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Archives - November 2018

Are You Ready?

November 25, 2018
By Rev. David French

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Are You Ready?
Mark 13:24-37

Today’s Gospel reading is part of the same conversation that we heard Jesus having last week.  As Jesus and the disciples left the temple area, He told them that sometime in the future, someone or something will destroy the temple.  When He and the disciples reached their campground on the Mount of Olives, the disciples asked for more details, and Jesus began to teach.  He warned them to keep their doctrine pure so that false prophets would not deceive them.  He told them to expect persecution for their faith and encouraged them to remain faithful.  As His teaching continues in today’s reading, He talks about the end of all things.

Jesus’s description of the end of time is literally universal; that is, He gives us a visual image of an entire universe going out of existence.  It’s like someone had a switch that controlled all the laws of physics and turned them off.  The sun going out is not an eclipse.  It is the sun no longer existing.  The moon will no longer exist.  One moment everything will be absolutely normal, the next moment everything, the entire created world, will be gone. 

And of course, Jesus tells us is that this will all be a surprise.  As He said, “Concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” And He repeats that a few verses later, this time in a short parable, “You do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning.”

Now when Jesus rephrases a teaching in three different ways … one right after the other … we really need to understand this is important.  One of the teachings that Jesus is emphasizing today is, don’t try to figure out the timing, because you can’t.

Yet, there are thousands of authors and teachers who are making a lot of money by telling whoever will listen that Jesus lied.  I typed the phrase “end times prophecy books” into Google and got over 29,000,000 titles.  A few of these books are good, solid, biblically accurate studies, but the super-duper majority of them, granted I was judging on a comparatively small sample, are a waste of ink and paper.  Even though Jesus said that He didn’t know the day or the hour, somehow, these charlatans have worked out some secret code from wherever, and now they know more than Jesus.

In the end all of this speculation does is serve as a diversionary tactic that leads people away from the main message of the Bible.  And if you take a close look at today’s reading, you’ll see that there’s another concept that Jesus repeated even more than the warning against trying to figure out dates. 

Instead of trying to calculate times and dates, Jesus said, “Be on guard, keep awake. (v 33)  Stay awake. (v 34)  Stay awake. (v 35)  Stay awake.” (v 37)  Five times Jesus emphasizes that we need to be ready for the Last Day whenever it comes.

So Jesus specifically tells us don’t waste time on timelines and dates and instead use your time   getting ready for the Last Day no matter when it comes.  The obvious question is, how?  How do we come to be ready?  What qualifies us to be one of the elect that the angels gather to the Son of Man when He comes?  The answers to these questions are the main message of the Bible that false teachers are diverting your attention away from.

And that main message of the Bible is the gospel, the forgiveness of sins that Jesus earned for you with His perfect life, His suffering, and His death on the cross.  You see, Jesus didn’t die on the cross so that we could know all the details of the Last Day.  He died so that we would be prepared for the Last Day.  To be prepared for the Last Day means to be holy in the sight of God, for only those who are holy will enter the kingdom of God.

The Scriptures give us two ways to be holy: one way depends on us, the other way depends on God.  The way that depends on us is easy to say, but impossible to do.  If you wish to save yourself, all you have to do is be perfect in every way.  You must be as perfect as God is.  One blemish, spot, or stain on your record, and you fail.  You’re either perfect or you’re not, and if you’re not, the next stop will be the eternal torment of hell. 

Since time began there has been one and only one human being who has ever lived and died without sin - Jesus.  The rest of us, those created by God’s hand or born the natural way, fail God’s requirements at the moment of conception.  As King David said, and we echo, “In sin did my mother conceive me.”  So while God makes this way available, it just isn’t possible for those conceived in sin and you know about Adam and Eve.

