Posts Tagged ‘All Saints Sunday’

Eternal Life: Now/Not Yet

Monday, November 7th, 2016

Twenty Fourth Sunday After Trinity-HL, November 6th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church, and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church

Click here for audio of this message

eternal-lifeThis morning, St. Paul speaks for all true pastors, “(We have not ceased in) giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints of light.” [Colossians 1:12]

Now that is good news. God the Father has qualified you in Holy Baptism, through the cross of Jesus Christ to share in the inheritance of heaven, as and with the saints in light. So behold a host, arrayed in white; behold the saints with palms; behold the saint gathered also to receive holy communion, yonder there they stand. Can you see them? Sure you can, with eyes of faith, but for right now you cant see them with your physical eyes. But one day, soon and very soon, maybe sooner than you think you will not only actually and visually perceive them, but you will be them. In fact, God’s Word tells us that we the baptized are a part of them right now!

You do believe in eternal life don’t you? I only ask because those eggheads known as the Sadducees during the time of Jesus, didn’t believe.

At one time, they even tried to embarrass Jesus by asking Him a double pronged question about who in heaven would be the husband of a woman who had had several spouses in this world. Their question showed, said Jesus, that they understood neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.

You see, Holy Scripture teaches that after the resurrection we will live in a new age and in a new manner of life, “like angels,” within a new Paradise where heaven and earth have become one. We will still be individuals in that new life, with our being and even with a new body. St. Paul calls it a “spiritual” body as a way to help us keep our new bodies distinct from our present ones. Our new bodies will not know sickness nor disease, fatigue nor temptation. But at the present time, we still must live in and be thankful for our “physical” body, even though we may even right now be experiencing sickness, disease, temptation, and fatigue. Why? Because our bodies right now are being animated by the life which God in creation bound together with the brain, the nerves, and the living substance of our tissue and limbs. So in other words, this life, our lives are gifts from God! But even so, these bodies are destined to die.

But in the resurrection God will give us a new body, like the body of Jesus after His resurrection. Life in that new body is similar to the very life of Christ. So, in regards to this truth, God confronts us this morning, He confronts our fears of death in this physical world with these Words we read in our Old Testament reading (Isaiah 51:9-16), “Who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass, and have forgotten the LORD, your Maker? (You) who are bowed down (in old age, in sickness and disease, in temptation and fatigue) shall speedily be released, (you) shall not die and go down to the pit, and neither shall (God’s care for you) be lacking.”

This morning, each of us finds our selves very much in a similar situation as the ruler and the woman who suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years in our Gospel lesson (Matthew 9:18-26).

We are similar in that all that we have to place our trust in is Jesus. You have not really seen with your own eyes the power that this Son of God has, but you have heard Word of who He is and what power He has. For the ruler who’s daughter had died, this meant having faith in a Messiah who was even Lord over death. For the woman with the blood disease, it meant believing that Jesus is the Great Physician, who can heal disease and sickness.

But you are dissimilar to these two people of faith in that the Word of God, the promises of God are far more numerous and specific than the ones they had to go on. Notice, I did not say more powerful, because where ever the Word of God is, there is all of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in power and in strength. But the specificness and completeness of all of God’s promises have shown you an even greater miracle. Jesus is also the Lord of eternal life.

Because all of God’s Word is yours by faith, you now can put your trust in the truth that through Jesus Christ, His life, death, and resurrection, God has atoned for your sins, removed them from you as far as the east is from the west. Through His life blood, Jesus has ransomed the world out of the prison and punishment of hell, and in your baptism He has done this great work just for you. But that is not all. Because Jesus has risen from the dead, He promises that you too, like those saints that died in their baptismal faith before you, shall also rise from the dead in a new body to live in a new paradise.

So for us, by faith, eternal life is something that has already begun even in this fallen and sinful world.

But our eternal life is hidden in our faith in Jesus Christ. Just as Christ dwells with the saints in heaven with His life-giving spirit, so too, He dwells with us right now in the same manner, in Word and Sacrament. We live by faith and they live by sight.

On the blessed day of our baptism we were clothed in Christ and we have grown together with Him since then, so that one day we might also share with Him a resurrection that is like His. This is why Jesus can promise you that, because you believe in His work and gifts for you, you too shall obtain eternal life. But Jesus can also say, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” [John 17:3] “…He who hears my Word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life; He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” [John 3:36; John 5:24; Romans 6:13]

This morning in our prayers, we will speak/hear the names of our loved ones, saints who have fallen asleep in Jesus. When we speak of them, we remember God’s grace and mercy that saved them and set them apart as sanctified to do His will during their earthly lives. And when we remember, we give thanks for the life of faith that they lived as an example for us who still walk by faith.

