Sunday, May 20, 2007

Concord & Convention

"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." John 17:20-23
In a conversation about church a pastor told one of his parishoners, "We should expect to find 3 types of people in the church: 1. Those who would fix or replace the bricks when they become loose or broken. 2. Those who would tear down all the bricks and attempt to rebuild simply because of age/boredom/’’rote consistency’’ 3. Those who would re-arrange the bricks to suit their personal esoteric tastes.
Let us take a look at them in reverse order:
3. Those who would re-arrange the bricks to suit their personal esoteric tastes.
Of this the Apostle Paul writes, "Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions." Colossians 2:18
There are those within the church who, either intentionally or unintentionally, re-arrange the teachings of God's Word in a way that takes Christ out of the center and replaces Him with self-centered or world-centered teachings. That is, they would take things such as Baptism, the Lord's Supper and the worship service in general and rearrange them so as to teach and practice them in a way that it is the people who are serving and being faithful to God in these holy things, when in truth it is first and foremost God who is serving and being faithful to us.
2. Those who would tear down all the bricks and attempt to rebuild simply because of age/boredom/"rote consistency"
Of this the Apostle Peter writes: "But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them--bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute." 2 Peter 2:1-2

There are those within the church who, again either intentionally or unintentionally, replace the teachings of God with more modern, enlightened thinking that, while supposedly used to "grow the church," "make it more relevant" and "spread the word," actually serve to introduce novelties which effectively replace God's Word and Sacrament that are the same power of salvation for all people through all time.

In both cases . . . "The truth of God is exchanged for a lie, and created things are worshiped and served rather than the Creator-- who is forever praised." Romans 1:25

How do they get away with it? People like to be flattered. When the truth of the Law hurts, when the healing medicine of the Gospel has a bitter edge, the alluring spice offered up by the father of lies is mighty tempting.

Paul explains it this way, "the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations." 2 Timothy 4:3-5

Such as these have . . .
lost connection with "the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow." Colossians 2:19

This connection is what Christ is praying for in Gospel lesson and text for today. And when we speak of . . .

1. Those who would fix or replace the bricks when they become loose or broken – think in terms of those who keep connection with the head, Jesus Christ.

We speak of the same thing for which Jesus is praying . . . that the Father would make and keep those who believe in Him as one even as He and the Father are One. For He is praying that the people of His church would be like those people of the church who would fix or replace bricks only when they are loose or broken, that is,

  • they would keep their head in all situations and remain united by the ligaments of Word and Sacrament that Christ has provided for just that reason.
  • they would keep alert for after market. lesser quality replacement goods and use only the original materials to maintain the integrity of the structure

For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." Romans 1:17

"[Which] faith comes from hearing the message [that is, teaching], and the message is heard through the word of Christ." Romans 10:17

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey [that is, to observe and abide in] everything I have commanded [read, "taught"] you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20

This being the case, until Jesus comes again, He tells His pastors via the pen of Paul to simply:
[be] devote[d] to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. [To] not neglect [the] gift, which was given . . . through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. [To] Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. [To] Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Timothy 4:13-16

Dear people of Trinity and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, this is the only way to grow a church. The ligaments, the mortar of sound teaching passed down by Christ through the Apostles and all generations of faithful Christians is how the body of Christ "grows as God causes it to grow." Colossians 2:19

This is the tradition that we observe and carry on here at Trinity. This is the traiditon upon which our Missouri Synod is founded. It is a tradition based not in the feelings, teachings or practices of men, but on the doctrine, or teachings, of the One Holy, Christian and Apostolic faith without which no one is saved. Without these teachings that were passed on from Christ himself to His Apostles and thence to His church, there is no church -- for the church is Christ’s body, held together only as He holds it together.

This is no easy thing for us to undergo. In fact it is likened unto Holy warfare.

"Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." Ephesians 6:17

"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12

Jesus himself reminds us of this very thing when He says,
"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ' man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-inlaw--man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." Matthew 10:34-38

Again, dear people of Trinity and the LCMS, dear baptized of God, this is indeed what you have been called to. For . . .

"There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to one hope when you were called--one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." Ephesians 4:4-6

This unity is what Christ prayed for that day to prepare His disciples for His departure -- so they would not go astray, and so He would not lose even one that had been given to Him by the Father.

This is the unity for which each of the Holy Apostles, save John, were martyred.

