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I Wish I'm There - By Pastor Thomas Engel

What time in history would

you would like to go back and visit?

Are you a big baseball fan? What baseball legend would you like to go back and see make an amazing catch or hit one out of the park? Hank Aaron? Babe Ruth? Joe DiMaggio?

I was just a little kid when Ernie Banks was around. I would like to go back to see him when he hit his 500th home run.

I must have saw it when I was ten years old in 1970, but I don’t remember.

I did a search and saw the home run, and heard Jack Brickhouse say his famous line, “Hey, Hey!” and “Weeeee.”

It all sounded familiar and brought back memories.

Do you like old movies? Would you like to go back to the Academy Awards with Clark Gable and Joan Crawford?

My mom says she misses Hollywood’s classic days of elegant gowns on the red carpet.

What historical figure would you like to interact with? How about inventing the light bulb with Thomas Edison? Taking a test drive in his first horseless carriage with Henry Ford? Reading the final draft of the Gettysburg Address with Abraham Lincoln?

I would have liked to have been sitting with Martin Luther is his study as he worked on the catechism.

I guess that makes be a die-hard Lutheran.

There are so many people and events that I would like to say, “I know that guy.” And that “guy” was someone like J.D. Rockefeller.

I mean if I had a Rockefeller as a credit reference, I’m sure to get a good rate on a loan.

Or, to say “I was there.” And that event was something like landing on the moon.

To learn of historical people and places, we have textbooks and biographies, and we have museums with life-sized wax figures with interactive educational displays, but it’s not the same as experiencing the real person and place with all of our senses.

We can get a sense of important past time periods watching a documentary or historical film. With all of the high tech computer graphics directors used these days, it’s almost like being there.

I say almost like being there, and I will use the same argument as before. My favorite time is going to an IMAX movie theater with surround sound that sends vibrations up my spin. The nature film that has me marching with elephants and soaring with eagles.

Yet, as good as we can get with pictures and words, they just don’t give the authentic touch that makes you feel all the various nuances as if you’re really there.

Maybe you’ve met a person or been to an event that has become historical. I’ve never met anyone famous. The closest I’ve gotten to any one famous is that I’ve met people who have met famous people.

My nephew has a selfie with Taylor Swift.

Have you’ve ever gotten a postcard from someone on vacation that says, “Wish you were here?”

When you get the postcard, you know your friend is at not all heartfelt, but she is just rubbing in that she is sitting on a tropical beach and you are standing in the cold waiting for a bus.

Maybe you were invited to a family party, but you had to miss it because you got sick. You get a text with some pictures from your cousin who says, “Wish you were here.” And you respond, “So do I.”

During this past Holy Week, I talked in my sermons about the movie, The Passion of Christ.

I tried to make the point that watching the movie made me feel as if I was there. Yet, even with the high tech stuff movie makers can use, and as true as it was, I knew that it was not the same as if I was there when Jesus suffered and died.

I appreciated the movie as it did have an effect on me, but I’m sure watching is not the same as being there.

I’m not sure what I would have felt seeing Jesus on the cross. I’m not sure if I would have wanted to be there to see Jesus suffer and die.

How about you?

Seeing Jesus or anyone going through so much pain would be hard to watch.

We do know from Scripture how the followers of Jesus were so overwhelmed seeing him suffer and die as he did.

On Easter, I made the point of how the Marys, who were so close to Jesus, were so grieved by his death that they had forgotten all Jesus had said about his rising on the third day.

This deep grief makes me think just how horrific his death was, and how much it overwhelmed the emotions and minds of Jesus’ followers.

Now, I would have liked to have been in the room with the disciples when Jesus came to them to show himself that he had indeed risen from the dead.

I would have liked to been on the beach to have a picnic with Jesus when he came again to his disciples as we read in today’s Gospel reading.

I would have liked to catch a huge load of fish.

Isn’t that like me though?

Is that like you, too?

I want to be there for the good times but not in the bad.

Isn’t just so human to take the good and not the bad?