The way that depends on God began with God the Father sending His only begotten Son into the world as a true human being to take our place under the law.  Conceived by the Holy Spirit, the incarnate Son of God is born perfect, without blemish, spot, or stain.  As the apostle Peter wrote: “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.  When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”

Jesus, trusting His heavenly Father willingly, carried on His shoulders our sins, everything from the sins that we consider the worst to the sins that we don’t even notice.  Why?  The apostle Paul explains: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, (and here’s the why) so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  Peter adds: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.  By his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24) You see, it is by the death and resurrection of Christ alone that God makes us holy.  This act of grace and mercy on God’s part is the only way for us to be ready for the Last Day whenever it comes.  By faith we receive the holiness Christ paid for on the cross and now distributes through the Means of Grace.

My friends, it is the Holy Spirit who makes us ready by creating the faith in our hearts that believes in Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins.  The Holy Spirit works through God’s Word to build and sustain that faith.  It’s the Word combined with water according to Christ’s command, the Word that we hear with our ears, and the Word that comes with the body and blood of Christ as we eat and drink the bread and wine that God works through to save us.  It’s by that faith that we are on guard, awake, and watchful.  It is the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith in Jesus Christ that keeps us ready for the return of the Son of Man who will come in power and glory.

And faith not only prepares us for the coming of the Son of Man in glory, but, if the Lord waits to return, it also prepares us for that day when we shall leave this world through the door known as death.  Just as no one knows the day that the world will end, so none of us knows if we’ll be around when it comes. 

Whether we leave this world at the end of our own life or at the end of the world, it is the same gift of God that is the readiness that comes by faith that saves us. You see, the source of our confidence is not our goodness, it is that God saves us by the Father’s grace, for the Son’s sake, through the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith freely offered to you and to all. 

In His Name, Amen.

Whom to Thank

November 21, 2018
By Rev. Peter Heckert

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Whom to Thank
Luke 17:11-19

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text that we meditate upon this evening before Thanksgiving Day is from our Gospel lesson, specifically where Luke records Jesus’s answer to the Samaritan’s thanks and praise, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” Here ends our text; dear Christian friends…

 “This shall be the law of the leprous person for the day of his cleansing. He shall be brought to the priest, and the priest shall go out of the camp, and the priest shall look. Then, if the case of leprous disease is healed in the leprous person, the priest shall command them to take for him who is to be cleansed two live clean birds and cedarwood and scarlet yarn and hyssop. And the priest shall command them to kill one of the birds in an earthenware vessel over fresh water. He shall take the live bird with the cedarwood and the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, and dip them and the live bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water. And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed of the leprous disease. Then he shall pronounce him clean and shall let the living bird go into the open field. And he who is to be cleansed shall wash his clothes and shave off all his hair and bathe himself in water, and he shall be clean. And after that he may come into the camp, but live outside his tent seven days. And on the seventh day he shall shave off all his hair from his head, his beard, and his eyebrows. He shall shave off all his hair, and then he shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and he shall be clean.”

“And on the eighth day he shall take two male lambs without blemish, and one ewe lamb a year old without blemish, and a grain offering of three tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, and one log of oil. And the priest who cleanses him shall set the man who is to be cleansed and these things before the Lord, at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And the priest shall take one of the male lambs and offer it for a guilt offering, along with the log of oil, and wave them for a wave offering before the Lord. And he shall kill the lamb in the place where they kill the sin offering and the burnt offering, in the place of the sanctuary. For the guilt offering, like the sin offering, belongs to the priest; it is most holy. The priest shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering, and the priest shall put it on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. Then the priest shall take some of the log of oil and pour it into the palm of his own left hand and dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand and sprinkle some oil with his finger seven times before the Lord. And some of the oil that remains in his hand the priest shall put on the lobe of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot, on top of the blood of the guilt offering. And the rest of the oil that is in the priest's hand he shall put on the head of him who is to be cleansed. Then the priest shall make atonement for him before the Lord. The priest shall offer the sin offering, to make atonement for him who is to be cleansed from his uncleanness. And afterward he shall kill the burnt offering. And the priest shall offer the burnt offering and the grain offering on the altar. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be clean.”

