4501 Waller Rd E
The Ascension of our Lord
May 8, 2016
Ascension Lutheran Church, Tacoma WA
Paul Naumann, Pastor
THE ASCENSION GIVES US OUR PERFECT PITCH
Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our
sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,
to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. The text that we will base our meditation upon this
morning comes from Paul's letter to the Colossians, the third chapter, beginning with the first verse,
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at
the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died,
and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will
appear with Him in glory. This is the Word of God.
In the Name of Jesus Christ, Whose resurrection from the dead raises us to a new spiritual life,
Dear Fellow Redeemed,
Do you know what "perfect pitch" is? It's the rare ability some people have that enables them to
produce an accurate musical tone off the top of their heads, without using an instrument. You say
"A-flat", and they can hum an A-flat. You say "C" and they can sing a perfect C. A good friend of
mine has perfect pitch. I've always envied him. He can tune his guitar strings just by turning the
pegs and listening.
People with perfect pitch are few and far between. The rest of us have to rely on pianos, pitch
pipes and tuning forks if we want to get an accurate note. And that's ok, as long as the piano or the
tuning fork itself is accurate. In our text for this morning, the Apostle Paul is giving us a very
accurate "tuning device." It's also a very important tool for living our Christian life. What is that
device, that benchmark, that essential note for Christian living? It's the Ascension of our Lord
Jesus. Today Paul tells us to seek those things which are above, where Christ is. So if you feel like
you might have been seeking the wrong things in life lately, if you've been tuning in to the things
of this world and tuning out the things of God, then today's text is just the ticket to get you right
back singing on key again. Our theme is:
THE ASCENSION GIVES US OUR PERFECT PITCH
I. It's perfect for revealing the false notes of this sinful world.
II. It's perfect for tuning our hearts to the glorious life to come.
Ever wonder what's so important about Ascension Day? The commemoration of our Lord's
Ascension is one of the holiest days of the Christian church year. It's important enough that some
congregations have even named their churches after this event (maybe you can think of an
example!) 40 days after His resurrection, Jesus went back up into heaven. Why is that so important,
and why does it matter to you and me? Well, there are a lot of reasons. For one thing, it means that
Christ has all authority, and that He uses it for our benefit. The Ascension means that He truly is
our King, who holds His sovereign hand over every aspect of our lives, providing for our needs,
protecting us from danger, and fighting against our enemies on our behalf - just like an earthly king
does for his subjects.
Also, the Ascension reminds us that our King is victorious. He's a King who has never been
defeated and never will be. In Psalm 110 God foretells the Ascension victory when He writes,
though David, "The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your
footstool.'" 110:1. That promise was fulfilled on the first Ascension Day, as Paul told the Ephesians:
God …raised [Christ] from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far
above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only
in this age but also in that which is to come. 22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him
to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
- Eph 1:19-23. What earthly enemy could possibly make us afraid, now that Christ our King and
Head is protecting us?
But there's another way that the Ascension benefits us, and that's really the subject of our text for
today. Paul says, If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where
Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. The fact that our Lord Jesus ascended on high and is
sitting in a position of authority on the right hand of God, that fact draws our eyes upward. It
directs our attention to heaven and heavenly things. It provides us with a reference point.
Ascension Day, if you will, GIVES US A PERFECT PITCH. Why? Well, in the first place, it's perfect
for revealing the false notes of this sinful world.
You know, that's not always an easy task. Paul admonishes us in Titus, For the grace of God that
brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly
lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed
hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. -- Titus 2:11-13. If only we
all did that. But unfortunately, the things of this world tend to be very distracting. Years ago,
musicians noticed something odd about the errand boys in a certain part of London. They all
whistled out of tune as they went about their work. It puzzled them until someone discovered that
the bells of Westminster Cathedral had gone slightly out of tune. Something had gone wrong with
the chimes and they were playing off-key. Of course the boys weren't aware of that, quite
unconsciously they had copied the false pitch of the bells.
Sadly, we also have a tendency to take our pitch from the environment in which we live. We tend
to copy the people with whom we associate. We borrow thoughts from the books we read and the
programs we watch, sometimes without knowing it. Our minds are easily led astray. It's easy to lose
our pitch, to lose sight of what things in our life are really important, and what things are not really
important. Scripture says God's Word is like a mirror: you look in the mirror and then go away and
immediately forget what you look like. Well, it's easy to lose your pitch, too. You take your perfect
pitch from God's Word, but then gradually, with the passage of time and distraction of worldly
things, that pitch starts go a little out of tune.
But Ascension Day snaps us back. Seek those things which are above, Paul says, where Christ is,
sitting at the right hand of God. Imagine if you had a half-hour to visit with your Savior, right now,
at the right hand of God in heaven. Say, for instance, you could review with Jesus your schedule
for the coming week - do you think any items on that schedule might change? Do you think your
priorities might be rearranged a bit? I don't think you'd miss any prayers, would you? I don't think
you'd bypass devotions or skip your Bible reading. You certainly wouldn't view Sunday worship as
"optional," would you? Why not make those changes anyway? Ascension day strikes the perfect
note for us to tune the whole rest of our lives to. It clearly identifies for us the false and discordant
tones of the things that this world considers important. They just don't ring true when checked
with the perfect pitch of heaven. Paul speaks of the destructive "music" of the unbelievers when he
says to the Philippians, For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even
weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 whose end is destruction, whose god
is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame -- who set their mind on earthly things. -- Phi
I wonder if you're like me. If wonder if you feel guilty about how much attention you've been
paying to the things of the earth, and how little to the things above. If we feel guilty, it's for good
reason. It's because we are guilty! How can we get rid of that guilt? How can we get right with God?
