Advent Living

Readings for the day (1st Sunday of Advent – Sunday, November 29, 2015):

Jeremiah 33:14-16

Psalm 25:1-10

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

Luke 21:25-36

 

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

 

The season of Advent is upon us once again and every season it never fails, I always get asks at least once, “Pastor, why don’t we sing the Christmas carols as we prepare for Christmas?”  My answer is, “Because the season of Advent is not the season of preparation for the coming of the Christ Child; he already came.”  Like I said in my newsletter article, if Advent is all about preparing ourselves to celebrate the birth of Christ, then we are preparing for the past.  Rather, Advent is all about preparing ourselves for the future.  That’s why the texts leading up to Advent and during this season all appear to be doom and gloom – like the texts that we have for today.

Our celebration of Christmas is not just a birthday party for Jesus; it is celebrating the reality that our God, the One who created us, in order to better relate to His own creatures, decided to become like us and be born in our likeness.  We give thanks for what our God has done through the birth of Jesus.  We give thanks for the past, but we focus on the future – our future with God.

Now in the Gospel reading, yes Jesus is talking about the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem that took place in 70 AD.  He even says that this generation will not pass away until these things have taken place.  However, this prediction is a both, and.  Yes he is referring to the destruction of the temple.  He is trying to prepare his friends, his disciples for what is going to take place in the coming decades.  It is a warning to them to not be anywhere near Jerusalem during this time.  But Jesus was also referring to the time in which He Himself will return – when His kingdom will finally be restored.  This is what we prepare ourselves for every day, but especially during the season of Advent.

And Jesus tells us what this Advent living looks like – how we should prepare ourselves for His return.  He says that we should not let ourselves be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life.  Basically, He warns us of living our lives in too much excessiveness and uselessness.  So don’t let your life get too cluttered with excessive possessions, activities, or responsibilities that they become a hindrance to your faith.  Likewise, don’t let your life get overloaded with useless possessions, activities, or responsibilities that they become a waste of time, money and resources and get in the way of your walk with God.

But you know, that is so easy to say – reduce the excessiveness in your life and remove the uselessness and you’ll be all ready for when Jesus comes again.  It is so easy to say, but it is so easy to forget too.  With the daily routines of school and work and volunteering, it becomes very easy to get complacent or distracted and completely forget why we are even here as God’s creatures in the first place.  And then life happens and there are struggles, setbacks, and disappointments that popup in our lives that cause us to even lose hope and fall into despair.  So yes, it is easy to just say do x y and z to get ready for Jesus’ return and you’ll be ready.  But in this world tainted with sin, it’s not that simple.  Life must still go on.  Our walk with God still goes on.  And even though we get distracted at times and focus only on the past, like talking about the glory days of the church, or caring more about the infant baby Jesus rather than on the Savior of the world – our king who has, who is, and who will always be working on preparing to take over His kingdom and reign forever as our ultimate ruler of the land.

This is Advent.  This is not Christmas.  The season of Christmas begins at sundown of December 24th.  Now this doesn’t mean that you should go and take all of your Christmas decorations down.  Rather, let these four weeks of Advent be a special time for you to refocus on your spiritual needs.  Ask yourself what is most important for you.  “[Jesus] forewarned [us] that adversity would increase in the last times.  [We can see] that the things that [He] spoke of are [already] happening.  Earthquakes, wars, roaring of the seas, fear and foreboding.  These are already taking place.  Since the things that were foretold are happening, whatever He promises will also follow.  The Lord himself promises, “When you shall see these things come to pass, know that the kingdom of God is at hand.”  The kingdom of God, beloved brothers and sisters, has drawn near.  The reward of life, the joy of eternal salvation, the perpetual happiness and the possession of paradise once lost are now coming as the world passes away.”[1]

