Going Deeper 5-27-19

From John 14, these words of Jesus to His followers, then and now:  "The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.”  Thus far our text.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
This coming Thursday is Ascension Day, a day for recalling and entering the story of Jesus’ ascending bodily into the heavens.  But according to Matthew’s account, Jesus first promised that he would be with them always, even unto the end of the age.  And then he disappears into the heavens?  What about “I will be with you always”?
Our text brings clarification.  What happened at the Ascension was that Jesus ascended bodily into heaven, withdrawing His physical being from the presence of a few in order to from that point on be spiritually present to every follower of Jesus in the form of the Advocate, the Holy Spirit.
Let me illustrate. (leave the sanctuary)  Can you see me? (no)  Can you hear me? (yes)  Am I still close?  How can you be sure?  Maybe I’m in my truck and driving away.  But if I were to do that, you would soon no longer be able to hear me.  So, I am still with you. (re-enter)
In a way that is still mysterious to most of us, you were still able to hear my voice, even though I was not physically present… and not even physically wired to the sound system.  In the same way, in a mysterious and truly miraculous way, Jesus remains invisibly present to us, and the means through which this happens is the Holy Spirit of God.  Also in this same way, we believe that Jesus is mysteriously and miraculously physically present to us in, with, and under the bread and wine of Holy Communion.  We must never lose the wonder of mystery!!
There is yet another way that Jesus is physically present here in this place this morning.  Do you see Him?  Look right next to you… there He is!  Or look in this mirror… there He is!  We are the body of Christ.  This is not an analogy, it is a description.  St. Paul wrote, “Now you are the body of Christ, and individually members of it.”  (1 Corinthians 12:27)
So God is present to us; mysteriously and miraculously Jesus is with us… right now and always and everywhere.  And Jesus is with us in a very special way as we gather together.  Here are the words of another promise of Jesus, “Where two or more are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”  (Matthew 18:20)  
My brothers and sisters, that is why it is important for us to gather together as often as we can in His name.  No, it doesn’t necessarily have to be every Sunday.  Yes, we can worship God and abide in Him wherever we are, whatever we are doing.  God is with us everywhere and always… whether we are traveling or working or hunting or camping or chasing our kids around to various sporting events, He is with us and we can worship and grow closer to Him.  
That being said, there is something vitally important about gathering as family around word and sacrament, worshipping and praising God together, and learning and growing together.  It is important we understand that we gather here not in order to fulfill our religious obligations, but to be filled by the Spirit of God and work together to both strengthen and extend His Kingdom.  We gather to encounter the Holy Spirit of God, who will lead us into all truth.
Worship takes work.  Gathering regularly does involve both commitment and sacrifice.  But what happens in Zion doesn’t stay in Zion, but has the power to change everything, from our selves to our homes to our community to the very ends of the earth.   So, I really do hope to see you around.