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As Up There, Down Here, Too - By Pastor Thomas Engel


With the abbreviated services that we have been having, we have been missing the Proper Preface in the liturgy.

It could be said that the Proper Preface introduces the song of praise in the communion liturgy.

Here it is since it’s been awhile: “Therefore with Angels, and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious Name; evermore praising thee, and saying:”

And here is the song of praise: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts, heaven and earth are full of thy glory: Glory be to thee,O Lord most High. Amen.”

Can you see the picture of what is happening when we are in worship?

It’s here in the communion liturgy that we make a point of it, but, in our worship, from beginning to end, we have a very holy up and down thing going on.

As we sit in pews and stand here in this church building that we call St Philip at 2500 West Bryn Mawr Ave in Chicago, Illinois, we are worshiping our God, and that is awesome, but here is the real kicker, we are worshiping with all of what’s up there in heaven-angels, arch angels, and all the people through out the history of the world who have died in the faith.

I mean now we are talking about a choir like no other.

For a minute, whisper the names of your loved ones who have died in the faith.

To give people at funerals comfort in their loss, I tell them that when they come to church on the next Sunday morning, their loved one will be singing with them.

I can give many reasons for coming to church on Sunday mornings, like hearing God’s Word to learn about our salvation story, to confess and then receive forgiveness of sins in the absolution, and to get strength from Christ’s body and blood when we eat and drink the bread and wine.

We call this hour worship because we come mostly to praise God, but we are the ones who benefit from coming here.

To make the point, God does not have an ego that needs to be lifted up by our praises. We are the ones who are blessed when we see God as the Almighty Maker of heaven and earth who takes care of us in every way until it’s our time to go up to heaven.

On this Sunday when we are celebrating All Saint’s Day, we especially are remembering our loved ones who have died in the faith, but we could say every Sunday is All Saint’s Day because our loved ones who are in heaven are with us every Sunday.

I love cake, and I like to think about it often, but as I try to be healthy, I don’t have it, too, often.

So, I hope you don’t mind I use my favorite food group of deserts to explain what All Saint’s day is about.

Let’s picture a two layered cake. The top layer is vanilla, and the bottom layer is caramel with chocolate icing all over the cake.

To say, the chocolate icing has no meaning in my explanation of All Saint’s Day. I just like thinking about it.

For my explanation, I want to talk about the two layers that are different, but they make one cake.

The top layer is heaven, and the bottom layer is earth.

I can remember back in seminary a professor called our lives down on earth creaturely.

I thought calling everything creaturely was odd. I wanted a more scholarly term because I grew up with a television program about monsters that was called Creature Features. It was time slot that showed all the old scary movies like “Creature from the Black Lagoon.”

But, to say, everything down here on earth is creaturely because everything is created by God.

The professor said that we go to God in creaturely ways, and God comes to us in creaturely ways.

We go up to God with our voices in praise, and God comes down to us by words that we see in Scripture of ink and paper, and to connect us to Him, God uses water in Baptism, and bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper.

Although God Himself did speak to Abraham, Moses, and His prophets, and God did send an angel to speak to Mary, most of the communication between God and us is creaturely.

In my opinion, although this puts me out of a job, God would do better to send an angel here to St. Philip every Sunday to lead worship and preach instead of me.

Don’t let this white robe fool you. I’m just a creature like you.

Why doesn’t God send an angel here to lead worship?

Why doesn’t God direct and guide us in outright divine ways?

You know we pray, “On earth as it is in heaven.” In my thinking, to get down here to be like up there, we need more up front guidance from what’s up in heaven to come down here on earth.

But, God did exactly that when He sent His Son, Jesus, down here to dwell among us.

Jesus came to live among us to show and tell us about God. He came to show God’s love and teach about the Kingdom of Heaven.

And, of course, Jesus’ main purpose was to do the work that was necessary for our salvation.

Jesus’ death on the cross taking the punishment for our sins was the most creaturely work ever, but it had the most heavenly consequences.

Believing in Jesus’ death and resurrection gives us a sure end to this life on earth that will take us to an eternal life in heaven.

Our death is creaturely, for all people will die, but we, like those loved ones of ours who have died in the faith, we will have an heavenly outcome.

So in our creaturely heads, can we do some spiritual logic?

It’s kind of the idea that if our lived ones did it, so can we go do what they did. Like they got to heaven by believing, so we can, too, go to heaven by faith.

Some more of some spiritual logic for our creaturely heads. We know our loved ones had trials in their lives, and we know today, especially when we remember our loved ones and how they went through the hard times by faith-that they kept believing on how all that would pass away, and they would be in heaven one day where all those times that were so difficult and were pressing upon them so hard didn’t matter any more, for upon their death they were released of all creaturely things like pain that they probably had at their death. Most people when they die are suffering from some sickness.

Isn’t it our hope, too, that all that we are in right now will pass? Isn’t it possible for us today as we think of how our loved ones who have died in the faith are perfectly fine now make us think that we can get through these difficult times, too.

The Christian group, MercyMe, got its start with the lead singer’s song, I Can Only Imagine. Bart Millard wrote the song about his abusive father. Bart and his father were able to reconcile their relationship, but it came at the untimely end of his father’s life as he suffered from an incurable illness.

This is the refrain of the song:

Surrounded by Your glory What will my heart feel? Will I dance for you Jesus Or in awe of You be still? Will I stand in your presence Or to my knees will I fall? Will I sing hallelujah? Will I be able to speak at all? I can only imagine, yeah I can only imagine

To tell the truth here, for all of our talk about heaven, we really don’t know much about what it’s like. We do know that we will be seeing Jesus face to face with all of the heavenly host that include our loved ones who have died in the faith.

Our creaturely minds can only imagine so much, but our faith sees so much more.

That is why we live and die by faith.

So until we reach the goal of faith when we get to heaven one day, we pray that what’s up there in heaven will come down here to our creaturely lives.

To think that one day in my creaturely minds that my name with my birthday and day death on the screen gives a lot to think about, but by faith, it all comes together in comfort and even joy, for to have our name on that screen one day like our loved ones who died in the faith, is the point of it all, to go from down here to up there. Isn’t it?


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