We don’t know when all of this will take place, and it is irresponsible of us to waste our time looking or speculating when Jesus will return.  Rather, Jesus calls us to stand up and raise our heads, for our redemption is drawing near.  Whenever Jesus does return, we will finally see our Lord face to face with all of his saints and we will join in that great heavenly banquet, the wedding feast that far surpasses any wedding feast that any of us has ever been to.  On that day, there will be no more wars, or earthquakes, or shootings in crowds of protesters, there will finally be what we all have been so longing for; something that no matter who our president is, who our leader is, which way we vote, or what our stance is on social issues – there will be only one thing – peace, God’s peace that surpasses all of our understanding or comprehension, eternal peace that will last forever.  Amen.

 

 

© 2015 Anthony Christoffels.  Used with permission.

[1] Just, Arthur A.: Luke. Downers Grove, Ill. : InterVarsity Press, 2005 (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture NT 3 3), S. 325

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Worry – fruitful or fruitless?

Readings for the day (Thanksgiving Eve – Wednesday, November 25, 2015):

Joel 2:21-27

Psalm 126

1 Timothy 2:1-7

Matthew 6:25-33

 

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

 

Tomorrow many people will be gathered around a table that is filled with so many delicious foods that it will be hard to decide where to start.  Do I first dig into the mashed potatoes with the pool of gravy in the middle?  Do I take my first bite in the homemade stuffing or green bean casserole?  Or since it is Thanksgiving (aka turkey day) do I go right to the turkey?  You see, I don’t think we have anything to worry about when Jesus says, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink.”  I don’t think any of us will be worrying about what we will eat or drink this weekend, except for which delicious item to start with.

But then Jesus continues and asks, “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”  Many will also be hitting the malls and shopping centers beginning tomorrow already to catch the best deals of the year.  And any of you who have been black Friday shopping before will know that this is not always a peaceful adventure.  People can be rude, inconsiderate, and downright mean, just to get a deal on a TV or an article of clothing.  We talk and act as though we are going to run out of food, run out of clothing, run out of money, and our God will just sit there and watch all of this happen.

Fear and worry have taken over our lives.  The attacks in Paris less than two weeks ago has elevated our level of fear once again.  When we let fear take over, it runs our lives.  We fear that refugees entering our country may do the same to us as was done in Paris.  We fear that there won’t be enough money in the church account.  We fear that the church, Christ’s Church, is dying.  We fear that kids today are having important communication skills replaced by technology.  We fear that terrorist attacks are going to keep getting closer and closer to us.  What else do you fear?  What do you worry about?

Fear tends to run our lives.  Imagine what life would look like for you if you completely removed worry from your life.  What would be left?  Anything?  When we worry, worrying is always associated with the future.  The future is uncertain.  The future is unknown.  That’s why we worry about it.  But what if you didn’t worry about the future?  What if you just focused on the present; what is currently happening.  We’d be left with peace.

The media and other people try to very hard to induce fear into our lives.  When we are fearful, we tend to respond irrationally – not with a clear head, but with emotions that are tainted with fear and worry.

It is very easy to be fearful.  It doesn’t take much looking around to find things that will induce fear for us.  But if we take a little bit of time we can also find things that we can rejoice about.

Take the Israelites for example.  There were predictions of a locust plague and famine throughout the land.  And I say prediction, meaning in the future, and they were fearful of what these predictions were saying.  So the prophet Joel told Israel, “Fear not…be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things.”  Rejoice for the bins are full of grain and the bottles are full of wine and oil.  Praise the name of the Lord for we eat in plenty and are satisfied.  Be thankful for what you have and above all trust in God for the things that you cannot control, namely the future.

Worrying gets us nowhere.  God’s peace is waiting for us when we remove worry and fear from our lives.  With worry gone, it becomes much easier to trust, which is what God wants from us.  Trust in God, the one who actually has the power and the ability to do something about your sin and the issues in this world that cause you to fear.  Above all, strive first for the kingdom of God, for this is the kingdom in which our king, Christ Jesus our Lord, reigns.  And as your king, as your savior, everything will be given to you that you need, including the complete forgiveness of your sins.  Amen.

