Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

The celebration of the Ascension

"Of Leaving and Moving On"

2 Kings 2:6-12

May 17, 2015

As the old saying goes, "life is what happens while you're making other plans." Our seniors have made their plans for the future. Some of you will stay on track. Some of you may find detours before you reach your goals. Some of you will change your plans altogether. You're getting ready to make the big transition to the world. Are you ready to take on the challenges of life?

Today we're also celebrating the often over-looked church festival called the Ascension. It was a time of change and transition for the disciples as Jesus left them to return to heaven. The alternative Old Testament reading foreshadows this with the story of the prophet Elijah. He was about to be taken into heaven by the fiery chariot. His disciple/apprentice, Elisha, was determined to stay with him to the end.

Kings 2:6-12. Then Elijah said to him, "Please stay here, for the Lord has sent me to the Jordan." But he [Elisha] said, "As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you." So the two of them went on . . . they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his cloak and rolled it up and struck the water, and the water was parted to the one side and to the other, till the two of them could go over on dry ground.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, "Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you." And Elisha said, "Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me." And he said, "You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so." And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it and he cried, "My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!" And he saw him no more.

Elisha was a farmer. He plowed with 12 yoke of oxen. That's no easy feat. For all we know, he was content with his life until one day the great prophet Elijah called on him. Life happened and life changed dramatically for Elisha. God had other plans for him. He was a student of the prophet until Elijah was taken into heaven. Then, Elisha was on his own. His life as he knew it was suddenly changed. How was he going to transition from being with the great prophet to establishing his own identity? It's kind of like you guys today. How well are you going to transition this change? What will make the difference for Elisha and for you to succeed or fail? There are four points for you to consider.

Training. Elisha had been learning from Elijah. You have had 12 years of education. Like Elisha, you've learned the basics. The foundation is laid. Still, you'll need more preparation and training before you're ready to be fully independent and self-sufficient. Don't be afraid to change your mind about the future. Maybe, you'll discover the plans you have now don't work for you later. Keep your options open. Be flexible. Pray for the Lord to give you wisdom and guidance in the long-range choices you make.

Determination. Elisha wanted to be the best he could be. He knew that his abilities were not the same as the great Elijah. This is why he asked to receive a greater share of the Spirit's power and gifts. He had a willing and optimistic attitude. It's not a matter of self-esteem but one of self-confidence. Self-esteem focuses more on what happens to you. Self-confidence focuses on what you can do for yourself and for others. Elisha chose to be self-confident because he was determined to be a worthy successor of the prophet Elijah.

Perseverance. You can't give up when you hit the roadblocks, walls and detours of life. Elijah told Elisha to stay with the others. Elisha refused. He persevered. He walked with the prophet until the chariot of fire came and took Elijah into heaven. He wasn't going to sit down on the sidelines and watch Elijah go on alone. He went along. The temptation is to "sit it out." No one wins a race or completes a marathon without crossing the finish line. Don't give up. When life happens while you're making other plans, go with the flow and see where the adventure takes you.

Faith. Believe in God and believe in yourselves. Notice that I put God first. Why? Faith in God will help you through the tough times. Faith in God will help you to believe in yourselves. With God's help you'll come to understand and appreciate prayer. Talking with the Lord God will help you get through the day, make important decisions and give you confidence as you deal with the challenges of life.

Even with training, determination, perseverance and faith, Elisha had to make his way through life by trial and error. In the end, we don't learn everything perfectly nor do we do everything perfectly. We all make mistakes. The mature thing is to admit your mistakes, learn from them and move on. Don't dwell on the "might have been's" of life. You can't change the past but you can impact the future. Don't go through life looking backwards.

Learn to cherish the good things that have happened. Learn from your mistakes and keep moving forward with optimism and determination. Keep raising the bar as strive for achieving the most life has to offer.

One of the best lessons you can learn is how to forgive yourself and forgive others. It's the great lesson we learn from Jesus, who went to the cross. He died for your sins so that the forgiveness of God is yours. When we learn to forgive, we let go of the emotional baggage that would drag us down and hold us back. Forgiving isn't always easy. To err is human, to forgive is divine. The power of forgiveness flows into your life from God to you and through you to others.

Today we're celebrating our Lord's ascension. When our Lord ascended into heaven, His disciples were left to put into practice everything He had taught them. Yes, they were trained but you'll find out that training and actual real work can be two different things. On the day of Pentecost, the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit. They moved forward with determination and self-confidence. They soon ran into obstacles and barriers but they also learned to persevere in the faith. The rest is history.

Although He ascended, the Lord continued to be with His disciples. While He sojourned on earth, He could only be one place at one time. With His ascension, He is with us always. Even though we can't see Him, He is here. He is with His people in all places at all times. The Lord will be with you today and tomorrow. He will be with you wherever you go.

The foundation of life has been laid. This is an exciting day. Life is change. Celebrate and relax today. With the help and support of your parents, family and friends, you will begin that transition to independence. By trial and error you will make your way through life. Because of the Lord goes with you, you can take on the challenges of life with deter-mination, perseverance and faith. Amen.


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