Written Sermons & Bible Studies

The Graduation of Humanity

Today is the third in our series on communion. We will be talking about how communion relates to the ascension of Jesus into heaven. As Jesus ascends, we graduate into a new relationship with God. We become God’s children.   There is now a new relationship between humanity and God. Our Scripture passages today help us understand our new relationship with God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

 

 

We all know that on Christmas, Jesus became one of us. He lived a human life with all its joys and pains. He was born, grew up, played, worked hard, got tired, needed to sleep and eat. He experienced love and hate. He had to run from Herod for fear of his life. He was subjected to bad and evil governments. The “religious” and civil leaders of Jerusalem were corrupt kleptocrats. By all accounts, the life of Jesus was difficult and absolutely human.

 

 

We understand that Jesus diminished or humbled himself to become a person. We often fail to realize that the human Jesus was exalted to become God and sit at the right hand of God. Today, I want to discuss the honor that the humanity of Jesus received in his ascension into heaven.

 

 

Let’s read Luke 24:50-53 & Acts 1:6-11

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53 and they were continually in the temple blessing God.

 

Acts 1:6-11

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11 They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

 

Today is graduation Sunday. Jesus’s Ascension was humanity’s divine graduation. Thousands of years ago, Jesus ascended into heaven and in that moment elevated humanity. Graduated humanity. When Jesus became human and humbled himself, God became human in order that humanity could become part of the family of God. The ascension reverses the order. The human Jesus returns to God and brings us with him to dwell with God.

 

Jesus graduated us. We are a people who belong to God and take part in God’s divine nature.

 

When Jesus ascended, he honored us. He exalted us. He gave us a heavenly diploma. He graduated us. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we take on the humanity and the divinity of Jesus.

 

With the human Jesus in heaven, we can now receive the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of Christ lives in us today. Once God’s people worshipped in the temple where God’s spirit dwelled. When Jesus ascended to heaven, he gave us a diploma and we graduated to a people in whom God dwells. Scripture says that now, our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

 

The disciples who watched Jesus ascend into heaven went into the world. Filled with the Holy Spirit, they formed the Church of Jesus Christ. As graduates today go into the world, we pray that they too will win people over to Christ. However, graduation from high schools and community colleges and trade programs and colleges and graduate schools are all human endeavors that make us better able to successfully live and work in this world. What does that have to do with ministry?

 

Graduates and all students, apprentices and interns, your worldly accomplishments matter to God. God uses your talents and accomplishments and skills for God’s purpose. Success in life contributes to your success in ministry.

 

The worldly accomplishments of the disciples Christ used to advance the Gospel. We often view the disciples as unknowing, unremarkable tag alongs that Jesus eventually turns into amazing men. Scripture tells us that the disciples were unaware of the ministry and message of Jesus. They were continuously befuddled and lost. Even when the risen Lord was in front of them, they needed significant prodding to understand what was happening.  That is all true. But I want to challenge your view of the disciples. They were extremely successful and capable people. For first century people, they were master tradespersons with their own businesses. Simon, James, and John were fishermen. They owned a boat and nets and assets. They had a skill. They marketed a product.  For first century people, they were successful. Matthew was a tax collector—a very hard to get job. The disciples were skilled writers. They had command of the Hebrew Bible. Paul was an amazingly accomplished person. John’s Gospel is a work of literary art. In the first century, only 10% of people could read. The disciples could all read. They were graduates in life.

 

Many of the women who followed Christ before and after the Ascension were women of accomplishment and power. Jesus Christ took the accomplishments and talents of these women and added the incomparable power of the Spirit to them. These women helped carry the message of salvation to the ends of the earth.

 

This day matters to Jesus Christ. Christ can take your accomplishments and bless you, and the world through you, in amazing ways. The disciples were people who worked in the marketplace. After they saw Jesus ascend into heaven, they went back to work. They praised God with their work and their efforts.

 

Paul had advanced schooling. He studied the Hebrew books and the Torah. He also was schooled in the Roman art of rhetoric or arguing persuasively. He worked in the marketplace for 10 years before he began full time ministry. He sat in his shop and talked about Christ with anyone who would come by. He learned from the disciples, he honed his message; he deepened his prayer life, and he drew closer to Christ while working. His trade helped to support his ministry. God used his education and his work to advance the gospel.

