Sunday, April 28, 2013

Easter 5

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth went away, and the sea is no longer. And the city, the holy one, New Jerusalem I saw coming down out of heaven from God prepared as a bride made beautiful to her husband. And I heard a great sound out of the throne saying, "Look, the tabernacle of God with mankind and He tabernacles with them, and they, His people they will be, and God Himself will be with them–their God, and He will wipe away every tear out of their eyes, and death will not be any longer, nor grieving, nor weeping, nor wickedness will there be any longer; the first things have gone away. And He said, the One sitting upon the throne, "Look, new I am making everything," and He says, "Write, for these words are faithful and true." And He said to me, "These things are done. I–the Alpha and the Omega, the Source and the Ending. I Myself will give to the thirsty one out of the spring of the water of life, a gift. The conqueror will inherit these things and I will be to him a God and he will be to Me a son.  

When I watch a commercial, the product is often new and improved. Now that's great for getting folks to buy it, but what about me who already bought the old, lousy version last month? There is a lot of joy in our second lesson today, about a new heaven and earth, joined together as one by the heavenly Jerusalem, where God and man will be together like they were way back in that first paradise. When God makes all things new, it will certainly be great. But we are currently left here in this old earth, apart from heaven.

Such is life for us as we await the last day when Jesus will return to make all things new. In the meantime, Jesus is not able to be seen by us. He's gone as He told His disciples "for a little while". But it surely doesn't seem like a little while at all. It's been almost 2000 years, and still Jesus hasn't returned! It's almost enough to cause us to give up hope that He'll ever come back to make it all new.

But it really is just a "little while" in the big scheme of things. For when Jesus gave up His life on the cross He did so to give you eternal life. No amount of wait time compares with life everlasting, does it? Your heavenly home is already secured for you by the water of life--your birthday unto life eternal. Your Baptism day became the first day of your life forever with Jesus. Your reign with Jesus in heaven began that day, and it lasts for time immemorial. So waiting a bit until we see Jesus is not hard.

Separation anxiety seems to set in for you at times, knowing that there is a split between heaven and earth for a time yet. While the saints above are basking in the joys of paradise with their Savior, you here below may grow a bit jealous of what they now enjoy. In the interim, you live in a very sinful world, where temptations abound, far away from heaven, where sin and death seem to reign supreme.

But Belinda Carlisle may have been correct when she sang prophetically, "Heaven is a place on earth." For these brief moments this morning, God does indeed bring His heavenly presence to be among us here. Jesus who tabernacled among men on the earth when He first came, will tabernacle with mankind again. And He tabernacles within you when He feeds you with His ever-living body come down from the right hand of God's throne, and gives you His life-blood to drink for your forgiveness.

Yet it's difficult waiting for things to be finished. Like the birthday present "with some assembly required" seems to take some of the joy out of the gift, you may become frustrated knowing that you live in a yet-to-be-completed work which fixes all things. You dwell now within the problem of this sin-sick world. It's so contagious that you've caught this deadly disease of sin yourself, in need of a cure.

But don't be anxious about this temporary time of sorrow, for the remedy is yours in Christ Jesus. "These things are done" Jesus says to John in Revelation. "It is finished!" Jesus says to you from the cross. All that was needed to save you from your sins, Jesus has already accomplished for you, from His perfect life of obedience which earned everlasting life for you, to His innocent suffering and death which destroyed your death, to His raising Himself to life to bring the life of immortality to light for you!

So don't remain sorrowful simply because you live in the not-yet of this world separated from heaven. Rejoice that the same God Who is at work for you know will also bring all things to completion on the last day. Rejoice in those ways that God is already with you, being your God so that you can be His son. Be reminded daily that you are a baptized child of God, now and forevermore. Receive Jesus into your ears in the proclamation of His gospel love for you. Have your thirst quenched by much better than a 100oz big gulp–by the cup of salvation, the new testament in Jesus' blood for your forgiveness!


