Easter 4-HL, April 17th, 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA
Would you agree with me, that it is never easy waiting for something you really desire? Here’s a truth that we should really think about this morning: We all desire an end to sickness, disease, violence, hatred and prejudice. And we all know that as long as we live in this sin-soaked world, these things will never end. Further, we all know that the only way to be free of those things is to leave this world; we have to die.
By now some of you are saying, “No thanks, I’ll wait.” But some of you are thinking, “Yes, that would be fine by me; the sooner the better. I just want the Lord to take me home.”
A Christian may have many reasons for wanting to leave this world.
Scripture and our own life experiences seem to bear witness to this truth. St. Paul perhaps put it best, when he said that he would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord Jesus. [2 Corinthians 5:8] But where would our understanding of God’s grace and the beautiful gift of faith be if God had taken Paul home too early?
Every day through our understanding brought through God’s Word, we are made more and more aware of a sinful reality that is at work in our bodies; a law that convicts us of the sin that lies within our flesh. Isn’t it true that the more we understand our sinful tendency to do things we know are wrong, the more we wish to be free from this reality? Do you understand that your baptized, born again nature is at war with the desires of your sinful flesh? Isn’t it true that you have one nature that urges you to serve the Lord and another that urges you to serve your own wants and desires. The truth is, we have the desire to do what is right, but when it comes to fulfilling that desire, we sometimes seem to be in a sort of holding pattern.
None of us is ever exempt from this daily struggle between the spirit and the flesh. And it is not simply an internal struggle of weakness versus strength, or cowardice versus bravery, no, we are also dealing with this sinful world and all the spiritual powers and principalities that seek to destroy both our own souls and the work of God for us and among us; in other words, these forces are dead set on attacking us in such a way that even our faith and hope in God will be crushed and destroyed.
We are reminded in our Old Testament lesson (Lamentations 3:22-33) that all trials and tribulations are allowed to come to us in accordance with God’s will; in other words, their final purpose is meant to strengthen our faith in Him, and so we must bear them with patient submission.
We are to see all things that seek to separate us from the love of God through the lens of Christ’s own suffering upon the cross. In other words, we are to see them as mere inconveniences, because nothing can diminish the saving power of Christ’s cross for you.
Even when those things or people seem to be an enemy much stronger than us, we must remember that our Lord has already defeated them through His life given upon the cross. So, although our enemies, whether they be spiritual powers and principalities, or physical people who are simply being used as tools of the devil may seem more powerful that us, we must remember that God has allowed these attacks to come our way, and since they are ultimately under the control of Jesus and His cross, we must look at them as simply annoyances and futile, evil persecution that in the end will amount to nothing.
We are called by St. Peter in our Epistle lesson (1 Peter 2:11-20) to remember that we are simply sojourners and exiles in this world. Our job then is not to win battles but we’re called to trust God and resist the enemy. Our task then is to remain faithful to our Lord’s call of repentance and to daily receive His forgiveness of sins through His Son Jesus Christ, as citizens of His kingdom of grace.
In His Word, God continually promises us, His children of faith, both forgiveness and new life. He promises us that His same divine love that saved us from our sins will also keep us and protect us from the evil that surrounds us, even if that evil may be within our own flesh. As members of God’s kingdom and joint heirs with the Son of God, we saints are called to simply and quietly wait for the Lord; to wait for Him to decide when our day will be when we will depart this place where we are foreigners and move to our new home where are true citizenship lies; a place where we will inherit the riches of Christ’s kingdom; riches that we’re told we already possess here in this place but are not yet utilizing in their fullest sense. And so we do that very thing, but as we wait, we do so with a holy purpose.
So now, let’s talk about why it is not the right time for you “to go home and be with the Lord.”
You see, it is God who has determined that we should still be living here in this world. He has a purpose for our being here. Before us there are “good works which God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” [Ephesians 2:10] In other words, God knows something of your purpose in life that you do not. God has already both equipped and prepared you to accomplish things that must take place in accordance with His will; things that perhaps He will use to help someone understand Christ’s passion upon the cross and the truth and implication of His resurrection for them.
As the Lord gives us life, we are helped to believe that He wants us here for His purpose. Even when all of our physical powers fail us, we are still able to contribute in a God pleasing way; we’re able to pray for others, prayer that God both commands and blesses, so that others may be blessed and strengthened in response to our prayers.
So it isn’t a bad thing when a mother wishes to live long enough among her children so that she may help them to grow in their Christian faith. And likewise, it isn’t wrong for a man to pray for longer life because he feels he still hasn’t fulfilled his life’s work that God has called him to perform.
You see, it is these very works, which God has both clothed and equipped you to do long ago within in the waters of your baptism. In your baptism, God called you to be a witness of His grace and mercy to others so that they too might experience that same thing. Even if others mistreat you and speak badly of you, your life and how you live it will be a testimony to them of God’s work and presence in their lives. And when God moves them to see this truth, He will also move them to see the ultimate truth: They are sinful and lost for eternity unless they seek the same God of mercy who has saved you!
We Christians are called to remain faithful and serve God and our neighbor at the very place where God has placed us. As we serve, God is ever working to ensure that we are able to withstand all kinds of mistreatment and neglect from those who live among us, simply because we find our value and worth not in them but solely in the Word and promises of God.
When the day comes when God will finally call us home, we will go thankfully through the gates of eternal life and into the joy of the Lord that is waiting for us in paradise. But until that time, God’s time, we know that we haven’t been dressed up with out a purpose and with no where to go. Our purpose is to serve our resurrected Savior Jesus Christ, and we go where ever He has determined. And as we go, we also wait. We wait for the Lord’s will and we live equipped by Him to carry out what ever His purpose is for us in this foreign land.
St. Paul writes: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith.” [Philippians 1:21-25] May God move our hearts to live each moment of our lives with this very mindset as we testify to all who will receive our message, that “Christ has risen, indeed!” In Jesus name… AMEN!