 

Graduates, your study and work are not separate from your faith. You live one life. Your whole life follows Christ and praises God.

 

We celebrate our graduates today; we bless them as they go forward for more schooling or as they enter the marketplace. In our Luke passage, Jesus blesses the disciples before he departs. Jesus turns over his ministry to the disciples and blesses their new ministry as they carry the gospel message to the world. The results of the Blessing of Jesus Christ are told in the book of Acts.

 

The Father’s act of blessing the next generation is important. Graduation is a form of blessing. The school confers a degree and the graduate rises to a new position in society.

 

As you walk forward to get your diploma, society acknowledges you for your years of effort and work and blesses your future. We here at Place of Grace Fellowship bless you; may your future be bright. May it praise God and minister to people by its fruitfulness.

 

In our Call to Worship this morning, God’s creation, the meadows and the flocks praise God through the bounty of their fruit. The fields provide grain for the people and by doing so, the grain praises God in its bounty.

 

Like the fields, our efforts praise God. Our work, our study, our creativity, our growth, our families and our toil; all praise God. God values our lives and our futures. To live life fully, abundantly and productively praises our creator.

 

Today, know that God cheers as you graduate. Know that God cares and receives your accomplishments as worship of God’s nourishing River of Life. We know that God sent Jesus to save the world. God also receives Jesus back as human. God receives the world Jesus saved. Graduates—God cares deeply about the lives you lead.

 

Some of our graduates will go on to earn advanced degrees or college. Some will go into honorable work like the trades, music, cosmetology or law enforcement. Does God prioritize one path over the other? No, God prioritizes praise and living the life God gave you, with all its possibilities and constraints, to the fullest. To work is to pursue your God-given purpose and to make a positive contribution to your family and your community.

 

Over the years, I have worked with Christian business owners as a business consultant and coach. I helped them to become the best leader they could be, and I helped them serve God through their business. Most of them were in the trades. One trimmed trees, another painted buildings, one was a remodeler, another a commercial contractor.

 

Across the board, what mattered most to their success was their hard work, curiosity and willingness to take risk and build a business. They dedicated their labor and business to the Lord. Their faith created in them a resilience and hope and faith in the future. They knew that God was with them in success and failure. Their faith carried them through the hard times. And all businesses have hard times. Their faith was praise to God.

 

In business, one of the biggest markers of success is the level of engagement that employees feel. High engagement among the employees leads to greater success for any business. Engagement is the biggest indicator of profitability. The business owners I worked with loved and cared for their employees, and it showed in their profits. These Christian business owners crushed their secular competitors. More importantly, these business owners created workplaces where people were ministered to and experienced love.

 

Following Jesus Christ makes life and work more fulfilling. Following Jesus Christ as a business owner, student, employee or professional makes you a better leader and employee.  Following Jesus Christ is an adventure. You do not know what kind of impact you can have. Follow and see.  I have been in many settings from board rooms to worksites to hospital beds—in all these places, those who follow Christ faired better.

 

To our graduates: We, your church, encourage you to honor Jesus Christ through your commitment to your chosen work. God’s plan for you is unique. Your work will be important to God and the people in your life. We are excited by your potential and eager to see your contributions.

 

For those of us who graduated long ago and no longer participate in the marketplace: Know that God has been honored by your work and your contribution. But God is not done with you. If you are here, God has a purpose for you. It could be prayer, it could be service, or loving support of the next generation as they strive to make their contribution to God’s creation.

 

What does this have to do with Communion? Soon the graduation parties will start. Friends and family will gather around a table, like we will at our carry-in dinner today. These parties celebrate the graduates with a meal and a cake.

 

Communion is our graduation party. When Jesus ascended to heaven, he elevated and honored humanity. Communion celebrates our graduation when we became heirs in the family of God alongside Jesus Christ. Next time you take communion, celebrate your graduation from mortal human to eternal child of God.

About Pastor Tim

Tim Holmes

Senior Pastor

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