Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — A Body at Rest Rests in the Lord

Text: Revelation 7:9-17

In the Name X of Jesus.  AMEN!

Beloved in the Lord,

St. John is given to see with his eyes and hear with his ears what we only know by faith.  John sees a mighty army at rest.  John sees a grand choir in song.  John sees a glorious church triumphant.  John sees what we long to see – a mighty throng, a faithful crew, a noble people gathered before our God and the Lamb.  These, beloved are the saints of old, of today, and tomorrow.  These are they who before the world confessed the Name of Jesus.   These are those who conquered by the blood, who have been washed in the blood, who gained the victory by the blood.  They are a blood bought people.  Their robes are white – baptized in the blood of the lamb.  Their hands are full and raised high waving palm branches, praising the King of kings and Lord of lords.  Their voices ring throughout eternity.  The song once sung in exile, hindered by the wages of sin, now bellows in paradise and is echoed by angels and archangels and all the heavenly hosts.

John sees our loved ones, those who died in the faith.  He sees God’s Saints, the Lord’s redeemed, the Baptized of God.  Through toil and tribulation they bravely fought the good fight of faith and held firm the Name that is above every name.  They sweat, they bled, the labored in their vocations.  They served, they suffered.  They fell.  And they sinned.  And they were forgiven.  They stumbled and they were raised up.  They grew ill, suffered cancer and disease and the frailty of a corrupted nature.  Yet, the saints of God pressed on and they were kept pure and holy by the Spirit of our God.  The Lord preserved their going out and their coming in from this time forth and forevermore.  The Lord was their rock in the storm, their joy in grief, their strength in weakness, their health in sickness and their life in death.

Who are these?  These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation.  You and I find ourselves in the midst of a great tribulation.  It’s not the tribulation of some rumored dispensation.  It’s the tribulation of a world trapped in sin, death, and hell.  This is our world and our experience.  We live and move and have our being in these sorts of days and these sorts of times.  And so we, like the saints before us, feebly struggle to keep the faith.  It is no easy task to confess the name of Jesus and then live our lives by such faith.  Our world is corrupted.  Our culture is perverted.  Our society is polluted.  Our communities are segregated by education, wealth, and status.  Our families are broken.  By schisms rent asunder and by heresies distressed Holy Christendom endures the scorn and oppression of this world.

Thus we Christians make every attempt to avoid suffering, tears, toil, and tribulation.  In so doing we are led to separate our Christian faith from life.  What is believed is divorced from what is lived.  And so what happens in the heart has no bearing on what happens in the body.  As long as I believe in Jesus I can do whatever I want in my body.  That is a lie from the devil.  You are not distinct from your body.  Your body is not some shell that you can do with it as you please and then dispense with it when you die.  Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.  Your body has been redeemed from the uncleanness of this world and this life.  Your body has been purchased with Holy Blood.  Therefore the Spirit admonishes the saints to  “glorify God in your body!”

The world has contempt for the body and thus shames the body and the person with dirty deeds, illicit sex, abusive drugs, even indulging in superfluous tattoos and body piercings.  It is thought that what is done in the body will not survive the body, because the body, the flesh, doesn’t matter.   The body dies and the spirit lives forever.  Therefore, it’s what’s inside the counts, not the body, not the shell.   This is why the world can so easily see the person apart from the body and so the world can easily and without any qualms exchange parts of the body, enhance parts of the body, manipulate the body, even destroy the body with fire.  This is how the pagans dealt with the body upon death.  Burn it.  It was more a hindrance than a blessing anyway.

The Bible teaches us differently.  What is done in the body is done by the person.  Sin done in the body, to the body, to somebody else, brings shame, uncleanness, and death to the body and to the person.  The wages of sin is death.  We all know and believe that the body will die.  Experience teaches us that well enough.  But Scripture teaches that unless there is repentance and faith in the True God, not only will the body die, but so too will the soul forever die in hell.

Our God doesn’t want you to die forever in hell.  Our God, your God, doesn’t want you to shame yourself with sin, sexual perversions, or superfluous bodily manipulations.  Your God wills repentance, redemption, regeneration and resurrection for you.  You have been created, formed in the womb, and knit together in the inner most place by Him.  You are both body and soul.  Your eternity will be with both, body and soul either in heaven or in hell.  Either way you will get your body back after death.