In case you didn’t know, that’s the process prescribed by God in Leviticus 14 for the cleansing of a leper in the nation of Israel. It’s long, it’s arduous, it’s exhausting – just reading all of that was kinda tiresome! This was the process that was awaiting 10 lepers as they trudged on their way to do as Jesus had told them. Undoubtedly, some of them were thinking to themselves, “Well, this is going to be pointless. Jesus didn’t actually clean us; He just told us to go show ourselves to the priests. When we show up, still clearly with leprosy, they’re just gonna turn us around to go back to the leper colony…”

Now we’re not told precisely when these lepers were cleansed, but at some point, on their journey, they were rid of their horrible, disfiguring, highly contagious disease. We’re also not told at what point the others noticed that they were healed and cleansed, but we are told that, when he noticed that he was healed and cleaned, only one of the ten of them returned to Jesus, giving Him praise and thanks in a loud voice.

Only one of them.  Jesus had given these men their lives back – not just healing them in body, but also in mind and spirit! They were able to rejoin society, see their family and friends again! Have normal relationships once more without the pall of disease hanging about them! No longer would they be shunned. No longer would mothers hide their children’s faces from their deformities and sickliness. No longer would they be banned from bringing their sacrifices and praises and thanksgivings to God! So, the question becomes … why didn’t they all return to thank God – that is, God incarnate? They had all asked for mercy, for healing, for cleansing, and Jesus gave it. And only one – a Samaritan, by the way, a foreigner, not belonging to the people of Israel – returned to thank Him.

Why? Well, the answer is, at the same time, simple and complicated. It’s complicated because, obviously, our text doesn’t give us any clue into the inner workings of these lepers’ minds. We have no idea if they were preoccupied with the aforementioned labor-intensive and costly rituals prescribed in Leviticus. We don’t know if they were simply so caught up in their leprous frame-of-mind, that they wouldn’t notice until much later that they were clean. We don’t know if they were angry that Jesus hadn’t healed them in that moment. We simply don’t know what was going through their minds … and yet, in a way, we do.

We do know because, while we may not have one of the myriad dermatological diseases that fall under the umbrella of “leprosy,” we nevertheless are all ill. Deathly ill, in fact. We all share a disease – in fact, the same exact disease that the 10 lepers also had … as well as the disciples, and the Pharisees, Sadducees, Romans, Greeks, Germans, Japanese, Mexicans, Africans, Americans, and every other human being on this planet. We all share the same genetic predisposition, the same inherited disease … sin.

But no code in Leviticus can fully cure that ill. No priestly prescription can cleanse from that disease. “Not all the blood of beasts on Jewish altars slain could give the guilty conscience peace or wash away the stain…” No, I don’t care how many bulls or lambs or birds you buy and slaughter; they will not be able to wipe away that stain or cure us of our warring madness. “But Christ the heav’nly Lamb takes all our sins away – a sacrifice of nobler name and richer blood than they!” Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem at the time the ten lepers cry out to Him for mercy. He’s got His eyes set upon Golgotha, knowing what must happen to Him there, how He will be beaten, flogged, spat upon, cursed, crucified, and killed. Knowing how He will take the full measure of all sin from all time into Himself, and how He will endure the full and just wrath of God, in order to spare us from enduring the same punishment. How He will do all of this … only out of His holy and perfect love for us, His sinful and imperfect creatures. There, upon a cross lifted up as a bridge between heaven and earth, the sinless Lamb of God, who became sin for us, will be sacrificed to cleanse us fully, once and for all, from the damning and damned disease of sin.

That’s the greater context of our Gospel lesson, and such love, such selflessness is so wholly foreign to us, that perhaps we think that it’s too good to be true. Perhaps that’s the reason why the nine lepers did not return to Jesus; Lord knows this is one reason, among many, that people reject the proclamation of the Gospel today. But as those whom God has called, who are the recipients of His great and precious promises, we know just Who it is that we are to thank: Jesus. He has cut us off from the bitter sting of death, and promised to us life everlasting. My friends, knowing this … knowing how He has healed us in body, mind, and spirit, how can we help but, with the Samaritan leper, turn back, praising God with loud voices and hymns of praise? How can we help but fall down on our faces at Jesus’s pierced feet, knowing all He has done for us, and render to Him our humble and genuine thanks? The Spirit of the living God has given us the faith that makes us well, that will raise us on the Last Day to live forever with Him! How can we help but praise and thank Christ our Lord for all He has done for us? May God help us both to will and to give Him the praise and thanks that are due Him.