For us this morning, Holy Scripture speaks of eternal life that is hidden with Christ in God by faith. For us, we can compare it to a great treasure hidden within earthen vessels. When the time comes for us to join Jesus and our loved ones who have gone ahead of us, we will, like those who have gone before us, experience eternal life in all of its fullness and glory. But in the meanwhile we walk and live a life of faith that Christ gives us always through His Word and Spirit.

These two forms of life eternal are bound together in this way. One must possess the hidden life of faith if one is to become a partaker in the full revelation of the glory of the resurrection. We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. But to appear there without a portion in the life of Christ, Jesus says, is to be raised up unto judgment and not unto life. Therefore it is true both here and in eternity: “He who has the Son has life.” [1 John 5:12]

This morning we end our message as we began it, confronted with the Word and promise of God. Hear your God speak and be filled with awe and faith and then simply believe those Words: “I have put my words in your mouth and covered you in the shadow of my hand, establishing the heavens and laying the foundations of the earth, and saying to (you the baptized), ‘You are my people.’ ”

May God continue to give us eyes of faith to believe this truth until we are given eternal eyes to see that all things do indeed work together for our good. In Jesus name… AMEN!

Are You Ready For Separation?

Sunday, November 1st, 2015

All Saints Sunday, November 1, 2015
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114

Click here for audio of this message

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared;” [1 John 3:2a]

Think about those words for a moment; what do they mean to you?  Do we really understand what it means to call God our Father, and the Son of God our brother?  How will we think differently about those Words when we leave this world and see and speak to God face to face?  When we are living and praising God with “All Saints” who are arrayed in white?

I am reminded of my youth during the Apollo missions, watching in amazement as each one of the rockets were launched.  Each one started out like a tall building upon the launching pad, until those four words, that to a young boy seemed like magic were spoken: “Houston, we have ignition.”  And then, “Houston, we have lift off.”  And then the real magic took place; some how the cameras were able to follow that rocket being propelled by a continuous explosion of fire for miles into the sky, and when the camera on the ground was no longer able to detect the rocket, “Presto!”  Just like that, a camera attached to the space capsule began to report its images.  Now this is where, the part I especially liked came to happen; the first stage rocket was separated from the second stage with a small explosion, and still the rocket continued forward, until after a few minutes the second stage did the very same thing.  And then, the words I loved to hear were spoken, “Houston, we have separation.”

Are you ready for separation?  Are you ready to shed the things of this world so that you can finally realize perfectly, who God says you already are?

Living a life that leads to separation can be difficult and tumultuous; full of terrifying fire and explosions of emotions. It is both beautiful and frightening all at the same time. Our first reading (Revelation 7:9-11) calls life before separation a tribulation.  Here in this existence of flesh we live, just as untold millions of saints before and after us have lived; saints that make up the church, who have existed since the fall of Adam and Eve.  And each one of us in our own time have been buffeted and attacked by sin, the threat of death, and the devils, and the entire time we are asked by God to simply trust Him,  that our time of tribulation will end soon, and when it does, we will see that it was simply a stage of life that led us to where the saints before us had already passed… into eternity in Paradise.

But is there strength enough to wait?  Yes, in these words…

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” [1 John 3:1a]  Make no mistake friends, this little word love is not the kind of love that the world so easily gives out in all of its many sinful forms.  This love of God is not fickle, temporary, or conditional.  No, this kind of agape love, is the love of full comprehension and understanding, yet its propelled as unstoppable until it sees you through until your final separation.

What I mean by that, is that God loves you even though He knows your every sinful thought and action.

Jesus, the very Son of God came into our flesh and lived through the many tribulations of betrayal, and even death, so that you would be assured that God understands the many temptations you resist and sometimes fall to, and because He understands, He forgives.

God understands the harsh reality of this sinful world that we live in as strangers.  He loves you, and through His Word and sacraments He is sustaining you, just as He did for the saints who have gone before you.  Why?  Because through faith in the life and death of His Son Jesus Christ upon the cross, He has made a way for you to be His child, and through this same Jesus Christ, He has given you a way to know that for sure, He is your Father.

