Ascension - Easter 7

Preached: May 4, 2008

Shout Out in Song to Your Ascended King
Psalm 47

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit moves our hearts to rejoice in Jesus is Psalm 47.

For the choir master, for the sons of Korah. A psalm.

Clap your hands, all peoples. Shout to God with a resounding cry. For the Lord, the highly Exalted, is to be feared. He's a great King over all the earth. He subdues peoples under us and countries under our feet. He chooses for us the inheritance, the pride of Jacob, whom he loves. Selah.

God has ascended with shouts; the Lord,with the blast of a trumpet. Sing to God! Sing! Sing to our King! Sing! For God is King over all the earth. Sing with understanding. God reigns over the nations. God sits on his holy throne. The nobles of the peoples are gathered, the people of the God of Abraham. For the shields of the earth belong to God. He is highly exalted.

This is the Word of our Lord

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in our ascended Savior's blood:

King Philip II of Spain wanted control over England. He was the most powerful king in Europe in the late 16th century. Gold and silver flowed into his coffers from New Spain, the New World. He ruled an empire on which the sun never set.

In 1588 he sent out the Spanish Armada with 130 ships -- so many ships that it took two days for them all to leave port. Would England fall? Would Philip ascend her throne? The Armada never landed in England. At first harassed by the English ships, then battered by a storm, only about half the ships made it back to Spain.

So it is with earthly kings throughout history. Name any ruler you want. Ramses II, Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander the Great, Emperor Wu, Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, Genghis Khan, Suleiman the Magnificent, Napoleon, Hirohito, or Hitler. No matter how great and powerful they were, their power and reign had its limit and end.

Not so with your King. He is “the great King over all the earth” (Psalm 47:2 NIV). He has ascended to the highest throne. He is seated at the right hand of the Almighty. He is King of kings and Lord of lords.

But best of all he is your King, yes yours. That's why the Psalm urges you and me to clap our hands, to shout with cries of joy, to sing praises to our King, sing praises. So shout out in song to your ascended King. That's the theme today. Shout out in song to your ascended King. (1) He has ransomed you to be his people. (2) He uses you to spread his kingdom. And (3) he reigns over all for you. So shout out in song to your ascended King.

A. He has ransomed you to be his people

1) How can sinners, like us, call the holy God our King?

Notice how the Psalm makes it clear that the Lord God, Jehovah, YaHVeH, is our King. Ours! “How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth! He subdued nations under us, people under our feet. He chose our inheritance for us . . . sing praises to our King” (Psalm 47:2-4, 6 NIV, emphasis added).

But how could that mean you and me? We've rebelled against him. That's what sin is: rebellion against the Lord God. We were his natural born enemies, inheriting our sinfulness from our parents. Instead of praising him, our flesh wants to glory in ourselves: “Look at what I've done. See how good a Christian I am. See how strong my faith is. Look at how God has blessed me! I must be rather deserving.” Or like his Old Testament people in the wilderness, instead of shouting out in song, we shout out in complaint. “Life was so much better before. Why don't I have what they have; it's just not fair? Why do I struggle along? Why can't I be like those successful people, who have all the fun?” Then we run after the other gods out there: money, excitement, sex, drugs, drinking, gambling, family, friends, work, games, medicine, movies, entertainment -- trusting them to bring us happiness. How could the sinless God ever be our King? How could we ever stand before his holy throne to shout out in song to him?

Come to that place outside of Jerusalem in the vicinity of Bethany Gather ther with the disciples. Jesus lifts his hands in blessings and ascends. Take note of his hands. See the nail marks, just as in the statue here on the altar. There's your answer. That's why we call the holy God our King.

God himself paid the price for you. Jesus paid the price of his holy, precious blood, the blood of God. He ransomed you, redeemed you to be his very own, to live under him in his kingdom. Yes, to live under him, so that he is your King and you are his people.

He did this for you, but not because of any inner goodness or natural right you have. He did it because of his grace. Freely, because he is love, because he earnestly desires to save sinners, Jesus Christ, your God, died for you. You are his blood-bought people.

