Monday, November 10, 2014

Who is footing the bill for your paradise?

WHERE IS YOUR HEAVEN?


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To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without cost.  Revelation 21:6

IT is hard to think straight.  It is hard to understand the sparkling message of the gospel because of all the devil's lies that float through the air and take up residence in our minds, spoiling the perfect vision of our Christ, and of the life He promises to give us.  That is why it is worth the effort to come to God's house where we clear our heads, because there is nothing greater that a person can possess than God's promise of everlasting Life.

What we learn from our Scripture verse today is that people are thirsty.  We are thirsty but we don't always know it because we quench our thirst with the devil's Kool Aid, and for a moment it seems to satisfy us, but only for a moment because, like drinking sea water, the more you drink the thirstier you get.  Jesus knows this.  It is why He came to live with us, to be our Savior, to willingly suffer and to sacrifice His life as the remedy for our sins.  It is why He gave us His Spirit, His church, His Word and His Sacraments: to answer our crying need and to quench our thirst for righteousness which can be satisfied in no other way.

There should be no doubt in our minds that Jesus is the Fountain of the water of Life.  David knew it a thousand years before Messiah's birth.  With the eye of faith he could say of Jesus, "For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light."  He understood that Jesus is Life and that Jesus is Light, not just for a select few, but for all who thirst in sin's arid desert.  In the church's earlier century baptism was often known as "enlightenment," which is a good name because it doesn't only give us spiritual birth, but also spiritual vision to see what the eyes in our heads cannot.

Yes, it is hard to see straight.  This is why we worship, because the church's liturgy untangles the world's liturgy, and fills us with life and light.  But perhaps the most confusing word the Lord speaks here is the phrase without cost.  That one really throws us.  We all know, or at least should know, that nothing in the world is free.  It may be free to one person, but only at the expense of another.  Whenever any person gets paid without working, another person must work without getting paid, but that is not how the world is meant to operate.

There are plenty of people who would tell you otherwise, and they will prove it to you if only you will vote for them.  If only you will send them your money, if only you will surrender your liberty to them.  They are found everywhere: in education, entertainment, business and technology.  They abound in false religions and are well represented in the  many defective brands of the Christian religion as well.  They all promise you the same thing: heaven on earth.  Don't forget that because THAT is how you can always spot them, and you will save yourself a lot of pain and a lot of sorrow if you remember that one thing.

However badly we want to believe them and to hope and pray that they are right, there is no heaven on earth!  But there is heaven in heaven!  It comes from Jesus, who is the fountain of life.  His cross and resurrection are the unshakable foundation on which the new heaven and new earth are built, but nothing is free, not even our salvation.  It is given to us freely, yes, but that is different.  That is the gospel.  In a word that God freely gives us an inheritance that we do not merit and that we could never obtain for ourselves, but salvation was not free.

In order to delete the sins of the world Jesus had to go where no man could go, and do what no man could do.  He told the disciples on that dark and doleful night that He was going away for "a little while."  He was going away to take care of His Father's business, to provide redemption for a lost world and for the rebels that inhabit it.  In human terms it was "a little while;" three days, but no person can rightly estimate what occurred in that period of time.    Yes, salvation is given to us freely, as a mother gives milk to her infant, and as a father gives good gifts to his children, but it was not free to Jesus.  He went to Gethsemane where He sweat great drops of blood, where His soul was sorrowful to the point of death, where He prayed to God that if there were another way - any other way - that the cup of our sins which He was about to drink, should pass from Him.

But there was no other way, so Jesus drank it to the bitter end, to quench sin's judgment and to make all things new.  Now that is what we must remember and look forward to most of all; not the false promises of heaven on earth, but the renewing and restoring of all things in Christ, to the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.  Now we have sorrow, but we will see Jesus again, and our sorrow will be turned to joy.

Even though there is no heaven on earth, we do get a taste of the future blessedness now.  As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim the Lord's redeeming death, which imparts every spiritual blessing to us until He comes again.  As often as we remember our baptism as we do at the invocation, as often as we hear the words of absolution which purify us from the daily soil of life, as often as we hear God speak to us in the Scriptures and pray to the Father for all that we need in Jesus name, in short, as often as we come to God's house we are drinking deeply from the springs of the water of life, and our thirst is satisfied.  Amen.

~ Rev. Dean Kavouras


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