Full Text for Lutheran Worship 2- Volume 16 - Worship as the Union of Heaven and Earth (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY LUTHERAN WORSHIP 2 16.LW2 Captioning provided By: Caption First, Inc. P.O. Box 1924 Lombard, IL 60148 ******** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. ******** >> NICK: Some of the reading I've been doing has me wondering how did early Christians understand worship as the unity of heaven and earth because of the bodily presence of Jesus Christ in word and sacrament? >> DR. ARTHUR JUST: One of the foundational theological elements of our worship today is this eschatological character that I was speaking about earlier. If you remember, I described eschatology as having to do with the last things. The fact that, even now, in our worship, Jesus Christ who is present bodily among us brings with him the things of heaven, the things that come at the end. Our liturgy is completely, totally infused with this sense because of the bodily presence of Christ. Perhaps the greatest illustration of this is from the Sanctus which we'll look at later where, you remember, singing heaven and earth are full of your glory. Wherever Jesus is, there is heaven. And when people speak about where is their right hand of the Father in heaven, it is where Christ is. So if Christ is present among us in word and sacrament, then there is the right hand of the Father. There is heaven itself. And everything that heaven is is present in Christ. Earlier, we spoke about this idea of an anthropology of ritual behavior, this liminality, this in betwixt and in between. When we stand together in our worship around the word of God and around the sacrament, we are standing in betwixt and in between heaven and earth. Certainly, here on earth, we can see that. We can feel that. We can touch that. That is, in a sense, the kind of central experience we have as we gather together in this place on earth. But because Christ is present there bodily, and of course, this is a great mystery, heaven is there as well. And we participate even now in that heaven liturgy in Christ. So it's important for us to recognize that when we worship, we're not there alone. What I mean by that is that we're not simply there with those who are in that particular church at that particular time, but we're worshiping there with Adam and Eve and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and David and Mary and Luke and all the apostles. We're worshiping with all those who have died and risen in Christ, not only those in the past, but those right now in the present and those who have yet been born. This is what we mean by the communion of saints. This is the eschatological community of all those who are in union with Christ, in communion with him through baptism and faith. One of the great illustrations of this in the New Testament is the Transfiguration of Our Lord. Here you see a brilliant glimpse of how in Christ heaven and earth come together. You remember the transfiguration story how Jesus goes up on the mountain with three human beings, three apostles, Peter, James, and John, the big three. Now, there they are at the top of a mountain, these human beings, coming up from below. There is Jesus with them. And all of a sudden, Jesus transfigures before them. He gives them a glimpse of the heavenly glory. Now, remember, Jesus is, in a sense, this person who is both from heaven and earth. The person of Jesus, if you go back to our question of Christology, has both the divine and human nature, and that person of Christ embraces both heaven and earth in his own being. The evangelist, St. Luke, tells us in Chapter 9 during his account of the transfiguration that all of a sudden, Moses and Elijah come down from heaven. And it's very interesting the language the evangelist uses there. He uses the imperfect tense, which means that as they are coming down, they're speaking about something that they were talking about in heaven that continues here below. And Luke tells us what it is. He's the only evangelist who does. He says that Moses and Elijah are talking about Jesus' exodus which he was about to fulfill in Jerusalem. Now, if you remember earlier, I talked about Jesus' exodus as that movement of Jesus from heaven into this world, and down into the grave and then back up into heaven. Or, if you want to use the language of Revelation, what Moses and Elijah are talking about--this is important to see what this is--this is a conversation of heaven. What Moses and Elijah are talking about is the lamb who was slain and raised again. Notice what's happening at the transfiguration. You have these human beings from earth, and you have Moses and Elijah, these heavenly beings, coming together on the mount in this world because of Christ. There you have, on the Mount of Transfiguration, heaven and earth coming together around this glorious presence of Jesus Christ. If you think about this in terms of our own worship, our worship today must be a foretaste of heaven. When we enter into our worship spaces, the conversation we have among one another must reflect the conversation of heaven, which is why our liturgy must always be about the lamb who was slain and raised again. This is where our conversation, our songs, join the songs and conversation of heaven. As I always like to tell people, as we sing the Sanctus here below, where we sing the wonderful hymn of Isaiah 6 and Psalm 118, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabbath, heaven and earth are full of your glory. That same hymn is being sung in heaven by the angels and archangels and all the saints, which is what the communion of saints refers to. So when you and I gather together, we must ask ourselves this: Is our worship a worship that understands that this eschatological community is with us. Is it reverent to this presence? Is it faithful to the way in which Christians have, for centuries and centuries for millennium, have been worshiping in the presence of Christ? There are some extraordinary pastoral ramifications for this. I'd like to tell you a little story about an experience I had