a child I thought to myself: “I wish He would not have left. I wish He were still physically here to help me.” You might even think that the disciples thought the same thing. But, you’d be wrong. Those who had had their lives directly touched by Christ were not sad when He left. They, too, were joyful. We read of this in Luke’s Gospel when he writes at the end of it: “While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.”
Dr. Luther says this about Jesus’ ascension. “We must, therefore, conceive of his ascension and Lordship as something active, energetic and continuous, and must not imagine that he sits above while we hold the reins of government down here. Nay, he ascended up thither for the reason that there he can best do his work and exercise dominion. Had he remained upon earth in visible form, before the people, he could not have worked so effectually, for all the people could not have been with him and heard him. Therefore, he inaugurated an expedient which made it possible for him to be in touch with all and reign in all, to preach to all and be heard by all, and to be with all. Therefore, beware lest you imagine within yourself that he has gone, and now is, far away from us. The very opposite is true: While he was on earth, he was far away from us; now he is very near.” Yes, He is as near as the blessings of your baptism. As near as the strength You receive in the Lord’s Supper. As near as any form of His preached, taught, or read word of truth. For in the Gospel in all its forms Christ is near and present.
Obviously, the disciples understood this. That’s one reason why they were joyful over Christ going home. But the other reason is that infused with His self-giving love they now were able to actually be unselfish. For perhaps the first time in their lives they thought first about Him and not themselves. They were happy for Him. They knew this Psalm and so they knew the joy He was experiencing as He left their sight. Yes, now they really knew that Home Is Where the Joy Is!
My Friends, true lasting joy will never be found on this earth. It is only found in heaven. So, as you draw closer each day to your death, don’t fear. Don’t fret. Don’t worry. Instead, look forward to it! For death means that you’re going home! And just as your Savior has prepared your soul for that day of triumph, so, too, know that He has prepared a glorious homecoming for you there! Yes, Ascension really is His happiest of days and ours, as well. Amen