Easter 7, 2016
Revelation 22:1-6, 12-20
“We shall see His face”
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
One day a woman was rushing home from a doctor’s appointment. The doctor had been delayed at the hospital, and the lab work took longer than usual so by the time she left the clinic she was running behind schedule. She still had to pick up her prescription, pick up the children from the baby-sitter, and get home and make supper. As she began to circle the busy Wal-Mart parking lot, looking for a space, the windows of heaven were opened, and a downpour began. While she wasn’t usually the type to bother God with small problems, she began to pray as she turned down the row closest to the front door. "Lord, you know what kind of a day I’ve had, and there’s still an awful lot to do. Could you please grant me a parking space right away, oh, and close to the building so I don’t get soaked." The words weren’t even completely out of her mouth when she saw the backup lights of a car come on at the end of the row. It was the best space in the whole parking lot, right next to the handicap spots and straight out from the front door. She made straight for it and as she pulled in, she said, "never mind God, something just opened up."
How often do we treat God…and the riches of heaven…in this way? We live hectic lives that take us from the doctor’s office, to school functions, to sporting events, concerts, plays, graduations, parties, weddings, and funerals. We often have so much going on we simply want the chance to catch our breath. Our hectic lives are far from just happy occasions. We live with the sadness of losing loved ones to death, the anxiety of loneliness and failure, the temptation to turn to drugs, alcohol, and sex to ease our pain, the fear of cancer and disease, the hardships of lost jobs, lost relationships, and lost dreams. Violence occurs all around us. Our faith is tested. Hope seems lost. How sad it is that we seem to have to lose so much…before we turn to God. In the hopelessness of this world…we pray…and hope in Christ and the joy of heaven.
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 22:1-5)
Heaven. A place where there is no pain, no sickness, no disease, no heartache, and no sin. Heaven…the place where we will live with Christ for all eternity with all our loved ones that have died in the faith. Heaven…the place where Jesus will welcome us with open arms and wipe away all of our tears. Heaven will be perfect…it will be better than anything we can imagine. That is why it is described in Revelation with all the beauty of gold and silver; of diamonds and priceless jewels. How wonderful…how beautiful…how we long to be there with our loved ones. How we long to live without the problems of this life.
And so we pray that God helps us while we are still in this world. We pray that God heals our loved ones that are plagued with cancer and disease; those that are wounded and hurt, those that can’t take care of themselves, loved ones that are recovering from ailments and addictions. And we pray that God helps us in our time of need…when tragedy strikes us…when we hurt and grieve…as we too long for heaven.
God answers our prayers. But do we notice? Sure we will give thanks to God now and then when He helps us… but what about the days, weeks, and years later? Sure… God answered my prayer when I had cancer… but that was years ago… what about the problems I have now? But then there are also the times that we ignore God’s blessings altogether like the woman looking for a parking space earlier. Instead of giving thanks to God…we give credit to ourselves or to our good fortune. How often we forget about God…and get caught up with the business of our lives. Sure, we want God’s help when we need it…but until then…we have better things or more important things to do.
This past Thursday was Ascension Day. An important feast day of the Church. Unfortunately it is a day forgotten by the majority of Christians around the world. Listen to these words: “This is the Savior, thus they say; this is His noble triumph day.” “Be Thou our Joy and strong Defense, who art our future recompense. So shall the light that springs from thee be ours through all eternity.” (A Hymn of Glory Let Us Sing TLH 212 from verses 3 and 6). Such beautiful words sung in celebration of our Savior’s triumphant return to heaven following His death and resurrection. It should be a wonderful celebration as festive as Easter. Our King returns to His throne in heaven where He promises to bring us.
As Christians living in this sinful world and hoping in the life to come we need to remember that if there is one place we should be during good times and bad times alike…as we wait for our Lord’s return…as we wait to be with our loved ones in heaven…it is the place where we are lifted up to heaven…it is here in this Church.
On this Mother’s Day we again come together. It is a day of thanksgiving for our mothers. Yes, we ought to give thanks for those special women in our lives that take care of us, nurture us, and love us no questions asked…no matter the faults, and they are many, that we have. But more importantly we should once again give thanks to God who has given us loving mothers. We ought thank God that once again we may be in His holy house…lifted up to heaven …worshiping our Lord with all of our mothers that have died in the faith. What joy that brings! It is a joy we have every time we come together and worship our Lord. That is the joy that shines out to the rest of the world to see.
Heaven. It’s already ours. We are there every time we worship our Lord. It’s not ours because of how great we are. It’s not ours because we have done something to deserve it. “Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.” (Revelation 22:14) Heaven is ours because we have been washed in the blood of the lamb. We have been baptized into Christ Jesus.
Today…and everyday…thank God. Thank God for all the faithful mothers that brought us to Church to be baptized in the blood of the lamb. Thank God for His faithfulness even when we are unfaithful. Thank God for the gift of life that comes in His Son who died and rose for us…and who is now ascended to His throne. Thank God for all the blessings He bestows upon us…especially the ones we ignore or don’t see. The gift of heaven is yours right now. Come to the Lord’s table. Receive the forgiveness of your sins. Receive strength to overcome this world. Come and gather around the Lamb of God with angels, archangels and all the company of heaven. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.