First Lesson: Acts 1: 1-11
Responsive Reading: Psalm 47
Second Lesson: Ephesians 1: 15-23
Gospel Lesson: Luke 24: 44-53
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
In 1986, The Minnesota Twins weren’t a very good Baseball team. They came in 6th place out of 7th place in the American League’s Western Division. People were so disinterested that they came in 13th out of 14th in team attendance in the American League. Things were so grim that with 23 games left in the season, they fired their manager Ray Miller. No one expected a World Series in the year ahead.
The 1987 Minnesota Twins certainly had their weaknesses. They had a record of 29-52 in road games. Their pitching wasn’t very good finishing 10th of 14th in Earned Run Average. The Twins were certainly underdogs heading into the playoffs, winning ten fewer games during the season than any other team. No one thought a team could win the World Series that was actually outscored by its opponents during the regular season. Heading into the World Series versus the Saint Louis Cardinals ABC announcer Al Micheals described the Twins as underdogs in every way possible. If any team wasn’t going to end Minnesota’s Championship drought, it appeared to be the 1987 Minnesota Twins.
The thing about Sports is upsets happen. Game 7-Twins 4 Cardinals 2 and the Twins are World Champions! Minnesota was overcome with joy like never before. On the day of the victory parade, “Governor Rudy Perpich declared a half-day holiday for government workers. St. Paul schools did the same, and in Minneapolis, any child could get out of class with a parent’s permission”. The Minnesota Twins shut down both Minneapolis and Saint Paul on parade day. Hundreds of thousands filled the streets; people were parking on freeway off-ramps, people have put aside everything to send the 1987 Minnesota Twins off in style. The Twins would win the World Series again just four short years later, but it was the 1987 team that changed Baseball fans within Minnesota forever. The celebration afterward testified to this fact.
Today’s Gospel Lesson tells the story of another victory parade after an unexpected triumph. The last chance to see Jesus in his earthly ministry before he ascends to the right hand of God the Father and those who were a witness to it would never be the same again. Today we hear the story of Jesus’ Ascension.
Forty days had taken place since Jesus’ Resurrection. Jesus had made several appearances to both the Disciples and others over the past forty days. Jesus in these appearances convinced those who witnessed and heard of his death that the grave shall one day ultimately be made powerless. These appearances though began to set the stage for his eventual departure.
Now in Today’s lesson, Jesus blesses his followers and is carried up into heaven. Jesus leaves this world behind to prepare a place for us in the world that is to come. As Jesus leaves this world behind, he leaves the world in our care.
One time, Archie Bunker was out running an errand with Meathead. Archie then witnesses a mugging in an alley. Archie is terrified to go to court because he believes the Mafia was behind the mugging and he doesn’t want to get hurt. Archie is dragged down to the police station where he gives the police a bunch of exaggerated statements hoping to be done with this ordeal. Archie was terrified of being a witness. Archie was terrified of looking foolish under the bright lights of cross-examination. Archie saw witnessing as having nothing but downside. We as Christian people often feel the same way when it comes to our faith. Our excuses often have to do with not knowing enough, not being up to the task.
The Christian Church didn’t get started because the Disciples wanted to obsess about trying to figure out what they didn’t know. They had been close witnesses to Jesus’ teaching and preaching, his healing of sick, his giving of sight to the blind, his feeding of the 5,000, his calming of the storm, and his death and his resurrection. The Disciples were going to proclaim this message until the day of his return. While we don’t have the same experience with Jesus that the Disciples did, we can point towards within our lives, where our faith help sustains and comfort us in some of life’s darkest hours.
The year was 1945; a German soldier sat inside a POW Camp. The young man was reluctant to join Hitler’s army, but that was what you did as a German youth in those days. He dreaded returning to his homeland to the siege of destruction in the wake of war. Worst of all were the images that he had seen: from Auschwitz. The young man knew he was sitting in prison because he sided with evil. The young man felt his shame and despair could never leave his life. As he sat in the POW Camp, a chaplain handed him a Bible, having nothing better to do, he read it day after day. It was in the story of the crucifixion that he heard of a man abandoned by the world, yet the story would not be over. Two years later, the man attends a Christian conference in the Netherlands where he hears men tell stories of the horror and pain of war, yet these men were not looking to lash out. They wanted to proclaim forgiveness to chart out a new course forward for their former enemies. Their former opponents were now going to be their brothers and sisters in Christ. The young man who formerly sat in the POW Camp for the first time since the War was able to see “hope.” He would dedicate the rest of his life, for the cause of advancing the Christian faith. The soldier's name was Jurgen Moltmann. Moltmann was one of the great religious scholars of the 20th century.