+ In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

Robbing Widows

November 11, 2018
By Rev. David French

See the Weekly Bulletin

Robbing Widows
Mark 12:38-44

It’s a rare thing when our culture agrees with Jesus, but one thing we can all agree on is nobody likes a hypocrite. Truth is, Jesus highlights and condemns hypocrisy more often than any other sin, and that’s what we find happening in our Gospel lesson. Jesus is condemning the hypocrites among the scribes.

Today we find Jesus teaching in the temple during holy week which, of course, ends with His crucifixion.  The scribes He’s talking about are the temple scribes.  These are the ones who were actually in charge of copying the Holy Scriptures from one scroll onto another.  And that means they wrote the holy words of God over and over again.  This repetition of course means that they came to know the Scriptures very, very well.  And yet, today Jesus says they use their great knowledge of God’s word to rob widows.

Jesus actually reserved His greatest condemnation for hypocrites because, by definition, hypocrites know better.  Truth is you can’t deceive people concerning what “God says” unless you know at least as much and usually more of what God says than they do.  That means hypocrites know what they are doing is wrong.  They indeed sear their consciences in order to live a lie.

And so, sadly, hypocrites end up lying to themselves more than anyone else.  Someday, every hypocrite will stand before God in judgment, but most people don’t think about that day.  Maybe they just pretend there is no God, and so, no judgment.  Maybe they think that their actions are justified, so God won’t hold them accountable for them.  Maybe they’ve lied so much that they don’t even see their hypocrisy.  But none of that matters, as Jesus says in Matthew, “I tell you, on the Day of Judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

The really sad thing about the self-deception of hypocrisy is that some would hear a sermon like this and think something like, “You tell’em pastor.  Because we know there are a lot of hypocrites around here who need to hear this.” Of course, the really hard core hypocrite would have no idea that these words include them.

In sermon preparation one of the first things that I as your pastor really must do is preach this sermon to myself.  Why? Because I also regularly engage in hypocrisy.  I lie to myself.  I lie to others.  I even lie to God.  When I hear Jesus condemn hypocrites in our lesson, I need to understand that He is talking to me. I am the one who needs to hear this sermon.

And yes, you also need to hear this sermon.  I mean, honestly, how many times have you been a hypocrite since this service began?  Earlier in this service, you said, “I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved Your temporal and eternal punishment.  But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them, and I pray You of Your boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor sinful being.”

You said to God and each other that you are a miserable sinner.  Did you mean it?  You said you deserved temporal and eternal punishment.  That means that you believe you deserve a miserable life here on earth and to burn in the fires of hell.  Did you really mean it?  Were you really deep in your heart sorry or just kind of half-heartedly sorry about your sin?  Did you sincerely repent or just sort of repent?  How much of this service have you done on auto-pilot while thinking about something else?

What about the life you lead when you’re not here?  When you are alone,does your attitude toward sin change?  Does the Word of God that you hear in this place actually guide the way you live out there? Many people criticize the Church saying it’s full of hypocrites.  And the truth is, an honest examination of our lives in the light of God’s Word will show that’s true; all of us are indeed hypocrites … and murderers and adulterers and thieves.  I have broken every single commandment, and according to God’s Word, so have you.  My friends, know it or not, we are all in desperate need of healing from our sin.  We’re not members of the Church because we’re so good and righteous.  We are members of the Church because we are sinners who know we need to be forgiven.

As we listen to Jesus, we can hear about the source of the forgiveness that we need as we look again at the second part of today’s lesson where we are introduced to a widow who gave all she had.  It’s certainly possible that this woman was one of the victims of the hypocrites that Jesus condemned.  But Jesus does something that only God can do.  He looks into her heart and sees a faith that trusts the promises of God.  For us this widow’s gift is a foreshadowing of the gift that Jesus would give a few days after this incident.  This widow gave all she had financially.  In a few days, Jesus would give all that He had!

