Home > Piles in my office > Ripples of Paradise. Advent 3 2015

Ripples of Paradise. Advent 3 2015


Gaudete—The Third Sunday in Advent

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 11:2-10

December 13, 2015

“Ripples of Paradise”

 

Iesu Iuva

This Sunday is called “Gaudete”—rejoice! We light the pink candle in this short and somber season of waiting and watching and we rejoice because our wait is nearly over. Soon comes our Lord’s advent, or appearing. When Jesus shows His lovely face in the manger at Christmas and with the clouds at His second coming, what will it be for those who are prepared to meet Him?

 

It will be paradise.

 

Meditate for a moment on that—paradise. That’s why we’re here this morning, isn’t it—not simply to see friends or pour coffee in the gym, not even just to escape the fires of hell—but because we want to have a share in paradise. And yet we so seldom think about the joy of everlasting life which is to be ours forever.

 

What will paradise be like?

 

It’s hard to say because we can hardly imagine it. But what are you looking forward to in eternal life, in paradise?

 

To see your loved ones again who have died in faith in Christ? Yes, your father and mother, your brothers and sisters, perhaps your spouse? Perhaps one of your children? Yes, those who were baptized and believed in Christ will be with you in Paradise because there will be no more death there.

 

What else will there be in Paradise? No more pain, no more sickness. No more growing old. No more futility and uselessness. No more oppression. Yes, because sin will be gone, and so will be the curse on the earth.

 

Think, what will paradise be for us? We don’t think about it enough.

 

No more sin, no more temptation, no more guilt. There will be no Satan to tempt and accuse us and no sin left in our bodies, because Satan will be cast in the lake of fire and we will have put on new bodies in the image of Jesus, the Son of God.

 

And there will be no more separation from God. We will see Him face to face in all His glory. And we will not be terrified or destroyed by His glory. We will see God and we will delight in His beauty and splendor and wisdom.

 

It is comforting to think about paradise, and even more comforting to have the certain assurance and hope that it is ours. That is the certain promise Jesus gives us in His Gospel—that everyone who believes in Him will be with Him in paradise.

 

Why don’t we do this more often—dream of the new heavens and earth that are coming when Jesus appears again? Why don’t we rejoice in the heaven we will inherit?

 

Because it seems so far away from us, right? And we have so much work to do in the “real” world, this present world, and so many problems and so many sins here, that it seems—perhaps—irresponsible to rejoice in the paradise that is to come.

 

It’s like the experience of John the Baptist and his disciples in the Gospel reading.

 

John, as Jesus tells us, was the one the prophet told about long ago: “See, I will send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.”

 

His work was to prepare the way for the promised Messiah, who would be nothing less than the Lord, the God of Israel, in human flesh.

 

And this is what John did. He prepared the way of the Lord, preaching, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

 

Then he baptized those who repented for the forgiveness of sins.

 

Finally, John preached repentance to Herod, the ruler of Judea, called him out for his sexual immorality. And Herod threw John in prison.

 

And now John is in the dungeon waiting for Herod to give the order for his execution. And where is the paradise he preached, the kingdom of heaven that was supposed to arrive with Jesus?

 

All John’s disciples see is their teacher chained up in the depths of gloom, waiting for death. Where is the kingdom? Where is paradise? So far all Jesus has done is walk around in poverty, preaching to crowds and healing a few sick people. They don’t see any paradise.

 

Does the experience of John and his disciples sound familiar to you? It does to me.

 

I have preached for nearly ten years. I have preached that not merely a prophet, but the Lord God of Israel Himself is in our midst. He dwells among us in His Word; He comes to us in His very flesh and blood under the bread and wine. He pours Himself out on us in the water of Baptism and delivers us from sin and death as He once delivered the people of Israel through the Red Sea.

 

And yet what has come of this preaching? Where is paradise? Christ has come to us in the Word and yet our circumstances haven’t improved. The congregation continues to decline. And indeed we see the Church throughout the country facing similar trials. We find ourselves asking, “Is this really the true Gospel of Christ, or should we look for another? Should we be looking to other, seemingly more successful churches and seeing what they are preaching?”

 

When John sent His disciples to Jesus to ask this question, Jesus told them to go and tell John what they were hearing and seeing.   The blind received their sight, the lame walked, the lepers were cleansed, the dead were raised, and good news was preached to the poor.

 

Paradise is walking around in Jesus, God in the flesh, leaving a wake of paradise behind Him.

 

Good news is preached to the poor, the gospel of the forgiveness of sins.

 

Even though John dies in prison, the Lord has come to redeem the earth.

 

The fruits of John’s preaching will be visible not in this world but in the world to come.

 

Even though we are suffering, paradise is within our midst and even in our bodies through the blessed sacrament of Christ’s body and blood.

 

We are living for paradise, but now only see its ripples.

 

Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

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