Today is Ascension Day. What a glorious day for the Church, for you. and me. The creator of the heavens and the Earth has become part of that creation to redeem you and now he sits on his throne in heaven. For the first time in all of eternity, a man sits on the heavenly throne. The God Man has elevated your station. He truly has made all things new. It has been 40 days since our celebration of the Resurrection. It has been 40 days since we celebrated the destruction of death and the devil’s reign. Now we celebrate for the Lord has ascended to his heavenly throne to reign eternally.
I would advise no one to send his child where the Holy Scriptures are not supreme. Every institution that does not unceasingly pursue the study of God’s word becomes corrupt….I greatly fear that the universities, unless they teach the Holy Scriptures diligently and impress them on the young students, are wide gates to hell. –To the Christian Nobility, LW 44:207
The Spirit works from the outside in to create faith and to sanctify God’s holy people. Our help has to come from outside of us. And so the Bible teaches that faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ. The Word comes to us because God sends preachers. In Romans 10, Saint Paul asks, “How will they call upon him in whom they have not believed?” and “How are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” Saint Paul is saying that we need to hear the Word in order to believe. We can’t strike an inner energy that puts us on the right path. We must have God come with his good gifts and Spirit or else we die. “How are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” God has the plan for your salvation. He has sent a preacher to you. He only has the power of the Scriptures. He has the power to forgive sins. He stands in Jesus’ stead for you.
Let’s pray that God keep sending pastors. Let’s pray that young men are encouraged by the church to seek the Office of the Ministry. And then let’s encourage the young men in our congregations to this great and noble task. Lord have mercy on your Church.
You may think that it is nice that your church has a school. You may think that it is just an outreach among many different outreaches in which your church could engage. Whereas it is nice that your church has a school, it is also necessary that your church has a school. Your church can engage in other outreach, but it really must have a Christian school. The world has gone on a full attack of our children. It is one of the great enemies of the church. The world, the devil, and your sinful nature work together to destroy and lay waste the work of Christ. The United States is no safe haven for Christians. The world here hates Christ as much as it hates him everywhere else. And the world will do its due diligence indoctrinating our children in the ways contrary to the faith. But the Lord has given the work of indoctrinating to parents, not to the state. Classical Lutheran Education uses the Latin phrase, “in loco parentis.” It means literally, “in place of the parent.” Thus Christian schools walk along side the parents in full view and in full communication to bring up the church’s children in the way of the Lord. Supporting your church’s school is a wonderful thing. Lifting up the teachers and administration in your prayers is needed. Let’s see what we can do to establish and support classical Christian education at every congregation. Wouldn’t that be nice.
Jesus says that He needs to go away so that the Spirit of all truth can come. He comes to lead you and me into all truth. The absolute truth that is the Word of God. This foundation is where our faith jumps forth. But how does he do it? He declares. He speaks. He doesn’t speak his own words, he tells you and me the things he hears. The Spirit is sent to declare all the things of Jesus to you. Wow! In your hearing, you are made children of God by Jesus’ blood shed on the cross. In your hearing, water is made a holy baptism and a life giving flood of renewal. In your hearing, the bread and wine of the sacrament are the very body and blood of your Savior. This Word preached and taught by God’s holy preachers brings life and light to you. It’s the reading of a will. All the treasures of heaven belong to you!
The school children were studying Luke’s parable of the Great Banquet today. The invitation goes out to the people of God, but they have so many excuses why they can’t come. They are pretty lame excuses. They have to go look at land and check out oxen and one has a wife that keeps him from coming. So God extends the invitation to more. He goes to the lowly and common, but there is still room. He sends his servants with the invitation to go to the Gentiles. The room is grand and the room must be filled. The work of Jesus is for all to enjoy. God loves the whole world and wants everyone to turn from their sin and live. He wants all to repent and enjoy his good gifts. So, come to the wedding feast. Bring your wife and your children, too. Look at the land later and enjoy the lavish shower of love that God has given to you. In this lavish washing, he makes you children and we call him Father. Thanks be to God for his good and gracious love for us that we have been rescued by the blood of Jesus.
