THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD, 20 MAY 2004
A MISSION ACCOMPLISHED; A MISSION TO ACCOMPLISH
Many of us saw the banner on the aircraft carrier, Abraham Lincoln which read:Mission Accomplished. Only it turned out that the mission was not done, and there was a mission that was to be done. The mission would take far more than anyone had planned for or expected.
The Ascension of our Lord--it is truly a day to be celebrated and honored. It is a day to come to the temple of God to worship our Lord with great joy, to praise Him for the mission accomplished and for the mission he has given for us to complete.
The mission of our Lord was given when he was named. Jesus is his name, for he shall save his people from their sins. Now the mission is done for which he was sent into the world. He has saved his people from their sins.
It had been the plan of God all along to do this. That plan of God was seen in the first five books of the Bible--those called the books of Moses, or the Law. It was there in the many writings of those who spoke about God's will--the prophets quite clearly, where we see the man despised and forsaken by men, bruised, beaten, until death. It is the poetry of God's people--the Psalms, where the Ruler of all would be a servant and have a people who would proclaim the righteousness he won for them.
Mankind, you and I, needed saving from our sins. Our rebellion against God when we believe that what we want is better than what God wants. It is our continuing resistance to trust that what God says is good, is good, and what God says is evil, is evil.
All of us become so convoluted in our thinking that we no longer by ourselves can in any sense go in the right direction. Our map for life seems to end in an endless maze. All because we picked up the map that leads to hell and trusted it; the map to life, to truth, the way to God was so impossible we put it down for the other one. Even if we stumbled on the small narrow way that leads to a peace with God, our Creator, it seemed as a foolish dumb way to go, and we have proceeded in the direction of the majority.
The road filled with cultural truths, such as: the more you have the better you will be. The new is always better than the old (you know the auto of two years ago seems quite like an antique). You deserve the best (without having any idea what the best is). How many times haven't we said just that: "I deserve this." This vacation, this expensive toy, this style of life, after all, look what I have done? It is meet, right and salutary that I have these?
God was left in the ditch, like a broken down car. No longer driveable, no longer useful, not getting you anywhere, a buggy in the age of hybrids, not admired by others, unable to attract anybody, unable to climb any, even the smallest mountain, or get us through the mud of life, through which we have to slog.
What is sin, but a mistake, a misjudgment on our part as how to get what we want and get more. Sin has consequences? You're kidding, right? Where in our day does God punish evil? Death is the consequence of sin? Right! I haven't been able to figure that one out, have you?
Moral disorder, national calamities, crime and drugs on a scale we can't comprehend. Leaders high and low corrupt. And I say, "mission accomplished"?
Yes. It was necessary for One to die for all, so that all, every person, here and there and wherever, might be saved. The special person from God, the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, so that repentance and forgiveness of sins might be preached in his name to all nations.
All evil, all sin, all transgressions, iniquities, moral failures--all has been eliminated by what Jesus did. The mission, to save his people who are all people, from their sins is accomplished.
No need for self-flagellation of any kind. No sackcloth and ashes for us. No little curtsy toward God, no kneeling at an altar, no prayer quickly or sincerely prayed, no alms to the poor, no going the extra mile to try to bring God closer.
God and you fit together perfectly! God and you are united again. Nothing stands in the way, because Jesus has removed the barrier that stopped the flow of God's blessings to each of us. Only our lack of trusting that this Jesus has done what he set out to do can keep us from God.
I say this to you with the utmost confidence. I say it because Jesus returns to God. That is what this day celebrates: Mission Accomplished. Jesus has saved his people from their sins. Ring the bells! Clap your hands! Bring loud and noisy songs of praise and adoration to God! It is done, on the cross, on the third day. The Son returns to sit at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. He has returned. Mission Accomplished!
Mission to Accomplish
Now there is the Mission to Accomplish. It is very simple in its goal: repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be preached in Jesus' name to all nations.
He gives us "power from on high." He gives us the Spirit of God. This is power. It takes wimps and makes them into macho men of the Good News. It takes the frailest and weakest of all of us and gives us the ability to turn the most resistant adversary of God into a friend and lover of God.
That is the power he gave his disciples, his followers. It is the power that we receive in the Blessed Meal of our Lord's Supper. It is the power of the Good News about our own personal rescue from the fangs of the roaring lion, the devil, the world and our own nature corrupted by its own desires. When you know and see that only through the actions of this Servant King Jesus that we can become whole, get it together again, find purpose in our cracked, leaking pots of the great Potter, then power is yours from on high.
The Mission to Accomplish is what church is about. These disciples got to sit around for a very short time--10 days, I believe. Then the power came, the lights were turned on, the road was clear, the engines of their faith roared into action, they began to speak of the Mission Accomplished, and they did it boldly. There in Jerusalem, then in the neighboring counties and countries, and finally to Rome, and the uttermost parts of the earth where our ancestors lived without hope and peace, without a sense of purpose in life that held up in the confrontation with death.
Oh, the devil still prowls, still tries to scare, still tries to get us off where we can be devoured. We have clashes over pure doctrine, about church practices of who should get Holy Communion and who should not, about what kind of worship we should do: traditional (whatever that is), contemporary (whatever that is), or a blended worship (whatever that is). We get caught in traditions which, of course, were not traditions at one time. We get turned on or off by certain words and phases: entertainment evangelism, seeker friendly worship. We are lured to believe God is taking off should we clap in church, say an "amen" or two in worship, or have other instruments of music besides only those Biblical instruments mentioned in the Bible, the organ and the piano!
Look, how quickly the Mission to Accomplish has been forgotten. How soon the joy of salvation escapes from our hearts and anxiety enters. How soon we forget that unless someone had been on the Mission to Accomplish, not a one of us would be here today. How soon we again think of ourselves, and those without Jesus are assigned to someone else responsibility for witness and inclusion in the fellowship.
The Mission Accomplished is done. Until He who sit at the right hand of God after completing his mission returns, we have a Mission to Accomplish! Praise God in his temple today, we have something to do. We have a Mission to Accomplish, a work to do, a power to unleash in our lives and more joy than we have ever known yet to find!
His Mission Accomplished, our Jesus returns. When our Mission to Accomplish is done, we then shall return to be with our Lord forever. Until then, praise God for Jesus! Find joy in salvation! Carry out the work of witness. Amen.
Walter W. Harms