sermon

Joy to Come

Rev. Dr. John J. Lolla, Jr.

April 28, 2019

Text: Revelation 1:8, Gospel: Acts 5:27-32, New Testament: Revelation 1:4-8

            We’re aware of our human predicament. We love life. Yet we’re aware it will not last. There’s an ending date ahead for all of us. We don’t know when or where that Omega moment will come. But it will come.

Will our Omega moment come in an instant, in a flash without our awareness of its arrival? Or will it be anticipated at the end of a long steady decline that can only be temporarily abated?

What will be our Omega moment?

We have tremendous knowledge that can perform what previous generations considered to be miracles. We have constructed algorithms to predict what earlier generations would have considered impossible to know.

We deploy reason in a variety of scientific methodologies that unlock remarkable mysteries of the universe. But we can not overcome the finite limit of our mortality. We can delay the inevitable, but we cannot prevent it.

Life’s end will arrive at a time and place of its choosing. We can only wait for it to come.

It’s interesting to see how people react to this reality. Young people live oblivious to the inevitability of their Omega point. They immerse themselves in frenetic activities that give them happiness. It shields them from the mature awareness of parents, grandparents and great grandparents. Time is flying and you can’t do anything to recover it.

Of course, young people have children, who distract them from life’s finality.

So long as you are chasing after little ones you don’t have time to think about life’s end game.   You invest yourself in their needs and wants. You don’t have time to ponder the future. It’s the next rehearsal, the next practice, the next performance, the next entertainment activity. Living vicariously through children’s lives doesn’t permit thoughts about the Omega moment to come.

It’s easy to live the illusion that life won’t end. At least not until children graduate from high school, leave for college, and rarely come home to visit. Then you emerge from your youthful fantasy of everlasting life. Reality sets in. Your children’s childhood has ended. With it comes the end of fantasies.

The ending date is closer and you’re no less able to do anything about it.

Such is the human predicament.

Despite our freedom to choose what we want in life, there’s still that final reality you can’t escape.

You can’t escape life’s Omega moment, when the beauty of each day’s sunrise and the glory of each evening’s sunset ends. You can try to distract yourself with hobbies and interests that consume time, energy, and thoughts.

They can fill your mind with pursuits that keep the Omega point out of sight and out of mind. At least for a moment. But our predicament’s there, anyway.

Are we only left to wait in the darkness like Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, trapped in the silence of a past we cannot change, disillusioned with a life we could not control that has no future joy?

Will our awareness of our human predicament leave us unable to find hope from which to see the joy that is to come?

Oh, to be a bird who flies oblivious to mortality!

What if we do have a choice? We’ve been given the ability to have joy in life’s Omega moment. God is the giver of this ability. This is what our reading from the Book of Revelation is telling us.

The Apostle John is near the end of his life. He was banished by the Romans to the island of Patmos to die. His childhood is gone. His productive years as a fisherman have ended. His years with Jesus are far in the past. He has outlived his family and friends. His brother has been martyred. He could only wait for the Omega moment to come – like the rest of us.

What he saw on the island of Patmos was something quite different. He wasn’t waiting for the end in resignation. He was seeing the beginning to come. The Alpha moment was in his sight.

John was waiting for Jesus to come.

When we spend so much time looking for life’s Omega moment, John the Evangelist was looking for the first-born of life – Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ’s return is the Alpha moment.

Are we so dominated by our mortality that we spend no time seeing the return of Jesus in the clouds of heaven?

Are we so limited by our perspective of what life isn’t that we aren’t giving any consideration for the life that comes in the arrival of Jesus Christ?

We have a choice in life, an important powerful choice. We can only see ourselves as material bodies or we can see ourselves as spiritual beings who are raised with the return of Jesus Christ!

We can either give up the joy of living or we can be excited by the joy of life that is to come.

I have pastored many people through the years who can’t see beyond the grave. They are dominated by presbyopia – the vision of the aged.

