Saturday, November 30, 2013

Your King Comes to You

Sermon on Mathhew 21:1-11
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
December 1, 2013 (First Sunday in Advent)

“Your King is coming to you, humble and riding on a donkey.”  A king, humble?  The Ruler of heaven and earth, relying upon a donkey, of all animals, to get Him to where He is going?  For that matter, during His whole three-year ministry, the Creator of the world walking around as a pedestrian when He could simply “be” where He wished?  What is going on here?  Why would our Lord stoop to this?  The adoration and praise He receives from this crowd is nothing compared to the triumphant symphony of angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven which cry, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth!” eternally.  The carpet of cloaks and palm branches is nothing compared to the adoration of the six-winged seraphim which bow humbly and modestly in His presence and praise Him, His Father, and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Well, His kingship is different than that of any other king in recorded history.  His own ancestor, David, tried to be a king in the model of his great Descendant, Jesus Christ, but being a mere man he never lived up to it.  Power corrupts, they say, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Ancient kings would have been called totalitarian dictators in today’s language.  Even though David and his son Solomon were believers in the true King who would eventually spring from their line, they seldom lived up to His example.  One need only look at that whole Bathsheba scandal, or the many foolish things that wise king Solomon did which he wrote about in Ecclesiastes, to see that even the best worldly kings are still motivated by the desire for wealth, power, and control that dominates all of fallen humanity.  Yes, Solomon concludes that all human, this-worldly striving is vanity and a chasing after the wind, but he admits that he used his power and wealth to engage in these vanities in order to come to that conclusion, when simply looking at the Ten Commandments really should have been sufficient for him to realize this.

Since all earthly kings, including our Lord’s own ancestors, rule the way human beings corrupted by sin will always rule, we tend to think that a king whose only desire really is to give himself for his people, to sacrifice himself so that his people can be free, is the exception rather than the rule.  And with good reason.  Someone once said that one of the most frightening things someone knocking on the door could ever say is, “We’re from the government; we’re here to help you.”  To be sure, as St. Paul points out in the passage that immediately precedes today’s epistle, God Himself rules even through bad governments, and it is out of respect for Him as well as the need to carry out our vocations without jail time getting in the way, that should motivate us to respect those who have a legal claim (whether just or unjust) on our time, talents, and treasure.  And make no mistake, none of us, whether liberal or conservative, whether libertarian or socialist, would ever do anything different under the circumstances, because we are the same as they are, curved in on ourselves and using whatever power we have to glorify ourselves and increase our own popularity and power, something that all politicians do no matter what side of the aisle they are on.

But the effect of all this is that when we look at the true King, the true Ruler of heaven and earth, we think that His method of ruling over His people is downright bizarre.  And yet, it is the Creator whose method of ruling is actually normative.  It is He who rides on a donkey and comes to His people to die, rather than expecting them to come to Him and pay tribute, who is the true picture of what it means to be the king.  It only looks bizarre to us because He’s the only human being who can truly rule the way God rules, because He is the only human being who is God.

And how does God rule?  God rules by serving.  He demands homage, but the homage He demands is to receive from Him His gifts.  He is God precisely because He gives.  He is God precisely because He is the one who made us.  And that means He is God, and He is acclaimed by his people as God, precisely in the things He does to provide for and sustain them, rather than in the things they do for Him.  He comes to us to serve us.  He comes to earth to die.  He comes humble and riding on a donkey.  His people’s praise is not given because He likes to hear people saying nice things about Himself.  What He did during Holy Week leading up to Good Friday seemed almost calculated to drive away those who followed Him and sang His praises on Palm Sunday.

And that’s what He does here, today.  He comes to serve.  Our homage to Him is to receive Him, not to do things for Him.  He serves us by giving Himself as the food of heaven.  He serves us by taking our disasters, sicknesses, sins, and vicious selfishness upon Himself and burying them in the ground with Himself.  And so His coming is something worth singing about.  It is precisely because He created, sustains, died for, rose again for, sanctifies, and glorifies us that moves us to sing with the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven as well as with the crowd on Palm Sunday, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabaoth!  Hosanna in the highest!  Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!”  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving

Sermon on Luke 17:11-18
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
November 28, 2013 (Day of National Thanksgiving)

What is the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer?  Give us this day our daily bread.  What does this mean?  God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.  What is meant by daily bread?  Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.