This unity is what Paul was upholding "When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong." Galatians 2:11

This unity is what the Apostles’, Nicene and Athanasian Creeds were written for in the face of false teaching.
Athanasian – "This is the catholic faith which; except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved."

This unity is what the reformation was all about,
Formula of Concord – "In order to preserve doctrine and to maintain a thorough, lasting and God-pleasing concord [unity] within the church, it is ESSENTIAL not only to present the true and wholesome doctrine [teaching] correctly, but also to accuse adversaries who teach otherwise." [It is only by such correction that adversaries are brought back into concord.]

This unity is what the LCMS was founded upon. The Saxons left Germany because they were being forced to worship with those who taught and practiced falsely, contrary to concord/unity.

This unity is what the LCMS is struggling for as we approach our Convention in July.

This unity is what our own beloved Trinity emphasizes in her Constitution –

Whereas the Word of God demands that a Christian congregation not only conform to the Word of God in doctrine and practice (Psalms 119:105, Galatians 1:6-8, 2 Timothy 4:1-5), but that also things be done decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40); therefore we, the members of Trinity Lutheran Church, Layton, Utah, set forth by this present document, signed by ourselves, the Constitution and the By-Laws in accordance with which our congregation affairs, spiritual and material, shall be conducted.

The purpose of this body shall be that of a religious organization, more specifically that of a Christian congregation established and maintained for the expressed purpose of disseminating the Gospel truth according to the confessional standards of the Lutheran Church, the Book of Concord of the year 1580, and for the purpose of Christian training of the youth.

. . . All forms used for the rites of the sacraments, all orders of worship used in divine public worship, and all text books used for religious instruction must conform to the confessional standards of this congregation.

No one can become or remain a member of this congregation nor enjoy the rights and privileges of such membership unless the person:
b) accepts all the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments as the only divine rule and standard of faith and conduct;
e) attends divine services faithfully and partakes of the Lord's Supper frequently;
f) submits, for the sake of love and peace, to the regulations already made or still to be made, by this body (provided they do not conflict with the Word of God) and accepts brotherly admonition when having erred or offended;

Many, even of our own, would accuse us of legalism. But legalism is false teaching that points to laws that we must follow, things we must do, in order to be saved.

What we are talking about is a unity in teaching by which God saves us from our own filthy rags of supposedly good works -- unity that repeats only that which Christ has first given us -- for in that unity is life. And that is the farthest thing from legalism. That is a unity of Confession– echoing to each other and the world what God has first lovingly spoken to us.

"Whoever confesses me before men, I will also confess him before my Father in heaven. Matthew 10:32

This may not be easy, but it is rewarding.

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. Revelation 2:10

God grant that even as our Lord has prayed this for us, so may it be done among us – in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Friday, May 18, 2007

Ya just gotta laugh!

Sometimes ya just gotta laugh even if it hurts.
Question: Why can't Episcopalians play chess?

Answer: They can't tell the difference between a bishop and a queen.

Monday, May 14, 2007

“The Mother of All Believers”

"You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. John 14:28-29

Have you ever had a day when you didn’t know if you were coming going? Of course you have. We all have days where there is so much going on in our lives that we don’t know if we are coming or going.

For many, if not most, of us there hardly seem to be enough hours in a day or days in a week as it is. Add to our ordinary schedules:

  • Predictable times of busyness – Christmas, Easter, the end of the school year, just before planned business trips and vacations.

  • Unpredictable times – death or illness in the family, weather related disasters, traffic and other accidents

and knowing whether we are coming or going is truly an issue with which we struggle mightily and often.

Jesus was preparing His disciples for just such a time. In our Gospel lesson this morning, Jesus is speaking of the day when He will leave His disciples and ascend to the right hand of His Father in heaven.

To be sure, a lot would happen before that blessed event of His ascension. Passion week was still to come. It would be a great understatement to say that it would be a time of great upheaval in the lives of the disciples. Truly if there ever was a time when one didn’t know if they were coming or going, this would have been it.

