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Our Citizenship Is in Heaven
Philippians 3:20


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Second Sunday in Lent—February 28, 2010

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Though not as familiar to us today, the hymn we just sang was one of the most beloved by previous generations.  In The Lutheran Hymnal, which many of us grew up with, it was the last hymn, number 660.  When my grandmother passed away, my mother inherited her hymnal. Above this hymn my grandmother had written a sentiment probably shared by many in her generation, “My Favorite Hymn.”

I’m but a stranger here, heaven is my home;

Earth is a desert drear, heaven is my home.

Danger and sorrow stand round me on every hand;

Heaven is my fatherland, heaven is my home.

Our text is from today’s Epistle Reading in Philippians.  St. Paul reminds us that we are but strangers here, and heaven is indeed our home: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

In the 1930’s, a group of 32 World War I veterans in San Francisco formed an unusual pact, called a tontine, or “last man’s club.”  They all signed a bottle of champagne, and vowed that the last man alive would open it and drink a toast to his departed friends.  It was over 50 years later, in the late 1980’s, that a 96 year-old became the last man of the last man’s club.  When asked by a reporter how he felt to outlive all his buddies and win the tontine, he replied, “I don’t know if it’s a blessing or a curse.”

Is that how you feel sometimes about your life?  Your life, with its problems and troubles?  Your life, with struggles so great you sometimes feel you can’t go on?  “But,” St. Paul says, “our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

What though the tempest rage, heaven is my home;

Short is my pilgrimage, heaven is my home;

And time’s wild wintry blast soon shall be overpast;

I shall reach home at last, heaven is my home.

Each day of your earthly life is a blessing, because you have received the greatest blessing of all.  You have received Christ’s promise that at the end of this short life, you will enter into eternal life.  You have been made a child of God, a citizen of heaven.

When traveling in a foreign country, your most important possession is your passport.  Your passport is proof that you are a visitor, an alien, a foreigner, a stranger in that land, that your home is elsewhere, that you are citizen of another country.  Your passport gives you the right to return and enter your homeland.

Jesus Christ is your passport into heaven.  He earned the right for you to enter your heavenly homeland, by paying for your sins with his blood.  The moment he brought you to faith in him, you became but a visitor here on earth, an alien, a foreigner, a stranger.  “But our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

When Jesus returns again in glory, he will take you to your heavenly home, the place he has prepared for you.  The problems and troubles and struggles of this life will be ended.  Your will be reunited with your loved ones who trusted in Jesus.  You will rejoice eternally in the perfect bliss of heaven.

There at my Savior’s side . . . I shall be glorified,

There are . . . those I love most and best;

And there I, too, shall rest, heaven is my home.

Why then does God leave you here on earth?  If heaven is your home, for what purpose do you remain in this world? 

Your true home is in heaven, but God wants you to stay in this world for a while in order to serve him on earth.  As St. Paul says in 2nd Corinthians, “He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him, who died for them and rose again.”

God wants you to stay in this world for a while in order to serve him on earth.  As St. Peter says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”

God wants you to stay in this world for a while in order to serve him on earth, in your marriage and family, as a husband, wife, mother, father, son, daughter.  God wants you to stay in this world for a while in order to serve him on earth, in your daily work, in the community.  God wants you to stay in this world for a while in order to serve him on earth, by your witness to him.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  “But,” St. Paul says in Romans, “how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to tell them?”  “Therefore,” Jesus says, “go and make disciples.”

Why does God leave you here on earth?  If heaven is your home, for what purpose do you remain in this world?  God wants you to stay in this world for a while in order to serve him on earth, in all your various callings in life.

One way that you serve him and bear witness for him is by living a godly life to his glory.  As St. Peter admonishes us, “I urge you, dear friends, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. . .  live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. . . For you have spent enough time in the past doing what unbelievers choose to do, living in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness . . . They it odd that you no longer join with them in the same excesses. . . live such good lives among the unbelievers that . . . they may see your good deeds and glorify God.”  “Therefore,” St. Paul concludes today’s Epistle Reading, “that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends.”

Danger and sorrow stand round me on every hand;

Heaven is my fatherland, heaven is my home.

When your time on earth is ended, your Savior Jesus Christ will take you from the dangers and sorrows of this world, to the joys of your heavenly home.  And while you remain here on earth, he will be with you in every problem, every trouble, every struggle.  He will be with you, to bring you safely into his heavenly kingdom. 

He has put you here for a while, for a purpose: to serve him.  “He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him, who died for them and rose again.”  Serve him, in all your various callings in life; serve him by living a godly life to his glory.

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

And I shall surely stand there at my Lord’s right hand.

Heaven is my fatherland, heaven is my home.

Amen.

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