Wisdom has built her house,
she has hewn her seven pillars.
She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine,
she has also set her table.
She has sent out her servant-girls, she calls
from the highest places in the town,
“You that are simple, turn in here!”
To those without sense she says,
“Come, eat of my bread
and drink of the wine I have mixed.
Lay aside immaturity, and live,
and walk in the way of insight.”
The Word of the Lord.
Fear the Lord, you saints of the Lord,
for those who fear the Lord lack nothing.
The lions are in want and suffer hunger,
but those who seek the Lord lack nothing that is good.
Come, children, and listen to me;
I will teach you reverence for the Lord.
Who among you takes pleasure in life
and desires long life to enjoy prosperity?
Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from lying words.
Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it. Amen.
Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Word of the Lord.
The Holy Gospel according to Saint John 6:51-58
[Jesus said,] “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; or my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.”
The Gospel of our Lord.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Honestly – bluntly – frankly – there are just some things you simply can’t understand until you have been around a while. Until you have lived long enough so you are starting to show some wear and tear. Until you are starting to fray around the edges. Until you are starting to fall apart a tiny bit.
Like the Fountain of Youth. You simply cannot understand the appeal of the Fountain of Youth when you are still young and healthy and fit and running around in a perfectly – perfect body.
I am so very – very sorry but no amount of empathy or imagination or sympathy will cover it. You simply can’t comprehend the draw of the Fountain of Youth when you are a youth.
Or at least I didn’t. For years I was completely and utterly clueless to the true appeal of the Fountain of Youth and why so many folks had spent so much time thinking – writing – dreaming about – and seeking it.
And why folks like Homer called old age “loathsome.” And William Shakespeare called it the “hideous winter.” Seriously – not the “golden years” – but the “hideous winter!”
But my time was coming . . . I was warned by fine Lutherans who went ahead of me. These courageous men and women of faith would look at my thick brown hair – and see my springy step – and listen to my tales of caffeine drinking in the afternoon and laugh and say ominously – “your time is coming Pastor – oh – your time is coming . . .”
They would say things like aging isn’t for the faint of heart . . . and aging well – aging is less than pleasant (I shall refrain from direct quotations here because we are in the sanctuary and there are youths present . . .)
And now – I know that these wise Lutheran sages were right. It takes some age spots and thinning hair and achy joints and a calendar with more doctors’ appointments than social events for the Fountain of Youth to really start to make sense.
But once your joints do start to creak. And your hairline heads north. And your metabolism comes to a grinding halt and you find yourself standing in the church kitchen comparing specialists and prescriptions and ailments – then you get it. Then you get the appeal of the Fountain of Youth and why folks have been traveling the world for centuries seeking its healing – restorative waters.
This glorious (but sadly mythical spring) allegedly restores the youth of anyone who bathes or drinks from its waters. And apparently there are no known side effects!
The Fountain of Youth would certainly be the answer to many – many prayers. After all – who hasn’t wished to turn back the hands of time? Who wouldn’t want to go for a swim that would take away your aches and pains and leave you feeling healthier and younger?
Who wouldn’t like to be able to run as fast as they could when they were 7?
Who hasn’t come down with a miserable cold and wished for remedy quicker than lots of rest and plenty of fluids? Imagine skin free of sun damage. Hair without gray roots.
Imagine diseases and chronic health conditions simply disappearing. Or the pleasure of leaving your cane in the corner. Imagine tossing your pills.
Lots of us wish we could turn back the hands of time and return to the days when we were healthier or stronger or simply felt just a bit better.
So, I don’t think Jesus could have come to us with a more exciting invitation than the one he brings us today – the offer of eternal life. Jesus tells us – he is “the living bread that came down from heaven.” And “whoever eats of this bread will live forever.”
And when Jesus talks about living forever – he is not talking about merely existing forever. Jesus isn’t saying he wants us to live eternally – as we are – struggling with our sinfulness and our brokenness. Jesus isn’t just offering us more of the same. He isn’t offering us more days living as we are in this broken – sinful world – filled with struggles and problems.
Jesus tells us, he “came that we may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
The abundant life Jesus is telling us about is life made up of those moments when you smile so much you can feel it in the muscles in your face. When you wish time would stand still. All those moments when you think to yourself, “It doesn’t get any better than this.” That is abundant living, and that’s what Jesus is offering us.
What Jesus is offering us is life with our heavenly Father in Paradise.
So what does the Bible tell us about this heavenly Paradise? First and probably most importantly – the Bible tells us God created heaven and God’s will is done in heaven. Jesus called heaven Paradise and the Kingdom of God. And after Jesus’ earthly ministry was complete the Bible tells us Jesus ascended into heaven.
Revelation chapter 21 tells us heaven isn’t going to be somewhere up in the sky – but rather heaven will be right here on earth. God is going to make a new earth and he will live there with his beloved children.
Revelation (14:13) also tells us we will rest from our labors and we won’t feel sorrow or pain and we will shed no more tears – and Saint Paul promises us we will finally have full understanding of God and God’s plans.
Again and again heaven is described in the Bible as a wonderful feast with good wine and lots of delicious food. Sort of like our church gatherings – only even better!
These are just a few examples of what the Bible tells us about what eternal life in heaven will be like.
Will there be golden streets – pearly gates – puffy clouds – harps and halos? Perhaps.
Will heaven be beautiful? Most certainly.
Will God be there? You bet.
As for the rest of our questions about heaven – well – we are all just going to have to wait to see. But we do know this – it is going to be wonderful.
Heaven will be perfect – and our cups will run over with God’s great blessings. And we will live with our Lord forever. Truly this is Good News – AMEN.