But then why must we experience so much pain, hardships, and tribulations in this stage of life if God loves us so?  Because…

You have not yet separated from this stage of existence.  You are still in this world where all of God’s Christians are called aliens and strangers.  Listen: “The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”[1 John 3:1b]  This is why the church is asked to not just preach the gospel hope for today, but the certainty of that hope for the eternal tomorrow; the time when God calls us to go to our new home in paradise restored.  And I hope, that we have been doing an acceptable job of it, but let’s put it to the test, shall we?  Please fill in the blank for both of these hymns:  “I’m but a stranger here, ________ is my home.” [LSB 748]  “Have no fear little flock, for the Father has chosen to give you ________;”  [LSB 740]  But these hymns would be pointless if they did not have the seal of authenticity of Jesus behind them.  Listen to Jesus’ words about where our trials and tribulations in this world are leading us, and allow them to speak faith into your hearts…

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” [Matthew 5:3-12]

Wonderful words of Comfort and Hope, are they not?

So why must we experience these tribulations of life? Because you have not yet separated into that final stage; we’re still in that 2nd stage of Living the new life under the reality and hope of Holy Baptism, where we have been given the promise of new and eternal life.  Maybe we can better understand this stage of life by thinking back to our first stage, before the first separation; I’m speaking about our prenatal nine month stage, before we were born.

No one here this morning, would regard that nine-month period as the whole meaning of life, where nothing else exists. By now we know better.  But let’s just say, by way of illustration, that during our pre-natal life we had the capacity to think, to hope or not hope, and so on. And let us add that while in our mother’s womb we got word that another life was waiting for us, a life that might last an incredibly long time of eighty or ninety years or more. The new world we would someday enter would contain light in which we could see things and vast reaches of space in which we could move around. It would contain towering skyscrapers, majestic mountains, strange looking creatures called animals, large plants called trees, four-wheeled vehicles traveling at shocking speeds; why we were told there were even towers that are propelled into space by an explosion of fire called rockets. Someday, we were assured, we would be able to do such impossible things as walk and talk. What’s more, we wouldn’t be alone in this vast new world; there would be millions of other creatures similar to our self. Yet strangest of all would be the mode of entering this new world, a rather perilous process called birth, involving pain, danger, doctors, and hospitals, a process we would never guess could thrust us into such a beautiful life as we live at presently.

Now what reaction might an unborn child have toward this talk of another and more abundant life, assuming that an unborn child can have reactions? In spite of the fact that the child couldn’t possibly understand what earthly life would be like, that child could still believe in it and look forward to it. And doing that, would make the child’s nine-month existence much more pleasant. Or conversely, the child could be a realist and assume that the dark, warm, and enveloping womb that is home, is all that there is to life, and beyond that dreaded process called birth there is nothing more but the end. All this talk about another life is just wishful thinking, and one might better make the most of what they’ve got.

Then comes the day—the day of birth. It turns out true, after all, gloriously true! There is another life. You can live eighty or ninety years, or more! There are such things as light and space and skyscrapers and mountains and animals and plants and fast-moving vehicles and rockets!  You can walk and talk. And this dreaded process called birth, in spite of appearances, turns out, after all, to be the gateway to this new and wonderful world.

I’m sure you see where we’re going with this illustration. Our present life is not the climax of life; it is but a phase in our journey, until our final separation. In relation to the heavenly life, we might call it a pre-natal stage. We have it on good word—God’s word— that there is another life, another world ahead of us called heaven. In it we shall live unbelievably long—forever! It is a world without space or time. Angels will share mansions with us. We shall behold the face of God. We shall see him as he is. In fact, we shall be like him. All the ills and inconveniences of this present life, chief of which is sin, will have vanished. We’ll be with all those who have gone ahead of us, even the ones we love and miss who went to sleep in Jesus before us!

Dear friends, it will be a great day when Jesus calls us home to glory.  We will behold the Lamb of God, and along with the host arrayed in white, we will behold His nail scared hands, and simply stand before His throne of grace and call out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord.”  But that great day has not yet come for us who are called children of God, and yet are still sojourners in this sinful world.  We know that because God calls us His children, we are!  And we also know that there is no stage of existence beyond that final state of separation.  And in this knowledge we not only wait in hope for this final stage of separation, but in this hope we are being purified just as Christ is pure. [1 John 3:3]

Listen, the world will give you all kinds of things that they claim you should hope in.  They will offer you the brother and sisterhood of man and claim that there is no greater calling than to work towards that hope.  They will offer you the hope of science, world order, and the proper disbursement of wealth as the solution to our many ills.  But this morning God assures us, that kind of hope is simply sinking sand, because it’s foundation is not centered on Christ and His cross; the place where God made He and man right with each other.

Are you ready for that final stage of separation, where God shows you that His Son, your Savior has indeed made all things new?  I pray that you are, and I ask God to continue doing this very thing within you and around you, in Jesus  name… AMEN!