Luther says here that the first and foremost way we thank God for the blessings He has given us, is to pray for them in the first place.  After all, God gives everything needed to support this body and life to everyone, whether or not they pray for it.  In fact, He gives everything needed to support this body and life even to those who don’t believe He exists in the first place.  And so the reason we pray is not because He won’t help us if we don’t, but in order to teach us that He is the one who gives us everything.  As Luther points out in the Large Catechim, that’s what the word God means: “that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress[.]”  Which means that when we pray, we are confessing our faith that the Triune God is the one who gives us everything and helps us in every time of need.  And in that sense every prayer is a prayer of thanksgiving.  Every prayer acknowledges God as the Creator and the Giver of all good gifts, because every true prayer looks toward Him.

But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t explicitly thank Him for His mercy toward us.  Just as his mercy toward us comes to us in many ways, so also our confession of faith in Him takes many forms.  And it needs to come in many forms.  We all are selfish and lazy and would rather not be reminded who it is that gives us everything, and so God has given us many ways to remind us of His goodness toward us.  In addition to the simple fact that we pray to him concerning our needs, we also explicitly give thanks to Him that He does, in fact, provide for us.  We tell others what He has done for us.  We sing, we pray the creeds, we pray along with the prayer of thanksgiving in the liturgy, we thank Him for the food we eat, we thank Him in the morning and evening that He has taken care of us.  And today, even though it’s a day set aside by a secular government to give thanks to whatever and whomever one wills, is also an opportunity to give thanks to Him for His many blessings toward us.

But if it were only the blessings of this life that we were thankful for, that wouldn’t really be giving Him very much glory, now, would it?  No matter how well you have it (or how much turkey you’re going to eat later on today), everything in this old world will have an end.  No matter what blessings God has given you in this life, you won’t be able to take it with you.  And so our true thanksgiving, our true Eucharist (by the way, that’s the Greek word for “thanksgiving”) is found when we receive His eternal blessings.  He hasn’t just given us this life; by His death on the cross He took away our sin and gave us eternity.  He hasn’t just given us this life and everything that supports it, He has given us His death on the cross and His glorious resurrection by washing us in His Word connected with water.  He hasn’t just given us food and drink, He has given us His Son’s crucified body and shed blood.  He hasn’t just given us clothing and shoes, He has given us His Son’s righteousness which cover our sin and make us acceptable to His wedding banquet.  In short, He hasn’t just given everything we need to support this body and life, He’s given us everything we need to support our bodies and lives in the world to come.  If it weren’t for that, our lives in this old world would be meaningless, a chasing after the wind.  But because we have eternity, we can live every day in this life as those who already have everything and need not worry about our needs.  Because we have eternity, our daily bread is a gift with which to serve our neighbor.  Because we have eternity, we have Jesus, whose death and resurrection are our life.  And so it is truly meet, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places give thanks to Him who has given us these blessings.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Today You Will Be with Me in Paradise

Sermon on Luke 23:27-43
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
November 24, 2013 (Last Sunday of the Church Year)

The last Sunday of the Church year is also known in many churches as “Christ the King Sunday.”  This festival celebrates the fact that Christ shall reign forever and ever and we shall be His people and He our God eternally, which brings to a fitting, triumphant conclusion the end-times theme of these last few Sundays in the Church Year.

However, the choice of Gospel lesson for this Sunday in series C looks a bit odd, to say the least.  The only reference to Christ’s kingship is the somewhat mocking inscription placed by Pilate on the sign over Jesus’ head, the sign which would normally be used to indicate the crime which earned the man hung there his death sentence.  Focusing on Jesus’ crucifixion on this day, of all days, seems downright bizarre, especially since His kingship is only acknowledged by the inscription of a non-crime which seems designed by Pilate only to mock the Jewish leadership for getting so upset about such a harmless Man.

The thing of it was, however, that what Pilate wrote as mockery was, in fact, precisely the point of what Jesus was doing there.  The King of the Jews had in fact claimed His throne, but His throne was made of wood.  It was a throne from which He hung rather than being seated on it.  He had claimed His crown, but that crown was made of thorns.  The crowd on Good Friday were reacting to Christ out of the hate and anger that was in their sinful hearts – the same hate and anger toward God and toward authority that is in all of our sinful hearts – but they spoke better than they knew, because they were asking for what Christ had come to do in the first place.  They were asking for Jesus to be crucified, which is precisely what He had come to do.

