There is a saying – blood is thicker than water. It is said to indicate that when it comes to loyalties family comes first. Families in the Lutheran Church has always been important too. You may have one or more family tree books so you can trace your genealogy and work out who that 2nd cousin once removed is.
There is any number of companies offering DNA testing and ancestry research to help you find that family lineage and produce that family tree. Family is important to us and family is also important to God, and as we see in our bible reading today, we are God’s family – we are God’s children.
St John says: ‘See what love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.’ Notice that John doesn’t put it as some future event. It’s not what we will be but, as John says, that is what we are. Sometimes we misunderstand our relationship with God and think that God could not possibly love us because of our sinfulness. No. We are children of God NOW. Maybe it doesn’t look like that at times as we go through times of suffering and times of feeling we are in the wilderness with God but regardless of how we feel, God has declared: We are God’s children now;
John also says, what we will be has not yet been revealed. And again it’s important to note what John says – what we will be has not yet been “revealed”. It has been achieved but not yet revealed which is similar to what St Paul said to the Colossians – For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3,4)
On All Saints Day we commemorate the memory of our loved ones who have completed their life here on earth and now wait the great day when we join together in heaven. It is a day that can reignite our pain through grief and so St Paul says about death – we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. (1 Thessalonians 4:13) Even Christians, knowing about God’s love and what he has prepared for us in heaven, can sometimes feel anger towards God when death happens. Even though we know that death is because of our disobedience – the wages of sin is death – nevertheless we can still feel some sort of betrayal by God who is supposed to love us: Why did God let this happen? Why did God take away someone I loved? The reality is that God has not taken our loved ones away from us – sin has taken God’s loved ones away from him. And because the wages of sin is death, God uses death to bring his children home. So when Paul talks about death in 1 Corinthians he doesn’t deny death but denies victory to death: He says: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. (Christ’s victory)” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Pauls seems to be saying that the sting of death is still there because of sin, but the victory is not. The sting of death is everything that goes with death including suffering. And so when John sees a vision of heaven he sees: 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.
We have a wonderful life waiting for us, but it is the sting of that doorway that we must all pass through; but once through we leave the old life behind to live in the presence of our Father in Heaven and everything we read about our life there is just unimaginable. In fact, St Paul was given a glimpse of what was waiting for him to keep him strong in his faith because of all the suffering he was going through because of his faith in Jesus Christ and he said: I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell. (2 Corinthians 12:3,4). So, yes death is difficult and it hurts the grieving. But what a glorious homecoming is awaiting us as we are reunited with our heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ, our Lord and brother. This is a family reunion like no other family reunion. It may be in the future but it is with us now as we are already God’s beloved children through Baptism. The sting of sin and death is still with us but the victory is long gone as the blood of Jesus Christ has washed us clean.
Death no longer has any power over us even though it looks like death has the final say. But victory is ours now through Jesus Christ, as we grieve but not as those who have no hope. Our hope is in Jesus Christ as we wait his return and we remember Paul’s words to the Colossians: Set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)
All Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen.