The Word of God: Comes!

The Solemnity of Christ the King, 21 November 2021

A Sermon on Revelation 1:4b-8 by Samuel Zumwalt

Revelation 1:4b-8 © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers]

Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. 8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

THE WORD OF GOD: COMES (A STORY)

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

They had agreed early on in their life together that their children would never ride a bus to school and that, barring complications with work, they would both drop off the kids each morning with an “I love you” and an encouraging, “Have a great day!”

So, as he pulled the family SUV away from the curb, their school day ritual complete, she said, “You’re awfully quiet this morning. What’s on your mind?”

He said, “It was my dream. You called it a bad dream when you awakened me in the night. It was so real. I haven’t dreamed about my father in years.”

She said, “Why don’t we stop for breakfast? We haven’t done that in years. Let’s go to that little diner we used to go to when I was pregnant. You can tell me all about it.”

They drove the rest of the way in silence. The morning sun filtered through red and golden leaves on an archway formed by mature oaks lining the sides of the boulevard. She placed her left hand on the back of his head and stroked his hair tenderly. They were still best friends.

The elderly restaurant host said, “So, the prodigals return at last. It’s been too long. What? You never eat breakfast anymore? It’s the most important meal of the day!” They ducked their heads.

Wisely sizing up the situation, he said, “I have just the table for you in a quiet corner. You love birds need to talk. But you must promise me you will come back with your children. I need all the future customers I can get these days.”

The host sent his best waitress to the table. She knew when to appear with more coffee and when to stay away. She took their order, was right back with their first cup of coffee, and disappeared.

“So, my love,” she said, “what did your father have to say in your dream? I remember how quiet you used to get after his every phone call or visit. He still has such a strong pull on your heart.”

“You don’t have to guess. It was the talk about baptizing our children and taking them to the services of God’s house. I brought it up before he could, and it was old home week then.”

She said, “You brought it up? That’s out of character. You were surprised to see him.”

He said, “It was so real. Dad talked about how beautiful and smart our kids are. He said we had made a good life for them and for us, but he said so many of the sacrifices we have made are temporary. And, then, Dad warned me of judgment and the end of all things. It was disturbing.”

“And when I woke you up,” she said, “you were calling out, ‘Dad. Dad. Wait.’”

He nodded, “Yes, that was right after he said goodbye and that he hoped to see me at God’s family table.”

She asked, “And you’re quiet because the dream seemed so real and that left you wondering?”

A kindly voice said, “Pardon me, folks, I have your food. A ham, cheese, and mushroom omelet for the lady. Homemade bread lightly toasted with butter and ramekins of orange or blackberry marmalade on the side. And the rancher’s breakfast for the gentleman with a hearty appetite.”

A man in a white apron and chef’s hat placed their plates before them and said, “The boss man said you looked like you needed a good breakfast. I’ve given you my very best work.”

The food was so good they ate every bite without saying a word. Their waitress slipped in from time to time to top off their cups with freshly ground coffee made with spring water.

His wife was about to ask her husband another question when the man in the apron and chef’s hat sat down opposite them and asked in a deep, rich voice, “So how was your meal?”

They replied simultaneously in the way that old friends do: “Great. The best ever.”

When he smiled, they felt a deep warmth inside. They noticed his eyes, which seemed so ancient and piercing. Yet his face seemed young. It was a strange affect. His hair long and almost completely white was held together by a golden ribbon showing at the back of the chef’s hat. His presence seemed regal in an incongruously down-to-earth way. He exuded such a sense of peace that neither felt a need to say anything more.

“You’re Joseph Nathaniel, Jon Michael’s son, aren’t you? And you are Kirsten Camille, Rachel’s daughter,” he said, breaking the silence.

Clearly startled, the two glanced quickly at each other. The husband asked, “How did you know that? I don’t recall ever meeting you. Were you at our wedding?”

She added, “Were you a neighbor? I’m sure if I had met you I would have remembered.”

He laughed deeply, “So many questions. So little time. Succinctly put, I’ve known you since you were in your mother’s wombs. You don’t remember me, but I knew both of you the minute you walked in the door. Look at you. You’re all grown up. Parents. But still in love. How old are the kids now? Ezekiel must be seven and Maria six. They’ll be up and out before you know it.”

Again, they looked at each other uneasily. The husband said, “This is too weird. You even know our kids names and how old they are? I have to tell you this is uncomfortable. You know a lot about us, but all we know about you is you’re a really good cook. We haven’t been here in …”

Their table guest said, “Six years to be exact. The last time you were here little Ezekiel was in a high chair, and his mother looked like you were about to pop.”

The wife said, “So, do you keep track of all the customers and their families? That’s a heck of memory you have, then.”