In the span of less than two months, Jesus, their beloved rabbi and friend, would be betrayed by one of their own, one of the inner circle, one of His own; He would suffer and die right before their very eyes; He would be buried; His body would disappear and be replaced by an angel speaking some nonsense of a resurrection; they would be accused by Jewish religious leaders of stealing His body in some grand plot; even as they were trying to make sense of all this, they would huddle together in hiding for fear that those who had crucified Jesus would come after them next; then, perhaps just as the reality and momentousness of all that had occurred was settling in on them, there He goes again – this time defying gravity as they watched Him "taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight." [Acts 1:9]

If ever there was a time when one did not know if he was coming or going, it would be those days leading up to and following the crucifixion of our Lord. Certainly those days that changed the world, those momentous days in which Jesus crushed Satan’s head and secured the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation for a dying condemned world of men – certainly those days must have been a blur to the disciples. Talk about a deer in the headlights, can you imagine? Those closest to Jesus must have wondered if they were coming or going.

Before all the excitement and tumult could sweep them up, Jesus took time to prepare them for just such a time. He knew what lay ahead and the confusion His chosen and beloved disciples would face. Jesus knew these men would be plunged into the grief of His suffering and despair of His death – fear for their own lives would send them running. Jesus knew these same men would then be lifted out of the grief and despair into an inexplicable ecstacy of His resurrection.

But Jesus also knew before the dust could settle, before there was any time for them to truly grasp what they had seen and experienced, the disciples would have to let go of Him who had been so torturously wrenched from them and miraculously returned such a short time ago. Thus for such a time as this, when the disciples would not know if they were coming or going, much less what to think of Jesus’ bizarre comings and goings, Jesus prepares them by saying, "You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

Certainly, the disciples must have been puzzled at this strange revelation. Even looking back and remembering these words of their beloved Jesus, how do you think the disciples felt as they watched Jesus disappear into a cloud in the sky?

After all that had happened, can you picture them, jaws agape? "Aha! Now it all makes sense, Jesus is going AND coming. Now I get it!"

And more than that, they should be happy about it?!

Fat chance.

This is why Jesus concludes by saying, "I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe."

Jesus knows that they will never fully understand all that will happen, even though the Scriptures of Moses and the prophets spoke of it. He also knows the truth that the sinful hearts of men cannot love God or be happy at such things that run so contrary to sinful human thinking and desires.

So Jesus speaks words that they might believe, because "whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life."

And so it is with us. We were not there to witness His ascension and from our perspective, looking back at the moment and its meaning, we can rejoice and perhaps wonder how the disciples could have been so blind, how anyone living at the time of Jesus could not have known who He was. As believers we wonder how anyone hearing the same words, seeing the same Jesus and His love for us in His suffering and death, how can anyone not love this Jesus and His word.

To us who believe, as well as to His disciples that day, Jesus replie(s), "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

And we reply, "Oh, I do love you Jesus. I do obey the words of your teaching."

But do we really?

In the Third Commandment, God says, "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy."
What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.

Do we really love Jesus and obey the Words of His teaching?

The truth is we do not. In the busyness of our lives with so many things to do, so many places to go and so many people to see as we seek to please others, and probably more honestly as we seek to please and satisfy ourselves, Jesus and the Words of His teaching take a back seat.
Lost in the busyness of life and trying to squeeze every drop of pleasure, accomplishment and personal fulfilment out of it we can in the midst of the setbacks and disasters that inevitably confront us, like the disciples, we do not know if we are coming or going.

And sad to say, like the disciples, we seldom find joy in the fact that Jesus is in heaven while we are left behind here in this veil of tears. No, we look for joy and gladness almost everywhere else first. Do you need proof?

Memorial Day is coming soon. What happens to our church attendance as individuals and as a congregation during the summer months?

Very few congregations even celebrate the Divine Service in recognition of the Ascension of Our Lord (one of the great festivals of the church because of its importance in showing the divinity of Christ) simply because it falls on a Thursday – a day when we have other things that take precedence.

Think of the many reasons we use to convince ourselves that it is less than necessary on any given Sunday to attend church and receive the Sacrament for the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of our faith –

  • I really need my sleep, it was a tough week and Sunday is a day of rest.
  • It’s the only day I have to do yard work.
  • Our guests from out of town will only be here until Sunday afternoon and we only see them every other year or so.
  • I can go to church any Sunday but the camping/fishing/hunting/football/fill-in-the-blank season only lasts so long.
  • We need to spend time as a family today.
  • I can worship God in nature.
  • You don’t have to go to church to be saved.