Now, we might be horrified and sickened by the sight of Christ on the cross.  And many Christians are made uncomfortable by the crucifix.  Many times I have heard people saying that we Lutherans shouldn’t have crucifixes because we believe in a resurrected Christ (which is a little bit silly, because all that an empty cross means is that He was taken down and buried, not that He was resurrected) or because the crucifix is “too Catholic,” but that’s not really why people don’t like crucifixes.  The crucifix reminds us that sin has consequences.  It reminds us that the forgiveness of sin is not just a matter of saying, “Oh, God will forgive me because He’s just a nice God.”  It reminds us that the forgiveness of sins is a matter of Jesus suffering and dying a horrid, bloody, painful execution in our place, which means that sin, including our sin, is serious, bloody, painful business.  It is a reminder to us that we all were among those who shouted, “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!” that first Good Friday, because it was our sin that put Him there.  That’s not a comfortable thought, that we are the cause of that much pain and suffering.  But He does it willingly.  He does it out of love for His creatures.  He does it because He is a God who is love, and that means that he will give Himself up to death so that we might have eternal life.

And giving is precisely what God does.  After all, that’s what makes Him God.  He made the universe.  He sustains it and takes care of His creatures who live within it, not for any selfish motivation on His part, but simply because He is our Father and He loves us the way a dear father loves his dear children.  His identity as God, in other words, is seen not so much in the power and glory that give Him the ability to sustain and uphold creation, but rather in the love and the mercy that give Him the reason to sustain and uphold creation, so that we, His dear children, can receive His gifts.

And, of course, the highest gift of all, as we will be celebrating only a little more than a month from now, is that He sent His Son to take on human flesh, live a perfect life, and die in our place.  That’s where we truly see the love of God.  And, because God’s true glory is not so much in His power but in His love for us, His kingship is truly seen in the fact that He gives us everything we need for this life and for the life to come.  His kingship is most clearly seen in His love for His creatures, love that would cause Him to be born of the Virgin Mary, suffer under Pontius Pilate, be crucified, die, and be buried.

And so, really where you should look if you want to see Jesus’ kingship is not so much at Him seated at the right hand of God the Father (although He is seated there) but at the cross.  That really is His throne.  The thorns really are His crown.  These things that He suffered for us really are what show us most clearly what sort of a king He is.  He is a king who loves His subjects so much that He is willing to die defending them from sin, death, and the devil.  He is a king who has such mercy and compassion on His people that He is willing to be known by them first and foremost as weak, humble, obedient to His Father even to the point of death, despised, rejected, the Man of Sorrows.  He is the king who comes to us not demanding tribute or taxes but giving His own body and blood to be our food.  He is the king who wishes to give rather than to be given to.  That’s the sort of king He is.  The sort of king who rules by serving, whose demand from His subjects is simply that they believe and trust in Him and thereby receive His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.  His royal command is, “Today, you will be with Me in paradise.”  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Your Redemption Is Drawing Near

Sermon on Luke 20:27-40
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
November 10, 2013 (Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost)

In this old world, nothing is permanent.  Nothing will last forever.  Eventually everything under this old sun falls down or gets knocked over.  It’s true of buildings, it’s true of nations, it’s true even of geological structures.  It all decays, it all disintegrates, it’s all destroyed.  And that’s horrifying, if you think about it too long.  There is nothing and no one in this old world in whom we can ultimately place our trust.  Nothing we build for ourselves will last forever, either.  The sentence of death God pronounced upon Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 is still working itself out.  Even those places where God has chosen for His name to dwell there, will be torn down.  It happened to the temple.  It has happened to many, many churches through the ages.  No earthly place is safe from the effects of sin.  Death and destruction is the ultimate end of everything in this old world.

The confusing thing about this section of St. Luke’s Gospel is that Jesus seems to go back and forth between the destruction of Jerusalem, which would take place a little less than 40 years from when He spoke these words, and the end of this old creation.  The discussion starts when the disciples start to admire the Temple in Jerusalem, and He reminds them that the Temple is temporary.  But the place where God dwells shouldn’t be temporary, because God isn’t temporary.  And it is certainly true that the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans was a horrifying time for those who lived there.  Living inside the city meant being so desperate for food that they turned even to cannibalism.  Compared to that, the destruction of a mere building, even if it was God’s building, seems almost to be a relief, because it meant that the time of horror was over.

