King David confesses before the living God: “For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers: our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding.” (1Ch 29:15 KJV) And the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews agrees: “For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.” (Heb 13:14 KJV)
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you + now and always +
Dear friends of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ: Ernst Käsemann titled his commentary on Hebrews “Das wanderende Gottesvolk. Eine Untersuchung des Hebräerbriefs.” (1961) And Lumen gentium, the dogmatic constitution on the church propagated by Vatican II (1964) describes the church in this way in its 2nd chapter: “Israel according to the flesh, which wandered as an exile in the desert, was already called the Church of God.(96) So likewise the new Israel which while living in this present age goes in search of a future and abiding city (97) is called the Church of Christ.(98) For He has bought it for Himself with His blood,(99) has filled it with His Spirit and provided it with those means which befit it as a visible and social union. God gathered together as one all those who in faith look upon Jesus as the author of salvation and the source of unity and peace, and established them as the Church that for each and all it may be the visible sacrament of this saving unity. (1*) While it transcends all limits of time and confines of race, the Church is destined to extend to all regions of the earth and so enters into the history of mankind. Moving forward through trial and tribulation, the Church is strengthened by the power of God’s grace, which was promised to her by the Lord, so that in the weakness of the flesh she may not waver from perfect fidelity, but remain a bride worthy of her Lord, and moved by the Holy Spirit may never cease to renew herself, until through the Cross she arrives at the light which knows no setting.”
The one holy Christian Church is this wandering people of God seeking the future city, which is prepared for them and which is waiting for them and to which they have been called and which they will see and enter at the end of time, because our Lord Jesus Christ is the centre of it, he holds it together and is its all and everything – and where the head is there will the limbs be also!
Now this wandering is not just plain hiking, but rather entails not being at home and not finding a place to really call “ours” with any permanence. It is what our Lord Jesus Christ indicates with his own description: “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” (Mat 8:20 KJV) From when Abraham was called out from the East by the living Lord of hosts to a place that he would show him, this moving from one place to the other on the way to the final heavenly homes has marked the Christian existence. Again and again they had to move on – and leave their beautiful and lovely homes behind, because they were not the real thing yet. That was the case with Jerusalem, when it was destroyed 70 A.D. and the Christians fled after the sacking of Rome nearly four hundred years later by the barbarians (410 A.D). Lutherans from Austria fled the persecution during the reformation years and again in the 19th century in Prussia to settle in America and Australia. Now Christians are fleeing Syria, Eritrea, Sudan and other places and even if they stay, they know very well: We don’t have a real home here. We are strangers, migrants, outcasts and even outlaws like our brothers and sisters must endure even today in muslim or communist or egalitarian worlds. We are not better than our fathers. Like them we remain on the move, run or in hiding and sometimes even as free game for all. Our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding. Just when we think we can settle down and finally come to rest, we have to get up, pack our few belongings and start moving, fleeing, running again. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.
Now that is of course a warning not to get to comfortable anywhere. We are firstly citizens of heaven and owe our allegiance to the highest Lord more than any constitution, king or parliament. It is the triune God alone, whom we must fear, love and trust above all things. This is however a true blessing and promise too, because as everybody else is building on sand and will face the demise of the highest mountain fortresses and the deepest bunkers when this world passes away, we will come to the eternal city of God – that beautiful and most lovely Jerusalem, which will see not end and will be the perfect dwelling and home for us and all of God’s people. That’s where we’re on the way to. That’s our goal and sure destination – and when we can no longer go or move, he will lift us up and carry us home – he our good and faithful Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Thanks and praise be to him now and forever. Amen.
The peace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ be with you always + Amen.
- From God can nothing move me; He will not step aside
But gently will reprove me And be my constant guide.
He stretches out His hand in evening and in morning,
My life with grace adorning wherever I may stand.
- When those whom I regarded as trustworthy and sure
Have long from me departed, God’s grace shall still endure,
He rescues me from sin and breaks the chains that bind me.
I leave death’s fear behind me; His peace I have within.
- The Lord my life arranges; Who can His work destroy?
In His good time He changes all sorrow into joy.
So let me then be still: My body, soul, and spirit
His tender care inherit according to His will.
- Each day at Hhis good pleasure God’s gracious will is done.
He sent His greatest treasure in Jesus Christ, His Son.
He every gift imparts. The bread of earth and heaven
Are by His kindness given. Praise Him with thankful hearts!
- Praise God with acclamation and in His gifts rejoice.
Each day finds its vocation responding to His voice.
Soon years on earth are past; but time we spend expressing
The love of God brings blessing that will forever last!
- Yet even thou I suffer the world’s unpleasantness,
And though the days grow rougher and bring me great distress,
That day of bliss divine, which knows no end or measure,
And Christ, who is my pleasure, forever shall be mine.
- For thus the Father willed it, who fashioned us from clay;
And His own Son fulfilled it and brought eternal day.
The Spirit now has come, to us true faith has given;
He leads us home to heaven. O praise the Three in One!
Text: Ludwig Helmbold, 1532-98