Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | May 9, 2010

Sermon on Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23

Downloadable Version

Jesus Shows Us the Perfect Church

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.  It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.  There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb….

…I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.  The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Have you ever talked about St. Mark and used the pronoun, “my”?  As in, “Let me tell you about my church.”  “I can’t believe they’re doing this to my church!”  “I won’t let that happen in my church.”  And that’s a fine pronoun to use, if you’re talking doctrine.  “Let me tell you about my church and what it teaches.”  “I can’t believe they’re letting this be taught in my church.”  “I won’t let these sinful things happen in my church.”

But, let’s be honest.  How often is it about doctrine?  How often isn’t the talk about how friendly my church is, or how great the potlucks are at my church, or the way my church looks to the community?  Or, actually, it’s usually some grouse.  My church doesn’t do this, or is so slow to do that.  “I can’t believe how long it took for the Voters to approve this project.”  “I won’t let those guys spend my money on that, never in my church!”

Usually when we talk about my church, we’re talking about buildings, organizations, and administration.  Or, perhaps synodical structures.  We talk about groups and parties and loyalties.  We talk about politics and foot-dragging.  And occasionally, doctrinal issues enter our discussion, even if only on the periphery.  There’s a reason that the 3 hour voter meetings obsessed with the budget, or the two hour argument about whether to have a communion rail or not or what color the carpet will be is a cliché.  Because it happens all the time.  Even at St. Mark, a lot of our time in meetings is spent talking about administrative and organizational details.  But, to be fair, far fewer men come to congregational meetings than to church and Bible class, so maybe that’s something.

And at the end of the day, we might be just as surprised as John was. I did not see a temple in the city. There’s no church in heaven?  Are you kidding me?  How can it be heaven without a church? The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. If Christ is the heavenly temple, why would I make anything else my Temple now?  Like a synod, a congregation, a building, or a building program.  Why would we call any of these things MY Church, when they’re just shadows of the perfect Church, of Christ?

Today, as we once more glimpse heaven, our resurrected Lord wants to assure us that He does make His home in the Church battling here on earth, but it’s a temporary home.  This Church on earth, battling sin and unbelief, battling error and heresy, is meant for another place.  It’s meant for heaven, and the resurrected Lord wants us worshiping there with Him in His holy city.

This is why it’s so very vital that when we talk about “my” church we’re focused on the right things.  The first right thing is to make sure we’re worshiping where we find Christ shining. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. Our heavenly home, the Church triumphant, is described this way, but we catch glimpses of it here.  We glimpse it where God’s glory is.  And God’s glory is in the means of grace.  Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them, Jesus says.  How else can we be gathered together in His name, then when we’re gathered around those things that proclaim His name – the Word that teaches you about everything Jesus said, the Baptism by which He made you holy, cleansing you by the washing with water through the Word, the Communion by which He brings His body and blood together with bread and wine for you, for the forgiveness of your sins!  Here shines the glory of God!  Where those things are, we find Jesus, and we find Christians, because those things make and keep Christians!  We want to worship where the most important thing is letting Christ shine, that is, where the means of grace are central to all activities and ministries.

Next is the foundation.  The New Jerusalem has twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb…. That city cannot fall because it’s built on a solid foundation.  Nothing can assault, attack, or overcome this city.  Its walls are too strong.  Its foundation is too solid.  No enemy can come near.  The words of Psalm 91 are eternally true, If you make the Most High your dwelling – even the LORD, who is my refuge – then no harm will befall you. The devil and his allies are never going to enter this picture again.  They have been cast into the lake of fire forever.  This is a city where peace reigns.

And with the right foundations here, we can have such a peace, Jesus’ kind of peace.  My peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. The disciples had peace, not because they experienced nothing bad, not because sin was eradicated, but because the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you. Except for John, every man around that table died violently.  Paul was stoned for the things he said in Lystra.  Peace?  Yes, peace built upon the right foundation – the apostolic foundation, which Paul spoke of the Ephesians, You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. Therefore, we want to worship in a church whose foundations are good, that is, a church built on the apostolic Word, the message inspired by the Spirit who carried along the prophets and apostles who spoke from God to us.  There is no room in the church for diversity in theology.  There is only one theology – Christ’s, and all points of doctrine serve Him and are arranged under Him.  All God-breathed.  All useful.  All for our encouragement, learning, and equipping.  No doctrine left behind or considered unimportant in this church.

Where Christ shines in the Word and Sacrament, where the foundation is the Scriptures, there is a foretaste of the perfect heavenly church.  No matter how abused those gathered together are, no matter how poorly it’s administered, or how slowly it’s organized, where Christ shines and the foundation’s strong, there the assaults of Satan have less effect.  And we will be assaulted.  We’re petty and jealous about “my church.”  We’re jealous about what others have and we don’t.  We have agendas.  We wrestle with how to use and apply God’s Word.  We wrestle with understanding God’s Word.  We’re criticized by other Christians and Lutherans for the stances we take, some here don’t like the stances we take.  We’re mocked by the unreligious for our faith.  Which is why John saw what He saw.  Jesus promised peace.  We, like Paul, experience something less than peace.  But placed before our faith is the perfect peace in store for those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Here is the promise fulfilled.  The peace won by Christ on the cross, the peace guaranteed by Christ’s resurrection, the peace passed on to you by the Spirit by faith, is the peace that surpasses understanding, peace the world cannot give, peace that keeps our priorities straight.

St. Mark isn’t the perfect church.  The Wisconsin Synod isn’t the perfect church.  But that which makes the Church perfect is here – the glory of God in the means of grace, the solid, apostolic foundation of God’s Word.  Clinging to that, and not synods or buildings or organizations, means, that by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, we will one day, hopefully sooner, rather than later, worship together at a new church in spirit and in truth, the perfect Church, in heaven, where the LORD God Almighty and the Lamb are the Temple.  Only because Easter happened is this something you can hope for, because the Lamb who was slain purchased men for God with His blood.  He purchased you and made you His kingdom and His priests, to serve God.  We serve Him now in faith.  We’ll serve Him then in eternity!  Amen!

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