“Three Promises”

Sermon

May 16, 2021

7th Sunday of Easter

Ascension Sunday

 

Several men were dressing in the locker room of an exclusive health club. A cell phone sitting on one of the benches began to ring. A man picked it up and the following conversation ensued: “Hello?”

“Honey, it’s me.”

“Sugar!”

“Are you at the club?”

“Yes.”

“Great! I am at the mall two blocks from where you are. I saw a beautiful mink coat . . . It is absolutely gorgeous!! Can I buy it?”

“What’s the price?”

“Only $1,500.00.”

“Well, OK, go ahead and get it, if you like it that much . . .”

“Ahhh, and I also stopped by the Mercedes dealership and saw the 2004 at a really good price . . .”

“What price did he quote you?”

“Only $70,000 . . .”

“OK, but for that price I want it with all the options.”

“Great!, before we hang up, something else . . .”

“What?”

“It might look like a lot, but I was reconciling your bank account and . . . I stopped by the real estate agent this morning and I saw the house we had looked at last year . . . it’s on sale!! Remember? The one with a pool, English Garden, acre of park area, beachfront property . . .”

“How much are they asking?”

“Only $650,000 . . . a magnificent price, and I see that we have that much in the bank to cover . . .”

“Well, then go ahead and buy it, but just bid $620,000. OK?”

“OK, sweetie . . . Thanks! I’ll see you later!! I love you!!!”

“Bye . . . I do too . . .”

The man hangs up, closes the phone’s flap and raises his hand while holding the phone and asks: “Does anyone know who this phone belongs to?” (1)

Obviously this man was authorizing some expensive purchases without the proper authority to do so.

Before Jesus ascended into heaven he made three promises to his disciples. These were not promises made by someone without authority. These were promises you could trust, could believe.

The ascension of Christ means that Christ has been given authority over all the world. Christ now has incredible power to help those who believe in him. It is that same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him at the right hand of God.

You never have to doubt that Christ can deliver that which he has promised. And the three promises he made to us may be summed up in three words: presence, power and priesthood.

 

Christ’s first promise was that he would always be with us. Life gets tough.

No one knows that better than us with what we have experienced this past 14 months with Covid-19 and its destruction of life as we once knew it. And it isn’t over yet. Although we seem to be coming closer to the end of the pandemic we will be dealing with its aftermath for some time. Life gets tough sometimes. Even worse, we can get the feeling that no one cares.

 

Here is an “amusing story about a twelve-year-old boy who stood patiently beside the clock counter while the store clerk waited on all of the adult customers. Finally the clerk got around to the youngster, who made his purchase and hurried out to the curb, where his father was impatiently waiting in his car.

‘What took you so long, son?’ his father asked.

‘The man waited on everybody in the store before me,’ the boy replied. ‘But I got even.’

‘How?’

‘I wound and set all the alarm clocks while I was waiting,’ the youngster explained happily. ‘It’s going to be a mighty noise place at eight o’clock.’ (2)

We can all appreciate that young man’s feeling of irritation and disappointment. Nobody was paying him any attention. Everyone was being helped but him.

At one time or another in our lives we feel as though nobody notices. Nobody cares. But we forget there is always someone who is paying attention. There is someone as close as the air we breathe who knows our every need and who loves us unconditionally. All we have to do is to be open to his love.

 

Christ’s first promise to us that he would always be with us. This is an important promise. The critical test in life is not what happens to us. The critical test is how we handle the things that happen to us. Christ’s presence can make a difference in how we respond to life. Christ promised us his presence.

HE ALSO PROMISED US HIS POWER.

How constrained we are when we count only on human power to solve human problems. That is the problem with every aspect of our lives. We expect government to solve our problems . . . or our schools . . . or our financial institutions. These are all important and they have their place, but the declaration of scripture is that you cannot deal with crucial human issues using only human means.

 

I am constantly astonished about two things concerning human beings: The first is, How supercalifragilisticexpialidocious human beings can be. People can be wonderfully supportive, kind and loving. That’s one of the wonderful things about this church—just how warm and wonderful human beings you are.

But the other thing that flabbergasts me is how imperfect human beings are. All of us. We have good intentions that we never are carry out. Even the best of us can be so preoccupied with our own self-interests that we don’t even notice that our neighbor is crying out in need. And then there are times when, human beings can be downright cruel to one another.

“Several years ago there was an article in the newspapers that illustrates that cruelty. The story concerned John E. Beverly, a Vietnam veteran. When his fellow employees of Miller Brewing Company in Milwaukee discovered that Beverly suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, they began making sudden loud noises to watch his fearful reactions and to watch him dive for cover.

