Psalm 61:3

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; for You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Coming Soon!

Revelation 22:1-20

Jesus Christ has ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God.  So now what? 

                The Ascension of Jesus to the right hand of God might seem like it is less than important when it is compared to the death and resurrection of Jesus.  After all it is at the cross and empty tomb where our salvation is bought and guaranteed.

                But Christ’s ascension to God’s right hand means power.  It means, as Saint Paul says, that Jesus has all things placed under His feet.  Jesus is the all-mighty, ruler of everything.  And He is on your side.

                The ascension means that the same God-Man who suffered the tortures of hell for you, who died alone on a cross for you, who rose on the third day for you, now reigns over the cosmos for you.  And He will make all things work together for your good.

                Jesus has been hidden from our sight.  We cannot see Him with the eyes of our bodies, only the eyes of our hearts, by faith.  But our reading from Revelation 22 tells us, assures us, that soon, very soon, Jesus will reveal Himself.  He will open our eyes to see that He has been here all along as our divine protector and savior.

                But what about now?  As I asked at the beginning, so now what?  We can’t see Jesus, speak directly to Him, or hear directly from Him without any mediation.  Are we just supposed to sit here and twiddle our thumbs until He comes back? 

By no means!  Certainly not!  God’s people, the Church, are to keep the eyes of our hearts open, to be patient, and to be eager as we wait for Him.

With His Word and Spirit Jesus has opened the eyes of our hearts to see His continued presence among us.  We cannot see Him, but He is still here.  And if He is not, we are all in big trouble. 

If Jesus is not here, then your sins are not forgiven, because I am certainly not going to forgive you on my own power.  If Jesus is not here then you are not baptized, because me pouring a few drops of water over your head is an impotent gesture.  If Jesus is not here, then there is no Lord’s Supper, only bread and wine which we can buy at any convenience store.

By faith, however, we see Jesus, risen from the dead, still dwelling here among us.  He is veiled, He is hidden from our sight.  Make no mistake about that.  But He is still here.

The eyes of faith see Jesus standing behind the pastor forgiving our sins in the absolution, preaching words of Law and Gospel, command and promise, that we may see Him all the clearer.  Christ opens our faith eyes to see Him working through simple water to cleanse us from sin and to give us new life.  The eyes of our hearts are brought into focus that we may see the true body and blood of Jesus, sacrificed and risen for you, under the bread and wine.

As we pass the days waiting for Jesus to return, as we pray, “Come Lord Jesus,” we must also remember by the prompting of the Holy Spirit that He is still here working hard among us.  Jesus is still forgiving us, raising us to new life, drawing us into fellowship, keeping us steadfast in the one true faith.

Seeing that Jesus is still here among us leads us to be patient.  The churches to whom John wrote this letter of the Revelation had to be especially patient.  They were going to endure much before the end, just as we are. 

Think about what John sees in the Revelation.  He sees 7 seals broken, and with each one a divine judgment cast upon the earth.  He sees and hears 7 trumpets blown, and with each one destruction reigns down from heaven.  He sees 7 bowls filled with wrath poured upon the earth, and it is consumed.

John sees the Prostitute of Babylon getting drunk on the blood of the saints, two enormous beasts unleashed to deceive the saints, and Satan unchained to wage war on the saints.  This calls for patience. 

We endure trials, temptations, and persecutions here and now.  We watch as our loved ones suffer through illnesses, as terrorists murder, and children are aborted and families crumble.  We see our own selves commit the very sins that we deplore.

Yet Jesus is with us, forgiving our failures with His blood, granting us a refreshed existence day by day.  Jesus gives us patience to endure through our own sinful nature, and to resist it.  He gives patience to endure as the world around us continues on with eyes closed to Jesus Christ.

 As we pass the days waiting for Jesus to return, as we pray, “Come Lord Jesus,” we are made increasingly eager to see Jesus with our eyes.  The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.”  And let the one who hears say, Come.”  Come Lord Jesus!

We are eager to see Jesus, and so we are eager in compassion, especially toward our fellow Christians.  This was one of Jesus’ complaints against the 7 churches to which this Revelation was originally directed, they were lukewarm.  They had lost their first love.  They were not eager for compassion.

When Jesus opens the eyes of our hearts to see Him working among us, we cannot help but see Him working to have compassion on others beside ourselves.  If He loves us He certainly loves those gathered around us.  As He loves you, He so loves the world.

Jesus opens our eyes to make us eager to help the single mother with very few resources.  He makes us eager to encourage our wayward son to come back to church.  He makes us eager to see His compassion spread to the ends of the earth.

The Holy Spirit opens the eyes of our hearts to see the ascended Jesus Christ still working among us.  Jesus makes us patient.  He makes us eager.

In his famous poem of the same name, Alfred, Lord Tennyson writes of Ulysses, a man aged by two decades of war and traveling.  After twenty years of fighting and sailing the weary king returns home to find his kingdom beset by enemies from without and enemies within.  This is what he says:

Though much is taken, much abides; and though We are not now that strength which in old days Moved earth and heaven,
that which we are, we are---One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

                We may feel ourselves growing weary as we continue to pray, “Come Lord Jesus.”  We are beaten down by sin and guilt, evil within and evil without.  Our patience is wearing thin.  Our eagerness fades, grows weak.

                Though the church is not the great secular power it once was, that which we are we are—one equal temper of opened hearts, made weak by time and sin, but strong through Christ to love, to forgive, to trust Jesus alone, and never to yield.

                Jesus is coming.  Surely He is coming soon.  Do not lose heart.  Do not grow weary.  Jesus will give you patience.  Jesus will make you eager.  Amen!  Come Lord Jesus!  

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