Hymns for today from LSB:

Monday, April 22, 2013

Easter 4 aka Good Shepherd Sunday

After these things I saw, and look a great crowd, which no one was able to count, out of every ethnicity and tribes and peoples and languages, standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and palms in their hands, and they cried in great voice, saying; "the salvation in our God, in the One sitting upon the throne and in the Lamb." And all the angels were standing around the throne and the presbyters and the four living ones, and they fell before the throne and knelt in worship before God saying "Amen, the blessing and the glory and the wisdom and the thanksgiving and the honor and the power and the strength in our God into the ages of the ages. Amen." And answered, one out of the presbyters saying to me, "These the ones dressed in the white robes, who are they and from where have they come?" And I say to him, "My master, you know," and He said to me, "these are the ones coming out of the great tribulation, and they washed their robes and whitened them in the blood of the Lamb. Through this, they are in front of the throne of God and serve Him in worship day and night in His sanctuary; and the One sitting upon the throne tabernacles upon them. They will not hunger still, nor will they thirst still, no, the sun will not fall upon them nor all heat; for the Lamb, the One in the middle of the throne will shepherd them and will lead their way upon springs of the waters of life, and "God will wipe every tear out of their eyes."  

Today we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday, as God directs our attention to the work of Jesus who leads us to green pastures and still waters. He is our Shepherd, and as such He takes care of us as His beloved lambs. But Jesus is no ordinary Shepherd. He's no guy who watches over sheep just because somebody is paying Him to do it. He's no hireling. In fact, Jesus is the very opposite of a money grubber. As your Good Shepherd, Jesus cares for you as His Own no matter what it costs Him 

Just what did it cost Jesus? A whole lot! The price Jesus paid to be your Good Shepherd was enormous! First, to be the best shepherd for you, Jesus begins by humbling Himself to be exactly the same as you. You are a lamb in need of care, so Jesus becomes a lamb like you. Although He was God in heaven above, He didn't consider His God-ness something to hold on to, so He humbled Himself to come down to this world to be born as a human person, in every way just like you.

But understand, this was just the very beginning of Jesus' humiliation for you. Things only got worse for Him from there. Because you have failed so miserably in loving God with your whole heart, and in loving your neighbor as you love yourself, Jesus came to live under God's Law in your place. Where you failed to keep the commandments, your Savior lived under the burden of God's Law perfectly, obedient in every thought, word and act. He alone was righteous before God the Father in heaven.

Yet Jesus didn't just take your place in life here on earth. He went one step further. Jesus made Himself to be a perfect sacrifice for your sin. He offered Himself up as the sacrificial Lamb killed in your place. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, became a Lamb like you to lay down His life unto death for you. He takes the punishment you deserved at Calvary. He lays down His life embracing your sin and death as His Own, in order to take it up again to bring life and immortality to light for you.

Jesus does not remain a dead Lamb, but raises Himself to life again to continue being your Good Shepherd. For you daily sin much. You need your filthy garments cleansed in the waters of your baptism, made white in those waters of life. The robe you wear in front of your heavenly Father's throne is the robe of Jesus' Own righteousness, exchanged with you for your sin which He bore in His body on the tree of Calvary. Jesus' holiness, His goodness, Christ's pure righteousness is yours–a gift

You aren't just washed with the water which flowed from Jesus' pierced side, but also you are cleansed by His blood shed for you at Golgotha. The Good Shepherd laid down His body in death at the cross so that you may eat it in the Lord's Supper. He shed His cleansing blood for you there so that you now drink it in the cup of salvation which is in the Lamb. With this blessed food of Holy Communion, you know that you will neither hunger nor thirst any more before God's throne in heaven.

So you see, this is precisely how Jesus, the Lamb of God, has become your shepherd, using under-shepherds like your pastor to wash you in Holy Baptism, lead you to the green pastures of the Lord's Table, and proclaim the Good Shepherd's voice to you, which by the gift of faith, you recognize. You are those whom Jesus will shepherd through the great tribulation, wiping every tear from your eyes. Jesus shepherds you here, until you stand in front of the throne of God in the sanctuary of heaven.


