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The Day of Ascension A, May 18, 2023

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The Day of Ascension A, May 18, 2023

Jesus never tired of speaking about the kingdom of God.  When he first came into Galilee… after his sojourn in the wilderness… after John the Baptizer had been arrested… when he first came into Galilee, Jesus preached the kingdom.  He announced, “The kingdom of God is at hand…” (Mk. 1:15).  The kingdom of God filled his preaching… The kingdom of God filled his parables… The kingdom of God filled the witness of his post-resurrection appearances.  Given Jesus’ attention to the kingdom of God, we might wonder how near it is… how far away is it… how do we get in?

Jesus himself tells us that the kingdom of God is near at hand, meaning that it is not far away but immediate to us.  Reach out your hand and grasp it.  Only it’s not our hand grasping.  Rather, the grasping is done by faith as you are repented from doubt, despair, and disbelief into that trust which clings to the Word of God, Jesus Christ, for he does not lie.

The kingdom of God, though it is near, is as far away as death is from life.  There is no way… no bridge… no passage over the chasm of death.  There is only the dying to sin in this old, passing away creation and being raised into the kingdom of God—that is, to walk in the newness of life.  Passage into the kingdom of God is a discontinuous experience:  you die and wait in faith to be raised up.

Many covet the kingdom of God, and they try to force their way into it (Lk. 16:16).  The kingdom of God, however, comes not by force but even without our prayer as Luther teaches in the Small Catechism.  It comes to faith, not force, as the Word of God is proclaimed… as the Holy Spirit works faith in us by God’s grace… as the godly life is lived—that is, we live solely from every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Mt. 4:4).  God’s Word is our life for now and for eternity… God’s Word delivers us into his kingdom.

Table Talk:  Discuss both your favorite and your least favorite part of the kingdom of God. 

Pray:  Heavenly Father, your kingdom comes indeed without our prayer.  Grant, we pray, that it comes also to us.  Amen

Acts 1:1-11
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me;for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

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