The Bread Of Saints
November 4, 2017
Verse: Revelation 7:16–7:17
Christ Lutheran Church
November 5, 2017
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
The Bread of Saints
"They shall hunger no more! Neither thirst! The sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will shepherd them, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Rev. 7:16-17
What St. John saw on that Lord's Day two millennia ago, while he was in exile for his faith, was Christian worship from heaven's perspective! From above, and not from below! Not only did he see it, but he was instructed to write it down, so that you could see it too, so that you could understand what actually happens when you say "I'm going to church."
When we speak of Christian worship we mean one thing. We mean Holy Communion because it is the one, and only, form of worship Jesus gave his church, with the command to celebrate it until he should come again. It is a worship that looks and sounds like St. John's vision that we heard a few minutes ago, and that in time we will see for ourselves from St. John's vantage point. What does it consist of? We've all learned very well that above all it is the remission of sins, and that is the foundation for every other blessing we have in Christ, something no man can live without.
That is the practice taught in Holy Scripture, and the practice of the church for her first four centuries. But then the practice was lost for a millennium! Talk about Great Tribulation! Though Mass was still celebrated every day, in every place, few if any communed. By a process of wrong teaching God's people were made to feel unworthy to receive such holy things into themselves when that is what they needed the most!
The church of the Lutheran Reformation followed the same practice of weekly communion, but taught people that faith in the words "given and shed for you" is what makes a person worthy. And so the Eucharist was restored to the people, and once again they reveled in the love that God bestowed upon them.
But soon what was stolen from the Roman church, was also stolen from the Reformation church. Again God's people suffered. Again God's people were forced to live on a spiritual caloric intake that might keep them alive, but just barely. They became all ribcage, all spiritual skin, loosely draped over spiritual bone.
In our day, thank God, the promise "They shall hunger no more! Neither thirst!" has been restored! Once again the Lord saved his church from her enemies, and more and more Lutheran churches are returning to the Biblical practice of Christian worship. For that to continue and expand among Lutherans, however, some things need to be understood. As baptism is much more than entrance into the assembly of the Firstborn, even so the Lord's Supper is much more than the remission of sins. It is that to be sure! But it is more besides.
This Supper constitutes Christian worship. To participate in it is to worship! And in case we are tempted to over-think the matter (which Lutherans are famous for doing) when we talk about the Eucharist we mean the entire event of the Mass / Divine Service: from the moment we enter the Great Doors, till the moment we leave! Freshly marked. Tattooed if you like, with the Savior's image. Not just covering a forehead, or forearm, but our whole person, from head to toe, inside and out. Talk about ink!
It is also the eternal Passover of the church, the one we see celebrated in heaven, for who is it that occupies the throne in St. John's vision except the Lamb! That is important! St. John did not use one of the many names that the Lord is known by such as Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God, or Son of Man. No. Here he is called the Lamb! The Great High Priest who for love’s sake sacrificed himself to rip the smothering blanket of sin, and the pall of death, away from the whole world. And by his cross you are plainly forgiven all of your sins, and there is no greater beauty, no whiter robe, that you can possess!
The Divine Service – the event we are celebrating at this moment – is also the identifying mark of the unity we have with one another. With those assembled in this holy house, and Christians the world over. But also with angels, archangels, and with all the company of heaven. And with the dear ones who have gone before us! Those are not just abstract notions but a union that factually exists, though imperceptible to the five senses – yet clear and obvious to Faith. It is a unity gained, obtained and participated-in as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup.
But the blessed sacrament is still more. It is strength for as often as you are weak. Weak in faith, in hope, in love for God and for one another. Strength in the time of temptation. Much-needed power to meet life's daily necessities and emergencies with confidence and with a clear head. As God enabled Samson and David to slay lions with their bare hands; and Lion of Judah to slay the Roaring Lion Satan with hands nailed to the cross; even so this Sacrament makes you mightier than all of your enemies!
Holy communion is also endurance in the face of chronic pain, ongoing trials, and the miniseries of miseries that that mark life on this mortal coil.
It is consolation when life is spinning out of control, and the future looks only dark! Even then you can "exalt in glory, and sing for joy as you lie on your bed" (Psalm 149) and soon sweet sleep will find you.
It is spiritual food, the only kind capable of nourishing faith in the unseen things that St. John shows us today.
And it is the matrimonial intimacy of Christ the Bridegroom and the Bride he has made spotless by his blood. You are that spotless and holy Bride! You belong to God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb who is in the center of it. (Rev. 7:17)
And so don’t believe the press! Not the devil’s, not the chatter of other people, not even your own internal chatter with might, on any given day, lionize or demonize you. But believe God’s assessment in today’s epistle: “Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”
And so come to the altar! Purify yourselves now, and God will wipe away ever tear from your eye. Amen.