 

 

© 2015 Anthony Christoffels.  Used with permission.

Vikings are king, or maybe Jesus!

Readings for the day (Christ the King – Sunday, November 22, 2015):

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14

Psalm 93

Revelation 1:4b-8

John 18:33-37

 

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

 

Today is called Christ the King Sunday.  The final Sunday in the church year.  Next Sunday we will begin a new season and a new church year with the beginning of Advent.  But before we get to the preparation, hope, and anticipation that we get during the season of Advent, we close the year off by calling Jesus as our King.

Now I’ve been thinking about kings a lot this week, and I wonder just how relevant it is to call Jesus our King?  We don’t have a king.  We don’t live in a monarchy.  I’m sure the closest that any of us has ever gotten to a king would be the way Disney portrays monarchies with kings and queens and princes and princesses and palaces.  But that’s all fairytale stuff.  So is our savior a king like the fairytale kings of Disney?  Is Jesus like Mufasa, and King Triton, and King Richard.  Maybe, but I don’t think that they really have all that much in common.

I think that we can better relate to the Minnesota Vikings.  After all they are our earthly king, right?  They run our lives.  They tell us when to turn our TV on, and we do.  We turn up the volume on the radio whenever we hear something being mentioned about the Vikings.  We praise our king when times are good and we scream for justice when times are bad.  We are even building our king a $1 billion palace.  And now their new thing is that to pay for this palace we all have a unique opportunity to etch our names in Minnesota history today by buying pavers with our names engraved on it.  Plus today our king will be fighting a very important battle and there will be many who will show up to watch the Vikings play the Packers and follow their king into battle.

But even though the Vikings and sports in general really do run our lives, no one will ever admit it because we all are independent, free-willed people who can make our own decisions.  We don’t need a king to lead us; we can lead ourselves, fight for ourselves, and provide for ourselves.

Except, you can’t provide for yourself, your fighting skills aren’t the greatest, and you’re a terrible leader.  When you try to lead you make sure that you benefit from the decisions.  When you try to fight your motive is selfish or you cowardly shy away.  When you try to provide for yourself it is never enough; you’re always left desiring more and more.

You see, this is why you need a king – someone who will lead you, fight for you, and provide for you.  And I’m sure I could come up with how the Vikings do all of that for us, but even if they do, what or more so who will save you when you’re dead?  Will a football team that plays in $1 billion stadium save you?  Will your money save you?  Will your church building save you?  Will your coffee group or group of friends save you?  NO!  None of these things will be able to save you when you’re dead.  Except you do have a king who does have the ability to save you because he is bigger and even more powerful than death itself.  Jesus Christ, our King.

Now you know that already – that’s why you’re here.  But you know what?  There are a lot of people right now, in our community today, that don’t know this.  They truly believe that their football team or their money or their job or their boat or their friends will be able to help them, support them, save them from whatever life throws their way.  Except none of these can overcome death, but our King can and will!

Many Vikings fans are probably forking out hundreds of dollars to etch their name in Minnesota history by buying those pavers.  And our king has actually done the same thing, except instead of charging us to have our name etched on his palace, he etched his name on each one of us.  Your name is personally known by our king because he remembers placing that cross on your forehead after your baptism.

Earthly kings have and will continue to fail us.  Even fairytale kings and queens have downfalls and fail.  They make poor decisions.  They run away out of fear.  They let their power get the best of them.  No king is perfect except our one true King, Jesus Christ.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus will never lead you astray.  He is always working to keep you on the path of righteousness.  Jesus fully knows the power and influence that the devil has on this world.  So, he knows that this is a daily battle that we face and Jesus is constantly fighting with and for us.  And when we pray, “Give us today our daily bread,” we trust that God will continue to provide for our every need.

