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, November 7, 2014

Hope Is Life

I don’t believe there is much need for Law today.  I don’t need to yell at you or condemn you or remind you that you have broken the commandments.  On All Saints Day, similar to a funeral, we have a built-in reminder of the Law.  

                Death is the great reminder.  The grave screams to us not only of our own limited time here on this earth, but of our lackluster performance in this life.  When we remember those who have died, whether it be in a funeral, a memorial service, or on All Saints Day, we see clearly what we already fear in our hearts: we are mortal…and we deserve it.

                If we had no sin, we would not die.  If we were free from all transgression then the grave would hold nothing against us.  The fact of death holds up for us all a stone-cold stop.  We must reckon with this reality.

                We can complain all we want that it is not fair.  We can shake our fists at God and claim that we did all we could, that we don’t really deserve this sort of an end.  But all that grumbling and protestation will accomplish nothing.  Death remains the punishment for sinners like us.

                We would, however, be greatly remiss to stop there today.  There is a temptation for us to stay there in misery, in despair, in sadness.  But that is not where Jesus leaves us.  He is our Messiah from misery.  He delivers us from despair.  He saves us from sadness.

                What Jesus has done is really rather extraordinary.  He takes the darkest day that the world has ever known, and He flips it on its head.  He breaks death.

                On Easter morning you can almost hear it with the rolling away of the stone.  Crunch- Crack-Boom!  The powers of darkness, the tools of despair, are ruined forever.  Christ is risen, and death is done.

                Hope is born that day, Easter Sunday.  But that hope bleeds backwards into the rest of history, even into Good Friday.  What should be the worst day in human history is now one of the best.  The death of God becomes a good thing because by it we are set free from death.  We are given hope.

                Now funerals, and All Saints Day along with them, are days of hope.  And hope does not disappoint.  This day is dripping with hope because one day we shall all see Him.  And when we see Him, we shall be as He is.

                Hope does not only bleed back into history from the day of Christ’s resurrection, but it shines forward into the dark unknown of the future.  Jesus has risen from the dead.  He has ascended into heaven.  And this makes certain that He will return here in unmasked glory.

                Whatever uncertainties the future holds, whatever scary things are out there, one thing is sure: Jesus is coming back to raise the dead.  You can stake your life on it.  

                When He returns we shall see Him.  Now we do not see.  We believe without sight.  We trust the promise without seeing the vision.  But on that day faith will be obsolete.  The promise will be fulfilled.  Jesus will be as visible then as you and I are to one another right now.  We shall see Him!

                More than that, however.  We shall be as He is.  When we see Jesus, it will not be as sinners living in broken bodies.  We shall see Him in all His divine glory, and that will change us, transform us to reflect His glory.  Our bodies will be resurrected real and immortal, healthy and strong.  

                The theological term for this is “bliss”.  The sight of Jesus’ glory will fill us with such joy, such happiness, such ecstasy, that our minor and temporary discomforts in this world will be nothing but a quickly fading dream.  

                These promises of God are our hope and our joy.  Christ is risen.  Death is broken.  Christ is returning.  We shall see Him.  We shall be like Him.

                And this hope purifies us.  In other places the emphasis is placed on faith.  Faith in Christ justifies us before God.  And hope in Christ purifies us.  Faith looks back to what Christ has done.  Hope looks forward to receiving what has been guaranteed.   

                When our eyes are set on the glory of Christ’s return it drives out all fear, despair, and sadness.  Hope weakens the power of temptation, for we are distracted from the fleeting pleasures of this world by the eternal pleasures of heaven.  Hope brightens our darkest days with the promise of resurrection and life.

                Listen to what the Lutheran theologian Franz Pieper says about hope: “As to the Kingdom of Glory, ‘it doth not yet appear what we shall be’, but our faith looks forward to its appearance.  ‘We rejoice in hope of the glory of God’. ‘With patience we wait for it’.  And it is characteristic of the Christian here on earth that his gaze is continually directed to the Kingdom of Glory.  Believers are described in Scripture as ‘waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’ at the end of the world.

                Also, of the task of the pastor he says: “The Christian preacher would be derelict in his duty if he made mention of the Kingdom of Glory only in passing.  Following the example of the Apostles, who treated of the coming glory so extensively, he must aim to make the daily life of his hearers more and more a life of Christian hope, to give them the comfort in tribulation which only this hope affords, and to keep their minds fixed on heavenly things.

                It is no small thing, this hope that we have.  Hope defends us from the attacks of the devil.  It comforts us in grief.  It purifies us in Christ.  

                Jesus Christ has risen.  We shall see Him.  We shall be like Him.  We and all the saints who rest from their labors. 

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