Malankara World

Sermon Based on the Lectionary of the Orthodox Church

Ascension of Our Lord

The Greater Elijah Has Ascended - Ascension Sermon

by Rev. Andrew Eckert

Mark 16:14-20

Shortly after His Resurrection, Christ rebuked the disciples for unbelief, and for their hardness of heart in not believing the report of His Resurrection.

The miracle of the Resurrection was told to the disciples in advance. The women's report was confirmation that Christ was indeed the Son of God who was raised as He said.

The disciples had trouble trusting in that Word. Perhaps their hearts were overwhelmed by the emotions they had felt over the last few days of death and darkness. Regardless of the exact reason, something prevented them from believing as they should.

What prevents US from believing as we should? We sometimes have doubts. We do not trust God as much as we should. We sometimes forget the grace of God in our dark times. Worry and pain blur our focus upon the cross, too often.

Even we, the ministers of the Gospel who should be great examples for the flock, have doubts that attack us. We are not stronger than the apostles of Christ. We, too, are subject to weakness and sin.

Sometimes, our sermons are less than they should be. Sometimes, law and gospel get confused, even if only in subtle ways. Sometimes our concentration in listening to the Word is so weak that we hardly hear a single syllable. Sometimes, we doubt the power of the Gospel that is on our own lips. This also is a sign of unbelief and hardness of heart.

We get tired of the Word at times. The same old Gospel, over and over, may seem boring, whether we are listening to it or preaching it. Frustration may attack us preachers when we do not think that people are listening or taking to heart as they should. But we ought to have faith that God's Word will accomplish what He sends it to do.

Christ said, "Preach the Gospel to every creature." But we may wonder whether we are really the right men for the job. We are pale shadows of the mighty apostles, even with their doubts. It does not help that they had abundant signs and wonders. When was the last time we performed an out-and-out miracle? Why can't we cast out demons and heal and speak in tongues the same way they did? We struggle even to hold onto the Biblical languages that we learned, much less speak in tongues.

True, we do not have the promise that signs will accompany the ministry in every century. Nevertheless, we are pale, pathetic shadows of what we ought to be. In the pulpit, we are weak and timid when we should be bold and powerful in the Gospel. In the pews, we are not reverently attentive to the Word of Almighty God as we should be.

If we are not Pharisees, then it is easy to see the weakness and sin in ourselves. That is why we preachers should make sure that we also receive the same Gospel that we preach. You should believe your own words that are the Gospel for every creature, and for you as well.

And here is that Gospel.

In God's sight, you are not pathetic, pale shadows. He has declared that you are perfect and pure. As He says to you, "Whoever believes and is Baptized shall be saved." Your Baptism into Christ has saved you from all condemnation. You are not saved by your efforts at obedience. No, you are saved from condemnation by the good news that in this cleansing flood, your weakness and sin are completely covered up by the Blood of Christ. God looks at you and sees a person cleansed from all iniquity.

Even more than that, in your Baptism satan was cast out of you. Exorcisms are still practiced today, since every Baptism destroys the hold of satan over a sinner. You probably were not possessed by satan in an obvious, horrifying way. Nevertheless, that ancient dragon held you in his clutches. His claws were deep in you. No human force or human work could ever release you. But Baptism is powered by the pure Blood of atonement, and by the Crucifixion and Resurrection of the Son of God. The same power that raised Christ was in the water to grab you out of the wicked dragon's grasp. So you are safe, and clean, and cannot be accused by that slandering devil again.

This is the Gospel for you. It is not just for others. It is for you sinners who need it.

Now you can see the ministry in a different way. There need not be doubts about the power of the Word or the effectiveness of the Gospel, for it is Christ who works with the preacher in the pulpit. It is not the preacher's word, unless he has become unfaithful and preaches a different gospel that is no Gospel at all. If you preach Christ, then it is Christ who preaches, not you. Divine power speaks from the pulpit. You are not pathetic preachers, since the salvation and forgiveness of the Son of Man Himself come from your lips.

This is not, of course, because you are virtuous or clever or loving or whatever adjective you may use. The spoken Word is the power of God. Therefore, this ministry of reconciliation is God's ministry among men.

Take pride in your call. Were you worthy of the call? Not in yourself, but only in the waters of Baptism, in which you were cleansed for service in whatever vocation God chose for you. So you called men are preachers of Christ through whose tongues God gives His salvation. Boast then, but boast in the Gospel.

Remember this also when you sit in the pew. This is not the word of a man, but the Word of God. You are hearing your life and salvation in Christ. Even now, He covers your sins with His Blood in this precious Word.

Today your Lord, the greater Elijah, was caught up into heaven, not in a whirlwind, with a fiery chariot and horses. Your Elijah, Christ, was lifted up on clouds of glory to the highest place, beyond all heavens, filling all things at the right hand of the Father. Your greater Elijah is Prophet over all prophets, who not only raised a widow's son from death, but also raised Himself, and has raised you from the death of sin.

Since your greater Elijah ascended, you shall ascend as well. All the acts of Christ were for your benefit, so that you could share His gifts. His life was for you, His death was for you, His Resurrection for you. So also His Ascension was a preview of what you shall experience. You shall be lifted up on clouds of glory to meet Him. You shall ascend into the place of eternal light where there are no more shadows, not even the shadows of your weakness and sin. In that place, all will be light and life and gladness, since that is the reward that Christ has earned for you.

In His wonderful Name above all names, Christ our risen and ascended Lord. Amen.

See Also:

Ascension Sermons and Bible Commentaries

Sermons Home | General Sermons and Essays | Articles | eBooks | Our Faith | Prayers | Library - Home | Baselios Church Home

Malankara World
A service of St. Basil's Syriac Orthodox Church, Ohio
Copyright © 2009-2020 - ICBS Group. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer
Website designed, built, and hosted by International Cyber Business Services, Inc., Hudson, Ohio