Instead of being excited by the joy to come in Jesus Christ, they are tired, old, and listless – waiting for the Omega moment to arrive. Each day is void of energy and enthusiasm for the opportunities God has given them to be a blessing to others and a witness to His glory that is to come.

Rare is the person who relishes the arrival of the Almighty who is coming in the clouds. Rare is the person who looks forward with excitement to the opportunity Jesus Christ will give them to be saved from the Omega.

For the rare person, Jesus Christ is the Alpha who reveals Himself fully in the Omega. Jesus is coming to give us new life. He’s coming in our Omega points to free us from the sins of our mortality for the spiritual life in His heavenly place.

He is the vision of the greater life that lies ahead for those who anticipate His arrival in the clouds. He showed us in His Easter resurrection that His Father in heaven brings life from death. He revealed to us that He alone is the ruler over death and gives us the victory over death.

Christ is the one who elevates the vision of those who see beyond their mortality with the sight of eternal life! For those rare people who keep their eyes on Him, each day is a blessing to be experienced and cherished until He comes to bring us to our heavenly Father’s home.

Many years ago, Ollie and Ruth were facing the end of their 70-year marriage. Ollie was losing strength and Ruth was steadfastly with him, holding his hand until he left her. She dreaded that moment. Yet she was determined not to let him know that she was overwhelmed by what was happening to them. They had been so devoted to one another.

They had loved one another through the Second World War, raised children together, built a life together beyond the coal-mining community in which they had been raised.

Ollie had left Ruth with a beautiful home and a well-financed estate. But she wanted him, not what he had left behind. She became quiet and reserved. Her children were concerned for her and asked me to visit with her.

I went to her home, where she greeted me with teary eyes. She had been crying. She had awakened that morning missing Ollie, like she had every day since he left her. The silence was hard to bear. Even in his illness, she had found his companionship more important to be shared than his absence.

Now she had his absence, and the things he left behind.

We talked as the sunlight cascaded through her curtains. I began asking her about the war years of being apart – the fears she had years earlier when he was overseas. She shared with me her prayers for him while he was gone and the letters she had written each day.

She talked about how Jesus had helped her through that time. She had always gone to church. They had steadfastly worshipped together until sin separated them in World War II.

In Ollie’s absence, Jesus had been her daily companion, reassuring her through prayer. It was a beautiful memory and as she told me about those days, her eyes began to twinkle. A gentle smile came to her face. I could see her memories of Jesus presence during that dark time had reassured her.

It was in those memories that she realized that Jesus had brought them back together. All her fears and loneliness had been overcome by trusting Jesus. Ollie had returned. New life emerged from the suffering and death of war.

She had already traveled this road in life with Jesus. Now she saw that her resurrected Lord was with her earlier. We began to talk about the similarities between what she had already experienced with Ollie’s absence and today.

We talked about the Easters during which they had worshipped together with their children, their grandchildren, and great grandchildren. They were wonderful memories of celebrating Christ’s arrival from the grave.

I reminded her, “You and Ollie shared this faith in Jesus’ resurrection throughout your lives. You celebrated His promise of eternal life for over 90 years. Now isn’t the time to give up on what you treasured together as a family. Jesus will come to bring you to where Ollie is waiting for you. And life will begin again for both of you.   Keep that in your sight.”

From that afternoon, Ruth was a different person. Her twinkle returned to her eyes. She began going to her grandchildren’s school activities. She was on the phone with her daughters every day. She came to church smiling.

Five years later, the Lord came for her in the clouds. She had lived each day with tremendous gratitude for the blessings she had received in this life. But she was joyfully waiting for life that is to come through Jesus Christ’s return.

Each of us possesses the ability to see with spiritual awareness eternal life that transforms this life’s end. We can see joy in aging. We can see joy in the advancement of our lives towards our Omega point.

For there in life’s Omega do we experience the joy of eternal’s life Alpha moment in the arrival of our Savior Jesus Christ!

Amen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.