Worship Theme: Faith Trusts that the Lord Is Bringing Final Deliverance
Sermon Theme: Joy—from Beginning to End
No matter what we face in this life, we can face it with joy. Even the things that really hurt, even when those burdens are so difficult to bear, we can rejoice. As we learn in Revelation 22:6-13, in Jesus we have “Joy – from Beginning to End.” November 20, 2022.
George and Suzie were thinking. They were thinking because they had a big decision to make – they were thinking about putting an offer in on a new home. They knew that this is the type of decision that is not easily undone. They knew that you can’t really undo a home purchase after 3 months, so they wanted to make sure that they had their questions answered before they committed in a big way to this home. They had just finished a walk through with their realtor and they decided to go for a walk around the neighborhood to get a feel for the place that they might be calling home. They wanted to get a lay of the land and get a feel for the neighborhood and they hoped that they would meet a neighbor or two in the process. And that’s exactly what happened. “Do you mind if we ask you a few questions? We are thinking about moving to this neighborhood, but would like to know what to expect!” “Of course!” the friendly neighbor said. “Are there a lot of kids in the neighborhood? We have 3 kids of our own and are curious if they’ll fit in and be able to make friends.” “We noticed the elementary school across the street. What do you know about it?” “How long does it take to get to the expressway from here in the morning?” “We noticed that this neighborhood is close to the airport, are the planes really loud here?” George and Suzie are smart people. They wanted to find out as much as they could about that place and its surroundings before they committed to purchasing a home there. They wanted to make sure there were no surprises.
Can you imagine what it was like this past week for anyone who was a new resident of Orchard Park, NY? I hope that they were warned! I hope that no one bought a home there without being aware of what they were getting themselves into. I hope no one was utterly surprised when they looked out their front door and saw white – a wall of white! In the last 3 days they have received 77” of snow. That’s 6’ 5”. I’m not a short person, but I’d need a few rungs on a ladder to be able to even see over the top of a pile of snow like that! I hope that the people in Orchard Park were well aware that lake effect snow is a part of life in Western New York.
Today’s second reading is from the very last chapter of the very last book of the Bible – Revelation chapter 22. God appeared to the Apostle John who was exiled on the island of Patmos. God gave him a series of visions and then commanded him to write those visions down so that all of his Church could benefit from them. The first verse of Revelation introduces us to “the what” and “the why” of the book. The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John (Revelation 1:1). Did you catch it? Jesus passed these visions along, to John and through John, so that we would know what must soon take place.
And so, he wrote. He wrote his letters to the churches. He wrote his visions of bowls and beasts, of scrolls and seals. He wrote of Satan’s unsuccessful attempts to devour Jesus and his Church. He wrote his prediction of what the world would be like in the last days. John wrote of the trials that would plague the followers of Christ, the difficulties that will be a reality for Christians living in the Last Days. But John wrote, primarily and purposefully, to announce the decisive and ultimate victory that is won by our all-powerful Savior, a victory which has now become our victory through faith. John wrote of paradise restored, the heaven that is now our certain future. Dr. Huebner pointed our eyes to that glory that is our future from this pulpit two weeks ago. That sermon was on the first five verses of Revelation 22. We pick up today with verse six. The angel said to me (to John), “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.”
John concludes his book the same way he began. “These are the things that must soon take place.” John writes so that we know what to expect in this life. He writes so that the challenges and trials of this life don’t dump down on us like an unexpected snowstorm. He writes so that we don’t lose heart in the midst of persecution or pain. He writes so that we can have confidence and hope.
These words are trustworthy and true. Four times in the book of Revelation that phrase “trustworthy and true” is used. Twice it’s talking about Jesus and twice about the Word of God. That’s one of John’s favorite lessons to teach – that the message of God’s love and the one who personified and fulfilled that love are inseparable. John starts his Gospel: In the Beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…and then a few verses later he clarifies…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us! (John 1:1,14). He begins his first letter: That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life (1 John 1:1). In the second verse of Revelation, we are told that John testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:2).
John’s words are clear, and Jesus’ words are comforting, yet, even still we find ways to mess it up. We find ways to doubt. Jesus’ words are “trustworthy and true” yet we figure out a way to trust our own sinful instincts. We long for a life that looks the way we think it should look or a world that is the way that we think is best, and when those things don’t come to pass, we doubt whether or not God is there or if he cares. We’re filled with fear as we look at a world that seems to grow more hostile and unloving with every passing day. We focus so staunchly on the hardships and trials that are in our way that we allow them to skew and distort our view of our God. Like an eclipse, the difficulties and sorrows of this world are so directly in front of us that too often they block our view of the Son.