He laughed again deeply, “Your parents were regulars here for breakfast, and we would always talk. Jon Michael would say that parenting is a life sentence and Miriam would roll her eyes. Rachel would agree with him and Bartholomew would look at Miriam and shake his head. Opposites really do attract, and that’s why Jon Michael and Rachel were always on one wavelength and Miriam and Bartholomew on another. They all love you like you love yours.”

The husband said, “I guess you didn’t know they’re all gone now. Dad when Maria was about a year old, and Mom the next year of a broken heart.”

The wife said, “My Mom and Dad were killed a couple of years later by a drunk driver who ran a red light. He was speeding in a one-ton pickup loaded with firewood. We miss them all.”

Their table guest said, “But maybe not Jon Michael’s sermons? He’s always been so passionate. I loved that about him from the moment I laid eyes on him. He was born to be a preacher.”

The husband said, “Funny you should say that. I had the strangest dream about him last night. It was so real… like he had come to visit.”

Their guest said, “Sounds intriguing. Tell me more.”

The husband said, “Well this will probably sound crazy, but he was still bugging me about why we’ve never gotten our children baptized or carried them to the services of God’s house. I didn’t want to argue with him, but Dad could always get under my skin like… like… like a…

Their guest said, “Like a Dad who loves his son and only wants the best for him and his family?”

The husband replied, “I suppose that’s how Dad saw things, but I …”

Their guest said, “But you acted like an adolescent even when you were an adult? He said black, so you just had to say white? He did the same thing with his Dad, you know. It’s the old bull, young bull script that fathers and sons always seem to have to play out. You just never finished the game before Jon Michael died, did you? And now you are still struggling and conflicted?”

She interjected, “My husband loved his father. It was just his father was so insistent on getting his way when it came to our children. That’s the problem when your Dad is a preacher.”

The man laughed, “Did your mother insist on getting her way, too?”

The wife blushed. “Like you said, Jon Michael and my Mom had more in common than my husband’s Mom and my Dad. Jon Michael and my Mom would always ask when we were going to get the children baptized and start taking them to church. It was so aggravating.”

Their guest laughed again, “And so, like adolescents you had to do it your way instead?”

The husband said, “Well, sir, that’s a little too blunt coming from a complete stranger.”

The man laughed again, “I told you I’m no stranger. You just don’t remember me.”

The husband said, “So, you think we should have just gone along to get along? Gone through the motions to make our parents happy and let Dad baptize them? We thought that was dishonest.”

Their guest laughed again, “Dishonest because you lost your faith when you went to college? And now you think it’s more honest to believe this life is all there is? Have you ever considered that it’s intellectually lazy for folks with a birth date and a death date to pass judgment on God?”

The woman replied, “My husband’s Dad was a preacher, so we expected him to talk about faith. But my Mom didn’t have the advantages of a higher education like me. She didn’t know better.”

The man laughed so hard that the woman began to feel angry. Her husband said, “Uh, I don’t mean to be rude, but don’t you need to get back to work? You are kind of intruding, sir.”

Their guest smiled. “You’re a good husband wanting to protect your wife. I’m not laughing at you. It’s funny how easily your generation denigrates faith in God but has a blind spot when it comes to your own faith in the gods of this world. Do you think degrees make you wise?”

She said, “Don’t tell me you think Christianity is more reasonable than science, for instance.”

He smiled, “And where do you think science came from? Do you really think that the universe with all its beauty and complexity is random? That science can deliver you from evil and death? Did you never learn about the National Socialist party of Germany or the communists in Russia and China? Did you never learn about Imperial Japan and the unholy trinity of North Korea?”

The husband replied, “And did you never learn about the evil done in the name of Christ?”

Their guest grew immensely sad. “Did you ever hear that not everyone who says unto Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven? Or, that by their fruits you will know them?”

For the first time, the husband looked at the man’s scarred hands. He said, “What happened? Did you burn yourself badly in the kitchen?”

Their guest said, “No. It was far worse than that. I was nailed to a cross after having been whipped so severely the bones in my back were exposed. They nailed a large spike through the top of one foot and down through the Achilles tendon of the other. I began to suffocate slowly, bleeding from my forehead, hands, and feet. When I was dead, they pierced me with a spear. Then, blood and pericardial fluid flowed from my side. They took me down from the cross, and my mother wept at her loss. But she understood the beauty of the love that conquered all that ugliness. My friends buried me before sundown. And, oh, what a surprise they all got on the third day! Then, I appeared to more than 500 of my friends, and I ascended forty days later.”

The husband and wife were deathly silent. They couldn’t look at each other. Was this man as crazy as he sounded? Who did he think he was? Jesus of Nazareth?

When they looked at his face, his eyes stared more deeply into theirs than either had ever experienced. It was like an CT scan and an MRI. He was searching and knowing them in a way they did not think possible. The man thought he might die that very moment. She felt as naked as the day she was born. There was no hiding place. There was either this One, or they were lost.

