The New Has Come!

December 31, 2017 in Bible - NT - Ephesians, Church Calendar, Faith, Glorification, Holy Spirit, Meditations, Sanctification

Ephesians 3:20–21 (NKJV)
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

This morning we find ourselves on the cusp of a new year. The old has passed away, behold the new has come! As we prepare to enter into this new year, I want to meditate on Paul’s words to the Ephesians. New years provide opportunities for renewed resolutions, hopes, and dreams. Paul’s words in Ephesians 3 contain profound wisdom for us as we consider these things.

So let us note that in our text Paul is giving glory to God in the process of which he gives instruction to us. So let us consider the significance of Paul’s words. First, Paul gives glory to God: to [God] be glory. So who is this God to whom Paul is giving glory? He is the One who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think. Whatever dreams or hopes you have for this upcoming year, Paul tells us, they are not too difficult for God to accomplish. God is able to do far more than we can articulate with our mouths or that we can even imagine with our heads. God’s power is infinite. He is Almighty God. Dream big.

Second, Paul tells us that this God who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think is the very God whose power works in us. Did you catch that? If you are in Christ, then the omnipotent God, who rules and reigns among the affairs of men, is at work with His power in your life. As we will see in Psalm 37 today, God’s favor is toward His own and the meek shall inherit the earth.

You see, Paul wants the Ephesians to grow in wisdom and maturity and the way we grow is through a deep and personal knowledge of all that God has done and is doing and promises yet to do for us in Christ. So note that Paul gives glory to God in the Church by Christ Jesus. Note that the glory to God is by Christ Jesus – Jesus is the center of our faith. It is through His death and resurrection that we have forgiveness and newness of life; through His death and resurrection that the power of God is at work in us. Glory to God by Christ Jesus.

But note that this glory that is by Christ Jesus is in the Church. In other words, Paul wants glory to abound to God’s Name in and through you and me. God’s power is on display in His people – He has forgiven us and empowers us that we might display the wonder of His work in a dark and hopeless world, that we might display the impotency of Satan and his minions when confronted with the power of our Christ. In ourselves we are weak and powerless; but in our God we can run against a troop. God wants to display the wonder and the power of His grace in your life. Are you looking for a proof that God exists? Look for it as you grow in faith and godly character.

So what this means is that those excuses you’ve been making for not addressing that sin pattern in your life are groundless; those despairing voices that have been telling you that there’s no hope for change are lying; those urges to complacency that have said it’s okay that you’re just coasting along spiritually, that you’re not really growing or being intentional about serving Christ, those urges are from the devil. God gives His omnipotent strength to His people because He loves us and longs for us to “comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:18b-19).

So as we enter into the presence of our Lord on the cusp of a New Year, let us confess that we have often failed to believe Him, failed to trust Him, and let us seek His forgiveness through Jesus Christ that He might empower us as His humble people to bring glory and honor to His Name. And as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

God and our New Year’s Dreams and Resolutions

January 1, 2017 in Bible - NT - Ephesians, Bible - OT - Psalms, Meditations, Sovereignty of God
Ephesians 3:20–21 (NKJV)
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
This morning we enter into a new year. The old has passed away, behold the new has come! As we enter into this new year, I want to meditate on Paul’s words to the Ephesians. New years provide opportunities for renewed resolutions, hopes, and dreams. Paul’s words here in Ephesians 3 contain profound wisdom for us as we consider these things.
So let us note that in our text Paul is giving glory to God in the process of which he gives instruction to us. So let us consider the significance of Paul’s words. First, Paul gives glory to God: to [God] be glory. So who is this God to whom Paul is giving glory? He is the One who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think. Whatever dreams or hopes you have for this upcoming year, Paul tells us, they are not too difficult for God to accomplish. God is able to do far more than we can articulate with our mouths or that we can even imagine with our heads. God’s power is infinite. He is Almighty God. Dream big.
Second, Paul tells us that this God who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think is the very God whose power works in us. Did you catch that? If you are in Christ, then the omnipotent God, who rules and reigns among the affairs of men, is at work with His power in your life. As we saw in our study of Psalm 29 last week, Yahweh, the God of the Storm, is the very one who promises to give His strength to His people. David sings, The Lord will give strength to His people… In Christ, by the Spirit, that promise is fulfilled. God has granted His strength to us.
You see, Paul wants the Ephesians to grow in wisdom and maturity and the way we grow is through a deep and personal knowledge of all that God has done and is doing and promises yet to do for us in Christ. So note that Paul gives glory to God in the Church by Christ Jesus. Note that the glory to God is by Christ Jesus – Jesus is the center of our faith. It is through His death and resurrection that we have forgiveness and newness of life; through His death and resurrection that the power of God is at work in us. Glory to God by Christ Jesus.
But note that this glory that is by Christ Jesus is in the Church. In other words, Paul wants glory to abound to God’s Name in and through you and me. God’s power is on display in His people – He has forgiven us and empowers us that we might display the wonder of His work in a dark and hopeless world, that we might display the impotency of Satan and his minions when confronted with the power of our Christ. In ourselves we are weak and powerless; but in our God we can run against a troop. God wants to display the wonder and the power of His grace in your life. Are you looking for a proof that God exists? Look for it as you grow in faith and godly character.
So what this means is that those excuses you’ve been making for not addressing that sin pattern in your life are groundless; those despairing voices that have been telling you that there’s no hope for change are lying; those urges to complacency that have said it’s okay that you’re just coasting along spiritually, that you’re not really growing or being intentional about serving Christ, those urges are from the devil. God gives His omnipotent strength to His people because He loves us and longs for us to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God (Eph 3:18b-19).

