Audio of the sermon is here:
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I don’t know about you, but time has been a problem for me over the last, oh, two years or so. People ask me when something happened, and I can’t remember. My timeline is all messed up; sometimes it seems to have been compressed, other times it seems to have been stretched out. We’ve been waiting for this day for a while. I know you have. The world as it is seems to get in the way of doing the things we would normally do, like gather to hear the Word of God when He calls His children to Himself. I can’t believe it’s been since April last year that Becky died, and almost a year now since Dee died. Sometimes the time seems to stall, and sometimes it seems to speed by.
We go through our lives day by day, week by week, month by month, and year by year, all of our time revolving around the seven days from Sunday to Saturday. We go to our jobs, we take care of our families, we work and we rest and then we work again. Sometimes, over the days and weeks, as the work and stress of life piles up on us, we long for a deeper rest. We tire out. We grow weary.
Israel knew about that, over its long history, from Egypt to the time of Jesus. What started as the seventh day after God began His creation work, when God rested from that creation work, because everything was very good, became a day for Israel to observe every single week. While God did not get tired and need to rest, Israel did. The people got tired. The animals got tired. The workers got tired. And they needed to recognize that it was God who was in control of all creation, not them. They had to cease their work and rest, so that God could do His work of making them holy as His people.
This promise expanded to include not only one day out of the week, but also rest after seven years, and seven-times-seven years—all of it looking forward to an eternal rest, when the labor of life, and the pain, and the sin, and the death would be done for good. There was temporary rest: the land had rest from war for 20 years, or 40 years, or 80 years. But there was always the threat of idolatry, of sin, of death. Hebrews says that if Joshua had been able to give rest, God would not have spoken of another day after those days. In other words, even when Joshua finally brings them into the land of promise, it was not the full rest promised by God. Time expands and time contracts, and the labor of life goes on.
But then Jesus appears, and He takes the sabbath day of rest and make something new out of it. Just as God rested from all His work of creation, but never sleeps or slumbers, Jesus rested from all His work of salvation, on the seventh day, in the tomb where He was buried after His death. And then He made an entirely new day that did not exist in the working days of Sunday through Saturday. On the eighth day, Jesus was raised from the dead and began something entirely new: a resurrection day, into which He would invite all who are weary and burdened, all who are tired and wounded and hurt and grieving.
It was into that rest that He invited Dee and Becky when they were baptized. That is why most baptismal fonts have eight sides, because by the water and the Word and the Holy Spirit’s work, we enter into a different kind of day, an eternal Today, that cannot be erased or changed. When Jesus rested from all His work, and then rose again, He also gave the promise of a true Sabbath rest for the people of God, one not based in the time of this age and this world, where sin and death abound, where tears and mourning are the order of the day. While the time seems strange to us, and passes in ways that we have trouble believing, for God all is Today. There is no before or after, earlier or later.
So now it is for Dee and Becky. We recognize the passage of time, both of their lives and since their deaths, but it is not the same for them. They believed, and so they entered into the rest of God. From the time of Jesus’ resurrection, the promise of the Revelation holds true: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Blessed indeed, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them. Blessed are Dee and Becky, because they have entered into that rest ahead of us. They know the full truth of what Solomon said at the dedication of the temple: Blessed be God who has given rest to His people, according to all that He promised. Not one word has failed of all His good promise (1 Kings 8:56). They rest from their labors and their deeds follow them. All the good they gave and received—which you all know better than I do—that good follows them. They were in Christ, and all they did that was good will be remembered, and all their sins—like all of ours—are forgiven and remembered against them no more.
But even now, as they rest from their labors, they wait with us for the full resurrection rest, in which not only their death will be no more, but ours as well. We are glad to celebrate that they have entered into God’s victory in Jesus, but they wait with us for the full celebration, when our bodies and theirs will be raised from the dead, glorious as Jesus’ own resurrection body. We wait for that day, because it will mean that we will have rest from all our enemies all around: the chaos of this world, the death we cannot escape; the grief we carry; the sins we have committed and the sins committed against us—all gone, all swallowed up in Christ’s new creation.
Dee and Becky are not dead, though they are separated from us for a little while. We share with them in the one Jesus, so we share in the “blest communion, [the] fellowship divine! We feebly struggle, they in glory shine.” We labor, they rest. But the “golden evening brightens in the west; soon, soon to faithful warriors cometh rest; sweet is the calm of paradise the blest.” But “there breaks a yet more glorious day [more glorious than simply dying and being free of sin and of the burdens of the flesh]: the saints triumphant rise in bright array [as Jesus,] the King of Glory passes on His way.” He has transformed time so that it revolves not around the seven days of each week in this creation, but around Himself, risen from the dead on the eighth day. Today, today, hear His voice, as Dee and Becky did: Come unto Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. I am the resurrection and the life, He says; you will find your rest in Me, now and forever.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
— Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 10/14/21