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1 Pet 4:13-16
by Rev Dr Rachel Mash, Environmental Coordinator, Anglican Church of Southern Africa
ASCENSION DAY SERMON Christ the Lord
Ascension day pictures show Jesus being taken up into heaven and the disciples gazing mournfully upwards as they are left behind on earth.
Jesus has ascended and will sit on the right hand of God to rule over the whole universe. The collect for the sixth Sunday after Easter asks God to “send the Holy spirit to strengthen us and exalt us to that place where our Saviour Christ has gone before”.
For many people this reflects our theology. Jesus died, went to heaven and one day we will be taken up and join him in heaven.
“This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through, if heaven’s not my home then Lord what shall I do?” we sing. Jesus has left us on the earth, and we are dreaming of our heavenly home. Our task therefore as Christians is to gain more souls so that they can join us on the way to heaven.
Is this what Ascension teaches us? What does the Lordship of Christ, at the right hand of the father mean for us?
Lets us explore the Lordship of Christ
“20 when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” Ephesians. 1 ;20-23
The Acts of the Apostles never says that Christians will one day follow Jesus up to heaven. The followers of Jesus have a task here on earth, to work to extend the kingdom of God, on earth as in heaven. ‘Heaven’, in the words of NT Wright is ‘the control room for earth. Heaven is the CEO’s office from which earth is run – or it’s supposed to be, which is why we’re told to pray for that to become a reality’.
The point of the Ascension is that at this glorious moment, Christ ascends to take control over the whole of Creation. Heaven is not somewhere far away , it is God’s space and Earth is the humans space. Psalm 115;16 The highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to mankind. Earth is not a waiting room for heaven, heaven and earth overlap (for instance in the sacraments and in the wonders of creation) and one day they will overlap completely as Revelations teaches us. We look forward to a new Earth, this Earth renewed, not a “brand new “ Earth.
So as we celebrate the Lord who reigns at the right hand of the Father, let us reflect on the Lordship of Christ
- The Creator Lord
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made, without him nothing was made.
Jesus is the lord of creation – he was present at creation.
Jesus loved nature – he seemed to find his spiritual refreshment more in nature than in the synagogue. He taught about God by pointing people to seeds and harvest, to birds and flowers, bread and wine. These are things the Lord, Jesus created, they are filled with the fingerprints of God.
We cannot worship the Lord, the Creator Jesus Christ and not care for the creation that he made. If we destroy creation, which bears the fingerprints of Christ, we are dishonouring our Lord. .
- The Lord for whom Creation was made
Ephesians 1 ;16-17 all things were created for him
Creation was not created for humans to use and abuse. It was made for its Lord, Jesus Christ. It is not only humans that worship God, we are only one voice in the great choir of Creation – Psalm 148 reminds us that great sea creatures, mountains, trees, animals and birds join humans and insects in praising God. When one of those voices in God’s great choir falls silent, we are bringing pain to His heart.
Christ is on the throne over creation and he will not abandon it – Eph 1:17 – in him all things hold together – he is at the heart of the web of life. He oversees the rhythmns of spring tide and harvest. But v17 also warns us that when we take Christ out of the heart, when we are motivated by greed, or winning an election, or raising the price of stocks, then things will indeed fall apart.
- Christ, Lord and Saviour of the Universe
God created the world and it was good. It has been spoilt through greed and sin. But through Jesus there is hope of salvation for the whole of Creation. God loved the whole cosmos : John 3:16 and gave his only son.
Jesus did not only die to save the human kind. He loves the whole of creation, for he made it and it was created for him. He has given us a special task as caretakers.
Jesus died and rose again , as a physical body, scarred but alive, renewed. The same will happen to the earth, it will be healed and saved, scarred but renewed. The risen Christ is the guarantee that the whole created order will also be transformed and renewed.
The prophets foresaw the coming time when there would be ecological harmony (Hosea 2: 16-23) and Isaiah 11:6-9.
So what does the message of Ascension mean to us during the COVID19 pandemic?
We acknowledge that Christ is on the throne, ultimately the future is in his Hands and we do not need to panic. The CEO is in the control room
We acknowledge that we have failed to be caretakers of the earth, by destroying eco-systems we have allowed viruses to jump. We have created unjust societies without adequate food security. We have placed human beings’ greed at the centre of the web of life. Degradation of this creation, whether by pollution or extinction of species or any other abuse, is nothing less than a challenge to the rule of God and the Ascension of Jesus Christ as Lord over all things.
May COVID19 be a reset button for us, and we dream of what the Earth could look like, if we were to pray and work towards kingdom of God here on earth.
May the Holy Spirit come upon us so that we may “ go and preach the good news to the whole of Creation” Mark 16:15
Dave Bookless : Planet Wise
by Dr Rachel Mash, South Africa