Dean's List: The End Is Near!
By Aaron T. Fenker
Within our current age and culture--as it might be with every age--the end and meaning of human existence is defined within ourselves. But, waves, earthquakes, and hurricanes come and disrupt the world's perceived order of things--boats are rocked, towers fall down, and houses are blown away. All these things show that creation itself is groaning, waiting, and crying out, "The end is near!"
In the Church our existence and life is found and defined in the true Alpha and Omega, Christ. He gives us our meaning and life in Him through the waters of Baptism. He reassures of this reality in the Words of Absolution. He also gives us all of Himself in His Body and Blood for our forgiveness, life, and salvation.
Ever since the fall, God's plan was to save us by the sending of His Son into our flesh. This plan was realized at the incarnation and birth of Jesus. The plan included His living His life completely under the law in our place. By His death, resurrection, and ascension Christ opened heaven to us, thus His plan was completed--we are now saved.
That's it. Done. Account settled. Our liturgy now proclaims this saving work to us, gives us the fruits thereof, and keeps us in that work until our death or until Christ's coming in glory. There is nothing more to be done. Now, within the Church, we receive all of Christ in His gifts through which we receive all grace, and every blessing from our Father in heaven.
Within the Church the full realization of Christ is now! Not later, now! Not to be expected some time in the future, and definitely not to come about through our own deeds or faith. Right now Jesus Christ is ascended at the right hand of the Father in heaven, but even in heaven Jesus still remains the same as He always was, that is, the born-of-the-Virgin, died, risen, ascended, and reigning-in-glory Lord who continually comes to us through His wonderful gifts.
When Christ comes in His gifts, especially His Supper, He brings heaven too. Heaven for us in the Church is not later, but now! And this truth is held, carried, and given to us when we gather to receive God's gifts.
Within the Church we are not as the world is. The world seeks its meaning and definition, its status with God, and God's demeanor towards it based upon what things it deems important. Such a definition from below does not befit the Church and saints of God.
What takes place in our worship is what truly shows us what our meaning and definition, our status with God, and God's demeanor towards us are based on, Christ's work applied to us in His gifts. Not just a part of Christ's work, but all of it from birth (Gloria) until Calvary (Agnus Dei) is there. Not only those events that took place on earth, but also those events that happen now and will happen with "angels, archangels, and the whole company of heaven" are there. There in the Divine Service we proclaim, "The end is. . .here!"
In Christ Jesus is our payment for sin, our belief in doubts, and our strength in our failings. Yet this Jesus does not remain off somewhere to be sought out. Instead He comes to us. He comes bringing the Father and the Holy Spirit, too. He comes bringing heaven. He comes with grace and every blessing at the Font, at Absolution, at the Word read and preached, and in His holy Body and Blood. All that is left for us to say is, "Amen"--gift received.
Rev. Aaron T. Fenker serves as pastor of Bethlehem and Immanuel Lutheran Churches in Bremen, Kansas. He is also the dean of theology at Higher Things.
This article was originally published on the Higher Things website in September 2018.
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