So as we enter into the presence of our Lord this New Year’s Day, let us confess that we have often failed to believe Him, failed to trust Him, and let us seek His forgiveness through Jesus Christ that He might empower us as His humble people to bring glory and honor to His Name. And as you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

What is Worldliness?

February 28, 2016 in Bible - NT - 1 Timothy, Bible - NT - 2 Corinthians, Bible - NT - Ephesians, Confession, Creation, Holy Spirit, Meditations, Sanctification
Ephesians 2:1–3 (NKJV)
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
For these first three Sundays in Lent, we are addressing our three chief enemies as Christians: the world, the flesh, and the devil. When we are outside of Christ, these forces dominate our lives and compel us to sin. Consequently, God must act to deliver us from their hold. And it is this that He has done in Christ. Listen again to Paul’s words: And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh… The world, the flesh, and the devil are a deadly trio. So what is meant by “the world”?
Unfortunately many Christians throughout history have misconstrued this warning against “the world” as a repudiation of creation itself. Worldliness, in this view, is any attachment to the created order or physical things: marriage, food, beauty, drink, sexuality, technology, etc. To be “heavenly-minded”, therefore, to escape worldliness, is to reject created things. But this is to misconstrue Paul’s understanding of worldliness. After all, Paul reminds Timothy, that “every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim 4:4-5). The created order is not the problem.
So what is worldliness, then? “Worldliness is,” David Wells has written, “anything that makes righteousness look strange and sin look normal.” It is anything that makes righteousness look strange and sin look normal. The “world”, therefore, is not the created order or mere physicality; the “world” is the collection of assumptions, practices, and desires embraced by our broader community or culture that run contrary to the Word of God. It is the assortment of unbiblical values that strive to have preeminence over God’s values. It consists of ideas, institutions, and vocations that marginalize God and His law.
It is from this “world” that we have been delivered by God’s grace; and it is against this “world” that we are to do battle through the preaching of the Gospel. Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds [institutions of the world], casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God [ideas of the world], bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…” We are to do battle against “the world.”
But in order to do battle against the “world” out there, we must first do battle against the world “in here.” We must root out unbiblical manners of thinking and acting that characterize us individually and that characterize us as a congregation. We must strive to resemble not the kingdoms of this world but the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

And one of the first characteristics of the kingdom of God is humility – a willingness to confess our worldliness. There are many who would come here today and be asked to kneel and confess their sin and worldliness and recoil. “That is strange,” they would say. But in God’s kingdom, kneeling to confess sin is not strange, it is normal. “Worldliness is anything that makes righteousness look strange [like kneeling to confess sin] and sin look normal.” So reminded of our calling to fight against the world, let us kneel and confess that we often fail to do so.

