Fourth Sunday after Easter

Theme
A TASTE OF HEAVEN!
Verses
Revelation 21, 1-6
Hymns
141, 212, 213, 458

                                                                        Revelation 21:1-6

            Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.”

            “What will it be like in Heaven?”  So asks the Seven-year-old in Sunday School to her Sunday School Teacher!  So asks the 97 years lady on her death bed to her pastor!  And when we’re told what heaven will be like, it sounds so glorious, so beautiful, so fantastic, it almost sounds like a fairy tale.  And sometimes, we wonder!  Is Heaven just a fairy tale we tell children to keep them from being afraid?  Or is it real?

            Wouldn’t it be nice if God would give each of us, just a glimpse of Heaven?  I mean Paul and John got a glimpse of heaven.  Lazarus got to spend four days in Heaven!  So, why couldn’t God give each of us just a quick glimpse of Heaven to reassure us that it is real, especially when we go through some rough times! 

            But God doesn’t do that, does He?  Jesus doesn’t give us a glimpse of Heaven to satisfy our eyes!  But He does give us a taste of Heaven to strengthen our hearts!  In these words, God tells us what Heaven is like!  He doesn’t give us a glimpse of heaven!  He gives us A TASTE OF HEAVEN!

                                                                                         I

            In the vision John sees of heaven, there’s a theme that plays out over and over.   ‘The old order of things has passed away!”  And “I am making everything new!”  John says, “I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away and there was no longer any sea.”  As beautiful as God’s first world was, it wasn’t good enough.  Along with the blessings, came hurt and pain.  Sure, we have beautiful roses, and yet when you pick them the thorns made your hands bleed.  Yet, it was fun to share a sunny day at the beach with the family but the heat of the sun could easily make you suffer with sun burn, or even worse.  Yes, fishing on the lake is enjoyable, but how quickly can this same water turn dangerous as waves threaten your boat, and undertows drag us down and drown us!  Such an earth was not good enough for Heaven!  The old things need to pass away that God could create a brand-new heaven and earth! 

            And then John hears a loud voice saying, “Look!  God’s dwelling place in now among the people, and he will dwell with them.  They will be his people, and God Himself with be with them and be their God.”  Literally this verse says, “God’s tent is among them, and God has pitched his tent with His people.”  It’s no longer God living in heaven and us living on earth and never the twain shall meet.  God is going to pitch his tent right next to us.  God is going to dwell with us, and be with us, every day of eternity.

            Again, literally the rest of that verse says, “And he will be ‘God among them.’”  God will be living with His people.  Imagine walking down the street and suddenly God crosses your path, and just stops and talks to you for a bit, and asks you how your life is going and how you’re doing!  And it won’t be a terrifying event, like the old way was.  The old way passed away.  The new way is that God will dwell with us in peace!

            But there’s more.  “He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away.”  No more death!  Boy in our world we are surrounded by death.  The day a child gets his first pet hamster, he quickly learns about death, and how quickly someone we love can be taken from us.   And you live with that fear every single day of our lives.  Every newspaper we read; every news broadcast we hear shares another story about another soul who lost his life.   Perhaps we don’t worry about it every day!   Perhaps there are many days, and maybe even many years that we don’t have to worry or concern ourselves with that topic.  But then one day, it is brought right into our face, and we are forced to suffer pain, and hurt and grief as someone we love dies.

            But not in Heaven!  In Heaven, the old way has passed away.  I will never again have to worry about losing someone I love by death.  In heaven, we can have a family celebration and we won’t have to have to say good bye to our loved ones because it’s getting late and I need to go to work tomorrow.  In heaven we will not spend months planning a special family vacation seeing family and friends we haven’t seen for a while, only to see it over so quickly, and we need to say good-bye once again.  No more saying goodbye!  No more being separated by time and space!  And Grandma will no longer be struggling with dementia.   Uncle Harold will not be struggling with breathing problems, and needs to be on oxygen!  And special needs children will be able to sing and dance and talk like all the other kids!  

            And this heaven will be ours because Jesus promised, “to the thirsty, I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.”  Like Jesus told the sinful Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well, He has living water to give to people that will quench their thirst permanently!  And that is what Jesus has given each of us.  He has brought us into His kingdom.  He has caused us to believe in His sacrifice.  He has placed us in His arms, safe and sound for eternity!  And He did that, as a gift.  Nothing that we did!  But everything Jesus did.  Jesus grabbed hold of us, brought us into His kingdom, caused us to believe in Him, and now Heaven is our home.  And all this happens on the day we call our “Death Day!”  But Jesus would call it our “Eternal Life Day!”   

