1 Peter 2:11-20
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
A tragedy happens. Death strikes down the young. Cancer. A bomb. Horrific gun violence. Death by such violence or disease is evil. But it punches us even harder when it is someone we consider young. But ponder two things: is the evil any less evil though it happens to a child or to a centenarian? Is the tragedy that a life was not lived to the full, as you and I define it in this fallen world, or that someone would die apart from the grace of He who holds eternal life and eternal death in His hands?
It is our twisted view of time, a view warped by our sin, a view which covets every moment, feeling that God has robbed from us, that makes us feel the tragedy of death differently for the young versus the old. For the real tragedy is not that time has been cut short—for those who are in the Lord have eternal security in Him. The real tragedy is death itself. Physical death is the result of sin, and eternal death is the result of rejecting Him who has defeated death for you.
Thus Our Lord’s “little while” in the tomb seems so strange to us. He’s going to the Father for a little while. That little while, those three short days, for His disciples living in the shadow of death mourning its sting, must have seemed unbearably long. But for Him who was with His Father at for those hours it seemed like a little while. For it is all joy in the Father’s presence.
There are, of course, two times the Lord goes to Father. First, at His death for three days. And then at His Ascension for the rest of time until He returns again to bring us all into His Father’s immediate and unending presence. And even these last 2000 years of Our Lord’s being with His Father are just a little while. For Our Lord came from the Father in the first place. He is the eternally begotten Son of His Father. He has been with Him from eternity, from forever. But at some point in His story, 2000 years ago, He left His Father’s side. He left the joy of His Father’s presence. He came to earth. His 30 years here apart from His Father may have felt very long to Him. For though Our Lord is the Lord of Time—its creator and regulator—having taken our finite flesh He feels and experiences things like we do. From our perspective time seems so relative. It passes slowly when we are bored, in pain, or even on a lovely, lazy afternoon. Yet it passes quickly when life is out of control, when things go from bad to worse and we seem to ride the whirlwind, or when good company or excellent times are a foot. Compared to His eternity in the unbroken bliss of the Father’s presence His 30 yrs on earth may have seemed interminable. And so three days in the presence of His Father must have seemed like blink of eye. Even these last 2000 years since His Ascension have been but little while for He is with His Father. The One who formed His physical body. Who knows Him. Who begat Him from eternity. Time does not matter in His presence.
The reason we have a difficult relationships with our earthly parents is sin. Their sin and ours. Our collective sin stretches, tests, and sometimes breaks those relationships. But for most of us, when a parent is gone, the day comes when you would love to have more time with them. To bask in their presence, to learn of them, and understand yourself anew in light of the person who brought you into world and cared for you through your youth. To be with them can be to bask in the safety of their love and remember those wonderful days of childhood.
Our Heavenly Father is the perfection, the fullness of what the relationship with our parents should be like. With Him times stretches. It is irrelevant. Neither too fast nor too slow. Just glorious. Safe. Secure. Peaceful. Happy. Exciting. Sunshiny.
So, though Our Lord’s going to be with His Father at His death was considered just a little while by us, even His time with His Father since His Ascension is a little while for Him too. Time is irrelevant with the Father. He is its master. He has as much time as He needs or wants in order to accomplish those things He intends in your life and the lives of those whom He loves.
What He chiefly intends is for you to be with Him too. This happens through His Son, your Saviour, who died for your redemption and rose for your justification. In His Son you are justified, declared right, with the Father. Though you sins are like scarlet, they have been made white as snow. Though you are the black sheep of your family, in Christ you are the eternally beloved Son of your Father. Loved by He who is love. The apple of His eye. The firstborn of all creation. His boy in whom He is well pleased.
The delight parents have in the joy and smiles of their baby hardly compares to the love He has for you. For His love is honest, pure, uninhibited, free from fear, from the reservations, from the holding itself back, and attempts to protect our hearts from hurt that marks our “love”. His love has none of those impediments. Thus His love for you in Christ, His beloved, the one He freely, willingly sacrificed of Himself for you, makes time irrelevant in His presence.
That love is why the Son of God delights to return to His Father even though it be through the cross. And though coming back means being apart from the Father’s full presence He delights to leave Father’s side again by returning to life in His body which once was dead. He delights to come back because now He gets to declare His Father’s love to you and to all. He gets to magnify His Father’s love. He gets to reveal how deep and wide, how high and long is His love by giving it to as many as will receive it and believe it. For the Father’s glory is His love. Love known most clearly for you on His Son’s cross. His self-sacrificing, self-humbling love makes Him set aside His power and high position to run to you and embrace you through the outstretched arms of His Son’s cross. He enfolds you in His love through His Sacraments in which He puts to death all that keeps you from Him and calls you to a new and better life in Him. A life lived in this world in and from His Word. Loving His commandments for they are from Him. Lived as His people, doing what He does, loving and sacrificing yourself for others as He has for you.
But we don’t always love God’s Word. We do not trust what He says, both the things He commands us to do and not do, nor the promises He makes. We do not love Him as He loves us. When we do not long for His presence we have become bored with Him. When you miss church you find it easier to miss it again. For you doubt if He is truly in His Word and Sacraments there. And disconnected from Him life itself is boring. Especially in a material society which tempts us to find meaning in physical pleasure and stuff. He is still there. His love is still true. But your experience of it peters out for you have lost your first love. You do not desire to know more of Him. You do not seek your fulfilment, meaning, purpose in your Creator and what He says. Your love runs cold. Though we talk a lot about love, our love fails. Who do you really love above all others? Yourself. Repent.
His love for you is sufficient. Even when you fail to love Him above all else and your neighbour as self His love is sufficient to make up for your failings. His self-sacrificing love is so much more than is required for justice to be served in this universe, for all righteousness to be fulfilled, that it makes up for all you have failed to do. His love for you can not be killed. For only sin was put to death in Christ’s body, not His love. Sin and its power was extinguished when He died. Not His love for you. Death is vanquished, but not His love for you. He is alive this day, present here in His Sacrament, full of love for you. For Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON