Sunday after Ascension (Easter 7, Proper B7)
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Ephesians 1:15-23 Sermon
May 24, 2009
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
204 "Father We Praise Thee, Now The Night Is Over"
111 "Hail The Day That Sees Him Rise"
547 "Once To Every Man And Nation"
115 "Golden Harps Are Sounding"
JESUS OUR SAVIOUR IS THE ONE IN CHARGE
TEXT: "15For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way."
At the close of every year, you will find lists being published about who the most influential people are in the world. Certainly these are speculations by individuals in most instances, although some rely on polls and popular vote.
Time magazine makes a list of a hundred such people. Barbara Walters has her own ideas too, even though it isn't that many. This morning however I'm going to use USA Today's poll for the most influential people in the past 25 years, which incidentally has 25 names on it. And here they are in order:
1. Bill Gates, CEO and founder of Microsoft, and the wealthiest man in the United States. 2. Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of the United States. 3. Oprah Winfrey, talk show host. 4 & 5. Francis Collins & J. Craig Venter, the medical scientists credited for mapping the human genome. 6. Osama Bin Laden, the ruthless Al Queda leader. 7. Stephen Hawking, physicist who is also severely crippled with Lou Gehrig's disease. 8. Lance Armstrong, cyclist and cancer activist. 9. Pope John Paul II. 10. Bono, rock musician and African activist. 11. Mikhail Gorbachev, the final leader of the Soviet Union. 12 & 13. Sergey Brin and Larry Page, co-founders of the internet search engine Google. 14. George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States. 15. Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart. 16. Deng Xiaopeng, former Chinese leader. 17. Michael Jordan, famous basketball star. 18. Howard Schultz, founder of Starbuck's. 19. Nelson Mandella, anti-apartheid leader in South Africa. 20. J. K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books. 21 & 22. Bill and Hillary Clinton, 42nd President and first lady respectively; also senator from New York. 23. Russell Simmons, hip-hop rap pioneer. 24. Ryan White, the 13 year old hemophiliac suffering from AIDS who was banned from attending public school. And last but not least, 25. Homer Simpson, the rotund and balding cartoon character from the animated comedy, "The Simpsons."
These are people who hold some kind of influence or position of power in this world. Even though these people have been the greats of the last 25 years (according to USA Today, that is), it's not something that they hold on to for very long.
If we think of Michael Jordan the basketball star, we all know he's good. However he hasn't won every game he ever played. And right now, he's suffering from chronic back pain. Even if we think of Superman, the fictitional hero, even he had his weaknesses--just keep the kryptonite away from him! And Homer Simpson--I've got to wonder how he ever made it on the list. But he's a good animated example of one weakness after the other.
But it's like I said before. People who hold influence and power in our world today don't have it for very long. Power in this world is fleeting; here today, gone tomorrow. From the President of the United States to a management position in a multi-million dollar company, those who hold influence in this world rise and fall.
But that's not the way it is in heaven. That's not the case with our risen, ascended and glorified Lord Jesus Christ! He is heaven's right hand man, he holds a position of all power and authority and answers to no one, depends on no one, and will stop at nothing to bring you safely to his heavenly kingdom. He is Jesus Christ. He holds a position and has all power at his disposal--something that will never fall, and will never fail.
According to the inspired words of the apostle Paul, who, by the way, was privileged to lay his eyes on the risen and ascended Jesus in his glory - it blinded him - Jesus Christ could be described as the CEO (the Chief Executive Officer) of the universe by God's almighty power, as it says in verse 20 of our text: "which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms."
That's God's way of theologically reporting the unlimited power of his Son without diminishing his own almighty power. Jesus is the right hand man. We have to understand that these terms are metaphorical--that is, a way of speaking used to illustrate something we could not otherwise grasp. The right hand teaching is picture language meant to lodge in our limited-capacity minds and hearts the awesome rulership of Jesus bestowed upon him by his Father.
So Paul reminded the Philippians in chapter 2 verses 9-10 of his letter to them about Christ when he writes, "Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and give him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee would bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth."
Get it? There is no higher position in the universe, no position with more power and authority than the right hand of God. Consequently, Jesus Christ, functioning as the C.E.O. of the universe rules over even the greatest powers of all times.
In the history books you can read about an emperor of the great Roman empire of old called Julian the Apostate. At one time he was a Christian; however later on he rejected the faith. He turned away from Christ and made it his life's effort to wipe out Christianity from the empire.
In A.D. 363 on his anti-Christian campaign which was apparently gaining some momentum, a soldier in his army mocked a Christian, saying, "Where is your carpenter now?" Steadfastly and without hesitation the Christian replied, "He's making a coffin for your emperor."
