Be joyful in HOPE,
patient in affliction,
faithful in prayer.
Share with the Lord’s
people who are in need.
Romans 12:12-13

Easter 7 –
Sunday after Ascension

Sermon: Ephesians 1:17, 20-23


Ephesians 1:17, 20-23. 17 The God of our Lord Jesus Christ … 20 raised Him 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.

Lord, this is Your Word and these are Your words. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Dear Lord Jesus, by Your ascension to heaven, increase our faith in You, so that we believe that You are watching over us, and that You are in complete control over Your world and Your Church. Amen.

Dear people loved by God in Christ, whose living, ruling, and power are for you: I bring you grace and peace from our ascended Lord Jesus Christ.

In the creed we say, “I believe in Jesus Christ, who ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.”

Believing that He ascended to heaven is based on Luke 24, Mark 16, and Acts 1, that 40 days after He rose from the dead, Jesus went up into heaven while His followers watched, as the clouds hid Him from sight.

Believing that He sits at the right hand of God was prophesied in the Psalms, where it says: “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” It came true when Jesus ascended, it’s written in Mark 16:19: “He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.” None of the apostles could see this part happen, that He sat at God’s right hand; the Holy Spirit led Mark to write it. Here in Ephesians, St. Paul too writes what he can’t see, that “God seated Christ at His right hand in the heavenly places.”

But what does it mean, that Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of God?

It doesn’t mean He’s relegated to a sitting position in one location., as Martin Luther said, “like a swallow in its nest.” No, “right hand of God” expresses power and strength. The right hand is the position of power. The right hand of God is everywhere (Luther). It says in the Psalms: “The right hand of the Lord” – so, Christ – “does valiantly” (118:16).

This statement that Jesus sits at God’s right hand means that since He rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, we can know that He lives and reigns. These verses in Ephesians say “all things” are “under His feet.” All things!

When we say in the catechism that we “live under Him in His kingdom,” it means we live under Him not forcibly or grudgingly, but under His watchful care, like chicks a mother hen is protecting with her wings.

Also: Where He is, we’re not only safe but in the position of power ourselves. He is at God’s right hand also in His human nature – our nature! Our human nature is raised to God’s right hand. We reign with Him. If we live under Him in His kingdom, we are victorious, strong!

This message couldn’t come at a better time for us. The world can feel like it’s falling apart. There’s an increasing promotion of perversion and immorality in our culture, from abortion to gender confusion to approval of cohabiting before marriage. There are several wars going on. There’s uncertainty that we’ll have fair and honest elections. There are protests on college campuses threatening violence, stealing and destroying property, which even many college faculty support.

When it comes to the church, many things feel uncertain and shaky. Many people think they can be a Christian without going to church to receive God’s gifts. They follow the world’s definition of tolerance, which is to approve everything and judge nothing to be a sin. They don’t believe that God’s Word should define what you believe and do, but they only want the parts of the Bible that they already agree with. They don’t think they’re responsible to God, or that He is their Lord. A higher and higher percentage of people in our country think this way.

When I say that Christ is at the right hand of God, ruling all things, that He’s in control, maybe you’re tempted to say, “Really?” Then why is everything out of control? It’s easy to think this as life discourages us.

But just consider what these verses in Ephesians 1 say: that God the Father did “put all things under His feet,” that Christ is “head over all things to the church.” Just as the apostles couldn’t see where Jesus ascended to, or that He sat down at God’s right hand – but it’s true – so also we shouldn’t judge by what we see, but listen to what’s true.

This promise – He’s at God’s right hand – comforts in three aspects:

1. First, your worries concerning yourself.

It says that He “is head over all things to the church.” It’s those three words, “to the church.” Are you in His Church? Well, do you believe Jesus is your Lord? Do you believe He died and rose for you? Do you believe that your sins are forgiven? Yes? Then you’re in His Church.

You’re in His Church despite the devil’s attempts to take you out of His Church. The devil gets you to sin and then accuses you, tells you that you’re not God’s child. But what happens in this church on earth? God’s forgiveness is spoken to you by a pastor the ascended Lord Jesus Himself sends to you and commands him to bestow forgiveness.

When the pastor does this, it’s actually Jesus doing it. In the sermon, in baptism, in the absolution, in the Lord’s Supper, in the blessing – Jesus is actually here speaking it. He isn’t stuck in a celestial chair! He’s busy! Jesus is able to be at once in many places. All to forgive your sins. His going up to heaven and taking His place in glory is what makes you sure that He is doing this for you. The Bible even says He’s praying for you, interceding for you. The next thing answers here is:

2. Second, your worries concerning the church. Are you worried about our church? Are you worried about the church’s place in this world?

Once again, it says that He “is head over all things to the church,” specifically. Jesus isn’t so far away that He doesn’t see how His Church is doing. He’s Lord of the Church, not us. He is with His Church.

Just as you, an individual, are being preserved in faith through what He our ascended Lord does through His Word and Sacraments, He is keeping all who believe in Him, He is keeping His whole church, He is like the mother hen under whose wings all the chicks are kept safe.

Never fear! The evil powers working to destroy Christian churches, schools, and homes, are part of the “all things” that are “under Christ’s feet.” The church’s enemies are under His feet! Though the church may seem to be losing ground, we hear: Christ is ruling all for the good of His Church. Believe His promise! We may not see glorious results, yet He says we are a “glorious church” (Eph 5:27) as He cleanses us of sin at the font and at His table. He takes away our worry for His Church.

The final answer God gives us here concerns the one on our minds:

3. Your worries about the world – especially all the evil in the world.

When St. Paul says Christ is “far above” every power, it includes everything. All the injustice in the world, all the war and violence, all the abuse, all that leads people astray, all the dangers, all the harm, all that ruins and would destroy people’s lives.

What’s Jesus doing about it? We don’t see all He does to protect us, but we trust that He’s doing it, for He knows best. We see our troubles. We don’t see Jesus setting a limit to the harm that the devil and others do, but we trust that He is doing it, that His will is done on earth as it is in heaven, that with the assistance of His own principalities and powers – the holy angels – Jesus keeps us from greater losses, from troubles that would overpower our faith. Ultimately, what He’s doing is guarding our faith, bringing us to the home He has gone ahead to prepare for us.

These statements of the creed are bold confessions of faith. It’s always a victory over the devil when you say in Christ’s presence: “I believe You ascended into heaven and are seated at God’s right hand.” The Holy Spirit brings you to confess this, to conquer discouragement and worry, and to place all your trust in your true and perfect King, in whose kingdom all is just and all is right – starting with you, by His grace. Amen!