Now please don’t think I am only pointing fingers, because the truth is, in my own sinfulness and weakness there are Sundays when the only reason I come is because I HAVE to.

Now this being Mother’s Day, can you imagine substituting camping/fishing/hunting/football/fill-in-the-blank for honoring Mom, and saying you can honor her in those places when she is not even there? Can you imagine even thinking you don’t have to have a mother to live?

We need church as much as a child needs a mother. When we confess in the Third Article of the Creed, I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
What does this mean? I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.
In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.
In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers.
On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.

The church is to the baptized, to the Christian, what a mother is to her children.

Let us not fool ourselves dear baptized, we cannot make much of a claim to love Jesus or His Word when there are so often so many things that we place before Him and the place where He gives His Word to be publicly proclaimed for the forgiveness of sins.

But thanks be to God, He loves us! Because in our sin we do NOT love Him. And as we hear in today’s lesson from Revelation, "But nothing unclean will ever enter [heaven], nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life." Rev. 21:27

This is why God sends His Holy Spirit to minister to us in Word and Sacrament to wash us clean and give to us again everything we need for our salvation and the building up of our faith so that we may be made holy for Him and His eternal kingdom: "All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you."

And rather than leave us convicted of our lack of love and obedience, He leaves us forgiven.
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27

This peace He gives through His Holy Christian Church, the mother of all believers. For Christ’s church is a Revelation of heaven on earth. Christ’s church is even today, as our lesson from Revelation tells us it will be plainly be at the resurrection of dead, where even now, "it’s lamp is the Lamb, the light by which people from all nations walk with God, where Jesus is the gate that is always open, and where there is no night." Rev. 21:23-24

So whether we are coming or going, God is here to forgive, renew and lead us, and is with us always in His church, the mother of all believers, even to the end of the age–
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Strawmen of Dead Orthodoxy & Cold Doctrine

I often hear those who castigate our Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod complain that we have degenerated into a liberal, lawless, lack of substance on one hand, and a strict and stodgy dead orthodoxy of cold doctrine on the other.

While we indeed may have factions that have fallen off the horse of the one holy Christian and Apostolic faith on either side, I take exception to the catch phrases, "dead orthodoxy" and "cold doctrine," and submit that they are strawmen set up to divert the attention of the faithful from God's Word, which has been revealed -- to men's hearts, which are known only to God.

I take exception to such phrases and call them strawmen -- first, because dead orthodoxy is a contradiction of terms, as is cold doctrine. If the faith that our doctrine teaches and our church practices is orthodox, it is the life of Christ in the flesh dwelling among us -- and thus neither cold nor dead. Second, because I know there are a great many orthodox pastors in the LCMS being faithful to their call, as servants of the Word and the dear souls of their congregations.

According to Matthew 28:19-20 and 1 Timothy 4:16, truly orthodox doctrine and practice is indicative of the very presence of Christ and delivers the salvation He accomplished once and for all on Calvary.

Lord, deliver us from the assaults of the evil one who tempts us to reject and try to substitute our pious works for the good gifts You have given us, and grant that the warm teaching of Your true doctrine and the life contained in the orthodox practice of Your Holy Christian Church may always have a home with the people of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

A Little While

Here we are in the first weekend of May. All you have to do is look at the gas prices to know that. The school year is winding down, graduations loom and flowers bloom and vacation time is on the horizon. With gas prices what they are that takes a bit of setting a side, perhaps doing without somethings and planning ahead - especially for families.

In today's Gospel and the reading from Revelation, we see that the life ofthe Church is a lot like that vacation trip. The parents do all the planning, saving and driving and the kids want to know . . .

  • How many days til we go?
  • How long will it take to get there?
  • What's it gonna be like?
  • What are we gonna do?
  • Who else is gonna be there?
  • Is there anything to eat?
  • and of course, once you're all finally packed and piled in the car, about the time you merge into freeway traffic and hit the cruise control - "Are we there yet?" "How much longer, Daddy?"
Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Truly thePreacher of Ecclesiastes has an important sermon for us to remember in thef irst few words from his OT book:
Is there anything of which it may be said, "See, this is new"? It hasalready been in ancient times before us. . . . That which has been is whatwill be, that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing newunder the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:10 & 9