But can God’s Temple ever really be destroyed?  If you tear it down, won’t God rebuild it?  Actually, yes, He will rebuild it.  And it will take Him only three days to do so.  You see, the building in Jerusalem had ceased to be the true temple of God already several decades before this.  The place where God had caused His Name to dwell was no longer a building, but a man.  “Tear down this temple,” Jesus says, “And I will rebuild it in three days.”  Everyone misunderstood Him as referring to the building, and it was even one of the accusations leveled against Him during His trial, that He had threatened to destroy the Temple.  But He didn’t say He would destroy it, but that they would destroy it.  He only promised to rebuild it.  And rebuild it He did.  He rose again from the grave on the third day.  Jesus wasn’t only talking about the physical building when He said that the Temple would be surrounded by Roman swords (though that did happen).  The true Temple was also surrounded by Roman swords and then was torn down.  One sword even pierced that temple, and blood and water came out, signifying that His death means our life.  The Roman siege of Jerusalem was horrifying; the Roman siege of the Son of God was even worse.  The sun turned to darkness, the moon to blood.  The dead were raised up.  The water of life and the blood that cleanses flowed freely down the hillside.

Amidst all this terror and horror, it is tempting to despair.  It is tempting to give up working faithfully and patiently in the callings God has given us in life.  It was tempting for many in the Church in Thessalonica.  It’s tempting also today, to abandon our sober and patient work in service to God and the neighbor, and be selfish and lazy.  After all, it’s all going to be destroyed anyway, so what good is it to help our neighbor?  Why not just get what fun we can, eat drink, and be merry, since it’s all going to come crashing down soon anyway?  But Paul, and Jesus, reminds us that since we look forward to the true Temple, the true Kingdom of God, we can be patient.  We can serve God and our neighbor patiently in our own callings in life.  Luther once said that even if he knew that the next day was Judgment Day, he’d still go out and plant a tree.  It’s precisely because the end is coming that we should go about our lives as if we were already living in the the new creation.

Because that’s what we are, after all.  The reason why we can work patiently and orderly in the midst of all the chaos and destruction, as Paul encourages in today’s Epistle, is because the resurrection has already happened.  It was the creation itself that died and rose again on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  The generation living then really did see the end of the world, even though we still patiently wait for it almost 2,000 years later.  The death and destruction of a world fatally wounded by sin and staggering toward its deathbed, were taken out on the very Creator of that world.  The creation can’t kill the Creator, however.  Instead the reverse happens.  The world is fatally poisoned by its own attempt to chew up and swallow its Maker.  And so death becomes birth, the grave becomes the womb out of which comes the new heavens and the new earth.  The old has passed away, the new has come.  You are no longer of the world, even while you live in it, because you joined your God on the tree and in the grave, by means of water connected with and comprehended in God’s Word.  Yes, you still experience the violent and wrenching death throes of this old world.  But the old creation has already given birth to the new.  The resurrected body and blood of Jesus which you eat and drink today belong to the new heavens and the new earth, precisely because He is the Resurrected One.  Look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Dead Are Raised

Sermon on Luke 20:27-40
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
November 10, 2013 (Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost)

The dead are raised.  We know this because God didn’t create death in the first place.  Death is not a natural part of life, despite what many grief counselors (and even, unfortunately, many pastors) say.  We were created to live with our Creator.  And our Creator doesn’t do temporary things, because He Himself isn’t temporary.  He created us to enjoy His presence and His love forever.  Death only entered this world by sin, and sin is not more powerful than God.  Which means that when God and death tangle, God will, and must, come out on top.  Good and evil are not two equal and opposite forces.  Good and evil are not even two equal and opposite things.  Evil isn’t a thing; it’s the absence of a thing called goodness, just as darkness isn’t a thing, it’s the absence of a thing called light.  God is the creator, and Satan is a mere creature who deluded himself and therefore caught up others in his delusion.  God will, simply because He is God, have His way.

