This morning we remember our brothers and sisters in arms who have past from death to life. Our comrades who have completed their course – and finished their labor. They are arrayed in white with palm branches in their hands and singing gladly surrounding the lamb of God in his kingdom. They have been transferred from the church at war to the church at rest - from the church militant to the church triumphant.
We remember Lee Wolf, Jodi Behreandt, and Delores Ann Buntrock. We remember Edeline Young, Armin Schmidt, and Glenn Alfheim. We remember Wilmarth Arthur Thayer, Isabelle Borchardt, and Austin Matson.
Now they see God face to face and God has wiped away every tear from their eyes. 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.” They sing before his throne and see God face to face. They see with their own eyes what we believe in with our hearts. They have passed from death to life. They have been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection and have been raised to new life. With angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.
Their lives are different than ours. They have been rescued from this valley of sorrow and have been brought before the throne of God to worship him there and sing his praises. They don’t worry about not having enough money. They don’t suffer from their own sins. They are not plagued by their past. They are not abused or mistreated like us. They are comforted. They are blessed. They are beautiful. They are loved by God. And like Christ himself they shine like the sun.
Their good shepherd has guided them to springs of living water and God has wiped away every tear from their eye. For us, some of them have been taken much too early. But it’s not too early for God. We should be certain that God takes our loved ones from us not out of anger but he takes them out of great love for them and for us. Blessed in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
Saint Paul writes “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.”
In Romans Paul says “For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we will also live with him.” Jesus says “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Jesus says, “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
This morning we remember to keep our eyes on the prize – which is none other than our Lord Jesus. It was he who died our death. He burst forth from the grave and destroyed death’s power. Satan has been cast down. Death has lost its sting. And the grave no longer kills us but has rather become the portal to everlasting life – and the gate of paradise.
But for you this morning who continue to suffer for the sake of the Gospel. Take heart and have courage. This Jesus has saved you too. You too are blessed. And you may mourn for awhile. Your saving may dwindle – you will be taxed too much. You may worry about your children and your marriage may be on the rocks. And like everyone else your health will fail. But these things too will pass. Repent and believe in the Gospel. Christ has been raised from the dead. Death has passed over you.
Your life has been redeemed. You’ve been bought for a price. Your sins have all been pardoned. You are a holy one of God. A Saint! He has placed a white robe on you and covered all of your shame. You too worship with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. God is pleased with you. His blood coveres you from head to toe. You are scrubbed clean with baptismal waters and are numbered among God’s elect from every nation and every tribe - who surround the Lamb of God.
Heaven comes down to earth in this holy supper. And we don’t call it holy communion for nothing. For not only do you commune with the Father and the Son. You commune with the whole company of heaven who have passed through this valley of tears and have been carried by our Good Shepherd to a much brighter and happier shore.