Der Vasken's Sermon on May 26, 2019

May 28, 2019

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

"Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward Heaven?  This Jesus, Who has been taken up from you into Heaven, will come again in the same way as you saw Him go into Heaven." [Acts 1:11]

Next Thursday is the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christ.  It is the day He ascended into Heaven to take His place at the right hand of God-the-Father.  The Feast of the Ascension marks the day when Heaven and earth came together.  It is a day of worship and celebration.  And it is a day of pilgrimage on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, when tens of thousands of Christian pilgrims from across the globe climb to the top of the Mount of Olives to kneel before the very spot where Jesus spoke His last earthly message to His disciples and where they witnessed Him rise into the clouds of Heaven.

This feast marks a very important event in the life of Our Lord and in the life of the Christian faith. It marks the end of His earthly time in this world. And in this Feast of the Ascension, we hear the very last words He spoke to His followers:  "...and Do Not Fear, for I am with you always, even to the end of the age."  Right after Jesus' Ascension into Heaven took place, the Bible tells us that two men / angels, dressed in white, appeared to the disciples and addressed them with these words:  "...Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand there looking up toward Heaven?  This Jesus, Who has been taken up from you into Heaven, will come again in the same way as you saw Him go into Heaven."

The angels were delivering a message with those words, and the message was one of rebuke.  The angels scolded the disciples.  These angels were chastising the disciples for spending time gazing into the clouds where Jesus had risen into Heaven.   The message of these angels was clear.  You must get on with the work of Christ in this world.  You must "flavor" the world with all He taught you.  You must speak the message of faith into the lives of children and adults.  You must instill the meaning of the Resurrection into the hearts of your loved ones and friends.  "...Men of Galilee, why do you stand there looking up toward Heaven?  Men of Galilee, you live in a world without Christ and it is a world badly in need of His teachings.  Men of Galilee, you live in a world that seems to push itself away from God faster and faster every day.  Men of Galilee, why are you standing there?  There is work to be done."

Those angels brought to the disciples a message from Jesus Himself telling them to stop staring into the clouds and go back into the villages from where they came and share their faith:

  • Work for the good of others;
  • Teach the message of the Almighty God;
  • Build up His Church and people;
  • And live out the faith.
Men of Galilee, that is what is required of you.

Faith plays a big role in this important story.  The disciples were caught staring up into the clouds because they didn't know what else to do. They couldn't believe their eyes.  What they witnessed defied the laws that govern this world.  The man they followed for the last three years simply ascended into the clouds above and they didn't know what to do.  So they stood there looking for him to come back, but for the next ten days, nothing changed until Pentecost Sunday when everything changed with the arrival of the Holy Spirit.  And from that point on, they knew exactly what to do and what was expected of them. 

Today we live in a world with the Holy Spirit.  And the Holy Spirit helps us live out our faith.  And so the message of the angels is very clear to us.  "...Men of Galilee, it is time to get on with the work of your Lord.  And do not be afraid to do so.  The message is essentially saying that this is not a time to be ashamed of the Gospel.  It is the time to preach it from the rooftops.  Do not be afraid to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern world.  In your hands, carry the Cross of Christ.  On your lips, place His Words. And in your hearts, let God's Grace shine brightly.  Sometimes it feels like there are so many things in this world that we cannot control like earthquakes and storms and floods.  But it is important to remember the things we can change like forgiveness and second chances and fresh starts.  Because the one thing that changes the world from a lonely place to a beautiful place is the Love of God and the Love of God gives hope to people. So Men of Galilee, go out and spread the Love of God into the world because at the end of this day, the world will either be a more loving and compassionate place or a less loving and compassionate place because of you.

So on this Feast of the Ascension of Christ, let us all remember that we live in a world that needs us to share responsibility.  It is easy to say that it's not my problem. It's not my child. It's not my community. It's not my world and look the other way. But then there are those who hear the message of the angels and who see the needs around them and respond and make our world a better place.

The Feast of the Ascension is a reminder to put our faith into action because at the end of this day, the world will either be a more loving and compassionate place or a less loving and compassionate place because of you.

Amen.