Cruce Tectum

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

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Seventh Sunday of Easter

Seventh Sunday of Easter (C)

May 8, 2016
Text: Rev. 22:1-20

He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!
            This morning St. John describes for us the Holy City of God, New Jerusalem, as she is manifest in her fullness on the Last Day.  And though it may not be your first thought after reading this description, upon closer examination, she looks remarkably like our Church.  After all, this heavenly reality sets the pattern for the Tabernacle and the Temple in the Old Testament, and so also traditional Church architecture in the New.  It matters how we build our Church buildings.  The design, the pattern, says something about God and about His relationship to His people as it has been restored in Christ.  It says something about the heavenly reality, the furnishings, the artwork, the way things are set up.  This is not to say that there is only one right way to do it, or that Church buildings should be uniform, or some such nonsense.  This is not a denial of Christian freedom.  Nor is it to say that the building makes the Church.  We know from Holy Scripture that the Church is the people of God, holy believers in Christ, gathered around Christ’s gifts in Word and Sacrament.  We can do that without a building.  But when we are blessed with a building, as we are here in this place, we want the building itself to preach.  And so, compare the pattern here with the Holy City described in our reading from Revelation.  The River of the Water of Life (Rev. 22:1) bubbles up in the Font, cleansing us from our sins.  The Font is front and center, for there we are given new birth by water and the Spirit.  There God’s Name is written on our foreheads, “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  And from there our sins are forgiven in Absolution.  And there is the Throne of God up there in the center of the chancel.  Really… God sits upon the Altar with His Body and Blood, week after week, feeding us Himself for our forgiveness, life, and salvation.  That is why we bow toward the Altar.  It is the Throne.  It is the Mercy Seat.  The chancel is the Holy of Holies, where the Ark of the Covenant was housed as God’s Throne in the Old Testament.  In the New Testament, the curtain is removed, represented by the rail which is open to you, and we have access to God’s Throne where He meets us in the flesh under bread and wine.  And the water of the Font flows from the Throne, and we enter the Throne room through the water.  And from the Throne, through the water, we receive the Fruit of the Tree of Life, the Fruit of the Tree of the Cross, our Lord’s true Body and Blood.  This Fruit is for the healing of the nations.  It is for our healing and life.
            What we see now by faith under these weak and despised forms, we will see with our own eyes in all its glory in the Holy City on the Last Day.  But for now, we live in the time of waiting upon the Lord.  We have one foot in both ages: The old age of the fallen world and our fallen flesh, and the age to come where all is restored and perfected, the new heavens and the new earth, when Christ comes again.  “Behold, I am coming soon,” He promises (v. 12; ESV).  But for now, in the meantime, the evildoers still do evil and the filthy are still filthy (v. 11).  That is to say, the unbelievers who despise the Lord and His Christians have their day.  For a little while, they persecute Christ and His Christians.  They sue over bathrooms and wedding cakes and gag the speech of Christians.  They revel in sexual perversion and kill the babies whose only crime is that they were the unintended consequence of their parents’ iniquity.  This will go on for now, and it will get worse until the Lord returns.  In the meantime, the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy (v. 11).  That is to say, the believers still believe and still live in the water before the Throne and partake of the Fruit from the Tree of Life.  And they confess.  They speak.  You speak.  You call a spade a spade, a sin a sin.  You protect your wives and mothers and daughters from indignity and exploitation.  You guard the holiness of your neighbor’s body from your own lust and the lust of others.  You speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, the defenseless unborn, the weak and the terminally ill.  And you give generously and sacrificially to provide for the needs of the poor and the preaching of the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  If necessary, you die.  You kneel on the beach and with your last breath, as they slit your throat, you cry out to Jesus, confessing His Name, as our brothers did in Libya last year.  You do this because you know what awaits you, the Holy City, your God and Father, your Savior Jesus Christ, eternal life, and the resurrection of your body.
            Because of this, the Church prays, “Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus!” (v. 20).  We long for His appearing and deliverance.  On that Day He will raise all the dead.  The souls of all people, believers and unbelievers alike, will be reunited with their bodies.  And then He will judge.  Those who have not believed in Him, but have despised His gift of salvation, will be locked outside of the City to suffer hell, not just in their souls, but in their bodies, for all eternity.  “Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood” (v. 15).  But we who are in Christ do not fear this judgment.  For our sins have been washed away.  Christ is our righteousness.  We are baptized into Christ.  “Blessed are those who wash their robes [Baptism!], so that they have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates” (v. 14).  We live for this Day, when we are brought into the fullness of the joy of our Lord. 
            And now, what is our calling, our vocation, in the meantime, as we already possess this gift hidden in Christ but do not yet enjoy it visibly?  Our vocation is to do what we always do: Repent and believe the Gospel and abide in Christ by His Word and Baptism and Supper.  And we’re given the glorious privilege of inviting those who do not believe in Jesus to come and be baptized and join our number and be blessed.  “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’  And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’  And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (v. 17).  The Bride is the Church, and through the preaching of Christ that goes on in the Church, the Spirit calls even more to come.  And you are the ones who hear the preaching.  You are each, individually, given the privilege to say, “Come.”  That is, you are given to confess the faith, to invite others to Church, to tell them about Jesus and His love.  And those who are thirsty are the ones who know things are not right here and now.  They recognize this is a fallen world.  They recognize that they are sinners in need of redemption.  The Law has done its killing work.  They need the medicine of the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins in Jesus.  They need the water of life.  They need Baptism and the Spirit.  It is all free.  Come and drink.  Take without price and without limit.  Slake your thirst in the gifts of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

