Written in the book of life
Job 19, 1 Corinthians 15, John 14
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our sermon text for today is Revelation 3:5 – “The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him her what the Spirit says to the churches.”
The sermon text that I’ve chosen is met by the readings read earlier, the same readings that were chosen for Herb’s wife Betty, when she passed away two years ago January. They tell the tale of a God whose words have weight and of a Savior that conquered the grave. Two stories and two lessons for today as we reflect on the readings before us.
First from Pastor Dahl. I was talking with Pastor Dahl yesterday about Herb, and he said that whenever he came to the old farmhouse where Herb and Betty lived, he would sit down and they would shoot the breeze a little bit, and if you knew Betty and Herb, you knew that Betty did most of the talking. Herb wasn’t much in it for the small talk, at least with the pastor, and so they would talk for a while and it would come time for Pastor Dahl to take out his communion set. He would ask, “Can I offer you communion?” And this part, he says with a twinkle in his eye, Herb would sit up straight. He would bring his hands up on the table, and he would be ready, because he knew that this was the reason for the visit.
Herb knew that there were times to talk about the weather and times to talk about faith. Times to talk about little things and times to talk about big things. Times to let the hours pass by and times to get to the point.
Lesson number one is to remember what you should sit up straight for. Remember what is important in this life. Remember that the most important things of this life aren’t even of this life – they are a foretaste of the feast to come. They are the reason why Job could declare before God and man in the midst of pain, of terrible suffering, “I know that my redeemer lives and at the last I will see him on this earth.” They are the reason why all those baptized into the blood of the lamb can depart in peace, for his word has been fulfilled.
As often as we remember when salvation washed over us like the water of our Baptism, salvation is ours. As often as we recite the truths of the Bible that we’ve learned from our mother’s knee, those promises become real again. As often as we taste the bread and drink the wine, forgiveness is ours in bodily form. As often as we hear the weighty and true words of Scripture that point us toward a Savior who lived, died, and was raised to life for us, his resurrection is ours.
Second, from this last week. I talked to Gary before the Wednesday service, and he indicated that Herb had been going downhill, and asked that I come. After service, I came down and about 8:00 we spoke the Apostle’s Creed and prayed the Lord’s Prayer. I made the sign of the cross both upon Herb’s forehead and upon his heart, the same sign of the cross made over him in his baptism, marking him as one redeemed by Christ crucified. We prayed, and I left Gary and Jeff as they settled in for the night. It was the next day when I heard that the night was not long. His breathing had slowed, and he passed away moments after I left.
It is never ours to know the day or time when our loved ones pass away, but know this: that our Lord and Savior had been preparing Herb’s room in his Father’s house since before he was knit together in his mother’s womb, and he would bring him home in his time. Herb’s name had been written in the book of life, and no one, absolutely no one, could blot it out.
Lesson number two is to trust our Savior to do exactly what he needs to do for you, exactly when he needs to do it. Whether you know the reasons yet or not. Whether it seems to make sense or not. Whether it meets your expectations or not. He is the way, he is the truth, and he is the life, and he will guide you along at his pace, in his time, to his end, even unto eternal life.
It is in the cross of Christ that our Savior proves to be stronger than the strength of men. It is in the cross of Christ that our Savior proves to be wiser than the wisdom of men. It is in his death and resurrection that our Savior guides us along in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. He has faced the valley of the shadow of death for us. And he has won.
Today, I invite you to rest in the promises of God knowing that his goodness is beyond measure. I invite you to take ahold of the peace that passes understanding, knowing that our Savior holds us in his hands already. Stay here today as we speak words about life and death, words that matter, and as we rejoice as we cling to the promise that our Savior has brought life out of death, and in the last all those clothed in the robe of Christ’s righteousness have their names written in the book of life and will stand to see our God face to face.
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