Today’s Epistle reading is the Roll Call of the Heroes of Faith in Jesus Christ with the theme verse, the 11: 1
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation.
In the middle of the Roll Call, there are verses of hope in Christ, by faith, toward the Lord’s will in Christ for all:
13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.
The hymn “I’m but a Stranger Here” (#748, Lutheran Service Book) expresses an Biblical truth we seem not to like as Christians, the first stanza:
I’m but a stranger here,
Heaven is my home;
Earth is a desert drear,
Heaven is my home;
Danger and sorrow stand
Round me on every hand;
Heaven is my fatherland,
Heaven is my home.
This reminds me of the country song lyric, “Everyone wanna go to heaven, but no one want to go now”. We like it here. We have a hard time with the understanding that, “earth is a desert drear”. Never before in the history of the world have so many people enjoyed the life that just a century before was limited to the wealthy few: single family dwellings, lawns, vast entertainment possibilities through, radio, TV, internet, even indoor plumbing. Prosperity preachers make much ado about this that we can even more if we strike a deal with the Almighty. We are very much at home here and now and want to hold on for dear life…even Christians. Yet, if what I have written is true, we are being false to the faith and hope the saints of old lived in Christ: the Lord has a better plan. The Lord laid out this plan in the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth: an enduring city, who’s builder is none other than the Lord Himself. Even our desire, even lust, for the “good life”, the “best life” now and forever demonstrates that eternity is part of our very thoughts, reflecting in a fleshly way, the Lord Himself. Ecclesiastes 3:
11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.
Eternity is in our will, that we know we were made forever with the Lord, yet on our own we can not find out “what God has done from the beginning to the end”. Now with the Lord’s revelation finally and fully of the Incarnation, Ministry, life, death, resurrection and ascension of His Son our Lord, Jesus Christ, we know by what the Lord is doing. For all our pagan attempts to hold onto life, grab all the gusto, we are looking to ourselves, inwardly, the despair of our times. All the heroes of the faith, from A-Z, from Abraham to Zechariah were directed by the Lord to seek a “homeland”. “Homeland Security” cannot give finally security and yet we seek homeland security for the here and now. The hope of the homeland which is secure forever has been given: the city of God. We think our I-Phones/Pods and Pads are the “bomb”, giving us information and control at a finger swipe but all the while we want to be loved. We live as if this were it, and fear and tremble that it is not. But,
“With all true Christians running
Our heavenly race and shunning
The devil’s wiles and cunning”,
we know by the Lord’s scarred hands that this world is not the final resting place. Christ is. I am, maybe like you, not too crazy about dying…but when we know sin is death, Christ is life eternal, seeking His homeland is sanity in this dark world for which Christ died.
In the Hall of Heroes of the Faith, note that all the saints therein were looking forward in hope, in the hope of Christ to come. They had no cathedrals, except the Temple not made with human hands: Jesus Christ (John 2:21; 1 Corinthians 3:17 ). We pray many will hear the Word and come to faith. But if faith is only for this world, or even for our congregation alone, then we are of all people the most to be pitied: but Christ is raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:18-20). It is clear from Hebrews 11: Faith not only clings to Christ for what He has done for us but what He will do: Thy Kingdom Come, based upon the Rock of our salvation,what He has done from womb to tomb to the Resurrection. Our national pastime, baseball, has it right: to go home, after all the strike outs, errors, missed catches, we can in Christ. The homeland is given even now:
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.-St. John 14: 23