by The Rev. David Kind
It’s kind of cool that now that we have come to the end of our week together at this conference, we also have a reading from the very end of the Bible. But coming to the end of things is not always pleasant. And with an event like this one, it can be kind of depressing when you realize later today or tomorrow or in a few more days I’m going to be back home and back to my regular routine. Oh, for a while, you’ll relive this week as you tell about it to your friends who couldn’t come. You’ll exchange pictures on facebook. And hopefully you’ll start planning to come to the next conference. But eventually the joy and excitement of the experience will fade away, even the joy of retelling it will fade.
So it’s a good thing that Jesus gives us something to look forward to, and not talking about the next Higher Things Conference, although I’m pretty sure He wants you to look forward to that too! Rather Jesus tells us to look forward to Him. We’ve been talking about Jesus and His gifts all week long. We’ve even received those gifts, the Word given in sessions, and the Word preached and Sacraments given here in the Chapel. But now Jesus says: “behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.” Now Jesus coming! That’s something to look forward to!
But this part about “to everyone according to his work” And then those words, “Blessed are those who do His commandments…” sound kind of scary. You know, after all, just what kind of works you do. And you know that they aren’t always great works. In fact you should know that most of your works are crappy works. And some of your works are downright evil. In other words, you know that you are a sinner who breaks God’s commandments every single day. And if you don’t think that’s the case, then you’d better check yourself over and make sure you have flesh and if you find out that you do, then you’d better listen to what God says about it and about you. After all, God doesn’t ask just that you try hard to be a good person. He demands perfection. And you’d darn well better have it!
And you do. No, no, no… now wait a minute pastor, you’re probably thinking, didn’t you just say I was a sinner whose works were no good? That’s right. But the work that God is speaking about in this chapter, the commandment He wants you to do, is one you can keep because it requires that you do absolutely nothing, nothing that is, but receive.
Remember that St. John wrote Revelation. And in John’s Gospel, the people ask Jesus what work they must do to do the works of God. And Jesus says: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” And later in John’s first epistle, the apostle says this: “this is [God’s] commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another”. And now Jesus says blessed are you if you do this – if you keep My Words. If you do this I’m going to give you the reward that is rightfully Mine.
He’s talking about faith. The work is to believe. It is to say Amen to Jesus. It is merely to receive what Christ gives. It’s not an active work, but a passive one. God does it and I receive it. Now that’s the kind of work I can get into! And that work of God in us through His Gospel produces fruits in us as well and works of love toward our neighbor too. First believe, then out of that faith, love. This is part of faith’s Amen, after all: the Amen of a life lived in love to others. And that’s a life that is different from that of those who love, believe and practice a lie.
But faith’s reward is not based upon your busyness for Christ, or even for your neighbor’s welfare. It is His reward given – given – to you. It is the reward He has won for you through His suffering, through His dying on the cross to save you from your sins, through His rising from the dead to defeat your death. And what reward is that? Where there is forgiveness of sins there is also life and salvation. There is heaven. Don’t do for salvation, Jesus says, rather receive. Take the waters of life freely. And faith says Amen to that and lives in it.
Now all of this is not just a future thing. It’s not some far away future reality of floating on the clouds with your harp, or of eating donuts and chocolate, or what have you. Heaven is yours now. Already. We’ve been saying “Amen, Amen, it shall be so.” But it’s more than that. Amen, Amen, it is so. Not only in the future, but now. Already.
Jesus said “Surely I am coming quickly” Yeah, as soon as the letter was read! When you hear and receive the Word of God, you receive Christ! He comes to you. And so the implied future of the one sentence (I am coming) is balanced against the present tense of the following: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” Amen. It is not a wish. It is a declaration of the present reality. Amen. It shall be so. And it is so. Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, and everything in between.
And the reward Jesus brings with Him when He graciously visits us is yours now too. For in Holy Baptism you were washed in the waters of life, and those waters, through the power of Word of Christ attached to and comprehended in them, are continually springing up to life within you. You will be able to enter the gates of the City, Jesus says. And you already have entered the City. For you now live in the City of His Holy Church, which is the City of God, the place where Christ is revealed on earth and among which He dwells. You will have the right to eat of the Tree of Life. And you already, this week, even have eaten the fruits of that Most Holy Tree, for you have dined on Christ in Holy Communion, the fruits of the tree of the cross, the tree of torture and death that is made a tree of life for us. All this is yours now.
And faith says Amen to it. Amen, come to us, Lord Jesus. We trust in the works you have performed to save us when you first came. We say Amen to your incarnation, to your suffering and death, to your glorious resurrection and ascension. Come to us now and bring your reward with you. And we say Amen when He does, believing and trusting that His Word and promises to us are true. Amen, come again in glory, O Lord, and bring us to the full recognition and experience of what is ours already by faith, when we shall have joy without end. Amen, Amen, it was so. It is so. It shall be so. Amen. Come Lord Jesus.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, to life everlasting.
+ Soli Deo Gloria +
The Rev. David Kind is Campus Pastor at University Lutheran Chapel in Minneapolis, MN. He served as the head Chaplain at "Amen" in Scranton, PA.
Created: June 30th, 2008