Cared For and Secured

Cared For and Secured

Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you
from God, our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Brothers and
sisters in Christ, the text for this morning comes from the Revelation
according to St. John, as well as the Gospel reading from the Sermon on the

“Blessed are those who die in the Lord” is what we just
heard sang from the book of Psalms. These are they who have died in the Lord,
who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb and rejoice in that peace—Marina
McEachern, Marie L. Hayter, Wilfred W. Rathke. These are they who have gone
before us, along with all those whom you love and know in your heart who have
died in this faith into which you have been baptized, the one we share that
sets us apart from this world, this ungodly and damnable world in which you and
I continue on as the church militant until we become what John wrote of in the
revelation given to him….the church triumphant.

And in the meantime….in the meantime, we live in a world
that does not recognize us as its own. And we can struggle with that at times,
because all of us have that innate desire to be accepted by the norm, and the
norm, unfortunately, has always been and will always continue to be the norm
according to the world and not according to the God and whose name you bear as
His beloved child, the same John wrote in his epistle this morning. The reason
why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. That is the same
thing He said, the Lord Jesus, to the disciples in the fifteenth chapter of the
same Gospel of John where he talked about how we are set apart and different
than the world, but what you and I struggle with is that we forget and we’re
tempted to continually and regularly forget what this world really is and what
it stands to become, which is completely juxtaposed to what you and I are going
to become, as these three brothers and sisters in Christ who I’ve just named,
have already become.

Paul wrote about this kind of a world in which you and I
live which hasn’t changed. It began after Adam and Eve were exiled from the
Garden of Eden and it continued pell-mell down that path since the flood. Hear
what Paul has said: “For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all
ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress
the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them because God has
shown it to them, for His invisible attributes, namely His eternal power and
divine nature, have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world
in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. Therefore, God
gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity to the dishonoring of
their bodies among themselves because they exchange the truth about God for a
lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator. And since
they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to
do what ought not to be done. Though they knew God’s decree that those who
practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to
those who practice them.”

Now, lest we be shocked, throw away the glasses of naiveté,
we have all known this to be true about this world. You have been set apart.
You have known since you were a little girl or boy, you are markedly different
than this world, and the things that you hold to be true are at odds with what
the world holds to be true, and so it shall be until you close your eyes in
this faith. And for us to think that it would be something other than is to
really bite into and imbibe the great drink of, as Pastor Stinson has been
teaching, Screwtape’s brew, the devil and what he has been selling to the world
and the world has been buying in droves.

Now, there are a lot of TV preachers and a lot of popular
books that have been written. You can find them at Barnes and Noble in the
Christian inspiration section, that are full of tripe and, quite frankly,
things that you can use to fertilize your rose bushes, about this world and
about what God thinks about this world. There is no way that we’re going to
work harder to make it into Utopia. There is no way that we’re going to bring
about a Christian state. What God has promised is that His bride shall be
victorious and brought into Heaven. That is His promise, but in the
meantime….in the meantime, your and my struggle is standing up for truth and
being the butt of jokes, being different than the world standard, being marked
as one who bears Christ crucified and risen, being one who understands and
accepts that their own death, your and my mortality, is God’s wrath and
punishment upon sin. And it hangs over our head like a dark cloud, and we ought
to be very mindful of it for that is the very hope of this world….death. But
the world does everything within its power and we are tempted to embrace such
ungodly hope to think that we can avoid it by certain things that we do in this
world. And so, again, certain Christians can proclaim there is this need to
imitate Christ as if Christian living is what inherits that life.

You all know those who have preceded you in the faith and
you know in your heart of hearts, they are not nor were they always acting as
if they were saints. They were damned sinners just like you and me, and what set
them apart is the very thing that sets you apart from this world as well….God’s
blood that washes their robe and yours white. To imitate Christ is to die in
Christ, and death….death is something that definitely marks us as God’s
condemned, but through such death does come life, just as God in the flesh
brought life from death. This is the Christian faith.

