Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Divine Service - Heaven on Earth

You know that old joke where the man is trapped in a flood and water is rising all around him? He climbs up on his roof and prays to God to rescue him. A guy in a raft comes by and implores him to jump in, but the man says, "That's okay, I trust that God will rescue me." Then, a boat comes by and the man refuses to get in, saying the same thing. Finally, as the water is about to overtake him, a helicopter appears and a rope is thrown down to the man, but again the man says, "That's okay, I trust that God will rescue me." The man perishes in the flood. When he gets to heaven, he says to God, "What happened? I prayed to you and trusted that you would rescue me. Why did you let me die?" God says, "Good grief, I sent you a raft, a boat, and a helicopter!" :)

In the same way, many people, even many Christians, fail to realize that our Lord sends us relief and rescue in the Divine Service, where Jesus Himself is Present among us in His Holy Word and Sacraments to deliver to us forgiveness, life, and salvation. In the Divine Service, heaven and earth intersect, as we sing with the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, "Holy, Holy, Holy," for there is where our Lord Jesus Christ fulfills His promise to be with us always. Right there on the altar. There is Jesus in His very Body and Blood, the Bread of Life given to sustain us as we make our way through the wilderness of this sinful world until we reach the Promised Land of His eternal kingdom.

But, like the man in the joke above, many people, even many Christians, stay away from the Divine Service, thinking, "That's okay, I don't need to go to Church. I pray to God and trust that He will rescue me." They believe they have their own "personal relationship with Jesus" and don't need to go to the very place where Jesus is Present to establish and sustain a relationship with them. But, someday, when the veil is finally lifted and they see things for what they truly are, they'll realize that Jesus had been sending them the raft of Holy Absolution, the boat of Holy Preaching, and the helicopter of the Holy Supper to them all along in the Divine Service.

All of this came to mind when I read the excellent devotion by Rev. Dr. Scott Murray this morning, which you can find here.