Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, November 03, 2013

All Saints' Day


All Saints’ Day (Observed)
Nov. 3, 2013
Text: 1 John 3:1-3

            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” (1 John 3:2; ESV).  In St. John’s proclamation this morning, you get a sense of what Luther called the “Already/Not Yet” of the Christian life in this world.  It is a paradox.  You are God’s child now.  That is already the case.  St. John proclaims the great love of the Father, that He has called you God’s own child.  He does that in Baptism, puts His own Name on you, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”  And He not only calls you His child, but by virtue of His calling, that is what you really are.  Remember how God’s Word works.  When He speaks, it is.  The Word does what it says.  So if He calls you His child (and He does), then you are.  Period.  And yet… it doesn’t appear that you are God’s child.  Not to the eyes.  The world certainly doesn’t recognize this fact.  If it did, the citizens of the world would bow down in homage to one so holy, holy not in and of yourself, certainly, but holy because you have been washed clean and pure by the blood of the Lamb.  If the world had eyes to see, they would see that you shine with the radiant glory of your Lord Jesus Christ.  All your sins are forgiven.  All of them, past, present, and future, whatever they are, covered by the blood of Christ and washed away forever.  But the world doesn’t see it, and that shouldn’t surprise you, because the world doesn’t see Christ as anything more than a man who lived and was crucified about 2,000 years ago, at best a great teacher, at worst, a lunatic who got what He had coming to Him.  If they don’t recognize Him as the very Son of God, they are not going to recognize you as the child of God that you are.  They’ll only see your flesh, your sin, your ordinariness, your weakness.  So “already/not yet.”  You are already God’s child by faith.  But what you know and believe to be the case already does not yet appear to the eyes. 
            And frankly, sometimes you wonder yourself.  For when you look at yourself in the mirror, you don’t look like a child of God .  You recognize that you don’t even begin to measure up to God’s will.  You are still in the flesh.  You continue to carry within yourself the passions of the flesh, greed and lust and covetousness, a selfishness that is impossible to tame.  The flesh cannot be tamed.  The only way to deal with it is to plunge it into a watery grave.  Daily.  Daily repentance, which is to say, a daily return to your Baptism, where God first killed you and raised you in Christ to new life and called you to be His own child.  So now you live in the paradox that is the Christian’s life in this world.  Already/not yet.  Now/yet later.  Being/yet becoming.  Saint/yet sinner.  Your old Adam, the flesh, has been put to death, yet the flesh is all you see.  The new creation in Christ has been raised out of the baptismal water to new life, yet you can’t see that at all.  You just have to believe it.  Faith, not sight.  You are God’s own child.  But what you will be has not yet appeared.  So you wait, and you believe, in spite of all appearances, that God’s promise is true.
            You do know one thing, though.  You know that when He appears, Jesus Christ, to judge the living and the dead, He will raise you from the sleep of death.  And then you will be like Him.  And knowing that is enough.  You cannot say yet, what it will be like to be like Him, but that’s okay.  You know that He is risen from the dead, never to die again, and therefore you will be raised from the dead, never to die again.  You know that He has been glorified, and therefore you will be glorified with Him.  You know that He no longer suffers, and therefore you will no longer suffer.  As St. John writes in our first lesson of the blessed ones in heaven: “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7:17).  So it is enough.  You will be like Him.  And the reason is that you will see Him as He is.  The veil will be removed.  What you now know only by faith, you will behold with your own eyes.  And in beholding Him, you will be transformed into the image of God once again, as Paul writes, transformed “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18).  The image lost in the Garden is now restored in the face of Jesus Christ.  Just as when you stand in the sun, your eyes are enlightened, your face brightens, and your skin begins to glisten, so on a much greater plane will it be when you stand before God’s Son, Jesus, and see Him as He is, in His glory.  Moses had to cover himself with a veil when he came down from the mountain, having been in the presence of the Lord.   So you, when you see Him, will be like Him, reflecting the glory of the very Son of God.  That’s a really good thing, guys.  And it’s enough.  It’s enough for you now, though you do not yet see it.  You will.  That will be you.  It is you now, in a hidden way.  Then it will be manifest.  Just wait.  Wait on the Lord.  He never breaks His promises.  He will deliver. 
            In the meantime, St. John writes that you who have this hope purify yourself as He is pure (1 John 3:3).  The hope is certain, as biblical hope always is.  It’s not something we have to wonder about, whether it will happen or not.  We know it will.  It just hasn’t yet appeared.  Nevertheless, we live from the perspective of those who know what’s coming.  So you purify yourself, as He is pure.  What does that mean?  It cannot mean that you make yourself sinless, as He is sinless, by trying really hard not to sin, by your own effort or satisfaction for sin.  Of course, you should struggle against sin, but that isn’t what makes you pure.  What makes you pure is Jesus.  Jesus makes you pure as He Himself is pure.  So to do what St. John here entreats you means, simply, to receive Jesus, as He comes to you for forgiveness, to wipe away your sin.  John is telling you to go to Church.  This is where Jesus purifies you.  Hear and believe the Absolution.  Your sins are gone.  You’re clean.  You’re pure.  Jesus took all your sins away.  Hear and believe the Scriptures and the preaching.  Jesus took your sin upon Himself and put it to death on the cross in His body.  And He’s risen and living, giving you new life, here and now, clean and pure, as He is.  Remember your Baptism, that cleansing bath in which God washed away all your sins and made you His own.  Taste and see that the Lord is good here in His Supper.  His holy and sinless flesh and blood touches your lips and is taken into you to take possession of you.  Christ is in you in a very real sense.  The very same body and blood given and shed for you on the cross now courses through your veins.  You don’t purify yourself as He is pure by trying really hard to be like Him.  That will never work.  You purify yourself as He is pure by undergoing the purifying He does upon you here in His gifts, forgiving your sins, covering you with His righteousness.  He does it.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1:9).
            The Day is coming, though, when the cleansing will be clear for all to see, when finally the world will see Jesus for who He is, and you for who you are.  On that Day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10-11).  And on that Day everyone will know that God has called you His child, and that that is what you are.  There you’ll stand, you and Ted Steffens and Deadre Nemec and Pete Mogg and all the saints, on your own two feet, in your bodies, risen from the dead.  And with your own eyes, you’ll see that it’s all true.  The paradox will be resolved.  No more “already/not yet.”  Only the eternal “now.”  See what kind of love the Father has given to us.”  You will see it.  God’s own child.  You’ll be like Jesus, because on that Day, you will see Him as He is.  And that is enough.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.       

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