For two years employees dropped tables, broke beer bottles, popped milk cartons and paper cups, dropped fork-lift loads, and set off fireworks in attempts to unnerve Beverly.

A bottle rocket fired at Beverly in the company lunchroom finally finished him off; he spent the next seven months in a psychiatric hospital” (3).

It’s heartbreaking that grown people can be so juvenile and so cruel, but that’s a side of human nature many of us would like to ignore.

If you look to human beings to provide ultimate solutions to human problems, you are going to be sorely disappointed. If there is no vertical dimension to your world view, you cannot help but be a pessimist.

But if you believe Christ is alive and at work in the world–if you believe that Christ has power over life and death and over every demon that vexes the human spirit–then you can go out into the world confidently and courageously knowing that his power is sufficient for any task he has called you to accomplish. Christ’s ascension promises us his presence and his power. And one thing more.

CHRIST’S ASCENSION PROMISES US A COMMUNITY. When Christ ascended to God, the work of the kin-dom remained in our hands. We are those Christ has called to finish his redeeming work in the world.

Have you ever heard the story of the man with the two umbrellas?

Some years ago a well-known minister made a trip to Europe by ship. On shipboard he noticed a small, dark, thin man, who every day came and sat in a certain deck chair reading his Bible.

The minister became interested in him and wondered what the story behind him was. So one day he went and sat in the deck chair next to him. After a while, he interrupted him and said, “Pardon me, sir, but I have seen you come here every day and read your Bible. I am a Christian minister myself. I assume you are a Christian. I would be interested to know what led you to Christ.”

“Yes,” said the dark-skinned man, laying aside his Bible, “I am sure you would be interested in my story. I am a Filipino by birth. I was born into a Christian home in the Philippines. A number of years ago I came to America to study in one of your great universities. I planned to be a lawyer. My first night on campus a student came to my room. I did not know him; I had never met him. I knew only that he was an upper classman. He said simply to me, “˜I just wanted to welcome you to the campus and to say that if there is anything I can do to help make your stay here more pleasant, I hope you will call on me.’ We chatted for a bit, and as he prepared to leave, he asked me where I went to church. And I told him. “˜Well,’ said the upperclassman, “˜I can tell you where that church is. It is quite some distance from here and is rather difficult to find. You go–well, I better draw you a map.’ So he sat down and outlined the way to the church on a piece of paper and left.

“I had largely forgotten the incident until on Sunday morning when I awakened it was raining–raining very hard. I said to myself, “˜I don’t believe I will go to church this morning. The church is hard to find; it’s a long way off; surely I will be forgiven for not going to church on my first Sunday in a strange land. Yes, I think I’ll have some more sleep.’ Just as I turned over to go back to sleep, there came a rapping on the door, and as I opened it rather reluctantly, there stood the upperclassman. He had on a raincoat, and on his arm were two umbrellas. “˜I thought,’ he said, “˜you might have trouble finding the church so I have come to walk along and show you the way.’ As I dressed, I said to myself, “˜What sort of fellow is this anyway?’ As we walked along under the two umbrellas I said to myself, “˜If this man is so interested in my religion, I ought to know something about his,’ so I asked him. He told me and then he added, “˜My church is just around the corner.’ I said, “˜Since your church is just around the corner and it’s raining so hard, why don’t we go to it this morning and we can go to mine next Sunday? So we went to his church, and you know I have never been back to my own since.”

To make a long story short, this young man changed from the study of law to the study of theology, was ordained to the ministry and became an important and well-known religious leader in his native land.” (5)

All of this occurred because the man with two umbrellas cared enough to make his religious faith attractive to another human being. Could you be the woman or the man with two umbrellas? Christ has promised us presence and power, but he has also promised us a community of believers. We are those on whom he is depending to make faith attractive to others.The ascension of Christ says to us that Christ is not a fraudulent Savior. He has the authority to grant us three promises: presence, power and a community of believers.

 

  1. Thanks to Byrl Shaver for this story.
  2. jokes@jokeseveryday.com (JokesEveryDay.Com)
  3. “Jittery Vet, Driven Over the Edge by Co-Workers’ Pranks . . .” KNOXVILLE NEWS-SENTINEL (June 22, 1989), Sec. A, p. 6.
  4. Adapted by a sermon by Bishop R. Kern Eutsler, “Redeeming the Routine.”
  5. Adapted from Dynamic Preaching, Collected Sermons, by King Duncan (sermons.com)