            The “old order of things has passed away!”   God has “made everything new.”  That’s the Heaven waiting for us.  And all we can say is “Wow!  I can’t wait to get there!”

                                                                                                    II

            And yet, God gives us a taste of heaven, even as we live in this world.  Oh, yeah, we are still living in “the first heaven and the first earth.”  We are still living with the threat of death, with mourning and crying and pain!   Yes, our loved ones suffer from the frailties of being human.   Yes, we are surrounded by wickedness and pain and hurt and danger. 

            And yet even in this wicked, sinful, and painful world, our God says, “the old order of things has passed away!”  And God keeps telling us, “I am making everything new!”   And this all started on the day that Jesus said to us, thirsty ones, “I will give water without coast from the spring of the water of life.”  On the day that Jesus grabbed hold of us, and brought us into His kingdom and made us one of God’s children, Jesus tells us, “The old order of things has passed away.”   God is making everything new for you.

            Oh, we still live with the threat of death for us and for those we love.  We still mourn and grieve!  We still have pain and misery!  We still go through rough times.  But God has made everything new for you.  We have the promise from God, that death is not permanent.  We have the promise from God that we have everlasting life.  We have the promise from God, that those who believe in Jesus are enjoying the bliss of heaven.  So, even though there are tears in our eyes, and pain in our hearts, there is a joy of knowing that God is in control of our lives, and give us eternal life.  And with that God gives us a taste of Heaven!

            We still live with the shame and heartache of being a disappointment for God, of making a mess of our lives, and ruining any confession of our faith by the sins we’ve committed.  And yet our God says, He has made everything new for you.  God doesn’t punish us and turn away from us because we sin!  He forgives us.  He assures us that He is with us every day of our lives!  We don’t live in fear of God, like the old ways.  The old ways have passed away.  We live in the love and grace of God.  And with that forgiveness, God gives us a taste of what it will be like in Heaven!

            We also have the promise from God that He has pitched His tent right next to ours even in this wicked world.  We have God’s promise that He will dwell with us, and walk with us, and protect us, and keep us safe, no matter what path we travel.  Not just when we are nice and clean and worshipping Him in church.  But even when we are filthy dirty, when we are struggling, and even when we feel like we’re going through hell, our God is still right there, with His tent pitched right next to ours, our God dwelling with us.  And He’s never going to leave our side.  He is taking care of everything.  He will turn everything, even the most painful things into blessings for us and for His kingdom.  The old order has passed away.  And God has made everything new for us.  God is with us in this world, just like He will be in Heaven!  And even as we live in this evil world, our God gives us a taste of Heaven.  And with that promise God gives us a taste of what it will be like in Heaven!

            And now, as God has given us a taste of heaven, He asks us to give that same taste of heaven to others.  Show others what it means that “the old order of things has passed away,” and that God is making everything new!”   When someone hurts us, or sins against us, it’s easy to give them a piece of our mind, or to fight fire with fire, or to give them a taste of their own medicine!  Anyone can do that.  That’s the old order of things.  But we show them that the old order of things has passed away!  We don’t treat them the way they treated us.  We treat them the way our Savior has treated us.  We show them Jesus’ love, and give them a taste of heaven.

            Or when we’re going through bad times, it’s easy to get angry at God, it’s easy to get depressed and down, it’s easy to go on an angry tirade and lash out at anyone who stands near us.  That’s the old order of things!  But God tells us to give them a taste of Heaven, as we show them that God is with us, to bless us, no matter what our outward circumstances.  Show them that God who loves you is in control.  Show them that even if we need to go through death, it’s not the “end of the world.”  In fact, it’s the beginning of our real world.   Show them that Jesus is with us forever.  And give them a glimpse of what heaven is like.

            God isn’t all that interested in satisfying our eyes, and proving things to us.  He would rather speak to our hearts, and strengthen our faith.  That’s why through His Word and the sacraments, God may never give us a glimpse of heaven to satisfy our eyes!  But He has given us A TASTE OF HEAVEN to strengthen our faith.