Never Locked Out!
St. Bartholomew, Apostle
24 August 2017
When did heaven open for Nathanael of John's Gospel, who is Bartholomew? He was not present at those times when heaven was explicitly opened: Jesus baptism in Jordan and at the Transfiguration. St. a of the Bible has no Epiphany credentials. So how can Jesus say to him: "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man" (Jn 1:51)? He means it in a way that is far deeper than mere seeing with eyes. Bartholomew will really see because the Lord Jesus makes him see.
Heaven is opened when the Son of Man comes to serve us in His church. We believe in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Getting locked out is a great problem. It was a problem when our church facility was new. We were just getting the keys and lock control mechanisms sorted out. I was dropped off at church by my wife, and I was able to get into the building commons, but then I realized I needed a key to get into the church office, and my wife had just driven away with it. I was able to catch her before she was gone, but it was a strange feeling to be locked out of my own office. The Lord Jesus, the Son of Man does not want His kingdom to be locked. He shatters open heaven's gate with the key of His own precious blood. We are never locked out because the key of David opens and will never shut (Rev 3:9).
He distributes among us the key to the heavenly banqueting hall; the very cracking open of heaven among us. We see what Jesus promised St. Bartholomew. This is why we Lutherans sing at the communion: "Therefore with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven..." because just at that moment the very angels are ascending and descending in our little replica of the heavenly banqueting hall. Only with this food given and shed for the forgiveness of sins will we be truly worthy and well prepared to see the Son of Man having the angels and archangels ascending and descending upon Him.
What will it bring if we see this? What if we are of His heavenly kingdom and surrounded by angels and archangels?We too will bear the cross. Remember that St. Stephen the first martyr of the church sees also this while he is being stoned to death for preaching a great sermon (beware, you pastors!) in the book of Acts: 'Now when they heard his sermon they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, ''Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.'''(Acts 7:54-56). The Lord has privileged us to suffer with Him that we might live with Him. If we see the angels ascending and descending, then we have an open heaven, we are fellow citizens with the saints, like St. Bartholomew himself.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Martin Luther
"Wherever the Christian Church is, where God's Word is preached in its purity and the Sacraments are faithfully administered in accordance with the Word of God, where this Word is heard and accepted with a believing heart, and where the articles of our Christian faith are observed unadulterated, there heaven is wide open, never to be closed again. Before Christ's incarnation heaven was closed indeed. But now the Child Jesus was born, and the angels preached their night time sermon about the Child to the shepherds before the town of Bethlehem: 'Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.' (Lk 2:10-11); and they sang: 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased' (Lk 2:14)! From that time on heaven is open; and now we, too, have citizenship among the angels, as St. Paul tells the Ephesians (2:19). And he tells the Philippians (3:20): 'We are citizens and members of the household with the saints. Our citizenship is not worldly and earthly, but is in heaven, from which we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.' There we find the true city and the true Jerusalem, where we are citizens and members of the same household with the angels, fellow countrymen of those who live and have their being in heaven.
The angels look down upon us, and we in turn gaze up at them. Christ wants to say: 'You are now heavenly citizens; you hold citizenship up there in the heavenly Jerusalem. You are living in the company of the dear angels, who incessantly descend on you and ascend from you. Now heaven and earth have become one. It is just as if you were now in heaven and the angels were serving you, for you are one body with your Lord. The angels wait on you, they converse with you, and you with them, employing the same words and speech. They sing Gloria in excelsis Deo to our Lord God; and you also sing the praise of the great mercy manifested in the fact that you have become God's children and heirs, coheirs with His dear Son, and partakers of the Holy Spirit and of all gifts.' Surely this does not indicate a closed heaven, but it implies that door and lock have been removed and that heaven is now open permanently. Even if I do not see this with my physical eye, as a cow looks at a door, that does not matter. I can still behold it with my spiritual sight of faith. And I prefer this to seeing it physically."

Martin Luther, 
Sermons on John, 1.51
2 Corinthians 4:7-10

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. (ESV)
Almighty God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, chose Bartholomew to be an apostle to preach the blessed Gospel. Grant that Your Church may love what he believed and preach what he taught; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
For Anastasia Krumwiede, that the Lord Jesus would be with her to strengthen her as she continues to undergo therapy
For all those what are seeking jobs, that the Lord would grant them employment in keeping with their vocation
For those dear Bartholomew-like church workers who labor in the harvest fields of the Lord Jesus without recognition or reward, that they would be confirmed and strengthened in the work of the Lord Jesus and that they would look forward to the feast which is to come
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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