Faith calls Jesus your King. It calls the holy God your King. For your faith trusts that Jesus' blood has ransomed you to be his own, has paid the price to wash you clean. Oh, what joy those nail marks bring as we see our King ascend! Shout out in song to your ascended King. Shout out by celebrating the redeeming work he has done for you. Shout it out by proclaiming his death as you receive his body and blood in the Lord's Supper. What a song you shout out as you come to his table. Shout it out with the joy that you, yes you, yourself who eat his body and drink his blood, you are his blood-bought people, and he is your King. Shout out this sacramental song in praise to your ascended King.

B. He uses you to spread his kingdom

1) How do you spread his kingdom?

Yet so many do not confess Jesus as their God and King. Though he bled and died to ransom them, they are still cut off from his kingdom by their unbelief. They are lost and headed for hell. Yet the Psalm calls on all to honor him as King. “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. How awesome is the Lord Most High, the great King over all the earth” (Psalm 47:1, 2 NIV, emphases added).

How does Jesus spread his kingdom to others and bring it to every corner of the globe? Not with armadas of ships. Rather go back to that place near Jerusalem in the vicinity of Bethany. What does your King say shortly before he ascends into heaven? “You will be my witnesses . . . to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8 NIV). Just as those first disciples spread the Good News of Jesus, the crucified and risen Savior from sin, you too are witnesses. You're not eye-witness of the crucifixion and resurrection as the first disciples were, but you are witnesses.

You are witness of the life-changing power of this message. You are witnesses of how Good News of Jesus has changed your heart, has brought you forgiveness of sins, has given you peace with God, has assured you of eternal life. You are witnesses that Jesus' death, resurrection, and ascension into glory is the difference for you between darkness and light, between death and life, between hell and heaven. You are witnesses.

And isn't letting others know the great things your King has done, isn't that the way to sing his praises and shout out in song? “Sing praises to God, sing praise; sing praises to our King, sing praises” (Psalm 47:6 NIV). Shout out in song to your ascended King. Shout out by proclaiming the great things he has done for you, that he is you King who has ransomed you with his blood. Yes! Your words and actions throughout life, that is your song that you shout out.

Shout out this song as you come to worship him. For what we do in worship and how often we come is a witness to why we praise our King and how important he is. Shout out this song by showing love and kindness toward all whom you meet. For your actions are a witness to what kind of King rules over you. Is he an angry tyrant or a loving Savior? Your actions will be a witness to others. And also shout out this song by speaking the Good News. Be ready to tell others the wonderful work your King has done to ransom and save sinners, like you and like them. As you share the Good News of forgiveness and life in Jesus' blood, he is using you to spread his kingdom. Although many reject your witness to their own damnation, by God's grace and the Spirit's power some will believe and be saved. So keep on shouting out in song to your ascended King as you serve him as his witnesses.

C. He reigns over all for you

1) What confidence do you have because your King reigns over all?

And finally, although serving your King brings you the hatred and ridicule of the world, although some will tell you to shut up when you shout out for Jesus, although some will work hard to get you to praise other so-called kings -- keep on shouting out with a life of song to Jesus Christ. Shout out without fear, for he reigns over all for you. The psalm says, “He subdued nations under us, peoples under our feet . . . God is the King of all the earth . . . God reigns over the nations” (Psalm 47:3, 7, 8).

So although others fight and rage and work their best to make you suffer, your King reigns over all, including them. Even though your flesh tempts you and death tries to terrify you, your King reigns over all, including them. Even though Satan himself with all the evil hoards of hell stands against you, your King reigns over all, including them.

For you see, your King, who died to ransom, has risen from the dead. Death and Satan could not hold him. Your King, who came to this earth on his mission to save you, has ascended into heaven, mission accomplished. “God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets” (Psalm 47:5). He reigns over all, which is what we confess when we say he is seated at God's right hand. So don't let anything trouble you, for your King reigns over all for you.

And he will come again in glory. Just as he left visibly, so also he will come again visibly for every eye to see. He will come as your King bringing the final defeat to his enemies confining them to the fires of hell forever. And he will bring you, his blood-bought people, to the glory before his throne in heaven. With your bodies raised from the dead and glorified, you will be before the throne of God and of the Lamb. Then we will shout out in song to our ascended King in such excellency and splendor that we cannot even imagine now. Yes, you with all the angels and the believers, who like you have confessed Jesus as their King who ransomed them, with all God's people you will shout out in praise to your ascended King forevermore. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313