Sure enough, a few months later Julian was mortally wounded in battle; and according to legend, he dipped his hand in his blood, threw it heavenward and cried, "O Galilean! Thou has conquered!"
Actually, that was still an arrogant thought, because Christ conquered Satan and all evil when he became alive, descended into hell and rose from the grave. He now has power, as it says in verse 21 of our text, that is "far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given."
Yet, even without reason to be afraid, we are. Even without any reason to doubt, we do. Even without any reason at all to feel defeated, we can and frequently are. Even without reason to lose hope, we find a way.
Why do we do this? That's because we all too foolishly forget who's in charge, don't we? It's not up to you and me to stir up enough confidence to teach a Sunday School class or a Bible class. It's not up to you and me to convince ourselves there's no need to worry. It's not up to you and me to fight the battles against temptation and guilt. It's not up to you and me to lay out our future so perfectly that nothing can go wrong.
But yet, we are a "take charge" type of people. That's been inbred into us throughout human history. We want to map our own destiny and to be masters of our own fate. We see ourselves trying to fill this role of C.E.O. all by ourselves according to our own plan.
It's here where we need to repent. We need to repent of trying to play C.E.O. with our lives, our jobs, our families, our futures, and sometimes even of the universe itself. And when we do this, that's nothing less than an attempt to capture the throne for ourselves, and sit ourselves down at the right hand of God.
Really now, how foolish is that? Isn't it wonderful that we know there's someone better and far more qualified to be on that throne; that person being Jesus Christ himself. What an honor it is to know that he's opened the doors of his kingdom to us. Let's allow him to be our God, and let him be C.E.O. Then as we watch in awe, we will believe, and trust, and rejoice, and obey. After all, that's why he has such power! He has it to use for our good, and to put it to use on our behalf. And it's all because he loves us beyond what we could ever comprehend.
The apostle Paul lived his life being well aware of the powerful influence of Christ. He preached the powerful gospel of the forgiveness of sins; he folded his hands in the powerful act of prayer for the congregations he served; and most importantly, he taught believers what Christ had done and still does for them. And by it all, Jesus Christ, the C.E.O. of the universe went about his business of doing great and mighty things for his church, and for all believers everywhere.
The Holy Spirit gives believers like you and me greater wisdom and understanding whenever we have contact with our God through Word and Sacrament. Think of the opportunities we have here--Bible study and home devotions and memorizing Scripture and pondering God's promises, partaking of the Lord's Supper, Sunday sermons and confirmation classes, all of which are vehicles the Holy Spirit uses to work in our lives to give us greater wisdom and revelation.
In other words, the Holy Spirit increases our knowledge and understanding about the nature of God, the plan of God, and the work of God. When we are in the church of all believers and in the kingdom of Christ, there is no desire for backsliding or for stagnant spectating. Those who claim allegiance to Christ want to know him better, and he doesn't disappoint them.
Through the working of the Holy Spirit God enlightens us so that, as it says in verse 18 of our text, "you may know the hope to which he has called you." And there's that word "hope" again. This isn't some worldly wishing well where you throw in your penny and wish for the best. This is Christian hope. This is sure hope. We can have confident expectations that God will keep his promises.
Christ continues to enlighten us to better understand and appreciate, as our text further says in verse 18, "the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints," which is the priceless wealth we receive as children of God.
And finally, Jesus Christ will enlighten us to better know, as it says in verse 19 of our text, "his incomparably great power for us who believe." We can do anything through him who gives us the strength to believe, to obey, and to serve others.
Jesus Christ--he is the C.E.O. of the universe. His is a kingdom in which love reigns supreme, a kingdom established purely by grace shown by loving others. No other earthly ruler ever established a kingdom like that.
With this in mind, Napoleon the Great spoke these words, "You speak of empires and power. Well, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Charlemagne and myself founded empires, but on what did we found them? Force. Christ founded his on love, and at this moment there are millions ready to die for him ... I see no army, no banner or battering-ram ... I die before my time, and my body will be given to the earth as food for worms. Such is that fate of him called Napolean the Great. But look to Christ, honored and loved in every land. Look at his kingdom, rising over all other kingdoms. His life was not the life of a man; his death was not the death of a man - but of God."
Jesus came to this earth to establish his kingdom among us. We are members of that kingdom of grace through faith alone. Through faith alone, Jesus is our Saviour from sin. He is also our Lord. He loves us and knows what's best for us. He's in heaven right now interceding for us and acting in our best interest.
Jesus Christ, C.E.O. His kingdom, his power, his glory, and his believers will last forever.