The Sin of Drunkenness

June 21, 2015 in Bible - NT - 1 Corinthians, Bible - NT - Ephesians, Bible - OT - Ecclesiastes, Bible - OT - Proverbs, Holy Spirit, Meditations
1 Corinthians 6:9–11 (NKJV)
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.
Today we continue to study Paul’s catalogue of sins from which God in His grace and mercy has determined to free us through Christ. These sins damage and distort the image of God in us, destroy our humanity and subvert community. Hence, God’s intention in Christ is to deliver us from such things. Today we consider drunkenness.
Throughout Scripture wine in itself is considered a gift from God, one of the blessings that He has given to the sons of men. The psalmist reminds us that God has given wine to make glad the heart of man. God created it to give joy and delight; this is its design.
As sinners, however, we often misuse the good gifts that God has given; rather than use wine for joy and refreshment, we misuse it for drunkenness, laziness, and destruction. So the Scriptures routinely command us to use and not abuse this gift of God. Solomon writes in Proverbs 23:29-32:
Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine, Those who go in search of mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it swirls around smoothly; At the last it bites like a serpent, And stings like a viper.
In his list of qualifications for elders and deacons, Paul writes that no officer may “be given to much wine.” Likewise, he tells Titus to command the older women to “be reverent in behavior,…not given to much wine.” Drunkenness is the opposite of reverence and honor.
Paul commands us in Ephesians 5:18-20, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation [a lack of self-control]; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart ot the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul’s words reveal that drunkenness dulls not only our physical senses but also our spiritual senses. And so the opposite of drunkenness is being filled with the Spirit – and how does being filled with the Spirit manifest itself? In singing. Drunks sing in folly; Christians sing in joy, delight, and self-control.
So what of you? Are you given to much wine? Are you misusing the good gifts of God? Or are you using these good gifts of God so that you might become more strong physically and spiritually?
Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child, And your princes feast in the morning! Blessed are you, O land, when your king is the son of nobles, And your princes feast at the proper time— For strength and not for drunkenness!

Reminded that drunkards shall not inherit the kingdom of God, let us kneel and seek the Lord’s forgiveness for abusing the gifts of God.

What is our only hope?

February 12, 2015 in Bible - NT - Ephesians, Bible - OT - Isaiah, Bible - OT - Psalms, Cross of Christ, Election, King Jesus, Newsletter

This last week our catechism questions centered on the universal sinfulness of humanity. As David declares, “God looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. Every one of them has turned aside; they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one” (Ps 53:2-3). David’s assessment is sobering, is it not? But his assessment agrees with that of Paul – by nature we are children of wrath (Eph 2:3). So is there no hope?
 
Well no – at least there is no hope from the human level. If salvation depends upon us as human beings, then we are lost. There is no way that we can be acceptable in the sight of God – for we have sinned against God and, what’s more,we want to sin against God. There are none who understand or seek God.

So what then? What is our only hope? Our only hope is if God Himself should come and rescue us. And this God promised to do: “I looked, but there was no one to help, and I wondered that there was no one to uphold; therefore My own arm brought salvation for Me; and My own fury, it sustained Me” (Is 63:5). This, my friends, is the message of the Gospel: what we could not do because of our sinful nature, God did in sending His own Son to rescue and redeem us. Praise to the Lord!

And what our catechism question this week reminds us is this: this action was the fulfillment of God’s plan in all eternity. God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world; love us while we were yet sinners; saved us apart from any merit on our own part – for we had and have none. So all glory goes to God alone.

Q. 20. Did God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?

A. God, having out of his mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer.

Giving Thanks Always

November 27, 2012 in Bible - NT - Ephesians, Meditations, Thankfulness

Ephesians 5:17, 18b, 20
“Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is… be filled with the Spirit…giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…”
This last week we had opportunity as a people to celebrate Thanksgiving – remembering God’s faithfulness in our past and petitioning His grace for the future.
Today I would like us to reflect on why such feasts are fitting – and the reason they are fitting is that they express the will of God for us. Paul exhorts us in Ephesians that we are not to be “unwise” but are to understand the will of the Lord. So what is the Lord’s will? The Lord’s will is that we be filled with the Spirit. And what does it look like to be filled with the Spirit? Part of the answer that Paul gives is that when we are filled with the Spirit we will be giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Note carefully Paul’s words.
Paul writes that we are to be giving thanks always. He excludes no times – we are always to give thanks. When the car starts right away in the morning, when the car won’t start at all; when there are six inches of snow on the ground, when it fails to snow at all; when we’re feeling robust and well, when we have the stomach flu; when work is going well, when we have trouble with employees; when our children obey, when they disobey. We are always to give thanks.
How is this possible? Because the One to whom we are giving thanks, God the Father, is Sovereign over all. Nothing happens apart from His will. No one and no thing can say to him, “What have you done? Or why has your hand determined thus?” Our God is in the heavens – he does whatever he pleases. So if there is calamity in the city, will not our Lord have done it? God is the Lord – He raises up and He puts down. And so our calling as the people of God is to render thanks to Him – precisely because this One who is Sovereign, who is God, is also our Father – He cares for us and works on our behalf. So we can give thanks always. Our demeanor should be one of grateful acknowledgment of the wisdom of our Father – not just when it appears wise to usbut when it is in fact wise, namely, always.
But not only are we alwaysto give thanks, we are also to give thanks for all things. All things, we ask? Surely Paul didn’t mean to say it quite that way. But I’m afraid he did. For all things that enter our lives come from the hand of our loving Father who has orchestrated them for our good and for His glory. Thanking Him – for the kind and the hard providences – is the key to glorifying him in the midst of both. And this, to some extent, explains why we are to give thanks “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” – for he too gave thanks to God while suffering. So do we thank the Father for the hard providences, the failure of the crops, the loss of our job, the rebellion of a child, the loneliness of singleness, the frustration of working at a job we don’t enjoy? According to Paul we ought to. Why? Because God is the one who has brought this into our lives for a very good, distinct, and just reason. Therefore, we are to abound in thanksgiving.
And so, reminded that rather than abound in thanksgiving we frequently complain and grumble, let us kneel and confess that we are an unthankful people.

