And So We Are

Text: 1 John 3:1-3

Today we remember and give thanks to God for all those who have preceded us in the faith, especially for the good He permitted Edwin, Geraldine, Imogene, and Ina to receive and to give. They are those who hunger no more, neither thirst anymore, who are shepherded by the Lamb beside springs of living water; whose every tear has been wiped from their eyes. They each have received their crown of life and now live before the throne of God forever. But we are still here. This is a common theme that we’ve been dealing with for the past couple months. While we are here on earth awaiting the return of Christ and the completion of all things, we sometimes deal with disconnect. Things are not always as they seem.

Often it seems that life just goes on, then we die and it’s over for us. Society exhorts us, in fact when you leave this building, it’s like the world is ready to give you a second sermon: telling you to live in the now. St. John wrote our epistle reading, in part, to combat those who denied the humanity of Jesus – saying that He wasn’t really human; He was a spirit. Therefore, they concluded that the flesh was of no concern to eternal life and they lived fulfilling and seeking to fulfill whatever desire they should have. But, St. John writes, “all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world,”[1] and this world and all that is in it is passing away.

But it is not so among you. Our text today reminds us that we are God’s children now. Jesus said in the Gospel last week that the slave does not remain in the house forever, the son does. You, like those who have gone before you in the Christian faith, have been purified by the blood of Christ. You are a co-heir of eternal life. We don’t always look at things that way, meaning that we don’t always see things as they are – that those purified by the blood of Christ have been made children of God and will see Him as He is.

I.

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 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. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” [2] Thus, the words of St. John. He says, see what kind or  what sort of love that God has given to us – that we should be called His children, children of the Heavenly Father. If you know your catechism, this is the idea that comes up every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer. Martin Luther writes that when we say the words, “Our Father who art in heaven,” we confess that “God would tenderly encourage us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that we may ask Him confidently with all assurance, as dear children ask their dear father.”[3]

God loves us in such a way that He brings us into His family, where He becomes our true Father and we, His true children. In confirmation we’ve just been going through the Book of Exodus, particularly the Exodus itself and now the giving of the Ten Commandments. Before He gave the commandments, God went through how He brought the people out of slavery in Egypt to make them His own treasured possession.[4] He says that all the earth is His, but those He rescued out of slavery are His treasure, His children. As Luther says in his catechism, God invites us to pray to Him because we are His children, because He loves us. The word in the Greek is ἀγάπη, love. This is the kind of love that would lead a shepherd to lay down his life for his sheep, the kind of love that would lead a father to sacrifice his only son to receive adopted children as his own.

St. Paul writes, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”[5] We are only able to become the children of God only through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Through His fulfilling of the Law, through His suffering and death, He has reconciled us to God and made us co-heirs with Himself of the kingdom of heaven. In Him we are no longer children of wrath and darkness, but of life and light.

John writes, “The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.”[6] The world scoffs at this, that we have become His children, because it does not know God nor His Son, Jesus Christ. It scoffs at our hope, because it does not know the true God and insists that what we see here before us is all that there is. It says to walk by the senses and the rational human mind, and not by faith. And so it scoffs at the idea of a Father God, the idea that there is God out there who created us, who cares for us and sent His Son to die in our place, who like the father in the prodigal son runs to meet his son who once was dead. We even battle our own flesh over this idea.

II.

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. And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.”[7] The future, and even the present, looks pretty good for those in Christ. This is where we start to see the disconnect. Even amidst the death of loved ones, amidst crippling sickness and suffering, through personal turmoil, the beloved in Christ are God’s children. Those who hope in Christ have been purified by His blood. In Holy Baptism you were given the gift of faith and the hope that in Christ all things are made new. You were purified by the washing of the water and the Word and welcomed into the kingdom as a child of God.

Those baptized in Christ have put off the sinful flesh, slavery to the desires and passions, the cares of the world – and the temptation to despair and lose hope. Paul writes that while we are on earth we see things like looking through a dim glass, but we will soon see things clearly. The text says that we don’t know entirely what the future holds, but we know that we will be like Christ and see Him as He is, face to face. For us, this is a future reality. We look forward to the time when we will be in heaven, where we will be united with Christ and with one another, and removed from the sorrows of this world.

But for those who have preceded us in the faith, this is their present life. The live before the throne of the Lamb with the multitudes who have gone before them. There is no more crying, no pain, no shame, no suffering, no death, no mourning, just purified perfection. There is only happiness and bliss forever. This is what we look forward to, but we do get a glimpse of it here on earth, even today, even during this service.

Dr. Arthur Just, a professor at our seminary in Fort Wayne wrote a book called, Heaven on Earth. The book is about how our liturgy transcends time and space; it connects us with the saints of God in every time and place, even with those in heaven. The songs that we sing are sung by choirs of angels and the white-robed faithful in heaven as well. Especially are we connected in the Lord’s Supper, in the communion of saints, we feast on Christ’s true body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. We when approach this rail we are connected with those around us here and with the faithful in heaven. It is a foretaste of the future that belongs to us all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Jn 2:16.

[2] 1 Jn 3:1–3.

[3] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 331.

[4] Ex. 19:5

[5] Ga 4:4–5.

[6] 1 Jn 3:1.

[7] 1 Jn 3:2–3.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s