Bethesda Lutheran Ames IA

Ascension of Our Lord

So it's it's essentially Sunday like I said before and I'm going to touch on the gospel message a little bit but I really want to focus on the Ephesians passage. So Paul writes here to the Ephesians and is talking about Jesus's right place in heaven that this power from God that rose Jesus from the grave is now bestowed upon him to reign over all things. King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus is now the ultimate authority over this world. And particularly of the Church.

And in Ephasis there was--a it's a little port town and it was primarily known for trade--but it especially housed this temple to Artemus, who is a very famous and powerful God at the time. I think it was something like the mother of all gods or something like that. Fertility was a big deal for her and the temple was just this amazing thing. And it was a very popular attraction for people. So it was not just a port town of trade but it was also a very big tourist hub so people could come and see and worship this great God, Artemus.

And so here comes this ragtag bunch of people proclaiming who Jesus Christ is. And how God rose this Jesus from the dead. And how through repentance and forgiveness of sins is available through Him, how we can be forgiven and live eternally with God in love.

Naturally that was upsetting the balance in that town and Acts tells us that a great uprising happened against Paul and his companions. They were not about to have the message of Jesus conflict With the power that they have thought in the God Artemus.

And they were not about to have this temple overrun by this goodness and grace of God. And so a riot started--all because they're proclaiming Jesus. Now they weren't there to take over Ephasis in the name of Christ. They were just proclaiming the truth of who Jesus is. But it caused great distress and it was the beginning of the end for Paul, who ends up being arrested appealing on his Roman citizenship to the Emperor--to Caesar. And as church tradition would have it, was later beheaded, at the end of that road.

Even though Christ was raining from on high. The power of the kingdom differs from the power of this world, and it is often in conflict. The power of this world is quite different than the power of the kingdom.

Just think about this. Does anybody have money in the stock market? Either IRAs, 401Ks, individual stock holdings, right? Back in December., maybe it was November--somewhere of that--President Trump gets out the Twitter and tweets, "Tariffs on China." Anybody notice what happened back in November-December? It's been affectionately known as the Christmas massacre. The stock market just went BOOM. And then, good for us, it came right back, right?!. Until President Trump gets on there again and tweets, "More tariffs on China." It starts going down and then, "New tariffs on Mexico." That's a lot of power folks. That is an amazing amount of power, to be able to just transmit data across the internet like that. And in just a few keystrokes control economies. It's no wonder that people are clamoring for the opportunity to be president of the United States of America.

It's an incredible amount of power. I could tweet the same thing and the stock market wouldn't budge a penny. It's not necessarily the power that governs the kingdom. There's a lot of power and control in what nations can do to one another. And there's physical power, that can back up anything else that we've try to do. That's why nations scramble to maintain strong militaries so they can assert their authority throughout the Earth, in case anybody were to challenge them. But there's different kinds of power out there, too.

There's intellectual power, or you know something that somebody else doesn't--and it's an important thing. And the church has gotten into trouble with this a little bit, they tried that early on with Gnosticism. This idea of secret hidden knowledge that only we know. That if you're part of the inner circle you know too. And this idea in the Gospel message that Jesus says about how he'd open their minds to understand the Scriptures. Some people understand that to be a secret knowledge. That somehow the Scriptures aren't enough to say what's in there, but that Jesus had to say something extra, something special that only this group of people now knows. When really what most likely it means is that Jesus just told them what was in there and what it means regarding him ... and the disciples finally GOT it.

You know it's like those sales tactics that you see where somebody has this secret special way to, you know, do really well in real estate or something like that. Usually you're up late at night, you can't sleep, and you're watching these things--and for only twenty-nine-ninety-five you can get in on this Secret club. And so you pay it, and then you get into that next level where they just share basically the same thing they told you before. But NOW for one-ninety-nine, you can get into this Super Secret club of people. And that's where I REALLY tell you my secrets. People use this type of power all the time. This experiential power where those that have just been in the game long enough, understand what to expect and get looked up to, because they know what might be coming.

