Brothers and Partners (Revelation 1)
- Order of Service: Divine Service 4
- Hymns: LSB #464, 458, 468, 471, 475
BLESSING: 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, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. (Revelation 1:4-5)
I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. (Revelation 1:9)
Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)
Sixty or so years after the first Easter morning, St. John found himself imprisoned on the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea. Imprisoned for preaching the Gospel. The Gospel we freely assemble to hear every Sunday. The Gospel which makes us brothers and partners “in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus.”
As Christians, we are welcomed before God as brothers and sisters in Christ. But we are also partners in what many Christians want to avoid. But it is what we are promised will fill our lives from birth to death.
Tribulation is a word often linked with the book of Revelation. While we don't believe in the idea of a rapture before Jesus returns in judgment, we do believe, teach and confess tribulation. Preaching the Gospel brings tribulation. Don't believe me? Try to spread the Gospel through social media. It can start a backlash almost instantly.
Christians around the world suffer tribulation because of their beliefs. Last Sunday, an Easter service in a park in Pakistan was bombed because they were proclaiming Jesus' resurrection. More than seventy people, more people than are in this room, were killed because they believe in Jesus.
John was imprisoned for Jesus. He was the last living Apostle. All the rest had been martyred. Some very gruesome deaths among them. All suffered tribulation, but none would back down.
And you are their brothers and sisters. You are partners with them in their tribulation. When they suffer, you suffer. Whether it's terrorism like in Pakistan or a church fire like in Northrop, All Christians suffer tribulation together. This togetherness unites us in Christ.
St. Paul wrote to Corinth, “For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.” Since we are promised a share in comfort, we pray for God's kingdom to come. God's kingdom of comfort. We pray for this every time we pray the Lord's Prayer: “Thy kingdom come.”
Christ's kingdom comes, but it doesn't always seem comforting. Jesus' kingdom comes even in the season of Lent. Because “God's kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.”
Christ's kingdom comes in Law and Gospel. The sharp two-edged sword coming out of His mouth. The Law crushing your sin. The condemning Law that you crucified Jesus. Your sins drove the nails into your Savior's hands. They were the thorns piercing His brow. They were the lashes ripping His skin.
The Gospel gives the comfort of sins forgiven. The uplifting promise of His resurrection and yours. That tribulations are only for this world. Comfort is for this world and the next.
St. John could only be “in the Spirit on the Lord's Day” by the Gospel. “The Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.”
We gather together on the Lord's Day because the Holy Spirit calls us together. We invoke the name of the Trinity. The name that unites us in our Baptism. The name that makes us brothers and partners. Brothers and partners in the comfort that comes from His death and resurrection. The comfort that causes our hymns of praise. Praise of Him who stands in our midst. In the midst of the seven golden lampstands, signifying the one, holy, catholic and Apostolic Church.
As He stands in our midst, He patiently endures the struggles and divisions we place between ourselves. He continues His prayer from the Garden of Gethsemane: “That they may all be one.” He patiently endures your sin that separates you from Him and from one another. In the midst of this patient endurance, He forgives the separating sin. He walks among us as “the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last.” He patiently endures and commands His Church to patiently endure.
A few years ago, we looked at the seven letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor while we went through Lent. The seven churches Jesus commands John to write the book of Revelation to. He reminded each of these churches that they needed to patiently endure all the tribulations in this life. They were bringing Christ's kingdom to people. Well, most of them were. But they were starting to buckle under the pressures of the world around them. It isn't that much different from today. If you were to tell the mainstream media that you are a Christian and believe the Bible, they would automatically label you as a chauvinistic woman-hater and homophobe. Heck, sometimes if you say that to other Christians you get the same response. Because they have succumb to the tribulation. They have forsaken Christ's kingdom for a kingdom of this world. But Jesus' kingdom is not of this world. This world's kingdoms do not endure. Christ's kingdom endures forever.
It endures because it is based on “He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” Jesus patiently endured the cross and grave so that you might patiently endure the tribulations in this world and enjoy His kingdom in this world and the next. He was dead, but He is alive forevermore! He has conquered Hades and Death, and He promises the same for you. But you must patiently endure. “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Amen.
Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed! Alleluia!)