So yes, we may not have an earthly king that is in power and ruling over us.  But that does not mean that we are left alone to live our lives in the dark.  Jesus is our king and his light shines in the midst of the darkness to lead us, fight for us, and provide for us.  Christ is our king and as our king we listen to him, follow him, and do that which pleases the king; namely love God and love our neighbors.

We are so far removed from the culture of monarchies and Christ as king is almost foreign to us.  But, even if we can’t relate directly with having an earthly king, that does not diminish the reality or the value of what Jesus as our king has done for us and what he will continue to do for us – daily providing for us with what we need to survive, daily fighting for us by helping us battle against sin and the devil, and daily leading us into places that are not always the most comfortable, sometimes risky.  We are afraid of sharing our faith for someone may actually know that we are a Christian.  But this is exactly what God calls us to be and do; to be proud of our faith.  And the path that God leads us on is always for the sake of the Gospel and furthering, spreading, and growing God’s kingdom – the kingdom in which Jesus reigns as our king.  Amen.

 

 

© 2015 Anthony Christoffels.  Used with permission.

Red Holiday Cups, Large Stones & Jesus

Readings for the day (25th Sunday after Pentecost – Lectionary 33 – Sunday, November 15, 2015):

Daniel 12:1-3

Psalm 16

Hebrews 10:11-25

Mark 13:1-8

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

So all four of the readings that we have for today are very fitting in light of the world events that have taken place over the weekend.  I had planned on talking about the war on Christmas that people are claiming Starbucks is doing with their plain red coffee cups this season.  But after the attacks in Paris on Friday, it just doesn’t seem right to talk about an issue that doesn’t have any lasting effect on our lives or on our salvation.  So instead of talking about how ridicules it is that people are getting all bent out of shape regarding what Starbucks has done in removing all of the Christmas symbols from their coffee cups (which all of those symbols were non-Christian symbols anyway), I’m going to focus on things that actually matter in our lives and more importantly, what actually matters in our relationship with God.

In the Gospel reading today, Jesus has already entered triumphantly into Jerusalem with crowds shouting and praising God for their new king, their messiah has finally arrived to liberate them from the Romans.  As Jesus comes out of the temple, one of his disciples makes a comment about how wonderful and beautiful this temple is.  Look at this magnificent structure that we have built.  And Jesus, knowing what is going to be happening in the next couple of days, is saddened to see that his disciples (his closest followers) still don’t get it.  Jesus didn’t enter Jerusalem to throw down the Romans, but to be raised up and united to a cross.  They still don’t get it!  They should be completely focused on Jesus and realize that the sacrifice that he will make on the cross is all that truly matters.  But they don’t get it.

And quite honestly, many times, we don’t get it either.  We insist on focusing on things that don’t really matter much.  From how a coffee shop designs their coffee cups to what is written in church policies to how much or how little money we have in the church account.  We like to say, “Look, Jesus, see what we have done.  See what great things we have created.”  All of these prideful accomplishments become our large stones that the disciples gloat about regarding the temple.

And the response from Jesus is that all of these stones that you have built will be torn down.  Now Jesus was referring to some 35 years later when the temple in Jerusalem would indeed be ransacked and completely destroyed (which happened in the year 70 AD.  But I can’t help but see how this message is also a message for us today.  There will come a day when coffee cups and church policies and our church building and budgets will no longer matter.  And the terrorist attacks on Friday in Paris remind us of that reality.  None of us know when the end will come, and yet we make mountains out of ant hills.  We turn little issues into enormous ones because we tend to forget why we’re here.  At the end of the day (and really at the last day when God will judge all of us) what will really matter then?  Will it matter what was or was not on your coffee cup in 2015 or who your savior is?