How can we refocus our thoughts on the heavenly things, where they ought to be? Well, right here
is another reason why our Lord's ASCENSION IS THE PERFECT PITCH for us Christians. Because
it's perfect for tuning our hearts to the glorious life to come.
Paul says, Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is
hidden with Christ in God. "You died" - that sounds pretty serious. What do think that means?
Actually there are two answers to that question, and they're both really Good News! You died with
Christ, and you died to sin.
Do you have online bill-pay at your house? Instead of writing and mailing checks, it's a lot easier
to simply click a button and pay your mortgage, your utility bills, your car payments, etc. Some
people are leery about banking online, though, so an entire industry has grown up around making
such transactions safer and more secure. One way they do it is by encrypting it - by locking it up
with a complicated code, so that only you and the person you're sending the money to can read the
information. Well, it's interesting that the word "encryption" comes from the same Greek word Paul
uses here when he says, your life is hidden with Christ in God. When you became a Christian, the
Holy Spirit made a connection between you and Christ. A faith connection, a connection that
hidden or encrypted, so you shouldn't expect anyone who's not a Christian to understand it. By
faith, you've been locked to Jesus, yes, that same Jesus who at this very moment is seated
triumphantly at God's right hand in heaven! You're locked to Christ, and that means you're locked
into all the benefits of His life, death, resurrection AND Ascension!
When Jesus died, you died. That is, all those sins of which you're guilty, all your failures and
mistakes and unfaithfulness to God, they all were carried to the cross by Jesus. There He atoned for
them. There He released you from them. There at the cross He set you free from the power of sin to
condemn you. In the previous chapter Paul says that Jesus has …wiped out the handwriting of
requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way,
having nailed it to the cross. -- Col 2:13-14.
We died with Christ, and we also died to sin. As believers, our life isn't about sin anymore. Our
life's course is no longer controlled and determined by sin - it can't be. We can't go back and sing
that old sinful song of the world anymore, because now we're believers. Now we're taking our pitch
from our ascended Lord Jesus. And that means we have died to sin. True, we still have our sinful
flesh. And it still tempts us every day, trying to distract us with the things of this earth. Trying to
drag our thoughts away from heaven, and our hands away from serving the Lord. But its ruling
power in our lives is superseded, now that our lives are hidden with our Ascended Lord Jesus. Paul
said to the Romans, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin
might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has
been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him. - Rom
6:6-8. It goes without saying that a person who is dead can't respond to any stimulus. A dead
person isn't interested in money, power or pleasure. Likewise, Paul encourages you to be dead to
sin. To live a life that is tuned into the ascended Christ, and tuned out to sin. That your ears be
dead to sinful sounds. That your eyes be dead to sinful sights. That your heart be dead to the
pleasures of this present evil world. Our pleasure is in Christ. And we know, of course, there are far
greater pleasures to come!
And that brings us to the glorious final verse of our text. This is the sweetest note of all - the note
to which our entire life is tuned: When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with
Him in glory. Our real life - what's exceptional about you and me - is hidden with Christ. People can't
see it now. When folks see you walking down the street, you look like just another person to them.
There's nothing on the surface that's impressive or exceptional. Jesus was the same, by the way.
Isaiah said of Him, He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we
should desire Him. Outward appearances indicated that Jesus was nothing special. Of course, it
wasn't true about Him, and it's not true about you, either. You are one of the saints of God! You are
among God's elect. You're part of that tiny, elite group of people who are locked to Christ, who have
this glorious difference. The world didn't understand Christ, and they won't understand you, either.
They are looking down, while you are looking up. Their hearts are tuned to the false, sinful notes of
this life, while yours is tuned to the glorious life to come.
It's a hidden difference now, but the Day is coming when the difference will be obvious to
everyone. On Judgment Day every knee will bow. Christ will appear to everyone as who He really
is, and so will you! The Apostle John says: Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed
on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it
did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we
shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. -
I John 3:1-3.
That prospect of entering heaven, of meeting face-to-face our Savior who gave so much for us,
that prospect is so wonderful that it gives rise to another emotion: yearning. The more you read
and meditate on the eternal glory Christ has won for you, the more it makes you long for that Day
to arrive, the more it makes your heart yearn for heaven. It's funny to talk about Christmas in May,
but I can't help thinking of that favorite old Christmas carol in which we sing,
Oh, where shall joy be found?
Where but on heavenly ground?
Where the angels singing
With all His saints unite,
Sweetest praises bringing
In heavenly joy and light.
Oh, that we were there!
Oh, that we were there!
-Well, we're not there yet. We're not singing with the angels yet, but we will be! And we can start
getting tuned up for it right now. By rejecting the false notes of this sinful world, and by tuning our
hearts to the glorious life to come. One thing we know: Ascension Day gives us the perfect pitch!