That you not suffer the pangs of hell, God sent forth His Son.  Jesus didn’t come to earth as a spirit.  He didn’t come as a ghost.  He didn’t even come as an enfleshed deity, taking on flesh only for a moment or a time.  NO!  Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  He became small.  He became flesh and blood and body.  He was born.  He lived.  He grew.  He matured.  He walked about.  He touched and He healed broken bodies.  Much of His ministry was cleansing dirty bodies, washing sin stained bodies and souls.  He made whole what was lacking.  He made right what was wrong.   He made pure what was corrupted.  He made sinners righteous.  He was conceived and born with a body that He redeem the whole person, the whole you, the whole world.  What needed redemption Jesus assumed in the incarnation.  For whatever was not assumed by Him was not redeemed by Him.  And He left nothing, no part of our humanity, no part of your eternity unredeemed.  He became fully Human, not just for a time, not just 33 years and then no more use for the body.  No! That would be what the pagan would think and believe.  No!  Jesus assumed our humanity, became incarnate, that He forever be for us God in the flesh.  There is no time, no day, no hour, that Jesus is independent of His body. He is forever and always God in the flesh, God incarnate, God with a body for you.

Thus, to win our redemption God in the flesh, God incarnate, God with a body suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified and was buried in the body.  He bled.  He died.  He gave up the ghost that your body is redeemed from sin, death, and hell.  He became poor for your sakes. He was and is merciful for your sakes.  He makes peace for you through His blood.  He feeds you.  He gives you to drink.  He suffers persecution.  All that encompasses the blessed life, is the blessed life lived by Jesus for you.

Thus the blessed life for you is poured into your hearth through the Water and the Word poured over your body.  The Word enters the Ears and takes root in the heart.  The water splashes on the body and applies Christ’s redemption, Christ blood to both body and soul.  In the Supper you are given to feast on the body of Christ and the blood of Christ.  And this is not some sort of metaphor, not some symbol of a lesser reality – for to separate Jesus from His body and His blood and focus on His spirit is indeed a lesser reality, nor is this some sort of misunderstanding on the part of Christendom for 2000 years.  What Jesus says is exactly what Jesus gives because Jesus has come to redeem your body with His, your life with His, therefore your whole person is saved by HIM.  Real body and real blood are given into your real mouth for your real redemption.  To believe otherwise is to be unbelieving the Words of Jesus Himself.

These gifts for our us, for body and soul, come to us today.  They are given to you that God gives you forgiveness of your sins and rescues you from death and hell.  These are the same gifts given to our loved ones now resting from their labors.  These gifts support and sustain Christ’s church in holiness and purity and for eternity.

Thus, preserved in the faith the saints in heaven rest from their labors.  They hunger no more neither thirst any more.  They are at peace, peace with the Lord and peace with each other. That peace is the same peace given us in the Sacrament – “The peace of the Lord be with you.”  That peace is the same peace you are work in this world, on this side of eternity.  That peace is a gift given in eternity and yet is for today.  Therefore you are not to fix your heart on the saints above.  Remember them, yes!  Give thanks for them, certainly!  Work for them? Pray for them?  Talk to them?  NO!  They are busy worshiping the Lamb.    You, as God’s redeemed and baptized have a vocation here on earth.  There are those here below who know not the peace of God.  They hunger and they thirst.  They mourn and they grieve.  They war with each other and they persecute the faithful.  The hoard and they steal.  It to these that God’s saints are sent.  You are sent to bring the peace of God to an unbelieving world.  You are sent to give good gifts to the poor.  To feed the hunger and give drink to the least of these your brethren.  You are sent to offer yourselves to your neighbor, to serve and to love and to forgive, to turn the other cheek, to sweat blood if need be, and most always to confess the Name of Jesus.

With a fervent faith in Christ, with living water filling and over flowing your heart, with the very resurrection in your mouth, you are sent out to those around you with the gospel of God, the peace of the Lord, the mercy and forgiveness of your creator.  You are sent to make manifest in your body what was manifest to you.  Thus, as God’s saints, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and in faith, you do good works.  You do them in your body.  You avoid indulging yourself in the pleasures of the flesh and you even bring suffering on yourself for the good of your family, your husband or wife, your children, your church, your community, your country, your God.  What is done in the body matters.  What you do with your body is a reflection of what God has done with and in your heart.  Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.  Therefore Glorify God in your bodies, with what you do and how you live.

Beloved in the Lord, on this side of eternity there are many tears to shed and none more heartfelt than tears shed for the life of a loved one.  John is given to see what we long to see, yet what we know by faith.  These are the Saints of God coming out of the great tribulation.  Their burdens have been relieved.  Their bodies now rest.  And God wipes away every tear from their eyes.  We feebly struggle but they in glory shine.  Yet all are one in Thee for all Thine.

There awaits for us and them a more glorious day.  God’s saints, triumphant rise in bright array.  From the north and the south, the east and the west, Abraham’s sons gather around the table of the Lord.  Dead bodies are revealed to be not dead but only sleeping.  The sleeping are quickened.  Bodies are regained.  Strength returns to frail flesh.  Echoing their baptism, the voice of the Lord calls each by Name, calling them out of their grave, out of death and into light and life of the resurrection.  Thus arises a countless number, a glorious band, a noble army, a mighty choir streaming through gates of pearl, singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Alleluia!  Salvation belongs to our God and to the Lamb!  Forever and Ever AMEN!

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!

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