            So we live now by Jesus’ Promise.  He is coming soon.  To which we reply with hearty Amen.  And we wait.  We believe.  We pray.  We confess.  Most of all, we receive what our Lord here gives us freely, the Fruits of His Cross.  And so we live with our eyes on the reality that awaits, what St. John has told us: Where the Font reveals the River of the Water of Life; where the Altar reveals the very Throne of God; where the Cross reveals the Tree of Life; where the bread and wine reveal the Fruit that is for the healing of the nations.  Partake of the gifts now, beloved, and look forward to the gifts in their fullness then.  Baptism.  Absolution.  Preaching.  Supper.  These are the things that connect you with what is to come.  And the Holy City descends to earth here and now where the people of God are gathered around the things of His Son.  The glorious City awaits us, but you can enjoy it already here.  For He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!  And because He is risen, He makes all things new.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.             


Blogger Alan Patrick said...

Thank you Pastor Jon for reinforcing the fact that it's OK to stick up for what is right, and not go along with "political correctness" if it's not indeed correct. Keep up the good fight!

2:47 PM  
Blogger Rev. Jonathon T. Krenz said...

Thanks! Christ open our lips, that our mouths may declare His praise (Ps. 51:15).

9:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pastor Krenz,
While it is true that everything in the government appears to be falling apart; this, yet can still seem overbearing. Perhaps frustrating more so. For often times evil in the world seems to be winning, triumphing even; but how can one be sure that they are confessing rightly what is good and true in the midst of affliction? As it is written in Matthew 10:32-33, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven" and again in Revelation 3:21, "The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne." If this is so, then how can we have confidence that we have truly and rightly acknowledged Christ before men in order that we might be acknowledged by the Father? Under this condition, this is a matter and state of our salvation. If this then is the demand: that we do his word perfectly. Confess perfectly. So also that we always seek him and seek him earnestly. To fear, love, and trust God above all things. That is to say, to do anything contrary would be to fall short of the perfection of Gods word. To do otherwise would be a denial of God's love because his will and love is perfect. What ought we to discern about man's ability to withstand what is evil or to do what is good in thought, word, and deed when God has no pleasure in any wickedness or dwells therein? For if "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God" as they are "foolishness unto him" and "neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14.) As this is true for all men, who can stand? Where then does God, yet find pleasure that we may be certain of our salvation? Certainly God tempts no one and can do no evil. Though in any case of imperfection we are all doomed and deserving of God's wrath. This is a hard saying. Even so, if we are to mind comparing, perhaps one might assume it is good to at least compare the results? No differently we see that when a teacher gives a student a test, and one gets 30 percent and the other 50 percent that they both receive the same letter of failure. So to what man shall we compare if all fall short of the glory of God? Where is the means in which we can have this acknowledgement and comfort: that evil is overcome in times when it seems to come as if appearing not? Even if this means beholding the terrors of the bringing down of the whole world? That is to also say, in what regard are we justified rightly before God so that we can be certain that we are favorable in his sight unto life everlasting? In any matter of praise, is it not true that, afterall; no one can say Jesus is Lord, but by the holy spirit?

4:05 PM  
Blogger Rev. Jonathon T. Krenz said...

Dear Anonymous,
Your questions are extraordinarily important. The answer, of course is Jesus. Jesus is our righteousness before God. Jesus is our perfection before the Father. Jesus is our stand-in. He fulfilled God's Law perfectly in our place. We get the credit for His perfection. He suffered the full punishment of our sins, even our inability to confess rightly. And He is risen from the dead. The Father accepted the sacrifice. Jesus Christ is our redemption and eternal life. Salvation is not based on any merit or worthiness in us or any work that we have done or left undone. It is a gift of grace, freely bestowed on you, on account of Christ. Romans 3 is helpful here: "But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith" (Rom. 3:21-25). God gives this righteousness of Christ to us in His Word, in Holy Baptism, and in the Supper of Jesus' Body and Blood. Faith is the hand that receives this gift. And faith, also, is the gift of God. It is all God's work in us, by grace, freely bestowed, because God is good and He loves us. We just receive, and rejoice. Christ grant you comfort in this glorious truth. Pastor

9:11 AM  

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