Heaven on Earth
Friday of Epiphany 1
12 January 2018
Everyone hopes for heaven on earth. Of course, we think that if we are to get it, we will have to find a way to create it for ourselves. The twentieth century witnessed many human schemes to create heaven on earth; some by National Socialists, some by Communists, some by Republicans, some by Democrats, but in every case they came closer to giving people hell than heaven. These schemes were not ill conceived or poorly organized. The schemes of humans always fail to bring heaven to earth, no matter how well planned, or efficiently organized.
 
While we might think that if we could just avoid the programs of those who are attempting to impose their view of an earthly heaven upon us, we would be able to create it for ourselves. We think that if we could just create the perfect family with children who are always obedient, and get the perfect job, which pays a large salary and does not require any work, we would be just fine. It would be like heaven. Some people think that if they check out of their responsibilities and move to Brazil that that would be heaven on earth. But the problem with creating heaven on earth is me, not the stuff or the people around me. My sin and its guilt thwart heaven's earthly arrival every time.
 
However, our hope for heaven on earth alerts us to a desire that has been implanted in us by our Creator. He made us for perfect fellowship with Him. He created us to inherit eternal life with Him. He designed us to experience a perfect home in His presence. Our desire is not wrong, but rather in harmony with our true nature as creatures of God. We just cannot create what we so much desire to have.
 
In trying to create what we desire, our focus is wrong. It is fatally set upon our doing and activity and our definition of heaven. God is the creator of heaven and earth and therefore He is the one who can grant us heaven on earth. He does so in a way that appears to us to be so unspectacular, even unattractive. He does it by granting us the body and blood of the Lord upon our altars. The church sings together with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven at the celebration of the sacrament of the altar, not merely to improve the quality of the singing, but to confess that heaven is where the body of the Lord has come. If Christ's body is here, then all the heavenly hosts must be present, albeit unseen. Heaven bursts the bonds of mere sight through the gracious presence of the Lord's body among us. Heaven on earth is attainable, but only where God gives it to us as a gift. That comes in the sacramental celebration of the church. The King is enthroned on our altar. Let's go to His feast.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   John Chrysostom
"This mystery of the body of Christ makes earth become a heaven to you. Open only once the gates of heaven and look in; no, rather not of heaven, but of the heaven of heavens; and then you will see what I have been speaking of. For what is most precious of all there, I will show you upon earth. For as in royal palaces, what is most glorious of all is not the walls, nor golden roofs, but the person of the king sitting on the throne. So likewise in heaven the body of the King is most glorious. But this, you are now permitted to see upon earth. For it is not angels, nor archangels, nor heavens and heavens of heavens, that I show you, but their Lord and Owner. Don't you perceive how that which is more precious than all things is seen on earth; and not merely seen, but also touched; and not only touched, but also eaten; and after receiving it you go home?
                         
"Cleanse your soul then and prepare your mind for the reception of these mysteries. For if you were entrusted to carry a king's child with the robes, the purple, and the diadem, you would cast away all earthly things. But now we are considering no child of man no matter how royal, but the only-begotten Son of God Himself, whom you received. Do you not thrill with awe and cast away the love of all earthly things, and have no boast but that with which to adorn yourself? Or do you still look toward the earthly, and love money, and pant after gold? What pardon then can you have? What excuse could you offer? But don't you know that all this worldly luxury is loathsome to your Lord? Was it not for you that at His birth He was laid in a manger, and took to Himself a mother of low estate? Did He not for this say to him that was seeking gain, 'The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head'? (Mt 8:20).
 
"And what did the disciples do? Did they not observe the same principle, being taken to houses of the poor and lodged, one with a tanner, another with a tent-maker, and with the seller of purple? For they inquired not after the splendor of the house, but for the virtues of men's souls.
 
"Therefore, let us also emulate them, hastening past the beauty of pillars and of marble, and seek the mansions which are above. Let us tread under foot all pride here below along with all love of money, and acquire a dignified mind. For if we are sober-minded, not even this whole world is worthy of us, much less porticoes and arcades. Therefore, I beseech you, let us adorn our souls, let us prepare this house which we are also to have with us when we depart; that we may attain even to the eternal blessings, through grace and mercy."

John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians, 24.8
Isaiah 6:1-10

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!" And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!" Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for. And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me." And he said, "Go, and say to this people: "'Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.'  Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed."  (ESV)
Prayer
Dear Lord, we praise and magnify Your glorious name with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven because You bring heaven to earth for us poor sinners by giving us the body of Christ the King through Your Word. Grant that we may approach the altar where He is enthroned with reverence and awe, and receiving this precious gift experience a foretaste of the feast to come. Amen.
 
For all those in the agony of drug addiction, that they might shelter secure under the arms of Jesus and be released from their burdens by His love
 
For all those who think they are too busy to attend to the altar of the Lord on Sunday, that they may be freed from the idols that enslave them
 
For Charles Wokoma in Nigeria, that the Lord would be with him as he proclaims the presence of heaven on earth at the Jonathan Ekong Memorial Lutheran Seminary in Uyo
Art: DAVID, Gerard  Triptych of Jean Des Trompes (1505)
Memorial Lutheran Church
smurray@mlchouston.org
http://www.mlchouston.org
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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