Our Father,

We have failed to be thankful for the gifts and graces which you have freely bestowed upon us. You have treated us much more graciously than we deserve – and yet we grumble and complain at your graces. Not only do we refuse to thank you in hard times, we forget to thank you in good ones. So too our culture. We refuse to give you thanks. We act as though we are entitled to the things we receive; we demand more; insist that what You have given is not enough. Forgive us for the sake of Christ and enable us to abound always in thanksgiving in all things.
AMEN.

Ascension Sunday

May 21, 2012 in Ascension Sunday, Bible - NT - Ephesians, Ecclesiology, Meditations

Ephesians 4:7-8, 11-13
7
But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.” …11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;
Today is Ascension Sunday. Ascension Sunday celebrates – along with Christmas, Epiphany, Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost – one of the most pivotal events in the life of Christ and, hence, in the history of the world. On this day, Jesus ascended into heaven and took His seat of authority at the right hand of God Almighty, ruling there as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And from this position of authority, He sent forth His Spirit upon His disciples – an event we shall celebrate next week in Pentecost.
In our text today, Paul indicates one of the implications of the Ascension for the people of God. When Christ ascended on high, was enthroned in state, sat down at the right hand of God Almighty, he was then the victorious conqueror, in a position to distribute spoil among his followers. “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.”
And what is the nature of the gifts he bestows upon His retainers? Ah his gifts are numerous and glorious – for His gifts are not merely objects but persons. He gave apostles and prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers – from other places we learn that he has given helps, works of mercy, humility, joy, contentment, peace, self-control, wisdom, virtue. Glorious gifts He has bestowed on His retainers.
Why? Why has he given these things? Here is the startling message of Paul. He has given them “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” In other words, the gifts that Christ has given to us are to be given in turn for the benefit of the whole body, for the Church.
So what does Ascension Sunday mean for us? First, we must take note of the gifts that our great King has granted to us. What gifts has the exalted and enthroned King bestowed upon you? He does not leave anyone out. If you have been baptized into Christ then you have a gift bestowed upon you by your heavenly King. Second, having acknowledged the gifts, our first response should be to thank the Giver. Jesus Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father and poured out gifts upon the Church; he has poured out some gift on each of us; and so our calling is to thank Him both for the gifts which He has given me personally and for the gifts He has given to my neighbor– our Lord Jesus thank you for calling the Twelve and giving them to the church; thank you for Paul, for Athanasius, for Clement, for Gottschalk, for Helena, for Ethelberga, for Zwingli, Bullinger, Peter Martyr. And coming closer to home, we say thank you for George and Freddy and Sally and  – for the gifts you have given them so they might bestow them on the body. Having recognized the gifts and given thanks to Him for the gifts that He has bestowed upon us and upon the rest of the body, our final task is to use the gifts He has given us for the body. Our calling is to imitate our King and give gifts in turn. We cannot serve Christ in isolation; we cannot serve Him apart from being integral members of a local church where we can use our gifts to bless our brethren.
But frequently our attitude and actions are far from this. Frequently, we complain that we have not been given the gifts that others have received and we endeavor to horde the gifts, increasing our own cache rather than blessing the body. Reminded of this, let us kneel and confess our sins to Him.