The Israelites on their trip through the wilderness were like children going on vacation with all the same questions, whining and complaints.
  • How many days til we go?
  • How long will it take to get there?
  • What's it gonna be like?
  • What are we gonna do?
  • Who else is gonna be there?
  • Is there anything to eat?
  • "Are we there yet?" "How much longer?"
And if you think about the questions the disciples asked Jesus, the discussions they had amongst themselves, and their behavior during Jesus' ministry, they were a lot like kids anxious to get to their vacation destination. Jesus is about to vacate the premises, and he knows His disciples (remember, that would include you and me) are like a bunch of eager, curious, impatient kids , so He speaks to prepare them in today'sGospel lesson:
" . . . when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father." John 16:13a, 16

The Father is in charge of all the planning, Jesus is in the process of doing the saving, and the Holy Spirit will do the driving, and the kids want to know . . .
  • How many days til we go?
  • How long will it take to get there?
  • What's it gonna be like?
  • What are we gonna do?
  • Who else is gonna be there?
  • Is there anything to eat?"
  • Are we there yet?"
Oh, and one other thing common to the Israelites, the disciples and the kids traveling in the car - Fighting for position and such. "Will you stop touching me?!" "Daddy, He's teasing me!" "Get your cooties off me!"

In a sense the answer to all of the above is, "A little while." A little while and all of the above will be clear - nothing else will matter. A little while for the journey, and all of a sudden you'll be there. A little while then it will seem like just yesterday that you couldn't wait; and like just yesterday that you didn't know; and like just yesterday that there were nothing but car problems and detours; and like just yesterday that you suffered through nasty weather and throwing up in the car; and like just yesterday that you had those accidents with people winding up in the hospital or even dying - all of it will seem like just a little while, and none of it will matter any more. Because there you are -- not at Disneyland, or Yellowstone, or Grandma and Grandpa's house, but in heaven with Jesus and the Father. The Holy Spirit has guided you there and delivered you at their doorstep just like Jesus promised.


It took only a little while for that bite of the apple and our fall into sin with our fore-parents, Adam and Eve. It takes us only a little while, out of our impatience and selfishness to fall to sin's temptation. It takes just a little while but, as the thief on Calvary came to know, it is only a little while and "It is finished!" we are saved into the presence of God as well.

Of course we know our heavenly destination is a gazillion times more special and glorious than any vacation. But so too is the journey, if we were only to recognize the vehicle that is taking us there. For the Holy Spirit is taking us there by means of the church. And in the church everything becomes just a matter of a little while. Time stands still in those little whiles we stand before the Lord:
  • A little while for God to rescue us from sin, death and the devil by drowning them in the waters of Holy Baptism
  • A little while in Confession where as soon as the words of repentance leave our lips, the Lord is quick to deliver the Word of His forgiveness that was a settled thing from all eternitybefore the foundations of the world
  • A little while as God stoops down to enter our world and deliver His grace, mercy, and peace to us in the Divine Service
  • A little while as Christ himself host’s the Lord's Supper and gives us to eat of His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation

And there is one other thing I would like you to think about in terms of that vacation trip - the things you do on the way to pass the time to make it seem like just a little while:

  • stories
  • songs
  • memories
  • who you'll see and what it will be like when you get there
  • food & drink

And the funny thing is, vacation after vacation, trip after trip, you tell the same stories, you sing the same songs, you share the same memories, you eat the same old snacks and drink the same old soft drinks you always do, because somehow, these are the things that make it all seem like just a little while.

Well isn't that just what God gives us in the Church. Isn't that a description of the Divine Service, what we are blessed to be given and receive even today? Only it is better, as is our destination.

And here is a little secret for you, during our little while, Jesus and theFather are with us the whole time. While the Holy Spirit guides and keeps us through theWord and Sacrament of the Church, the Son and the Father are with us in those things too. So when we see the grand picture of heaven as we do in our reading fromRevelation, it is not just a picture of what is to come, but a present reality that is unfolding as we travel together in this thing called Church.

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw theholy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying,"Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, andthey shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the formerthings have passed away."

Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful."And He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginningand the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son."

Dear baptized and beloved of God, this is not only what is to come, but it is what has always been, and it is what is here with you today -- because for every little while you have here on earth in God's church- all of your sins are forgiven and the kingdom of heaven is yours . . .
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

(Thanks to Pr. Chris Kellogg of Bethany Lutheran Church, Pueblo, CO for the idea)