Think about it, just as this poor widow offered her whole life at that offering box, so the Holy One who watched her offered His whole life on the cross.  Here is One who was never a hypocrite – who never did anything that deserved condemnation.  Here is One who endured the greatest condemnation as He paid for the sins of the world. 

Because Jesus Christ lived a perfect life that was free of hypocrisy and every other sin, the grave could not hold Him.  Although His friends laid Him in the tomb on Friday, He rose from the dead on Sunday.  Now He lives forever offering all who come to Him credit for that life.  By His death and through His resurrection, He offers to all who trust in Him forgiveness for all our sins, including the sin of hypocrisy.  And where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.

It is the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God who gives to us the same faith that the poor widow in today’s reading had.  It is as we hear our readings and the preaching of His Word that the Holy Spirit works even as He does through the tangible Word of God that we eat and drink in the sacrament. The faith that the Holy Spirit creates in us receives the gifts that Jesus Christ earned when He offered His life for us.  The faith that the Holy Spirit works in us through Word and Sacrament brings us into the very kingdom of God.  It is in that kingdom of grace that we receive all that Christ offers.

 So yes, the Church is full of hypocrites because the world is full of hypocrites.  But hypocrisy is only one face of the sin that plagues us all.  As sinful human beings, by nature we all want to reject God’s will for us … even if that will is the forgiveness of our sins.  The world doesn’t understand that and so it distorts the true role of the Church, which is to distribute all the blessings of Christ.

My friends, the real difference between the world and the Church is that the Church is full of hypocrites who are forgiven.  It is also full of thieves who are forgiven, liars who are forgiven, murderers who are forgiven, and adulterers who are forgiven.  The Church, our Church, is full of sinners who are forgiven.  The world does not believe in sin and so does not understand forgiveness and therefore simply sees no point to the church.

But a day is coming when every person will leave this world behind.  Those who leave without faith in Jesus Christ will leave on their own merits without forgiveness.  And justly, yes, but also sadly, they will suffer the eternal condemnation that their hypocrisy and other sins have earned and they refused to believe were paid for.  Those who have faith in Jesus, even now, already have forgiveness.  They have put their sin and its condemnation on Jesus and He left it in what we call the empty tomb.  They will enter the eternal joy of heaven.  They will live the eternal peace of Him who gave all that He had, for you His precious child. 

Amen

Already, But Not Yet

November 04, 2018
By Rev. Peter Heckert

See the Weekly Bulletin

Already, But Not Yet
1 John 3:1-3

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The basis for our meditation, while touching on all our texts, is from our Epistle lesson, especially where John writes, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.” Here ends our text; dear Christian friends …

Disney released an animated movie a year or so ago called “Coco.” It’s a tale revolving around the real-life Mexican holiday, Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. It’s a three-day fiesta in which family members gather together to offer prayers for and remembrances of their loved ones who have passed away, sometimes extending back several generations. There is also the belief that the souls of those family members can return to earth during the holiday to interact with the living as long as they are remembered. For those who are remembered by their loved ones, not only do they come back for this holiday, but for the rest of the year, they get to stay in the perpetual fiesta of the Land of the Dead, a place akin to our idea of heaven!

Its faulty theology notwithstanding, it is a sweet movie that, I admit, moved me to tears toward the end. However, there is a concept serving as the prime conflict in the movie that is quite unsettling: for those who are not remembered by their families and friends, those who are forgotten … they fade away … into nothingness, oblivion. You see why this eschatology is so disquieting: if our remaining in paradise is dependent upon the remembrances of our loved ones, there will inevitably come a time when we all fade away! The further back you go, the less we know about people. Ask average Joe what he remembers about Charlemagne, or Rehoboam, or Nebkaure Khaty IV – probably next to nothing, and these are all royalty! If this is the way things work, there’s no such thing as eternity.