The powers of this world govern how this world works, but it's always in tension with the powers of the Kingdom of God. And the struggle for us is to try to figure out how to use what power when ... how to rely on what power when. Because the powers of this world will keep trying to assert themselves over the powers of the Kingdom until the powers of this world are simply no more. We talked about that last week a little bit, where the kings are going to give up their glory for the sake of the glory of God. But we're not there yet. And so we struggle.

And the Church struggles with this, too. When we sit in the boardroom there and we talk about how things are going to happen in the congregation, or how we're going to move forward with something. Right? All congregations struggle with this. At what point does it become my own ego saying what to do versus what the Spirit is truly telling us to do in the name of Christ. And it can be a very easily blurred line. That's why we have multiple people sit on the board. But you'll notice, you'll notice that this idea of Christ as having all authority and dominion has all this power, right? Does not use that power to make somebody believe in him. God does not coerce converts.

The church has tried.

Because ultimately the Kingdom is what needs to reign supreme. And so the church got really excited and said, "How about if we torture people into accepting Jesus Christ and the forgiveness and life that is in His Name?" Not a good idea. And the Spanish Inquisition in particular has become infamous for that practice.

And there is this line of the powers of this world fighting against the powers of the Kingdom. And it can be very easy to read a passage in Ephesians where it talks about this power, the immeasurable, immeasurable greatness of God's power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. That God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead. You too can harness this power for yourself. And it makes it sound like we can just rain down fire on our enemies if we so choose. That wasn't what happened with Jesus. Jesus who had all the power of God is Son of God. Gives that up for you, and for me. Why would anybody do that?

It seems like a very dumb thing. Jesus was talking to Pilate about power. Jesus says, "You know at any given time I could call upon my father and a legion of angels would come and rescue me." And yet he dies on that cross in utter weakness.

And although Paul doesn't say it in Ephesians, Paul says it in an earlier letter. When Paul had a thorn in his side--an unnamed thorn--and God answers that My grace is sufficient for you. Power is made perfect in weakness.

Jesus in that power dies in weakness on the cross. And there really is no other good reason BUT for our sake. For the sake of all creation Jesus gives up this power and dies. Because the ultimate power--as corny as it sounds--is love. And as we know love makes us do crazy and stupid things for the sake of the other. Right?

Take your high school days. The power of Love reigns supreme and is the only thing that makes the story of Jesus make sense. And that the Son of God would willingly give up that power, that authority, to enter into our human weakness--to die in utter weakness and humiliation on the cross. Not so that he could reign supreme over all people later, but out of pure love. And service. To all of us who don't really deserve that Grace--it's the beauty of the wor--THAT is power. And it keeps the church persisting through the years, as we proclaim who Jesus is.

As we look to the sacrifice Christ made on behalf of all, and we work and sacrifice ourselves as one in this body of Christ. Jesus's sacrifice is there for you and me, and we celebrate it when we come to this table. We take the body and blood of Christ strengthening us in the faith so that we too can continue to serve and love.

And try to be who God has called us to be. And we sacrifice too--money that we could have spent other ways to gratify ourselves--we give to the church, we give to charity, we give for the sake of service to others. Our time that we could spend enjoying it on the deck watching a nice sunset, we commit to service and helping the poor, doing things within the church. Working for justice and peace.

Our talents that sometimes we are too afraid to use. We cross that line of fear and use them to glorify God. That is power.

That is the power of the kingdom flying in the face of the power of this world. Jesus's reign at the right hand of God and all power and dominion is King of Kings and LORD of lords--is that very power of love. And it will win over any power of this earth.

Jesus is the head of the church. Jesus's sacrifice reigns supreme. We get the good pleasure and opportunity to work as one body in Christ, in service to that amazing good news. Amen.

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