Sermon for the Eve of the Ascension
Wednesday, May 25, 2022
Trinity Lutheran Church, Worcester, Massachusetts
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
21 persons shot dead in an elementary school in Texas …
10 persons shot dead in a grocery store in Buffalo …
A total of 31 persons killed by two 18-year old teenagers in the last 10 days.
Let me say it clearly, those two men didn’t kill those 31 persons. We did.
The system that we maintain and benefit from killed those 31 persons in the last 10 days.
We live in a system of white supremacy and racism in this country that continues to turn out killer after killer. We live in a system where gun rights are valued more importantly than the right of men, women, and children to live in peace and safety.
It’s interesting, isn’t it? That many people who call themselves “Pro-Life” are also “Pro-Gun?” People who think it’s so important to preserve the life of an unborn fetus, seem not to care about the lives of men, women, and children slaughtered by guns. If you are “Pro-Life” celebrating the possible overturning of Roe v Wade – then how can you be “Pro-Gun?” How can you defend anyone’s right to access these assault weapons whose only purpose is mass slaughter?
Some say that more guns are the answer to guns. The logic goes that if more people had guns then these attacks wouldn’t happen. But the shooters in both attacks were prepared for guns! According to news reports, both the shooters wore body armor!
There was an armed security guard in Buffalo who fired his weapon at the killer, but he was killed anyway. In the Texas shooting, armed law enforcement officers exchanged gunfire with the shooter and many were injured. Those weren’t civilians armed with guns – these were trained law enforcement officers with guns who were killed and injured by these 18-year-olds.
We live in a system that is creating this violence and carnage. We live in a system of white supremacy and racism that is turning out killers, one after the next, who are killing men, women, and children. Unless we do something about it these attacks will continue.
These are not isolated incidents. These killers are products of the system of white supremacy where guns, violence, and slaughter is seen as a valid option. Don’t be surprised when more attacks happen – they will continue to happen until we do something to change the system.
Tonight, in the church year, we celebrate the Ascension of the risen Jesus.“The ascension signifies not geography (WHERE Jesus is) as much as Christology (WHO Jesus is) writes one theologian (Troy Troftgruben). It confirms that Jesus is our exalted Lord forevermore. Another theologian (David Deckard) says this: The ascension doesn’t ask, “What do you believe?” but “What are you believing into? Jesus tells the disciples that they’ll be proclaiming his name “to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” but not ending there.
In his Ascension, Jesus Christ ascended as exalted Lord before all nations and peoples. The body of the risen Christ ascended from being in one place at a time to being in all places at all times. And not just ascending as Lord for some, but ascending as Lord for all.
David Deckard writes that “The ascension inaugurates the next stretch of a powerful, long-running river, sweeping along all who witness it.”
Troy Troftgruben writes that A more literal translation of Acts 1:1 describes Luke’s “first book” as about all that Jesus began to do to teach, “implying he has no retirement plans in Acts.” As the ensuing story shows, divine characters – including Jesus – never cease to be active.”
The work of the Ascended Lord continues! The work of the Ascended Lord Jesus continues in the church. Jesus ascended into the Church to be present as the living Christ around the world.
Friends, as disciples of the crucified, resurrected, and ascended Lord Jesus, we are called to participate in the ongoing power of Jesus Christ bringing life and healing into the world.
Today, people grieve the slaughter in our city streets. Today, there is blood of slaughter in our schools, in our grocery stores, but more importantly, on our very hands.
If we are people alive in the risen and ascended Jesus Christ, then we are people of action working for peace and justice. If we are people who participate in the life of the risen and ascended Jesus Christ, then we are people who reject, renounce, and resist systems, principalities, and powers that perpetuate the slaughter. Alive in the risen and ascended Christ, we are people who confess our complicity in these systems due to our apathy and indifference … and in confession and forgiveness receive the transformative power of Jesus Christ to lead us in new ways.
In 10 days we celebrate the baptisms of four children here at Trinity on Pentecost Sunday. Additionally, we will welcome an adult preparing for baptism at a later date. We will also receive a dozen new members by Affirmation of Baptism. If these baptisms are nothing more than a cute little ceremony for children, then we have done nothing to resist the system of white supremacy that perpetuates the slaughter.
If, however, these baptisms, and affirmation of baptisms, are received in faith as signs of the new heaven and the new earth, the water used in the baptisms received in faith as the river of the water of life flowing from the throne of God … if these baptisms, and the affirmation of our own baptisms, are received in faith as the power of God joining us to the death of Jesus Christ on the cross in order to raise us in the resurrection of Christ as redeemer AND transformed saints …
Then there is hope for us yet!
There is hope in the power of the Most High God leading us to life right now. There is hope for people of faith who take action to reverse the slaughter and repair and restore all that has been damaged and destroyed.
Even at the grave, we celebrate the Ascended Jesus Christ who rules as the risen Lord over all. In our grief, and with our questions, we both call out for, and celebrate, the work of the resurrected and ascending Jesus Christ who defeats death and leads us to life. Alive in Christ, may we be transformed from our apathy and indifference – may we join the work of the living Christ bringing life, safety, and healing to all peoples of God.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Cover art is “The Ascension of Jesus Christ” gold mosaic; in Neamt Monastery, Romania.