This is exactly his point about the temple.  It doesn’t matter how wonderful this structure is.  What matters is that Jesus is just days away from the cross and getting the final victory over death by rising from the grave.  And isn’t that what is most important in our faith life and in the life of the church?  What’s most important is this reality that our Lord stared death in the face and for your sake, willingly gave his life.  For what?  So we could complain about the lack of snow flakes and Christmas wreaths on our coffee cups?

129 people died and another 352 wounded this weekend in what appears to be a senseless attack on humanity – people killing others just because they want to.  Evil is always lurking around, whether noticeable or more subtle.  But regardless, what Daniel says is true.  That one day “those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.”  We don’t know when all of this will take place.  Jesus says that nations will rise against nation and there will be wars and earthquakes and famines.  But if we try to see the signs of the last day, again we have missed the mark.  When your focus is on the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ, there is no need to worry about seeing these signs for you will know what you have coming for you.  Jesus has already promised it to you – everlasting life with him.

In the days after an attack like what we have seen this weekend in Paris, it is very easy to get scared and lose hope; which is probably what the attackers were hoping for.  Rather than losing hope with no place to turn, turn to Christ.  For through his blood that was poured out for all, his promises will never fail.  So you can continue living your life hopeful and confident that your sins have been washed clean and when the Day of Judgment comes that the judge will look favorably upon you.

We pray for all of those who have been affected by these terrible attacks in Paris over the weekend as well as all of those affected by terrorism around the world.  May God be with all of them and may you all not lose hope or take your eyes off of what matters most – the red holiday cup from Starbucks.  No, just checking to see if you’ve been paying attention.  May you keep your eyes fixed on Christ, the only one who has the power to forgive your sins and to bring new life to you for all of eternity.  Hold fast to Christ.  For in Christ there is hope, hope for a better tomorrow; this hope lasts forever.  Amen.

© 2015 Anthony Christoffels.  Used with permission.

The Cross as a Measuring Stick

Readings for the day (24th Sunday after Pentecost – Lectionary 32 – Sunday, November 8, 2015):

1 Kings 17:8-16

Psalm 146

Hebrews 9:24-28

Mark 12:38-44

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

Oh, the widow’s mite.  The story from the Gospels that comes up in November for what appears to be no other good reason than for the pastor to try to guilt everyone into giving more to the church.  Oh, the widow’s mite.  A story that many times we associate with stewardship talks and about giving a larger percentage of your income to God by donating to his church.  Oh, the widow’s mite.  A story that brings up the one topic in church that is almost considered a curse word, the thing that we shouldn’t talk about because it is private, it is personal, it is no body’s business.  The word – MONEY!

Now we could look at this text and go – oh, don’t be like the scribes who wear long robes, who need to be greeted in the grocery store and who take the best seats in the church (that back pew is the most coveted spot in the whole church).  We could also say that everyone needs to give at least everything that they can to the church because after all, it says that this widow “put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”  Meaning, she now had to go without food for multiple days before she would have enough money in order to buy more food.  She gave everything that she had.  She gave EVERYTHING!  She had nothing left to give, except for maybe the shirt on her back.

Now it is very easy in this text to feel that Jesus is praising the woman for giving two coins that were worth a penny and Jesus is condemning those who gave large sums of money.  Actually the amount of money doesn’t play much of a factor in this teaching by Jesus at all.  What Jesus is really focused on here is the motivation of each person’s giving.  Why did this woman give those two coins to the temple treasury?  Why were the rich people giving large sums of money to the temple treasury?  The rich people were giving for the same reason why the scribes were wearing long robes, or needing to be greeted at the grocery store, or coveting the best seats in the synagogues – because it was all a big show.  By doing all of this, it would show to everyone else how great they were and how more righteous they were than the rest of the people.  They didn’t care about others or the poor or the sick or the outsiders.  All they cared about were themselves.  All they were concerned about was making sure that they were noticed and seen as the perfect example on how one SHOULD be living their life.

