In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
You are not the only one who grows frustrated and tired. You are not the only one who thinks that the Church on earth should look and act more like the Church in heaven, or that the Church of the Reformation should be more faithful to that Reformation. You are not the only one who is shocked, scandalized, and disgusted by the Church’s in-fighting and worried about the impact of that fighting on its mission and witness. You are not the only one who is reeling from Satanic attacks upon our nation and our synod. But such anxiety comes from cloudy vision, from judging by appearance. Those who live by sight are betrayed by it. By themselves, the eyes can only see poverty, meekness, and hunger. If this living death is all there is, if everything that is is just everything that we can see, then why bother? Life would not be worth living. It would be futile.
But Faith sees more clearly than the eyes. It sees through today and into tomorrow. It embraces the promise. It sees blessedness in the cross, in suffering, in fighting, and even in what seems to be death. For Faith knows that there is no death for those who die in the Lord. They pass through death from this living and temporary death we call “life” into real and lasting life. Our God is the God of the living. Abraham, though he died long ago, is not dead! Our departed loved ones, who have preceded us in the faith, are not dead either. And neither shall you, who believe in Him, who is the Resurrection and the Life, though you be for a time beaten and downtrodden, you shall never die.
This is the peace that passes all understanding. It is peace that exists in turmoil, in sadness, and in the face of tragedy. It exists and endures because it comes from God. It lives by faith, by things unseen, things promised, things yet afar off (though not as far as they used to be.) It is the everlasting hope of the Church which has been bought and redeemed by the death and resurrection of Her Lord. It is peace with God, not men. It is peace not now, but then.
This is how our Lord describes the Christian’s lot on this side of glory: poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungry, cursed, reviled, and hated by men, at war, in strife and difficulty. But in Christ, you shall be comforted. By Grace, like Abraham, you shall inherit the earth. With righteousness, you shall be filled. For you – baptized into His death – you shall obtain mercy. You will not be judged by your sins, by your deeds, but by His perfect life and death. It is enough. It is enough to make dead men alive, sinners into saints, a people from people who were no people. In the resurrection, you shall see God. You shall be called the son of God. For the kingdom of heaven is yours. You eat the Food of heaven in the Blood that washes you clean. It sounds impossible. But, remember, this is how Abraham lived in the promised land: in a tent, as a foreigner, while hostile, pagan people claimed his land as their own and built fortified cities to prove it. He was an old man, with an old barren woman for a wife, with no prospects for children. The Scriptures say that he was as good as dead. So He waited. He waited for a Savior, a Son, a people, and a land. He desired not the land of Canaan, nor the riches of this world and its shallow honors, but a heavenly country, a city not built with hands. He embraced the promise, the impossible grace of God that brings dead men to life. And in that faith He was blessed. The kingdom of heaven is his by faith. It is also yours. For this is how it is with all the saints still on this side of glory. They are waiting. Mostly this is waiting in the midst of sorrow, travail, and uncertainty, or poverty, meekness, and hunger, or of fighting, hardship, and worry. Some days are better than others, but there are no days when everything is just right. We are foreigners, living in tents, not putting down roots, always outsiders, always suspect. Always a target for the devil’s lying doctrines of glory now. Always the object of the world’s scorn. Thus the Word of God calls us, like Abraham, to live by faith, to rejoice in things unseen, but believed, such as saints and angels, and a Holy Communion of the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant, one reality in Christ her Lord, and of better days to come.
This is your future: out of the great tribulation you shall come with robes washed and made white in the Blood of the Lamb, the Beatitudes fulfilled in, and for, you. You shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore. The sun shall not strike you, nor any heat. The Lamb who is in the midst of the throne, who was slain but lives, who gave His life for yours, who rescued, redeemed, saved, bought, loved, and forgave you, He will shepherd you. He will lead you to living fountains of waters, to Life itself. God, Himself, the Lamb, our Jesus, will wipe away every tear from your eyes.
And you are not the only one! Thanks be to God. He does all things well.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Rev’d David H. Petersen
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana