Sunday, November 18, 2007

Look Up and See Your Redemption

Second-Last Sunday of the Church Year
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Luke 21:5-28

In the Church Year we’re in the last part, with our focus on the end times. The Chargers this year were supposed to be better than last year. Last year looked like it was going to be their year to go all the way until it all suddenly vanished before their eyes in the playoffs. This year looked like an even better chance of being their year since they looked even better. But this season has been looking more like it’s the end times for them.

Well, sports are just sports when all is said and done. For fans, they’re entertaining, but they don’t ultimately matter. Even for those who are really into sports, there are things that are more important in life.

Some things come out of the blue like the fires we experienced not long ago. Things like sports pale in comparison. The war against terrorism continues to rage on and the horror of war is especially felt in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Even in our free country there’s enough crime and pain and misery to go around to remind us that things could always be worse than not playing well on the football field.

Thinking about even a few of the tragedies around the world is discouraging. If we were to take all the suffering on the global scale upon our own shoulders we would be crushed under the weight. There are people tortured by their own leaders, people ravaged by natural disasters, people that are starving to death. Sometimes it’s easier not to think about all that stuff.

But things even hit us close to home, don’t they? The wars and the rumors of war might seem tame in light of the sting of harsh words our loved ones speak to us. The loss of our possessions in a disaster might pale in comparison with the loss of respect of someone you love or being deceived by someone you trust. Not having enough to eat might seem a small thing when held up against a longing, a searching for real meaning in life. When you’ve tried everything and come up short, the despair is like a hunger that can never be satiated.

All of this brings us to today. Though it’s not part of the Church Year, in our congregation it’s Commitment Sunday. Commitment Sunday may for some of us be one of those days we think about on the day of it and that’s it. It doesn't seem to come into play in day to day life. We’ve got a lot going on in our lives. We have all the struggles in the world and in our lives weighing on us. What does Commitment Sunday have to do with all of that?

It never struck me until this past week, but our Commitment Sunday always coincides with the end of the Church Year. I wonder if this tells us something about it. What does Jesus talk about in His dissertation on the end times? That it’s going to be tough. The odds not only will be against us but will be severe. He who endures to the end will be saved.

It’s easy to be committed to something that brings you great satisfaction. But our commitment wavers when the seas get rough. That’s why Jesus doesn’t tell us about the end times and simply leave it up to us to be the tough that get going when the going gets rough.

What He does is first tell us that it’s going to be tough. And yes, He does tell us that we better put our cammies on because this won’t be a walk in the park. But the main thing He tells us is that the very fact that all this stuff around us is happening is a sign that He is still God. That He is at work. That our redemption is at hand.

God didn’t look down upon the world and just shake His head that it was going to pot. He didn’t pour out His wrath upon all, putting an end to it all. No, He came down into the midst of it all. The sadness, the tragedies, the wars, the famines, the family struggles. Jesus placed His hands on the lepers. He comforted the bereaved. He ate with the prostitutes and the outcasts. He spent time with the hardened sinners, caring enough for them not to give up on them.

He himself took upon our human flesh. He Himself suffered—being reviled, being threatened, going hungry. He Himself was brutally beaten though every act He did and word He spoke was out of kindness and compassion. He himself suffered the effects of guilt, though He was guilty of nothing. He Himself suffered the punishment for sin, though He is without sin. He Himself took on a servant’s heart though it was the way of difficulty.

God never snaps His fingers and makes everything bad go away. Our world and often our lives are in a world of hurt. He comes to us in our hurt. He doesn’t magically take all the troubles away. But He does meet them head on. When the world is going to pot, Jesus is in the midst of it. When all these things are happening, He says: Look up, and see that your redemption is drawing near.

When His disciples and loved ones looked up and saw Him hanging in a bloody mess on the cross they didn’t see salvation. They saw sorrow. They saw their loved one moments away from lifelessness. We can look now at that cross and see life. Redemption. Salvation. Joy out of suffering, eternal pleasure out of pain.

Look up, and see your redemption. Here at His very altar your Lord comes to you in the midst of your sin-filled and burdened life to give you redemption. As His disciples and loved ones looked up and saw His body hanging on the cross and His blood being poured out, so we see in Him our salvation, His very body and blood given and shed for us. He has taken away your sin and guilt and sorrow and gives you instead forgiveness, life, and salvation. This isn’t instead of all those trials going on in the world and in your life—it’s in the midst of them.

When you see them; when they happen to you, look up and see your redemption. Your salvation has come to you. Your Lord and Savior is your life and salvation. Amen.


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