Yet the Son still shines! Especially into our difficult lives and dark hearts – he shines. He shines with a “trustworthy and true” message of sins forgiven. He shines with the assurance of victory. He shines with the love that only the God-man, only our perfect Substitute could show. He makes a “trustworthy and true” declaration that he has taken our guilt away and paid the debt that we owe. He has suffered in our place. He took up the cross that should have been our end and was willing to give up his life there as a sacrifice to pay for our sins. He rose from death to give us the confidence we need that death is powerless against us. We have life. Real and meaningful life here on earth and everlasting life with Jesus in glory.
And just like he interjects into the conversation between John and the angel, so Jesus inserts himself into our lives with comfort and hope. He doesn’t want us to miss it, so he says it twice: “Look, I am coming soon!” The trials and tragedies, the distortions and discomforts, the sorrows and sufferings of this world, they are temporary. Jesus is coming soon! The pressures and pains of life in a sin-tainted world, they pale in the face of the true and trustworthy proclamation “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me… Jesus is coming to make all things new. Jesus is coming to wipe away every tear from our eyes. Jesus is coming to bring to us life and glory. He comes with his promise of resurrection and perfection. He comes with an assurance of eternal healing and hope. We will spend an eternity relishing in the victory that he has won, worshipping the Savior who sets us free, thanking the one who makes glory beyond our comprehension a reality for us.
Jesus further connects himself to the book of Revelation and to the Bible as a whole with his self-description in our final verse. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
Jesus is eternal Son of God. He exists beyond us and without us. He was there at Creation and will be there when the creation is made new. He created the heavens and earth and will be there to make the new heavens and the new earth. He was there for as at our Beginning and End. He saw us take our first breath and he’ll be with us at our last. He is the author and perfecter of our faith. He was with as faith was created in our hearts through Word and Sacrament and he’ll be there as we celebrate the fulfillment of our faith – and eternity with Christ Jesus in heaven. He is the be all and end all of the Scriptures. He’s there in Genesis Chapter 1. He’s there in Revelation 22 and he’s there in every chapter in between! He is our all in all, our everything.
Our Savior Jesus is trustworthy and true! That means that every promise that he has spoken to us will come true. He’ll never leave us or forsake us! He’ll work blessing for us out of every situation. We are never alone with Jesus in our life and the Spirit in our hearts, not even close! He knows our pains and sympathizes with us. And even better than that, he knows what to do about it. He knows whether to make us strong enough to endure or when and how to take those pains away. He knows our needs even before and better than we do and he supplies us richly from his bounteous hand. His love is as faithful as he is. It’s not going anywhere and no one can take it away. He is strong when we are weak. He fights with us and for us! He gives us what we need to live in this world and even more so he gives us what we need to live with him in the next. We are children of God because of his grace. We are at peace with God because of the payment that Jesus graciously made. We are heirs of heaven because of his generous love.
We are living in the Last Days. The words of Revelation are coming true before us. The signs of the end of days have been fulfilled. The world that we live in can be a dark and sometimes scary place, but my friends, don’t lose hope. Don’t be discouraged! Jesus is coming soon! He’s coming to deliver us from this vale of tears to his side in glory. He’s coming to rescue us from the hardship of this life. He’s coming to gather his own to his side and to take his faithful ones to be with him forever.
And so, no matter what we face in this life, we can face it with joy. Even the things that really hurt, even when those burdens are so difficult to bear, we can rejoice. We can rejoice in every situation, because we have the Savior at our side. We can be happy, even in difficult times, because he’s claimed us to be his own. Jesus is our Rock and our Redeemer. He is our Resurrection and our Life. He is our joy, our hope, our everything. He is for us the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. He is our firm foundation and our unshakable truth. In him we have what no one else does. In Jesus, we have Joy – from Beginning to End. Amen.
Be sure to subscribe so as to not miss future worship services, and please consider sending financial gifts to support the ministry of Grace Lutheran Church:
Online Giving: http://www.gracedowntown.org/giving/
Giving By Mail: Make checks out to "Grace Lutheran Church," and send to:
Grace Lutheran Church
1209 N. Broadway
Milwaukee, WI 53202