In today’s Epistle reading we get a look at heaven. John has a vision of heaven.

Imagine getting a look at what heaven is like.

And what an awesome sight we see.

We see beasts. We see angels. We see a throne. We see gold. We see Jesus.

We hear music from instruments of every kind. We hear singing from a choir of saints.

Reading John’s account is full of details, but I don’t think we can fully appreciate what heaven is like. Heaven is so beyond us that we can’t create a picture of it all as it really is in our minds, but we know it’s all real.

I wish I was there.

I have to admit I can get jealous of those loved ones who are now in heaven.

Don’t get me wrong, for I do like my life. But, the loved ones in heaven are doing perfectly well right now, and I’m down here having to deal with a lot hard stuff.

So, as we are talking about getting real today.

Until you and I are seeing Jesus face to face with all of our loved ones in the glories of heaven, we are here.

I’m not saying we are stuck in our lives as if this is all so hard that makes it barely bearable.

But, like people back in history who were meant to be in their time and places, we are meant to be here in our time and places.

How do we go about these days?

It’s not much different than how those in Biblical times did.

In our first reading, we hear a very dramatic conversion of St Paul with a blinding light, the voice of Jesus, going blind, and scales falling from his eyes when his sight was restored.

We were converted with water coming from Lake Michigan out of the faucet in the sink in the back room and only several words.

Well, not as so dramatic, but we became children of our heavenly Father.

The disciples were encouraged by talking and eating with Jesus after a very successful fishing trip.

From there, they were soon to go out into the world that would be often hostile to them as they spread the Gospel.

John was able to see heaven as he was writing the Book of Revelations that would help the early church as they would be facing severe persecution.

Today, we hear God’s Word for our encouragement, and we eat and drink the body and blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper to strengthen our faiths as we go out into our lives and the world.

Also, after we have confessed our sins, we hear how they were forgiven as if Jesus was here himself forgiving them.

When we sang, “This is the Feast,” did we not agree with John’s words, “It is right to give to the Lamb who was put to death, power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing?”

If you notice my title, “I wish I’m There,” for an English major, I’m not sure how grammatically correct it is.

I think the verb tense should be past tense and not present tense. “I wish I was there” sounds correct.

But, I used the present tense because in a way I wish that I am there in heaven now.

Again, I’m glad to here with you all, but I am so looking forward to heaven.

That’s part of what keeps us going. Isn’t it?

We have a hope to go to heaven, where we will be forever released from this hard world.

It’s that vision of heaven that keeps us going.

Another part that keeps us going is that heaven is here now for us.

When we talk about faith, the tenses get mixed all together.

We pray, “On earth as it is in heaven.”

Although it takes a lot of faith to see heaven here in this hard world, the future glories of heaven that we are waiting for are here as we have seen them in this hour of worship this morning.

The hardness of the world do veil the glories that are all around us, but this veil does not mean they are not here for us.

Can’t you hear your loved ones in heaven saying, “I wish you were here?”

I’m not sure how it all works, but I’m sure they are saying something like, “Keep keeping the faith, for I want to say one day as you enter heaven, ‘So glad by the grace of God that you are here.’”

For as far as heaven goes, although we don’t have a full picture here of it now, by faith, we do have it now, we look forward to having it fully one day, and one day, we will be there forever.

It might not be a grammatically correct prayer, but we are talking abut the mysteries of faith and the glories of heaven, so I pray, especially in these hard times, “I wish I’m there.”

And, by faith, in this moment, I’m there. I know my name is there on the role, and so is your name.

In that way, we are receiving all the benefits of the glories of heaven in all of our present moments.

We get all that Jesus has in heaven, “Power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.”

So, we keep praying, “On earth as it is in heaven.”

In this hour of worship, the prayer was answered. Our loved ones and all the saints in heaven sang with us this morning. Jesus is here.

It makes me want to say, I wish I’m there.

Well! Yes! I am here, and so are you here right now where all the glories of heaven are.

We have to be so glad by the grace of God that we are here.

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