The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A bad shepherd abandons his duty, leaves the sheep to the enemy, and saves himself when the going gets tough. A bad shepherd cares nothing for the sheep. He cares for himself. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and you are his sheep. This isn’t a compliment to you and me. Sheep are dumb. They must have a shepherd or they will wander and stray and get lost. If no one shears them, their wool will weigh them down and cause stress and pain. The Good Shepherd takes care of his sheep. He cares for them. He cares for you. When the going gets rough, he gets into it with the sheep. The wolf (that ancient serpent) attacks and the Good Shepherd gets in the way. He lays down his life so that you and I could live. Praise God that he sends his Son to be our Shepherd and Redeemer. Jesus knows his sheep. He knows you and no one can snatch you out of his hand.
“In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” -John 1:4-5
Jesus has come into the world and he is light and life. The darkness thought it was stronger. Death thought it was invincible. They were both wrong. The darkness is broken by the light of heaven. The darkness can’t comprehend it, can’t overcome it, can’t survive. Darkness can be a powerful thing. I remember being terrified of the darkness as a child. Many of us still are. There are certain places, even to this day, that I get a bit uneasy when it’s dark. Only a small flicker from a match or a candle can change all that. The tiny flashlight on the back of your iPhone makes the powerful darkness crack. But Jesus isn’t a small flashlight. He is the light of heaven. He shines with a light unparalleled and because he has come into the world, the darkness is broken. Never can it claim us. The people that in darkness sat, a glorious light have seen. We have seen and we have heard and we have tasted that the Lord Jesus is the victor. What did he win? The battle to have you forever. Your sins are paid for in his blood. Your life is restored that you may live under God in his kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness. Thanks be to God who has won the victory and destroyed our enemies.
John sees those who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. He can’t number them. No one can. The Lamb of God is in the midst and they have palm branches in their hand. They aren’t singing, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” No, the time for that song has finally ended for them. Now they sing the song of the feast that is above all feasts. Now they sing the song of Alleluias never ending. “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” They sing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen! The thing that is accomplished that first Holy Week is celebrated to all eternity. God does save his people. He pays for them by the blood of Jesus. You have been bought back from sin and death. The power of the devil is just a joke. Jesus turns everything on its head. Everything has been reversed. Nothing is the way the world and the devil intended it. Though we sojourn here in the midst of the tribulation, we do not go at it alone. Jesus promises to be with you to the very end of the age. He will not forsake you or leave you.
The Lord God commanded the Man and the Woman to be fruitful and multiply. He uses the Man and the Woman as his instruments to continue to bring forth life. He tells us multiple times (in his Holy Word) that he forms life, that he has knit us together in our mother’s womb, and that he knows us even before we are born. When it was time to rescue the whole world and all of humanity from sin and death, our God becomes part of his own creation by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is conceived in the womb of Mary. God takes up human flesh and is worshipped even in his mother’s womb. Elizabeth (John the Baptist’s mother) asks, “Why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” He wasn’t even born yet, but Mary is the mother of our Lord even then. Pregnancy is a God thing. He is at work in the lives of his people. The womb is a place set apart where God forms, shapes, knits, and creates. Our God uses means, but it is God doing the doing.
We would be told that Christians should stay out of this fight and that churches should remain silent. They say that abortion is a political issue and that churches should be silent on politics. We are convinced by God’s Word that life begins in the womb at conception. We are convinced that God is the one forming and shaping. We are convinced that God wants us to be fruitful and multiply. And we are convinced that he will sustain us as we take care of what he has given to us. But we cannot stay out and we cannot be silent. Life, no matter in the womb or out of it, is precious in the sight of our God. He is active in it and by his work on the cross has paid for it. Jesus redeems and saves by his death on the cross. The Love of God is this: he dies on the cross so that death can be undone. So let’s pray for the babies in the womb and out of it. Let’s pray for the children in our country and around the world. Let’s pray for hunger and homelessness and the drug addicted. Let’s pray for the lonely and the forsaken. Let’s pray for the suffering and the hurt. And as we are able, God sustaining us, let’s bear the burdens of our neighbor and show mercy and love to the world. God is pro-life all the way: conception to eternal life in heaven. He’s pro-life because he has sanctified it and paid for it. He is our life and now that life has no end.