Well Jesus gathers his disciples together and says, “NO, they’re wrong.  And here’s why.”  They are far from perfect because they have engrained it in people’s minds that they have to give, even if they don’t have money to give, just so that they can look somewhat righteous before everyone else.  This poor widow gave everything that she had, because she felt so compelled to give to look righteous like the rest of them, that she willingly gave all that she had, just two small coins – which still doesn’t remotely compare to the amount that the others were giving.

There is no one able to even help this poor widow out because they are all so focused on making themselves look their best.  No one could look past themselves to notice that this woman really needed help.  All of these people putting money in the treasury felt it was necessary to take care of themselves first before even thinking about those around them who were hurting.  That is pretty selfish isn’t it?

We are selfish people aren’t we?  We say that we’re too busy to lend a hand.  We’ve already served our time on council.  We can’t help you because we have to help ourselves first.  We are selfish individuals!  We want what is best for others only after we have gotten what is best for us.

Let me give you an example of when it is actually okay to be selfish.  So Nicholas has hit the demanding stage in childhood, ” Daddy I need a show.  Daddy I need milk.  Daddy I need food.  Daddy I need this specific toy that of course we can’t find.  I need.  I need.  I need.  And it drives me nuts.  How can I possibly always be attending to your every need?  Sometimes I just feel like being selfish and not helping him out right away.

This summer when Stephanie was gone for a couple weeks I could not always attend to his every need because there were things that I too needed to get done.  Sometimes we have to take care of ourselves first.  Like in the case with my son, we wouldn’t have food on the table to eat if I attended to his every need.  I’d never get time to do it.  But then there are other times when we don’t have to be so selfish and we actually should think of our neighbor’s needs once in a while.  If you are going to help your neighbor harvest their field or clean up the leaves in their yard, do you go and take care of your neighbor’s needs first or yours?

Now Nicholas will also have moments where he will come up to me and with the sweetest look on his face, look me in the eye and say, Daddy will you play with me?  Well how can you say no to that?  And isn’t that what Jesus is saying to us, “Friend will you play with your neighbor?”  Meaning, spend time with them, take an interest in them, help them, support them.  For this is exactly what God has done for you.  God took an interest in you before you even knew him.  God is always there to help you.  And support from our always present God is the best that you can have.  God has given you more that you will ever need or deserve…his Son.

You are rich, maybe not in how this world defines riches, but with God you all are rich.  You all have the promise of eternal life.  Your sins are forgiven.  You have life.  You have purpose.  You have Jesus!  Yes this world can be cruel and pressure us into doing many things that God doesn’t like, such as being selfish, thinking only of ourselves and not our neighbors, by using the dollar amount of each other’s giving as the measuring stick.  Instead let’s use the same measuring stick that God uses; your faith in Jesus.  That’s what Jesus meant when he said that this widow gave more than all of those contributing to the treasury.  She gave not out of selfish ambition or desire, but in faith.  She trusted, just as the widow of Zarephath gave Elijah a meal will the last bit of food she had because she had faith in God.

We are children of God claimed through the waters of baptism and ALL of our sins have been washed clean away by the blood of Christ that was shed.  That’s God’s measuring stick.  That’s our measuring stick, not if you give large sums of money or 2 small coins.  Who do you belong to?  God!   Who do you put your faith in – your money or your savior Jesus?  Your answer will tell you what matters to you!  As for me, I put my faith in Jesus!  Amen!

© 2015 Anthony Christoffels.  Used with permission.

The Ultimate Bucket List

Readings for the day (All Saints Day – Sunday, November 1, 2015):

Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 24

Revelation 21:1-6

John 11:32-44

Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.  Amen.

Today, November 1st, is All Saints’ Day; the day in which we remember and give thanks for all of those faithful saints in our lives who have died; specifically in the last year. So it would make sense that all 4 of the scripture readings that we have heard are common funeral texts.  We began with the Isaiah reading, in which the prophet Isaiah tells of the feast that God will prepare for his people and the hope that God will one day swallow up death forever.  Then the psalmists tells of who God is and why we look to God as our king.  The reading from Revelation is the familiar revelation that John has of the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven – the new creation that we live each day hoping for.  And then the Gospel reading of course is Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus being raised from the dead by Jesus.