as a young pastor. I was called to a small congregation in Middletown, Connecticut that had gone through some difficult times. It was a congregation that was made up, now, mostly of older folks, and when my wife and I had our daughter after our first year being there, it was the first baptism I had, which gives you a little sense of the character of the church. We suffered a lot of sorrow and tragedy with them during our first year, both personally and within the congregation. But it was in my second year as a pastor in the congregation and my second year as a pastor that we, as a community, suffered what was really a tremendous loss. I had a young boy in my congregation by the name of Chris who was in my confirmation class, a wonderful young man, kind of one of those perfect kids you dream about, a great student, a great athlete, gentle, quiet, but a very, very pious young man. He was playing Little League, wonderful pitcher, and he had a sore in his shoulder. He couldn�t go on, which was unusual. Well, as they went to the doctor, they found out that he had cancer in the shoulder. And it was one of those kind of evil cancers that just wouldn't let go of him. And after losing his arm, and after chemotherapy, Chris died. It was a great tragedy for our whole community because, as I said, we didn't have very many young people, and certainly none as special as Chris. His young mother and father found that their first funeral was for their son. And I'll never forget after spending many, many days and hours with them in vigil over Chris as he was dying, especially, that at the day of his funeral, after I preached a sermon in which I said Chris was in heaven, his father came to me and said, you know, pastor, I appreciate all you've done for us. But I've got to tell you, it's no comfort to me that Chris is in heaven because Chris doesn�t belong in heaven. Chris belongs among us. He was only thirteen years old. He had his whole life ahead of him. God shouldn't have taken him so early. Chris should be with us, not with the saints in heaven. I was crushed, to say the least, because I didn't know what else to say to him. And I remember leaving his home on that day of the funeral deeply depressed about the fact that after all we had been through, I was not able to serve them in a way that would console them in this time of grief. I went back and I thought hard how I might speak to them about Chris�s death and his new life now in Christ. It's then that I discovered the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. I went back to these young parents and I said to them this: I don't know if this is going to comfort you. But this Sunday were going to celebrate the Lord's Supper, and when we stand there in Christ's presence and we receive his body and blood, we are participating in the heavenly feast, a feast that Chris is participating in in Christ. And so in Christ, Chris will be present with us as we gather together as worshiping beings. Well, those parents came that Sunday, and they came to the table. And that was a deeply emotional time for me and the whole congregation. I remember how my hands were shaking as I gave them the body and the blood of Christ, and there were crying. And people were weeping throughout the congregation. I�ll never forget what the father said to me as he left. He said, pastor, I am comforted because I know that here, in this place, because of Christ's presence, I am present with the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, and that includes Chris. Ever since that time, this is what I tell people when they lose a loved one. And I tell them that when they go to the Lord's Supper, they must remember that that loved one who has just recently died is present with them in Christ. Every time, now, that I go to the Lord's Supper I think of those who have died recently and perhaps not so recently. I think of my grandmother and my wife's sister, and I think of some of my colleagues. And I am comforted by the wonderful good news, which is what the gospel is, that these people are not dead, that they are alive in Christ. They are those who have reached the fullness of their communion, and that they are with us in this mystical way where heaven and earth have come together in the person of Jesus. In my understanding of worship from a biblical perspective, this is at the heart and core of what it is that we do when we gather together. This is why we speak of it as a foretaste of heaven. I truly believe that if we understood the liturgy this way, then many of the things we see happening in our churches, liturgically, would not be happening because we would recognize how important it is for us to see this as this extraordinary moment of holiness and presence where we are, in a sense, taken outside of ourselves into another place, a place where Christ is, a place where he dwells with these gifts that we've spoken about, a place where we are not alone, but we are joined in him to everybody who has died and risen in Christ. This can be extraordinarily comforting for people. In fact, in my mind, this is the ultimate comfort. And this is the reason why we worship, that we might receive these wonderful gifts being nurtured and sustained in our faith and see beyond ourselves, to see beyond our own particular parochial concerns and recognize that we are part of this larger community, this body of Christ which we call the church. When we talk about all these things, heaven and earth coming together in the person of Jesus, we see this so beautifully reflected in one of the new canticles that we sing in our liturgy, "This is the feast," or what we technically call, "Worthy is the Christ." If you remember that hymn, we sing it right before we read the collect of the day and began to hear the word of God. One of the last things we say there is this: that the lamb who was slain has begun his reign, alleluia. Now, listen carefully to those. The lamb who was slain, namely, what happened on the cross has already now begun to reign among us. Now, what that states in theological speak, is what we would call inaugurated eschatology.