He said, “Joseph Nathaniel. Kirsten Camille. I am the Alpha and the Omega, who is, and who was, and who is to come. The Almighty.”

Joseph Nathaniel said, “You are Jesus? You really are Jesus?”

The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior, said: “I am!”

Kirsten Camille said: “Is this it? Is this the end? Are we done for?”

The Lord Jesus said: “I love you. I have always loved you. I died for your sins, for those of your husband, for those of your parents, and, yes, for those of your children? Do you love me?”

Kirsten Camille said, “I want to. It’s just… this is so difficult.”

Jesus said, “No, dear one, it’s so very easy. Let go of your fear and follow me. I am the Way.”

Joseph Nathaniel said: “But we’ve been so disobedient. So stubborn. So unbearable.”

Jesus said, “I died for you, Joseph Nathaniel, and you, Kiersten Camille. Obey my Word now and bring your children for Holy Baptism. Teach them to love and follow me.”

Joseph Nathaniel said: “I want to, but…but… (sighing) Lord Jesus, have mercy on me a sinner.”

Suddenly, Jesus opened a door. Brilliant light flooded in, and His appearance began to glow. His eyes were like fire. His voice rumbled: “I am coming soon. Follow me, my children. Follow!”

In the name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

©Samuel D. Zumwalt, STS

szumwalt@bellsouth.net

St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church

Wilmington, North Carolina USA

Bulletin insert

The Word of God: Comes

Praying

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the people of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen” (The Daily Prayer of the Church, 624-625).

Listening

Revelation 1:5 “… and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead,”

St. Irenaeus [2nd century Bishop of Lyon, France]: “Great, then, was the mercy of God the Father. He sent the creative Word, who, when he came to save us, put himself in our position, and in the same situation in which we lost life. He loosed the prison bonds, and his light appeared and dispelled the darkness in the prison and he sanctified our birth and abolished death, loosing those same bonds by which we were held. He showed forth the resurrection…” (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Revelation, 4-5).

Revelation 1:5 “… Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth

St. Athanasius the Great [4th century Patriarch of Alexandria, Egypt]: “Although it was after us that he was made man for us and became our brother by likeness of body, still he is called and is the firstborn of us… Therefore, since he has risen, we too shall rise from the dead from him and through him” (5).

Revelation 1:7 “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who…”

St. Fulgentius [Early 6th century Bishop of Ruspe, Tunisia]: “Hold most firmly and never doubt that the Word made flesh always has the same truly human flesh with which God the Word was born of the Virgin, with which he was crucified and died, with which he rose and ascended to heaven and sits at the right hand of God, with which he will come again to judge the living and the dead” (6).

Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega… who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

St. Augustine [Late 4th – early 5th century Bishop of Hippo Regius, Algeria]: “… Turn your minds to the Alpha and the Omega. The Lord himself said plainly in the Apocalypse, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first’ – before whom is nobody – ‘the last’ – after whom is nobody. He precedes all things and sets a term to all things. Do you want to gaze upon him as the first? ‘All things were made through him.’ Do you seek him as the last? ‘For Christ is the end of the law, that everyone who has faith may be justified.’ In order for you to live at some time or other, you had him as your creator. In order for you to live always, you have him as your redeemer” (6-7).

Revelation 1:8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega… who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

St. Athanasius: “The Godhead of the Son is the Father’s. It is indivisible. Thus there is one God and none other but he. So, since they are one, and the Godhead itself one, the same things are said of the Son, which are said of the Father, except his being said to be Father” (7).

Reflecting

  1. Am I certain the Lord Jesus will bodily return to judge me and all the living and the dead?

 Learning

 THE CREED (from Luther’s Small Catechism)

 As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household.

 The First Article

 Creation

 I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

What does this mean?

I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them.

He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.

He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey him. This is most certainly true.

Doing

  1. Pray for every unbaptized child and adult you know and for the child’s parents, too.
  2. Pray for your unchurched loved ones and friends. Invite one or more of them to worship.
  3. Discuss with your spouse, your family, or a friend how the First Article of the Creed helps you to understand the Father’s ongoing creative work and calls you to greater gratitude for all you have and all you are.
  4. Consult Lutheran Book of Worship, p. 185, for the daily lessons for the Week of Christ the King and following (Year One) and read them daily before offering your prayers on behalf of your family, the world, our nation, our state, and our local communities.
  5. Reflect on the end of all things whether at the hour of your death or when the Lord Jesus returns in glory. Ponder how the palpable love of neighbors demonstrates your love for the one true God: The Lord Jesus, His Father, and the Holy Spirit.
  6. Join a Bible study at St. Matthew’s either on Sunday morning or during the week.

For Husbands and Wives

Repeat daily: “I (name) take you (name) to be my wedded wife (husband), to have and to hold from this day forward; for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish until death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance, and thereto I pledge you my faith.”