Each and every day, we live in the shadow of death.  We fear death.  We try our hardest to avoid it completely.  But no matter how hard we try, we can’t avoid it.  Death keeps popping up.  And we know that the future is so uncertain that at any moment, one little thing could change our whole life forever.  And our daily actions reflect this fear of death.  We talk as though this life is all there is.  We must make the most of it because once we are dead that is it; no more life for us.  There are many people who make bucket lists – you know, a list of things that you want to do and places that you want to see before you kick the bucket.  Don’t get me wrong, having a wish list of places to see and things to do is a good thing to have, but when that list turns into something that you NEED to do before you die otherwise your life will not be complete, then we have a problem.

Now in the Gospel reading, Jesus calls to crowd to unbind Lazarus from the fabric that he was wrapped in and let him go.  Jesus broke the grip that death had on Lazarus and that is exactly what Jesus does for us.  He has broken the grip of death and has given us new life.  All of those things that bind us to the brokenness of this world will one day be removed.  Death cannot and will not get the last word; Jesus gets the last word – the resurrection gets the last word.

When we come to the Altar of our Lord and receive Christ’s body and blood, which is spiritual nourishment for us in this life, this is not only a meal with each other, but it is also a holy meal that we celebrate with the Communion of Saints – all of our brothers and sisters in Christ who have gone on before us.  Traditionally in country churches, there would be a communion rail that was in the shape of a half circle.  The other half of the circle was on the other side of the wall where the cemetery was at.  As you come to the Altar of our Lord, you are coming to feast on the body and blood of Jesus, and be joined with all of the saints in that feast.

John’s vision that we read about in the book of Revelation gives us a glimpse into what that resurrected life is going to look like for us.  Every tear will be wiped from your eyes.  Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.  God is making all things new.

With our strong fear of death and our longing to not let go of our loved ones, I wonder if we even believe in the resurrection.  Do you believe in eternal life?  If you live your life trusting and believing in the resurrection, don’t you think that this should impact the way you live your daily life?  If you believe that eternal life is indeed a promise that will be fulfilled one day for you, then why is your bucket list so darn important?  If we truly believe that eternal life is awaiting us and that one day our bodies will be restored to the way that God intended, then this belief should be influencing and guiding our decision-making each and every day?  As Jesus reminds us, this world is not your home.  The possessions that you have in this world do not belong to you; for the psalmist says, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.”

Believe in these words; that they are trustworthy and true: “Jesus is the resurrection and the life.  Those who believe in him, even though they die, will live.”  Even though one day we all will be faced with the reality of our own mortality, there is hope.  Yes, we will not live forever.  I think all of us know and understand that reality.  However, Jesus promises that even though we will die, meaning our bodies will cease to function, new life will be breathed into us and we will live.  At the end of the Apostles’ Creed we even state that we believe in the resurrection of the body.  That’s your body that you are referring to as you publically state your belief in the resurrection of the body.  By saying that, you are confessing that you believe and trust that one day your dead, rotting, decaying old body will one day be restored to new life all because of Christ.  And that is our ultimate bucket list item, to one day be resurrected with Christ to new life!

So this is the hope that we hold on to on this All Saints Day.  We trust and put our hope in the only one who we know that has proven that he can indeed overcome death itself by not only raising the dead, but also rising from the grave himself – Jesus Christ our Lord.  Until we join all of the saints in our new resurrected bodies, we come to the Lord’s Table to commune with the saints and feast on the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  May this meal sustain your faith in these promises until these words are spoken over your body at your funeral,

“Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant.  Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming.  Receive them into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.  Amen.”

© 2015 Anthony Christoffels.  Used with permission.