Beloved Children Right Now

I John 3:1-3

The  grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this  day.

When  things are good, it’s very easy to live in the moment.  In fact, when  things are really good with us, we often tend to forget about both the past and  the future, so caught up are we in the present.  We don’t want the goodness  to end.  Yet, when life does take that inevitable turn south, thoughts of  past and future come flooding in.  We lament “the good old days.”  We  dream about better days to come.  We try to cover over and drive away the  present sufferings by looking elsewhere; looking to the past and/or to the  future.  Understand: This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  This can be  very good; very healthy; very preservative.  After all, it can be very easy  to get overwhelmed by all the pain and suffering that’s a part of everyday life  in this fallen and sinful world of ours.  Without that therapeutic vision  backwards and forwards, one could easily be consumed by the pain of the  present.  Depression sets in.  Hope becomes fleeting, if not lost all  together.  Our drive, our desire to keep pushing forward can die.   Even faith can fall victim to present sufferings and tribulations.  It  happens all the time.

It  is because of this ever-present danger that St. John wrote letters to Christians  under his care who were experiencing the trials, tribulations, and sufferings of  being a faithful Christian in a very unfaithful and dark world.  In fact,  John begins his first letter by immediately taking the people back “to that  which was from the beginning.”  Then he goes on to say that he writes these  things to the people so that they too can believe and have fellowship with him  and the rest of the Christians; fellowship that will make faithful joy complete  and fulfilled.

Think  about that.  Within the first four verses, John immediately lifts the  people out of their present suffering by focusing their faith on the past  reality and the future joy.  Chapter three is no different.  He begins  by talking about the love the Father has already given us; love that made us His  children.  He also points the hearer to the future joy of the resurrection,  when we will arise and be with Christ.  Yet, in the midst of this John also  directs the people to the present.  “Beloved, we are God’s children  now.”

Now,  before we go on, it is important to understand what John is not saying here in  directing the people to the present.  He’s not simply telling them to  “count their blessings,” as if things could be worse.  How often these  dreadful words come out of our mouths.  We may say these words with the  best intentions, but they still come across as cold and unloving.

So…if  John is not telling the people to stop whining and remember to count their  blessings, then why does he direct their attention to the present?  Why  does he draw them back into the midst of their suffering?  My friends: Is  Jesus Christ only a past-tense reality?  Does the joy of Christ only reside  in the unforeseen future?  Absolutely not!  As baptized children of  God, we have a present-tense joy and peace that surpasses all human  understanding.  How often we forget that.  When trouble arises, how  often we go into “default mode” and lament the “good old days.”  How often  we imagine and long for better days to come.  How often we fail to  recognize the joy and truth of Immanuel in our present lives; in our very midst.

This  is why this specific text is appointed to be the Epistle lesson for All Saints  Sunday every single year.  It never ceases to amaze me how many people  think of saints only in terms of dead and faithfully departed.  We may use  the term from time to time to refer to a kind and virtuous person (e.g.,  “so-and-so has the patience of a saint”), yet we often turn right around and  refer to that same person as no saint at all when their sin comes to light for  all to see.  I guess that’s our way of defending/justifying the sinner (and  the sin).  “Well, you know, he’s no saint.”  No one ever says that  about people they don’t like.  But people we do like?   Ourselves?  Well…that’s different.  “We’re no saints.  We’re  certainly not damned sinners like those fools we don’t like, but we’re no saints  either.”  Based on our everyday usage of the word, you can’t help but come  to the conclusion that saints are people who’ve died and gone to heaven and no  longer have to worry about sin.  Those of us residing on this side of  eternity may possess and exhibit certain saint-like virtues from time to time,  but in the end, we’re not saints.  That only happens once we get to heaven  and join the communion of the saints, right?

Wrong!   This is why we meditate on this text this morning.  As baptized and  redeemed children of God, we, too, are saints right now!  It’s not a  future-tense thing.  Through faith in God’s grace alone because of Christ  alone, we have the ever-present joy and peace of knowing that we have been  declared “holy” in God’s eyes.  That’s what it means to be a saint.   That’s what the Greek word hagios means: “holy one.”  That’s what it means  to be justified through faith alone in God’s grace alone because of Christ  alone.  God declares us to be innocent and holy and righteous saints, not  because we’ve earned it with good and saintly behavior, but because Christ Jesus  earned it for us in His death and resurrection.

When  you get down to it, that’s really what All Saints Day is about.  It’s about  Jesus Christ and our kinship to Him, because of Him.  That’s why the All  Saints Day Gospel lesson is always the Beatitudes.  All these  Beatitudes—these promises of blessing—are about Christ first and then about the  reality of our sainthood in Christ.  Contrary to what the world believes,  the Beatitudes are not “Be-Attitudes” that we need to strive for and check off  so that we can acquire blessings from God.  These are descriptions and  conditions of our Savior, which only become our present-tense realities through  our being in-grafted into Him.  This is why He says, “Blessed are those  (present tense) who are persecuted for my sake.”  People are not attacked  by the devil, world and flesh for “being good,” but for having a righteousness  that is not their own.  They are attacked because they cleave to Christ’s  righteousness alone.  Are you hearing proper keeping of the First  Commandment here (to fear, love, and trust in God above all things)?  The  fallen, sinful world and it’s evil prince cannot stand those who trust in Christ  alone and above all things.  Believe it! If you are in Christ, then the  world will hate you.  The devil will target you, and your sinful flesh will  give you no rest.  “Have you done enough?  Is there more you still  need to do?” This is why John wrote to those early Christians.  This is why  he writes to us today.  This is why we flee here to the Divine Service; to  be with Immanuel, to hear God’s Word, to receive absolution for our sins, to eat  and drink His body and blood for life and forgiveness, and to be strengthened to  live fearlessly and faithfully in our Baptismal reality.  We flee here to  receive Christ; a foretaste of the feast to come; a feast that all the faithful  who have gone on before us are enjoying right now at that half of Lord’s Table  that’s in heaven in all its fullness and splendor and glory.

Think  about that when you come up here to the Lord’s Table to be fed and nourished by  Him with His very body and blood.  You come to this half of the table; the  half that feeds the Church Militant.  The rest of the communion of saints;  the angels, the archangels, and all the company of heaven is gathered around in  faithful worship at the heavenly half of the Lord’s Table, communing with their  Lord and Savior at the same exact time, transcending time and space.  Kind  of puts this in a different light, doesn’t it?  I hope so.

As  saints in this life, we hold forth Christ as the One who calls us saints and who  goes with us as we walk through this fallen and sinful world by faith and not by  sight, carrying our crosses and suffering along the way.  However, in the  life to come, we know that we too shall see Him as He is, for we will be like  Him and we shall live forever in His paradise without fear, darkness, shame,  sin, death, pain, suffering or tears.  This reality is—right now—the joy of  the saints who have gone before us.  This same reality, my friends, is the  hope and sure and certain future of all who walk this earth and are—right  now.  This is the sure and certain blessed reality of all who are called  saints in Christ.

Amen.

A Message from Rev  Jason Zirbel  brought to you by  Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas.  For prayer or more information, contact  Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected].  A Pass it On  Project

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