All this happened because men unlike Archie Bunker were willing to embrace fear to reach out for the sake of what they believe.
The last thing to take from the story of Jesus’ ascension is this. He will come back once again. He is creating a place for us with many rooms in the mean time? When will Christ return? Such a question gets at one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith. Here’s the thing about faith though. We possess faith when we come to terms with things that we can’t say for certain. Jesus’ could have given the Disciples an answer regarding the exact date of his return but didn’t. Jesus instead told them what he wanted them to know instead. “I have risen, go proclaim forgiveness and eternal life, and I will come back.”
Once upon a time, there was a benevolent king. He wanted to conduct an experiment of sorts upon his subjects. The King knew that people would always blame the king for everything wrong that ever came their way. So he decided to see how exactly they would respond to obstacles that came before them. The King decides to place a giant stone in the middle of the road where all his subjects would be forced to travel. People’s response to the stone was typical. They would cuss under their breath, they would complain about the King for not taking care of the roads, they would go around the stone then go on their very way. Finally, a poor peasant farmer comes upon the stone. This farmer was in a really, tough spot. His family was starving and struggling in every way imaginable. He needed to get to the market as soon as possible, and he didn’t have much time for this lousy stone. The man figured the stone needed to move. So the man starts attempting to get the giant stone from the road. The man pushed and pushed and pushed till he had no more strength within his body. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the stone was off the road. The peasant went back to the place where the stone formally laid and noticed something under the stone. It appeared to be a small purse, the peasant opened the purse and saw it filled with “gold coins” Inside the King had written a note saying that the purse now belonged to the man who had moved the stone.
Here’s the thing about the peasant with the stone. It would have been real easy to believe that such a task was pointless. Pushing a stone like this was just a waste of time, that there are no potential gold coins to come one’s way. Jurgen Moltmann certainly felt like this sitting in his prison cell. We might feel like this at times as we consider our faith. The world around us might seem to be crushing our hope. The Disciples felt this way as they witnessed Jesus’ death. Pretty soon, they would see the stone move. Pretty soon, he was standing in their presence once again, proclaiming things shall never be the same again. As Jesus ascends into heaven, he is proclaiming that he shall soon be standing in our presence once again. There will certainly be times when this outcome seems unlikely like when the 1987 Minnesota Twins stood toe to toe with Baseball’s best teams, yet one day soon a victory parade shall gather. Resurrection will soon change your world forever. Amen
 Information comes from Baseball Reference and Wikipedia pages for 86-87 Minnesota Twins.
 Schilling, Peter. Jr. “In 87 the Twins Turned the Towns Upside Down.” MinnPost. 25.Oct.2012. Web. May.25.2017.
 Schilling, Peter. Jr. “In 87 the Twins Turned the Towns Upside Down.”
 Schilling, Peter. Jr. “In 87 the Twins Turned the Towns Upside Down.”
 Luke 24:44-53.
 Otterstatter, Micheal. “Hear Jesus Say ‘Goodbye’” Sermon Central. 22.May.2006. Web. May.22.2017.
 Zingale, Tim. “Witness”. Sermon Central 24. Apr.2006. Web. May.22.2017. Additionally information taken from “ Archie Sees A Mugging.” IMDB page.
 Stier, Leon. “It Is Not for You to Know.” Email Mediatations. 19.May.2015. Web. May.22.2017
 Stories for Preaching. “God’s Love and a German Solider.” Taken from Moltmann’s writings. Web. May.25.2017.
 Stier, Leon. “It Is Not for You to Know.”
 Pullam, Kraig. “Mixed Emotions about Our Future.” Sermon Central. 18.Feb.2014. Web. May.25.2017.
 Pullam, Kraig. “Mixed Emotions about Our Future.