The true people of God have always had two errors on either side of them: one which affirms that God will raise the dead and take His people to be with Him eternally, but thinks that our own works are either how we get there or, at the very least, how we know we’re getting there.  The other side, if it even recognizes God’s existence at all, denies that God can do things which are outside the normal realm of human experience.  The former group has been know at various times in history as the Pharisees, the Monastics, and more recently in Protestantism as the Pietists (this is also the majority position among most so-called “evangelical” churches today).  The latter group has been known as the Saducees, the Humanists, the Rationalists, the Higher Critics, and the mainline liberals in our own day.

While the Pharisees are wrong when they make man the source of his own salvation and his own relationship with God, the Sadducees are worse because they make themselves into the arbiters of what is possible in creation itself.  When there is a disagreement between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the Pharisees are the ones who are in the right.  God’s people will be raised.  What we observe in this old, messed-up world is not all there is.  Yes, the laws of nature are consistent because God is a God of order, and therefore science can study natural things with the use of logic and reason.  But to actively deny that something exists because we can’t scientifically prove it does exist is arrogant and absurd (unless, of course, you want to argue that atoms, electrons, photons, and the like didn’t actually exist until we discovered them, and, well, if you go down that road you eventually wind up with cognitive breakdown and insanity, because the logical conclusion is that nobody and nothing else but me existed until I “discovered” it into existence).  Jesus points out in today’s Gospel that the Sadducees and their modern-day counterparts are simply flat wrong and are really putting themselves in charge of their own little imaginary universes, in which God is limited by what man can imagine, rather than the other way around.  Ultimately both the Pharisees and the Saducees are wrong.  The one tries to influence God by man’s action, the other tries to become god of his own little universe.  Neither give God the glory that properly is His.

But the dead are raised.  They are restored to what God originally intended them to be.  The Son of God took upon Himself the war and division which marks this fallen world, and even allowed Himself to be separated, body from soul, on the cross.  But you fundamentally cannot do that to the Creator.  The resurrection was not the end result of an uncertain battle between equal and opposite forces named “good” and “evil.”  The resurrection was, in fact, the necessary consequence of Jesus subjecting Himself to death in the first place.  Death isn’t a thing, it’s the absence of a thing called life.

What this means is that the dead are raised.  It means that there is more to our existence than can be perceived with our five senses (even when we enhance those senses using tools like microscopes, telescopes, and other scientific instruments).  We know this to be true because Jesus was raised.  There is no other credible explanation for the documentary evidence, not only inside but also outside the Scriptures, not only from Christian believers but even from their opponents, that has come from first-century Palestine, where all this took place.

And so, because Jesus was raised, we are raised.  Yes, life in eternity is, was, and will be fundamentally different than it is here.  We can describe all sorts of things that it won’t be like (Jesus uses marriage as one example, to refute the Sadducees’ objections here), but we don’t have the logical categories to describe what life in a place outside created time even means.  That’s how limited we are, and how arrogant we are if we assume that the rules of this creation are applicable to life before God’s face.  While there is an end to our existence in this world, but God in Jesus Christ has redeemed us out of that fate and given us to sit with Him at His Father’s right hand.  That’s what you will inherit.  That’s the place you enjoy even right now, though you can’t perceive it.  But you are there.  You are with the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.  The cloud of witnesses is here, gathered for His feast.  Amen.

+Soli Deo Gloria+

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Blessed Are the Saints

Sermon on Matthew 5:1-12
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
November 3, 2013 (The Feast of All Saints)

Today’s Gospel lesson is the very first part of the Sermon on the Mount.  It is, for obvious reasons, often called “The Blessings.”  Well, usually we say that in Latin.  But that’s what the word beatitude means: blessing.  It’s not the “be-attitudes,” as some Christians call it, because it’s not supposed to be a list of laws to follow (not to mention the fact that “be-attitudes” is a complete misunderstanding of the Latin word itself).  It’s not what we’re supposed to become by our own reason or strength.  Granted, some of these do describe things we can outwardly at least pretend to do by our own decision or will.  But mourning and being persecuted are things that happen to us, not things we do.  It’s something that the world imposes on us, not something we can or should seek out.  A person who goes out and actively seeks to be persecuted, is usually not being persecuted for his faith.  Usually that sort of thing lands you in trouble not for Jesus’ sake but because you’re simply being an annoying jerk about it.  And while trying to do the other things in the beatitudes isn’t as likely to land you in trouble, it won’t work.  You can’t do those things with any degree of perfection.  You always want to get ahead.  And even when you try to live humbly and meekly, you get proud of your humility.  It’s hopeless and just runs you around in a desperate circle that ultimately winds up in despair.

