This week in the church year, we are celebrating the Ascension of Jesus. That's the day, 40 days after Jesus rose from the dead on Easter, that he elevated in front of the disciples' eyes and rose up to the heavens until the clouds hid him from their sight (See Luke 24 or Acts 1).
Do you understand how important this day is - this day that we see Jesus take his place at the right hand of the Father, ruling all things for us? Think about it this way: If you've never walked across a frozen lake, you might be a little tentative to try - until someone shows you just how thick the ice below you is. If you're scared that a ladder might not hold your weight, that fear goes away when you see it not even flex when someone twice your size uses it.
Same thing goes for God. You may worry and fear all sorts of things - until you see God miraculously provide for and protect you. You may fear the loss of health or a loved one. But then it happens and you see God's strength. When we know that the all-powerful one is with us always - it gives us peace. So, in our text from Ephesians 1:16-23, that's what Paul is trying to do for us. He's trying to give us joy and hope and confidence and peace. And he does that by praying that we can see God's power.
In verse 18, he says, "I 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, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe."
Paul prays that your eyes may be opened to see past all the obstacles and hindrances, all the doubts and fears, to see the hope you have because God called you. Remember the promises he made you in your baptism. Paul also wants you to realize what a gift you've been given in your brothers and sisters in Christ - your fellow saints. But most of all, Paul wants to point us to see Jesus' power.
His power working for you is the same power that he demonstrated in two things, Paul says: his resurrection and his ascension. His resurrection shows him defeating death. His ascension shows even more. It shows where his position at the right hand of the father ranks him - above everything and everyone we could even think to list.
He has all that power "for the church" - for us! And he wants to use it for us. Paul wrote that we are his body. He will take care of us! Just as you don't want to see your hand cut off and will do anything to make sure that that doesn't happen, Christ takes care of his body, every single part of it, exercising, feeding you - all in his total power. And he does that by the things Paul was praying we remembered, the gift of Baptism and the fellowship of saints. He cares for his body by reminding you of the inheritance we taste in the Lord's Supper and the enlightening we receive in his word. He takes care of us, his body. That's what the ascension tells us.
Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.