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soNormal>Let us pray… May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
On Friday morning I awoke about 4:30 after having a disturbing dream.
I dreamed that I was dieing, that I had been told by the doctors that I had a limited time left.
That in itself is disturbing dream, but despite being generally at peace with it, and in my dream believing in the promises of our Lord, that a place is prepared for all of us, the dreamed finished with me carrying something heavy rested over both shoulders, unidentifiable, but with a sense of it being some unresolved burden.
I woke feeling very unsettled for some time
Now I believe that Dreams /CAN/ be foreshadowing, can be a way which God speaks to us and tells us messages that we need to hear…
We certainly have many examples of this in scripture; consider how Jesus, as a new born was spared because an angel came to Joseph in a dream and told him to `head out of dodge`
But generally, I think those situations are really quite rare, and generally our dreams are our sub-conscience workings of what is going on in our conscience or daily lives.
But I lay there for some time unsettled
Until my conscience mind caught up to speed and I remembered that I had watched a movie right before bed
It was “The Bucket List” – where Morgan Freedman and Jack Nicholson are two patients that find themselves in a hospital room together after both have been given terminal diagnosis – and they go about fulfilling all the things on the list, before they ‘kick the bucket’
            …So that explains the subject of my unsettling dream – problem solved, right?
Well not entirely, you see I still had sense of the burden that I was left carrying
Over the course of day, I came to the resolution that the burden is unfinished business – that I have more work, more ministry to do before my time is up – good news for you, I guess, since I have just started here...
Over the course of the day I came to the belief that the other thing I had been thinking about before going to sleep was my sermon and what the scripture was telling me
And that I will explain as we go
Today we celebrate the accession of our Lord
                        Today we remember a often glanced over aspect of the life of Jesus
                                    Glanced over - why?
Well, there are likely many reasons, but I think one of them is that we haven’t figured a fun way to commemorate it, think about it:
o       At Christmas, with the birth of Jesus, we have developed a wonderful tradition that *marks* God’s gift with the giving of presents *to* each other
o       On Palm Sunday, when people saw *clearly* ‘as a group of followers’ that Jesus was the triumphal King - we wave palm branches and make palm crosses
o       At the end of Lent - the triumphal moment of Easter when our Lord defeated death and rose from the tomb, we have several ways in which we celebrate this event… not in the least of it - with a lot of chocolate…
o       But the ascension of our Lord... well we have nothing special really
It was then that I *thought* /‘we need a special occasion to mark this final nail in the coffin of Christ’s victory over death’/ (to mix some metaphors)…
The moment after Christ rose from the dead, defeating death on Easter, appearing in bodily form to many, then *leaving* his final earthly instructions and *ascending* into heaven.
We need to figure out a tradition for this ‘glanced over’ event…
But then it also occurred to me that maybe we don’t need to commercialize every major Christian event
Maybe the ascension is better left as one of those days in the Christian calendar that sneaks up on you every year
Jesus Christ rising into Heaven was, I am sure, *a shock* for the first disciples …and maybe it should be a surprise for us each year
But surprise or not, let’s not lose sight of the incredible importance of it
It is Christ’s final moments on earth …
and *consider the incredible *parting gift He leaves with us
            In this moment that Christ accomplishes His mission… He sets a mission for us
                        What has been called the “great commission”
                                    Today we have Luke’s account - but it is told in all four gospels
Let’s consider ‘what we are told’ and what we are commemorating today
Jesus spoke to them and told them that all scripture is written about Him,
            In fact to make sure His point is heard ‘he says it twice’ and then explains
That the law, the prophets and the psalms - all were about Him
In /Our Lord’s parting gift/
            He opened the disciples’ minds (and ours) so we could understand the Scriptures
So that we could see God’s true purpose in scripture - which is to point to the Christ - to Jesus
Then see how our Lord speaks about his own death on the cross
            Not as the world would see it …*but as victory*
                        Christ’s death was necessary for our salvation.
His flesh and blood offered in sacrifice on the cross were:
                                                “the life of the world” (John 6:51).
Without the death of Christ, so far as human logic would dictate,
* God’s law could never have been satisfied,
* sin could never have been pardoned,
* we could never have been justified before God,
* and God could never have shown mercy to us.
Christ’s cross is the solution to a great difficulty.
* It untied - a great knot; * it enabled God to be just
                                                and yet be the ‘justifier of the ungodly’
Christ teaches how to rightly understand the cross
            Then says
/“that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in *his* name to *all* the nations”/
/ /
The message our Lord told his disciples to preach … Repentance *and* forgiveness of sins: are inseparably linked together.
In *His* name
                        For *all* nations…
                                    Repentance *and* forgiveness of sins
This message is clearly found in each of the gospel accounts
            Matthew presents it gently in chapter 28
 /“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
19 Go therefore and make disciples of *all* nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to *obey* everything that I have commanded you./”
(Matthew 28:18b-20a)
Mark and John are more direct in telling of the commissioning and the full ramifications
In Mark 16:/ “Go into *all* the world and proclaim the good news to the *whole* creation.
16 The one *who believes* and is baptized will be *saved*; but the one who *does not* believe will be *condemned*.”/
(Mark 16:15-16)
And John 20:/ “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I *send* you.”
22 When Jesus had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
23 *If* you forgive the sins of any, they *are* forgiven them; *if* you *retain* the sins of any, they are retained.”/
(John 20:21b-23)
                        This commissioning carries a *shocking* undertone
It is not *only* a message of goodness and light – but of a responsibility and the way in which we are to lead our lives – in Going, doing, repenting (turning away from, and turning towards God) in obedience
The other detail that would have been shocking to the disciples
            This group of Jews - who would have been raised with a very specific identity
                        “The chosen people”
            Christ commissioned them into *all* world, or *all* the nations…
No longer was this to be an exclusive group - but a group that was to look beyond their racial upbringing
                                    They were to *start* in Jerusalem to be sure
But as our reading from Acts today puts it
            In Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth
                        We are given ever increasing circles of influence
                                    Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth
                                                *all* world, or *all* the nations
Christ calls them special believers in the world - He says “You are witnesses”
            …One is only a witness if they tell someone else…
This is what the lingering aspect of my dream Friday morning was all about – I still have the responsibility to proclaim the gospel to people in the church *and* beyond these walls
And I believe that, it is the responsibility of all who are baptized in the name of God to fulfill the whole of the great commission and to serve all, as Luther put it – the role of `the priesthood of all believers`
If that were not enough – there is more…
As we contemplate our reading for ‘the ascension of our Lord’ consider this pattern
Consider the pattern of Jesus’ actions in the last moments
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