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August 2015 - In the Presence of God, Now and Eternally

In the Presence of God, Now and Eternally

            On occasion I have commented on how I have observed that many Lutherans (and some other church bodies) tend to sit in the back pews, while the front pews are generally empty or very sparsely filled.  And that is not a bad thing, in fact it can point to a positive awareness and understanding: Churches that believe in the Real Presence of God are the ones that tend to have their members sitting toward the back.  Perhaps they realize Whose Presence they encounter that morning and what that means.   When we have the Invocation, we know that we are entering again into the very same Real Presence by the Name we first entered His Presence in our baptism.   This is Holy God and we are immediately stricken with a sense of awe as well as our sinful lowliness.  Thus, we of course are led to follow that Invocation with a Confession of our sins, and then joyfully receive the sweet comfort of His Absolution/forgiveness of our sins in Christ and know we can eagerly receive His gifts there in His presence.

            That’s quite a moment.  That is heaven on earth, though veiled behind Means in this fallen world to protect our frail, mortal flesh.   God is Holy, and we are reminded of it.  That most certainly explains why we might tend to avoid the front pews.  

            In our current society, where itching ears do not want to hear of the Holiness and Righteousness of God, who do not want to be exposed as sinners but want to excuse any and all manner of evil in the name of a “loving God”; God is viewed as some kind of doting, kind-hearted grandfatherly type who smiles permissively upon His impetuous children, or at best, some kind of good ol’ buddy who is friend to all, and overlooks all.

            That is not the God of the scriptures, the One Who is Holy above all Holies, the One Who has commanded that we are to be perfect as He is perfect.   Lost it seems is the understanding of just how detestable sin is.   What sin has done to His perfect creation.  How some of the Holy Angels rebelled against God, forsaking their condition and place and becoming the most loathsome of demonic creatures, perverted and twisted so that their sole thought and being is to abuse God’s creation, especially the pinnacle of His creation, mankind.   Their every thought is to harming us physically, emotionally and spiritually, and ultimately hope to drag us into the fires of eternal hell that awaits them.

            And there is what sin has done to those most loved by God, those alone created in His image – man.   Oh how we have been twisted and perverted from how we were made.  Our rebellion has left us as brothers and sisters of the devil, those who despise the will and Word of God – noble creatures that have become lovers of self and haters of others.   God has not changed, we have.  He is Holy, we are sin-filled and depraved.   That is the truth that the Law of God exposes in us, the truth our sinful natures dearly love to avoid or reject.  How can He love such as these?

            But once again, we are left awe-struck when we are reminded in His Word of how His Love fulfilled His Justice by the substitutionary work of God the Son for us.   God is Holy and Just, and Love.   Loving enough to pay the highest of costs to save us from guilt of our sin and begin to restore us back into His image.   Again, reminded of such heights of love, we are left stunned, and in awe feel a need to keep a respectful distance from our Holy and Loving Creator.  We sit in the back.

God is Holy.  He never changes.  He was Holy before Creation, and He will be Holy after this ruined creation is destroyed and the New comes.  As we “sit in the back”, sit in reverence to our Holy and Loving God, we should be aware that this is can actually be good practice – that the Holiness of God is not going to end with creation. 

Professor John Stephenson writes in his dogmatics volume on Eschatology: “Almighty God will not shed one ounce of His holiness even as His very face is beheld by the saints in heaven; God is not trivialized in the beatific vision, to which the creaturely response is not chumminess towards God but rather an eternal outpouring of awestruck doxology.”

            What that means, is in Heaven after our death, and in the New Creation after the Last Day, though all sin will be gone forever and we will be Holy and Pure as we were created to be, we are not just going to be slapping God on the back in “chumminess”.  As we behold His Face without veils and Means, we like the Holy Angels will fall down in awe and respect before THE Holy One, totally in love and totally filled forever in His sight.  We will continue to “sit in the back” so to speak

            So, don’t feel so bad back there in the back rows.  Know that you realize Whose Presence you are encountering in the Divine Service, and that you are actually practicing for what you will be doing for eternity – living in the Real Presence of The Holy Trinity (and LOVING IT!).

Pastor

 

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