The Blessing of Church Officers

October 30, 2011 in Bible - NT - Ephesians, Ecclesiology, Meditations

Ephesians 4:11–12 (NKJV)
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
The final thing that I would like to share with you publicly about my trip to presbytery in Minneapolis is the privilege that I had to serve on the examination committee for Kenton Spratt. Kenton is the pastor of our sister congregation in Colville, Washington. It was an incredible privilege to get to hear him preach, to read some of his writing, and then to examine him at presbytery.
But not only was it an incredible privilege to examine Kenton, it was also an incredible privilege to work in concert with other elders in the CREC during this process. The examination committee is typically composed of five CREC elders – some pastors, some teaching elders, some ruling elders. Our task is to examine the candidate’s fitness to serve as a minister of the Gospel.
 The privilege of joining in this work reminded me that one of our callings as the people of God – both officers and congregants – is to thank God for the gift he has given us in apostles, prophets, evangelists, and even pastors and teachers. God in His grace and mercy has gifted us with men to teach and articulate the Word of God – and it was my privilege to recognize Kenton as one of those men.
So how are you doing? First, have you been thanking God for the leaders, past and present, in the church? Thanking God that He has given us those equipped to read and understand and teach His Word? And not only thanking God for them, but continuing to pray for those living that they would fulfill their tasks with joy and integrity?
Second, have you reckoned with your calling to support ministers of the Gospel with your tithes and offerings? Paul writes to the Corinthians, “Do you not know that those who minister the holy things [in the OT] eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (1 Cor 9:13-14). And so we are called upon as the people of God to express our gratitude for those who labor in Word and Sacraments by providing for their physical needs by giving to the work of the church.
Third, have you shown your appreciation for these men by listening to what they are telling you? The way we show respect and honor is not by nodding our heads and saying how much we appreciate them, but by doing what they urge us to do when it is consistent with the Word of God. God has given them that we all might be equipped for ministry, Paul says – and so our calling is to make use of their teaching by ministering, by implementing the principles they give.
Reminded of the many ways in which we take leaders for granted, let us kneel and confess our sin to God.

Ascension Sunday

June 4, 2010 in Bible - NT - Ephesians, King Jesus, Meditations

Ephesians 4:7-8, 11-13
7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.” …11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;

As we worship the Lord today on Ascension Sunday, I want to call to your mind some of the remarks we made last year in connection with this passage of Paul in Ephesians 4. Ascension Sunday celebrates – along with Christmas, Epiphany, Good Friday, Easter, and Pentecost – one of the most pivotal events in the life of Christ and, hence, in the history of the world. On this day, Jesus ascended into heaven and took His seat of authority at the right hand of God Almighty, ruling there as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And from this position of authority, He sent forth His Spirit upon His disciples – an event we shall celebrate next week in Pentecost.

In our text today, Paul indicates one of the implications of the Ascension for the people of God. When Christ ascended on high, was enthroned in state, sat down at the right hand of God Almighty, he was then the victorious conqueror, in a position to distribute spoil among his followers. “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.”

And what is the nature of the gifts he bestows upon His retainers? Ah his gifts are numerous and glorious – for His gifts are not merely objects but persons. He gave apostles and prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers – from other places we learn that he has given helps, works of mercy, humility, joy, contentment, peace, self-control, wisdom, virtue. Glorious gifts He has bestowed on His retainers.

Why? Why has he given these things? Here is the startling message of Paul. He has given them “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” In other words, the gifts that Christ has given to us are to be given in turn for the benefit of the whole body, for the Church.

So what does Ascension Sunday mean for us? First, we must take note of the gifts that our great King has granted to us. What gifts has the exalted and enthroned King bestowed upon you? He does not leave anyone out. Second, having acknowledged the gifts, our first response should be to thank the Giver. Jesus Christ ascended to the right hand of the Father and poured out gifts upon the Church; he has poured out some gift on each of us; and so our calling is to thank Him both for the gifts which He has given me personally and for the gifts He has given to my neighbor– our Lord Jesus thank you for calling the Twelve and giving them to the church; thank you for Paul, for Athanasius, for Clement, for Gottschalk, for Helena the mother of Constantine, for Zwingli, Bullinger, Peter Martyr. And coming closer to home, we say thank you for George over there and for Freddy – for the gifts you have given them so they might bestow them on the body. Having given thanks to Him for the gifts that He has bestowed upon us and upon the rest of the body, our final task is to use the gifts He has given us for the body. Our calling is to imitate our King and give gifts in turn.

But frequently our attitude and actions are far from this. Frequently, we complain that we have not been given the gifts that others have received and we endeavor to horde the gifts, increasing our own cache rather than to bless the body. Reminded of this, let us kneel and confess our sins to Him.