One of the Christian’s realities is that of now and not yet. All the glories and riches of heaven have been won for you by Jesus’ death and resurrection. They are yours! But not yet, because you’re still in this world. All of the benefits of being God’s own child are yours now because you are Baptized into Christ, but you don’t get to fully enjoy the benefits of that inheritance yet. Heaven is yours by a free gift of your loving heavenly Father and the sacrifice of the obedient divine Son. Salvation is given to you day after day by the working of the Holy Spirit in the Word and the Sacraments. But day after day you suffer the effects of living in a sinful and dying world. This is a pattern we know well. Now, but not yet.
This teaches us that our life is a journey to the life to come. The Lord has prepared for you an eternal home in the heavens, but you live in the now and yearn for the not yet. This Christian journey is embodied in the Easter Vigil. The five smaller services in one larger one bring us from darkness to light, prophecy to fulfillment, sinner to saint, ignorance to wisdom, alienated to intimate communion, death to resurrection. You felt this not long ago as the water sprinkled you as you repeated the confession made at your Baptism, your own personal deliverance from death to life. You saw it plainly as the darkness of the tomb gave way to the bright and glorious light of the resurrection.
We perfectly understand this paradoxical reality in which we live. So why do we get so consumed with the now and so easily lose sight of the not yet? Why do the difficulties of life keep distracting us from the life of the world to come? Because sin makes us short-sighted. Every time we forget about the eternal reality that is ours and can’t see past our own noses, it’s a call to repentance. We need to be taught by the Lord to look forward instead of down.
St. Paul tells us that all creation is a reminder to look forward. Writing to the Romans he said, “The creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” Because of this, “The whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” St. Matthew recorded that the earth shook, both at Jesus’ crucifixion and at His resurrection. This is part of the creation’s groaning and laboring. It knows that its redemption is drawing nigh. It knows that Christ has paid the price and that the Father has accepted the payment. Christ’s resurrection is the first of many to come, and on the Last Day all the tombs will give up their dead, and man’s and creation’s groanings will cease.
Until that day, concentrate on how God broke into His creation personally in Christ Jesus. He took on flesh, became one of us. In His miracles—healing the sick, opening the eyes of the blind, giving the deaf their hearing, making the lame walk, making bodies whole, turning water into wine, multiplying bread and fish, walking on water, and even raising the dead—Jesus gives a reminder of the glorious future that is at once a present reality and yet to be fully realized.
But until that great and final day, we wait, in hope and joyful expectation of God’s fulfilled promise to gather you together in heaven. No matter what life throws at you, the Lord does not leave you to yourself. He is with you and He has a plan. Wait, looking forward to the restoration of creation and the removal of all the physical effects sin has on the world and your body. The Lord Jesus overcame sin and death. He rose from the tomb. The earth, the angel, and the women announced it plainly. And because Jesus is risen from the dead, you know what’s coming. The Promised Land of heaven stands in front of you. The now is drawing to a close and the not yet draws even closer. Tonight we commemorate the passing from death to life. Christ, your Savior and Redeemer, died, but is not dead. And one day you will live forever with Him.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.