Worship for Sunday, May 8, 2022

Acts 9:36-43

36Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. 37At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. 38Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.” 39So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. 40Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. 41He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. 42This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 23

1The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not be in want.
2The Lord makes me lie down in green pastures
and leads me beside still waters.
3You restore my soul, O Lord,
and guide me along right pathways for your name’s sake.
4Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 
5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil, and my cup is running over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Revelation 7:9-17

9After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

11And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

13Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint John 10:22-30

22At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” 25Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30The Father and I are one.”

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I am always knee deep in a book or three. Just this week I read the hauntingly beautiful memoir “What We Wish Were True” by Tallu Quinn. Tallu was a 42 year-old mom – wife – baker of bread – feeder of the hungry – disciple of Jesus – theologian and writer.   Tallu lived – worked – served our Lord and died far – far too young just down Interstate-65 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Tallu died this spring of metastatic brain cancer. But as she lived her last months – she graciously and generously shared part of her journey. She wrote of many things. And I continue to think deeply about her words and what she had to teach. She was leaving so much behind. Her children are very young. She was so young. And she was wise.

I was particularly struck by her reflections on heaven. On what she thought it will be like to be reunited with our Lord. On her thoughts about eternal life and spending eternity with our Lord and her heavenly family in Paradise.

Do you think about heaven? Are you curious? Have you pondered eternity and your eternal home?

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that I have and I do. I don’t think you can be a pastor for very long and not spend some time thinking about eternity. Walking through the valley of the shadow of death with folks you love over and over again – leads a person to consider what is on the other side.

Sometimes I joke that I hope heaven will be like a great big yarn store with a huge library attached. So – I can finally read and knit as much as I want. But I do know most folks would NOT consider this to be heavenly – just excruciatingly boring!

When I am serious about it – I think heaven will be a whole lot more like it was around Saint Stephen on Easter morning this year.

Think about it . . .

Easter was filled to overflowing with glorious blessings. It was amazing and delightful and beautiful and fun and funny and noisy and just plain awesome. There were smiling – happy Christians everywhere. There was great food and wonderful fellowship. There was an abundance of joy.

Our fellowship hall was filled with chatting – chattering – laughing – celebrating – joyful – joyous Lutherans. Reunions were taking place. Great conversations were happening. There were hugs and jokes and tears of joy.

Both bodies and souls were fed!

There was worship and praise and music and chocolate and celebration!

I – for one – was right where I wanted to be. And I found myself thinking over and over again – “This is so cool! So awesome!   This is the Kingdom of God breaking into our world – into our daily lives! My cup runneth over!”

Heaven is going to be like a really cool church coffee hour!

And I DO think heaven will be filled with boisterous Christians – talking a mile a minute. Heaven will be filled with chatter and laughter and friends hanging out and delighting in each other’s company. Heaven will be just a little bit wild and chaotic sometimes because it will be just so awesomely fun and amazing!

What about you?

Have you ever wondered what heaven will be like?

Do you think about it?

When you think of heaven – do you think of golden streets and Saint Peter waiting for you at the pearly gates?

Do you think of fluffy – puffy white clouds and angels with harps and halos?

Perhaps you think of hanging out with the loved ones you are missing – especially on a day like today.

In our second reading for today – the book of Revelation gives us a small but wonderful glimpse of what heaven is going to be like.

Saint John tells us he saw: “a great multitude that was so big that no one could count everyone – from every nation on the earth – from all tribes and all peoples and all languages.” And they were all standing before the throne of God worshipping the Lord.

He goes on to declare – “they will hunger no more and thirst no more.   The sun will not strike them nor any scorching heat. The Lamb of God will guide them to the springs of the water of life and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Think about that. Let those words really sink in . . .

In heaven there will be so many people that no one can count all of them!   And they will be from every nation on the earth.

In heaven there will be no more hunger and no more thirst and no more suffering and no more pain and no more sorrow. No more tears!

In heaven we will finally – see God – face to face. We will be with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Talk about Paradise!

Oh – how I love these verses from the book of Revelation. When I read these verses – I am always like a kid in a candy store – begging for more please. I want to hear more of these promises from God – because they hold such marvelous hope and promise of the life to come for all of us.

We may have all sorts of unanswered questions about heaven. But we don’t have to wonder about this – heaven will be awesome. Awesome like Easter morning!

Truly this is Good News – AMEN.

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