You? Anxious? Nah!
Rev. Michael Trask
Is anybody really in charge? Does anybody really know what they are doing? Probably not. This is the sneaking suspicion that we have towards most human institutions. The Great and powerful Oz turned out to be the powerless little man behind a curtain exposed by a little dog. And how many times did Captain Kirk discover that entire civilizations were controlled by some ancient computer which he would then proceed to destroy the computer with his captain kirk wit; only to leave telling the people they’d have to govern themselves.
Endless movies, TV shows and plays have as their plot, the peeling back of the layers of bureaucracy of a given institution only to find that there is really no one at the center, and if there is someone, they don’t really know what they are doing anyway. This dreadful idea that nobody is really in charge; that everything is random and life has no meaning is called “existential angst,” and the people in our time got that in spades.
Serving as a counterbalance to the nobody’s really in charge scenario, there’s a different sort angst: the idea that somebody is in charge, but they are the wrong sort of somebody, a small group of illuminati or some sort of Dr. Evil type who watches and controls the world from his mountain hideaway….getting his jollies over controlling peoples lives.
So take what’s it going to be: Nobody in charge? Or the wrong people in charge? The ascension of Jesus allows us to say, “neither, thank you very much!” Ascension says “no” to angst of any stripe! For you see it is on the Day of Ascension that we commemorate Jesus coronation as Lord of all. He is King of Kings. He is the Lord of of Lords.
I hope you noticed, that in the gospel lesson, Luke 24:52 how the disciples are said to have left the scene of Jesus’ ascension and returned to Jerusalem not with sorrow, as one might expect upon saying goodbye to their friend, but with great joy. How can that be? How could they great Joy at Jesus’ leaving? Well, where was he going? To take the the throne; to sit at the right hand of God the father almighty; to be the worthy lamb who appears in heaven to take the scroll signifying he’s in control of the entire future. They knew some of this at this time, they would understand more later; presently, they knew that he was good and that he was their friend; that he was going to prepare a place for them so that they could ultimately be with him in his eternal kingdom. They heard it in his gospel that he preached and they saw it as he offered himself to die for them. And by his resurrection they knew that no matter what happened no matter what lie ahead that they would be victorious.
The Book of Hebrews describes him in this way: “he is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Heb. 1:3) HE upholds the universe! HE Upholds the universe! He upholds the universe! In Matthew, just before he Ascended he said “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.”
He didn’t say “hey guys, I just received a promotion, got a corner office now and am a a project manager with authority over a 100 people.” He said “I have ALL the Authority….. all authority in heaven and on earth has been give to me. Combine this with the fact that he loves you to pieces, and you have no reason for angst or anxiety at all.
We Christians living in this world can be stricken with angst of one sort of another when we forget how authoritative Jesus is. What happens is we sometimes begin to view Jesus as a sort of supplement to our lives kind of a vitamin that helps us be stonger. Rather than savior and Lord, Modern folk like to see Jesus as merely part of an team they have assembled to help them live successfully…their coach, their doctor, their circle of friends, and Jesus all working together in a holistic way to bring them to their optimum performance. This results in Jesus being diminished in our view. Authority for the future is taken from him and claimed instead by us. We begin to see ourselves as more authoritative than we actually are. But as the years pass and the petals of the onion of life get peeled away, we discover that maybe we’ve been wrong. Maybe we are not that important, not so pivotal, not that authoritative. We have mistakenly fallen for the sin of Adam. We imagine ourselves to be more than we actually are.
Adam returned to the dust as will all of his descendants. In that way, I suppose, death turns out to be the moment of truth. (I always heard that phrase in sword fights and stuff as a kid and didn’t know what it meant…. I think I’m starting to figure it out.) As we lay there, breathing our last; unable to control even the simplest functions of our bodies, the truth comes out: we are not really in charge. What authority we might have was given to us by God to exercise on his behalf, and now we must give an accounting on how we carried out the lives we’ve been given. The reality of death is a chance to admit that God is the Lord and not us.
So much better to admit that now while we are still alive, so much better to admit that at the beginning of every day so that we keep the day in perspective and at the end of the day also so we can sleep restfully. If you feel like the weight of the world is crushing you, perhaps you ought to quit trying to carry the world! It’s not your job! To assume that it is is your sinful nature talking and is therefore sin.
But Jesus died for this sin too. And he is pleased to forgive those who have suffered under it. And not only that, he’s pleased, by the power of his Spirit to help you make strides against such a notion. We were not meant to spend our lives freaking out over who’s in control, we were meant to spend our lives acknowledging God is in control. He meant for us to understand that no matter what happens, he’ll do right by us. By faith we can understand this and perhaps calm down a bit. Indeed, God does give each of us varying amounts of authority… but he does so along with the full assurance that he won’t give us more than we can handle; he does so with the promise that if he asks us to bear some burden, he will give us what we need to endure it.
Do you remember what it was like to live under the authority of your parents? Do you remember the simplicity of it; How joy was easy to come by; how deeply you slept? Do you remember? That’s because you knew your parents loved you; you knew that they’d provide for you; you knew that they were in charge. This airy lightness of childhood is only possible when children understand that their parents are taking care of stuff. Of course, when children can’t understand that because of bad parents or their own rebelliousness, they don’t do too well.
If you can remember or at the least imagine the light simplicity of childhood, then you can also imagine how your adult life can be lived with light simplicity comes through faith in the crucified, risen and Ascended Jesus…He holds the future, your future, your life in his hands. He’s your friend. He loves you. He has sworn to do right by you. So like the disciples before you, you can return to Jerusalem or to wherever it is you are happen staying with great joy. Amen.