Frustration builds in this church that you and I are a part,
this one holy, Christian, and apostolic church, because at many times it looks
as if it is the biggest laughing stock of this world, and as if we can’t get
our own stuff together and all of our edges are completely frayed and we look
to be very, very on our way to hell. We sang about that last week. “Though with
scornful wonder the world sees the church oppressed by schisms rent asunder, by
heresies distressed. Yet saints their watch are keeping. Their cry goes up, ‘How
long?’ And soon, the night of weeping shall be the morn of song. Through toil
and tribulation and tumult of her war, she waits the consummation of peace
forevermore, till with vision glorious her longing eyes are blest; and the
great church victorious shall be the church at rest.”

That’s how the world sees us; isn’t it. At every turn,
that’s how the world sees us. And that’s….that’s the stuff that Satan feeds
you and me every time we leave this place, about that which we’re a part of,
the church, about the one Lord, about the one faith, about the one baptism,
about the one God and Father of us all Who is over all, through all, and in
all. That’s what’s fed to us outside these walls, but here? Here, you’re fed
something different. This is where you and I eat and drink our victory and we
sing about it, our victory that is not beheld by our eyes and oftentimes isn’t
heard with our ears in this world of din but is believed upon and trusted in,
and we will close our eyes in such faith.

When Jesus to His beloved crowd gathered there at the Sermon
on the Mount….when He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the
kingdom of God,” He’s talking about that which dies, our pride. Humility will
inherit the kingdom of God. Humility that can only be crushed by the impending
death of us, our own mortality. Hence, He said in verse 10, “Blessed are those
who are persecuted for righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you, persecute you, and utter all kinds of
evil against you falsely on my behalf….or my account. Rejoice and be glad, for
great is your reward in Heaven.” But you can’t see it, and the world tells you
it doesn’t exist. And you’re tempted to think that you can bend a little in
this world and still honor God’s name.

Ironically enough, God gives life by putting to death, and
He must put to death us….daily. And out of it always comes life because out of
death did come life through Christ. You shall live and you shall live forever.
That is God’s promise and it’s completely perceived by John in the vision given
to him where he says, “The great throng of those who have gone before us who
have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, who have no more tears, no
more sorrow, no more shame, no more aches and pains, no more ridicule, no more
bottom of the heap. Victory, but not in this life. In this life we are set
apart and we are not of the world. We are God’s children now and what we will
be as John said has not yet appeared. All that has appeared is what we sang
about in “The Church’s One Foundation,” a church that’s completely rent
asunder, struggling, in chaos, fighting within and fighting without. That is
the reality of what we see and the world sees, and yet, by golly, we go forth
from here not with downtrodden hearts. We go forth from here with victory on
our minds and in our voices, on our tongue because we have seen and heard and
have tasted that blessed are those who die in the Lord. It shall not be the
mocking and ridicule of Satan, nor of this world. We shall laugh the last
laugh. But we shall laugh it with great tears before we die, because we will
see a lot of sorrow and pain, and we will struggle within ourselves to make it
make sense, and it shall not make sense unless we come here to this place.
Here, it can only make sense by faith, and here is where God wishes for it to
be made sense in our hearts, the same place where we celebrate the loved one
who has gone before us and lies in that coffin whose victory has been won and
their homerun went out of the park. And they’re home. Someday we, too, shall be
with them. We shall be with them as they said, “We shall serve Him night and
day in His temple. He shall shelter us with His presence, and the Lamb in the
midst of the throne will be our Shepherd, and He will wipe away every tear from
our eyes.”

In the name of Him in whom we have died and continually die,
until we die the final death and are brought into Heaven, Jesus, who will be
our Shepherd and will feed us and clothe us with His righteousness forever. In
his name, amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your
hearts and your minds on Christ Jesus to life eternal. Amen.