Hymns for today from LSB:
#710  The Lord's My Shepherd I'll Not Want
#709  The King of Love My Shepherd Is
#740  I am Jesus' Little Lamb


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Easter 2 John 20:19-31

John: to the 7 churches the ones in Asia; grace to you and peace from the One Who was, and the One Who is, and the One coming, and from the 7 spirits which face His throne, and from Jesus Christ, The Witness, the Faithful, The Firstborn of the dead and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To the One loving us and freeing us out of our sins in His blood, And He made us a kingdom, priests to God and His Father, to Him the glory and the power into the ages of the ages. Amen. Look He comes with the clouds, and all eyes will see Him also the ones piercing Him, and all the tribes of the earth will grieve upon him. Yes, Amen. I Myself am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, the One Who was, the One Who is, and the One coming, the Ruler of all. I, John, your brother and sharer in the tribulation and kingdom and endurance in Jesus, was on the island, the one called Patmos on account of the Word of God and the witness of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day and I heard behind me a great sound as a trumpet saying, “What you see, you write into a book and send to the 7 churches...And I turned to look at the sound which spoke with me, and having turned I saw 7 lamps of gold, and in the midst of the lamps one like a Son of Man dressed in a long robe and belted across His chest with a golden belt. And his head and hair white as wool, white as snow and His eyes as a flame of fire and His feet like bronze as it glows in a furnace and His voice as a sound of much water, and having in His right hand 7 stars and out of His mouth a sharp double-edged sword, and His outward appearance as the sun shining in its power. And when I saw Him, I fell to his feet as a dead person, and He placed His right hand upon me saying, “Stop being afraid; I Myself am the First and the Last and the Living one, and I was dead and look, alive I am into the ages of the ages and I–the keys of the death and of the Hades.      
Jesus is still Risen! Yes, the One who was dead now lives. Just as He lived to show Himself to unbelieving Thomas on earth, He also lives now in heaven above as He revealed Himself to John. But even more importantly to you, Jesus is still Risen for you. He still lives for the sake of the churches where His gospel love is preached, and where His actions of love are received in the sacraments. Jesus is, for you, the Firstborn from the dead, so that with Him, though you die, you live!
There is little doubt, of course, that Jesus was. Even the worst of historians will concede that a man named Jesus lived 2000 years ago in Palestine. But the fact that Jesus still is? This is difficult to accept. He died, after all. How can He make Himself alive when He’s dead? Thomas wouldn’t believe it. Many today doubt that Jesus still lives after death. You, yourself may have doubts at times too.
But the evidence that Jesus lives is all around you. He Who rules now over this world’s kings has made you to be a kingdom, to be priests with access to all of God’s blessings! Instead of you making sacrifices to try to please God as the priests of old, you are freed from your sins already by Jesus blood shed for you, and by His body given up as an offering for you. You taste and see that He is good!
There is also much doubt about Jesus’ return. The early church expected Him to come back quickly, and here it is 2000 years now and Jesus hasn’t reappeared yet. Many skeptics will wrongly assume that Jesus is never coming back. John himself may have had his own doubts as the sole surviving Apostle imprisoned on the isle of Patmos. Perhaps you have doubts about Jesus returning to earth.
So Jesus appears to John to show him that there is no reason for doubting, since the Son of Man is clearly alive. John is told to write this down to the 7 churches, meaning all the churches of God’s divine judgment, which includes our congregation. As He speaks, His voice is like the sound of much water, to remind you of your Baptism, washed by water and word, you are raised in Jesus to new life!
Even if you have no doubts about Jesus, you may have doubts about yourself. It’s already been a long while awaiting Jesus’ return, and it could be a long time yet. Like John, you live in the age of tribulation, with all sorts of temptations, trials and troubles abounding just because you are a Christian. You may be so overwhelmed that you faint dead away like John did before the appearance of Jesus.
But Jesus word of gospel love encourages you. He says to you, as He did to John, “Stop being afraid!” He tells you that He has won the victory over sin, death and hell, and now holds the Keys in His hand. Those keys lock up death and hades forever, and open the door of heaven for you! He Who now lives forever gives to you life everlasting in paradise with Him, into the ages of the ages! Amen.