But this is the secular world’s eschatology. You’ll hear sayings like, “As long as we remember them, they’re never really gone,” or “They’re gone – but not forgotten.” That’s fine for those who have no faith, I suppose, but frankly, the Church has a different, better, more refreshing and comforting understanding of the status of her dead. All who have died in Christ are, in fact, still alive in Christ, remembered or not, and in Him, we have communion with these same saints from all time and space! Every time we gather around the font, pulpit, and altar, heaven comes down to earth. Through His powerful Word and in His precious Sacrament, you and I are in contact, communion, with all Christians who are dead and gone. They are alive and well, praising God and glorifying His holy name as they gaze upon the King of kings and Lord of lords upon His throne!

Every year on this Festival of All Saints, we remember those saints whose eyes have been closed in death during the prior year. We don’t remember them to keep their place at the Lamb’s feast table, but rather, we are reminded of our everlasting fellowship with them. Further, it is our delight to consider that our future destination is their present dwelling place. We feebly struggle, as they in glory shine, and yet in Christ we remain forever one. We are not just the motley crew that we can see with our eyes gathered here for worship; we are also the vast multitude that no man can number who stand around the throne of God and of the Lamb, those dressed in white robes and calling out their eternal praises: Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

Jesus is their focus, as He is ours, the One who, in our Gospel reading, spoke directly of that great host of His children! "Blessed are the pure in heart," we heard Him say, “for they shall see God.” This is a promise you can stake your life on, for you have the Word of Jesus on it. This is His solemn oath and promise – those who are pure in heart are those who have faith in Him, and they themselves shall see God with their very own eyes, no ifs, ands, or buts.

The “Beatitudes,” we call those verses – that’s Latin for blessings because that’s what they are. Blessings. Promises. Jesus’s words to the faithful that are performative, doing what they say they do – bestowing gifts and providing the benefit and intervention of God Himself. Jesus is pronouncing solemn blessings upon His beloved Church – then and there, here and now, for all time and all eternity. He says what He means and He means what He says, “Blessed are you poor in spirit, for yours is the Kingdom of heaven.”

That, right there, is why we are counted among the saints. That’s why we are among those white-robed singers proclaiming the praises of God and of the Lamb. This is why John says what he does in his epistle, “Beloved, we are God’s children now.” Not because of anything you are or anything you have in yourself. We are all poor before Almighty God. We have empty pockets when it comes to the good things we ought to do, and we are as guilty as sin when it comes to the bad things we ought not to have done. Poor, that’s for sure, “poor, miserable sinners.” Having nothing to commend us before God, we are poor as church mice as far as He is concerned.

But Jesus reverses that. Though He was rich, yet for our sakes, He became poor so that you through His poverty might become rich. Though He had all majesty and power as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, He willingly laid aside all that divine glory and emptied Himself, taking on the form of a servant, made in the likeness of men. He humbled Himself and became obedient all the way to death, even death on a cross – all in order “that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” In Baptism, God claimed you as His own, delivered to you the work that Jesus won for us in His horrific and despicable death. In the waters of that blessed deluge, He bestows upon all who believe in Him the unimaginable wealth of His eternal life. Not just in the sweet by and by, or the beautiful isle of somewhere, but already here and now. “Blessed are you poor in spirit,” says He. “Yours is the Kingdom of heaven.”

Heaven is not just our future destination. By God’s grace, it is already our present possession. The Church is God’s eternal kingdom, unbounded by political borders, unshackled from the limitations of the clock and calendar. True, we do not yet see the full dimension of what it will be like when faith gives way to sight, and sorrow and sighing flee away, when death shall die and God’s own hand will wipe away all tears from every eye. That we haven’t yet experienced, but this blest festival day is a foretaste of that glorious Day which we await in sure and confident hope! Already, but not yet!

Beloved, even though what we will be has not yet appeared, we already are God’s children now. One day when He appears, we shall be like Him. Then no longer will we see Him as only in a mirror dimly! One blessed Day soon, in our risen flesh, we and all those who have gone before us shall see Him as He is! These very eyes, and the eyes of the saints that have been closed in death, shall behold Him face to face! Sweet is the calm of paradise the blest! No wonder, then, we pray to God that even in these grey and latter days there still may be those whose life is praise, each life a high doxology unto the Holy Trinity, the focus of all His saints!

+ In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. + Amen.

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