The River of Life

by The Rev. Dan Feusse

Rev. 21:9-22:5
 
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
 
"Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.
 
In the Lord's Prayer you pray for the Lord's will to be done - on earth as it is in heaven.  You pray that often. But do you realize what you are asking?  You are asking for the Lord to break and hinder every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and your own sinful nature.  You are asking for the Lord to strengthen and keep you steadfast in His Word and Faith until you die.  To put it simply, you are asking for heaven on earth. 
 
Today you've been given a glimpse of heaven.   There is the throne of God.  And on this throne is seated the Lamb of God.  Gathered around the Lamb seated on the throne are all those who have His Name on their foreheads.  And flowing out from the throne is the River of life.  All those who are gathered around the throne in heaven continually drink from this River of Life.  And see where this River of Life flows from - it flows from the Lamb who is upon the throne.
 
Today we observe All Saints Day.  And All Saints Day is a day to remember.  To remember those who have gone before us.  To remember that our Lord Jesus Christ only has one Bride - the holy Christian Church.  To remember that the Church exists both here on earth as well as in heaven.  To remember that all those who are part of the Church are Saints - whether here on earth or in heaven.  To remember that the River of Life which flows from the Lamb is given to the WHOLE Church at the SAME TIME - both here on earth and in heaven. 
 
This is the mystery recalled on All Saints Day.  The mystery of the blending together of heaven and earth.   The mystery of the blending together of the past, the present and the future.  The mystery of the blending together of time and eternity.  The mystery of partaking in the FORETASTE of the feast to come - and at the same time actually partaking in the heavenly feast itself.  The mystery that Christ's Bride - the Church - is one Bride - and consists of all Christians of all time - even all the angels and archangels.
 
And YOU are part of that mystery.  Being made so because you have been washed in that river of the water of life.  That river - clear as crystal - which eternally flows from the Lamb - the Lamb given by the Father as the once-for-all sacrifice - the Lamb who's blood was shed to take away the sin of the world. 
 
This is the mystery recalled on All Saints Day.  The mystery of the Church being one in both time and eternity.  The mystery of the blending together of heaven and earth.  In the Holy Christian Church on earth, this mystery takes on outward forms.  These forms are called the "holy mysteries."  And what makes these "holy mysteries' so mysterious is that what you see taking place here on earth are - at the same time - taking place in heaven.
 
In the Church these holy mysteries have been given names.  Holy Baptism. Holy Absolution.  Holy Communion.  The Office of the Holy Ministry.  These are the holy mysteries of the Church.  And it is through these holy mysteries that the Lord makes Saints - holy ones.
 
Just like those holy ones that St. John sees in heaven, the holy ones here on earth  - gathered around the Lord's earthly altar - are also gathered around the Lamb seated on His throne.  And just like the saints in heaven - you saints too have the name of the Holy Trinity sealed upon your forehead. 
 
But this you can only see with eyes of faith.  For the Lamb is hidden under  the earthly forms of bread and wine.  The great throne seat is hidden beneath the earthly form of the altar.  And yet it is truly Jesus.  It is truly His throne seat.  What you drink from the throne is truly the river of life flowing eternally from the side of the Lamb. 
 
Gathered around the altar - the throne - you are truly gathered with all the angels and archangels and the full company of heaven.  Which means that you are truly at the place where heaven and earth have become one.
 
The holy mysteries.  That which takes place here on earth taking place at the same time in heaven.  This is the great mystery of the one, holy, Christian and apostolic Church.  The blending together of earthly time and heavenly eternity.  The church militant and the church triumphant.  All one Church.  All one in Christ.  All drinking together from the River of Life.
 
This is the entire purpose of the Divine Service.  The Divine Service is not given for the purpose of evangelizing the world.  It is given so that the Lord can draw the world into heaven.  The Divine Service is not your chance to show God how much you love Him.  It is His way of pouring out His love upon you.
 
And so the Divine Service does not look like the world.  The Divine Service does not sound like the world.  The world is not holy.  The world is not heavenly.  No, the Divine Service neither looks like the world nor sounds like the world. 
 
But the Divine Service is precisely what the Lord has given you in answer to your prayer - "Thy will be done - on earth as it is in heaven."  This is your prayer.  And it is through the "holy mysteries" of the Holy Christian Church - served through the Office of the Holy Ministry- gathered around the throne, being washed in and drinking deeply of the River of Life - that the Lord's will is done, breaking and hindering every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and your own sinful nature.  Strengthening and keeping you steadfast in His Word and Faith until you die. 
 
You have prayed for it and the Lord has given it to you.  Heaven on earth. The great mystery of the one, holy, Christian and apostolic Church.  The blending together of earthly time and heavenly eternity.  The church militant and the church triumphant.  All one Bride.  All one Church.  All gathered together around the throne.  All drinking together from the same River of Life.  All one in Christ.  Forever. 
 
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
 
Rev. Daniel J. Feusse is pastor at Concordia Lutheran Church in Clearwater, Nebraska. 

Created: November 2nd, 2008