Instead of being things we’re supposed to do to gain the blessings described, these things are descriptions of what God’s people, His holy ones, His saints, really are, even though in the world’s eyes they often seem to be the very opposite.  The poor, the mournful, the meek, the hungry, and the ones who don’t get very far in this life because they don’t do what’s necessary to get ahead at others’ expense, and even those who are persecuted, really are the heirs of the true riches of God’s kingdom.  All of these things are descriptions of what it means to be a Christian, fruits that come from the tree of faith in our Savior, not works that we do to become a Christian.  You can’t tape a bunch of apples to an oak and make it into an apple tree.  Not even if you use duct tape.  Rather, these are descriptions of what we have become because God has created in us a clean heart and renewed within us a right spirit, by uniting us with Him who is clean and pure, but for our sake became sin and death on the cross.

And, really, isn’t that the point?  Jesus is the One to whom the Kingdom of heaven truly belongs, the one who is the sender of the Comforter, the One who is the Heir of creation, who is Himself righteousness and salvation, who is, as the creator, the one who mercifully provides for everyone and everything, who is in the eternal fellowship of His Father and beholds His face always, namely the Son of God Himself, became poor, mournful, meek, hungry, thirsty, self-sacrificing, and so on for us.  The ultimate persecution for righteousness’ sake was the death of God Himself on the cross.

But that’s why the Beatitudes are descriptions of saints.  Because it is His righteousness that He gave to us when we were crucified with Him and raised with Him in Baptism.  These aren’t things we go out and do to become great in the Kingdom of God.  They are things that simply describe us because we have become united with Him who is the rightful Heir of all these things.

The other thing that is paradoxical about the beatitudes is the strange combination of present tense and future tense in several of the sentences.  Jesus doesn’t say, “Blessed shall be those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  He also doesn’t say, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they are comforted.”  Even the first beatitude, which sounds like the end of the sentence is in the present tense, speaks of an inheritance, which is something one will get in the future.  Jesus speaks of a present reality which is nevertheless in the future.  Here again, since we’re dealing with the almighty God, the creator of time itself, things don’t always need to match up to an orderly progression from past to present to future.  We will experience the full glory and benefits of our citizenship in the Kingdom of God in eternity, but that glory and those benefits belong to us even now, here on earth.  It is the full reality of the heirs of heaven which belongs to us right now, even though to all the world we might look poor and miserable indeed.  For example, inheriting the earth doesn’t just mean that we’ll eventually rule the world, it also means that even right now the earth itself exists for the sake of God’s Church.  The only reason God keeps creation itself in existence is so that the Gospel can be proclaimed to all the world.  If there were no more Christians to do that, then it would be pointless for God to keep this old, broken world in existence any longer.  Our hunger and thirst being satisfied doesn’t just mean that in eternity we our needs will be filled even before we are aware that the need exists, but that our hunger and thirst for righteousness is filled today, here, in this room, with the body and blood of Him who is righteousness itself.  Receiving mercy also doesn’t just talk about the fact that all our troubles will be over in eternity, it also means that what God does right now by making us heirs of His kingdom is something He does out of mercy, out of His own love for His creation, even while we were yet sinners.

All Saints’ Day, in other words, is a day that is about all Christians, both those who now experience these blessings, and those who possess them even though they don’t yet experience them with their five senses.  It’s about the fact that God’s Church transcends time and space.  There’s only one Jesus, so all those who are in Him are united with each other as well.  That includes not only those who have gone on before us and all those believers who currently live in this old creation, but even those who have yet to be born.  There is a multitude which is beyond numbering here today, gathered around the throne of the Lamb whose body all Christians eat and whose blood all Christians drink.  The altar of God in heaven is joined to our altar here in Elmwood Park.  And, as Jesus promised in the beatitudes, they neither hunger nor thirst anymore, the sun and the heat shall not scorch them, and the Lamb is the Shepherd who gives them the living water will wipe away every tear from their eyes.  Both today in this room, and in eternity, you are the holy ones gathered before the throne of the Lamb, praising Him forever.  Amen.

+Soli Deo Gloria+