After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen."
Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?" I said to him, "Sir, you know." And he said to me, "These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
"Therefore they are before the throne of God,
and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." (ESV)
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Friday of Pentecost 24
13 November 2015
Zombies are a big thing these days. Ask a child today what he knows about zombies and you're going to get a long list of really interesting stuff about zombies that you didn't know before. I actually looked up the number of television shows about zombies. Here is the list: "The Walking Dead," "Z-Nation," "CWI Zombie" (I don't know what that is), "The Returned" (Sounds like the day after Christmas), "In the Flesh," "Fear the Walking Dead" (so now we not only have "The Walking Dead" but we have "FEAR the Walking Dead"), "Empire of the Dead," (Did we get "Nation of the Dead"? No. That's not there, sorry), and then (and I found this most intriguing) I found a show called simply, "Resurrection."
Now all this zombie talk, it seems to me, has as its original source the Christian theology of the resurrection of the dead. We Christians believe that the dead don't stay that way. But we also know that the resurrection of the flesh is not like zombie-ism. I'm ugly enough now. I don't need to come back as a zombie. That's bad. No, indeed, I come back at the resurrection of the flesh with my flesh completely renewed for Christ's sake. This changes everything.
Now, where did this zombie business come from? In part it comes from Christian theology that is still out there in our culture but it's also a case that we tend to want to mock or make fun of what we truly fear. And the fact is we truly fear death. We hear today medical talk about people being terminal. I hate to tell you this; We're all terminal. We're all going to die. That fear is universal. But Christ, our Lord, has come into our world, bearing our flesh (not zombie flesh), bearing our flesh so that He might have it pinned up on the tree of the cross, there, pouring out his blood, suffering and dying for our sins. That He might give back to us a true and cleansed flesh. We have made a mess of this flesh and life. Because of the fall and because of our sin and depravity. But Christ has taken that flesh on himself to defeat the very thing that we all fear so desperately.
What this means for us is we are not afraid of the dead. And we're not afraid of death. We're not afraid of death because we know what our Lord has promised us. We are going to be among those who have the white robes. We will stand about the throne of the Lamb, crying His honor and glory for eternity. And so it is that we Christians do actually believe that the dead are not gone. We actually have this as a euphemism, right? When we are standing at the deathbed of a loved one and the Lord takes them, we say, "He's gone. She's gone." But it's really not true. They are not gone. They are only divided from us by sight as Christ himself is. They now see Jesus face-to-face. They are there. The dead are in the "nearer presence" of our Lord Jesus Christ. At the resurrection of the flesh we will be among those dead pristine and holy, not zombies.
"Adam and Eve were restored, not indeed to the life which they had lost but to the hope of that life. Through this hope they escaped, not the first fruits of death, but its tithes; that is, although their flesh must die for the time being, nevertheless, because of the promised Son of God, who would crush the head of the devil, they hope for the resurrection of the flesh and eternal life after the temporal death of the flesh, just as we do."
Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, 3.15
Merciful Father, Your dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, rose victorious over death and the grave. We remember with thanksgiving the faithful dead, who trusted in Christ and who now stand in Your nearer presence where all sorrows are turned to joy. Strengthen us in the confident hope of the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come that we may await with joy our reunion in Your heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
For the Council of Presidents of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, which will be meeting next week, that they would be kept safe in travel and faithful in deliberation
For Jo Lodholz, that she would be strengthened in body and soul
For the faculty and staff of Memorial Lutheran School, that they would be strengthened in their labors and find joy in their service
Art: Dürer, Albrecht The Adoration of the Trinity (1515)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015