Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Art of Interruption

Third Sunday in Advent
December 12, 2010
James 5:7-11

Recently Steve Martin was interviewed at a place in New York called the 92nd Street Y. It’s known for its focus on the arts and the tickets aren’t cheap. Steve is an avid art collector and he recently wrote a novel called Object of Beauty. He and the interviewer were having a grand time talking about his book, his art collection, and his love of art and the art world. Apparently many in the audience weren’t as thrilled with all this talk of art. They wanted to hear about Steve. They wanted one of the most famous and funniest comedians to talk about his career. Halfway through the show, the people in charge of this event took matters into their own hands, as they apparently felt the same way. They handed notes to the interviewer with such things as, “Talk about Steve’s career.” This threw both of them off and the evening kind of fizzled, with some forcing of letting audience members ask questions themselves.

Afterward, the Y sent out a letter of apology as well as a full refund. They wanted people to know that they would see to it in the future that they could count on the quality they had come to expect in events at the Y. Needless to say, Steve Martin wasn’t happy about how it all transpired, including the way the Y handled things afterward. He wrote an editorial in the New York Times called “The Art of Interruption.” In it he expressed his frustration at being interrupted, but because you never know how things are going to unfold. He stated his case that here you had a consummate entertainer being interviewed by a seasoned interviewer and that given time something memorable could happen. When people are antsy they don’t want that time given, they feel like their time is being wasted.

When we’re impatient we interrupt. We attempt to stop whatever it is we’re bored with in its tracks. But there is an art to interruption. I’m not sure if any of us are very good at it. I’m as impatient as anyone. Every day for about a month and a half I have been thinking about what is under the tree in my home. If I could interrupt things and open up my presents now, I would. So during this time of Advent when I have an opportunity to focus on the Gift God has given, wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger, I am thinking about how great it will be to get home from church Christmas Eve and open up those presents! I can only imagine what kids are going through right now.

But it’s not that there shouldn’t be interruption. That’s why I like the title to Steve Martin’s editorial. There is an art to interruption. Finding that art, achieving that art, that is the challenge. In fact, I think that may actually be the brilliance of the season of Advent. It is itself an art of interruption. What happens during this time of year? Wherever you go, people are wishing you a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. They are talking about the Christmas season. You drive around and see lights on people’s homes and on buildings. Offices are decorated, Christmas music is played, some people actually are in a better mood, just because it’s the time of the year for peace and goodwill toward men.

I don’t want in any way to imply that these things are wrong. Or even that they shouldn’t be done. In the Willweber household we got up the tree and the decorations right around the same time the neighbors did. And if people wish me a Merry Christmas I don’t correct them by telling them that it’s Advent. But when we come here we see it’s different. When we come here we’re not saying Merry Christmas yet. When we come here we’re doing a thing called Advent.

The reason I love Advent is not so much because I love it. It’s because it forces me to focus. It forces me to see Christmas for what it really is. Just as we don’t celebrate Easter without Lent and Good Friday, we don’t celebrate Christmas without Advent. It is, in a very practical sense, an exercise in patience, just like what Steve Martin was talking about. Instead of interrupting the Church Year and going right to celebrating Christmas, we patiently go through Advent. And yes, that might even mean that we’re bored. Or we’re just going through the motions, waiting for our celebration of Christmas on the 24th and the 25th. It might mean that others look at us as if we’ve forgotten what this time of year is about, when everybody is celebrating Christmas and we’re still talking about things like repentance and the Second Coming of Christ. But there is an art to this. Patience is hard. Sometimes we need help to be patient. Do we even dare to say that sometimes we need to be forced into it? That’s one of the things Advent can help us with.

It’s tough for us Lutherans to slosh through the Book of James. So much Law. So much focus on what we are to do. And here is another example, our Epistle reading today. Be patient. Establish your hearts because the Coming of the Lord is at hand. Don’t grumble against one another. And the scare tactic: the Judge is standing at the door. Try laying those sentiments on people when they wish you a Merry Christmas. Don’t you know the Judge is standing at the door? Be patient. Prepare your hearts. Don’t grumble.

This is what Advent does. It forces us into a mode where we see we need to be patient. When we want to talk about peace on earth the Bible is telling us not to grumble against one another. When we just can’t wait to tear open those presents under the tree the Word of God impresses upon us the need to establish our hearts, preparing for that Day when our Lord will return in glory. I know whatever gifts I get under the tree won’t compare to the Day when Christ Returns to take me to the eternal glory of heaven. So why is it I think more about what presents I’ll get than about Christ coming again? It’s so easy for us to think about the baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and not have to think about what that means for us in our daily lives. That the notion of Peace on Earth means things like repenting of our own grumbling against one another, our impatience with one another, let alone God bringing about His last and ultimate promise: Returning in Glory on the Last Day.

This isn’t about us being in some private club where we know we’re observing in a better way this time of year. Advent isn’t about thinking higher of yourself, but rather cutting you down to size. Patience requires humility. It requires repentance. It requires your focus to be outside of yourself, not within yourself.

This is why James goes on to give examples. As much as we Lutherans would love to put the Book of James into a box of Law and exhortation to right living, we can’t do that, because he himself doesn’t do that. He gives his exhortations in light of the Gospel, not the Law. What are his examples? The prophets. Job. If we think patience is hard, we’re in good company. If we’re not hot on repentance, join the club. These things are never easy. They are hard by their very nature. Why would there need to be exhortation of things that are easy? It is the hard things we need to forced into.

His example of the prophets, he says, is of suffering and patience. He then says we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. When you walk into this church on Good Friday you expect to hear of suffering. If you can remember a whole year from now, you should expect to hear it also on the Third Sunday in Advent. Suffering. Patience. Remaining steadfast. These are things we so often need to be forced into because we want to jump right to, well, what we want. What do you think the prophets thought when they were being persecuted? God, it would be really nice if we could get beyond this. It would be great if this could go a lot more smoothly. I’d really appreciate it if this weren’t so hard. And that’s saying it in polite ways. The prophets weren’t always so circumspect in praying to God.

But here’s what James is getting at: God got them through. Here’s how he tells us this: you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. God was patient with those prophets. He remained steadfast to them. They weren’t strong enough on their own to make it. They needed God. James gives another example that has become the quintessential example of suffering: Job. How did Job make it through? God. God got Job through the intense suffering he endured. This is one of the greatest gifts our Lord gives to us: faith. When He gives faith we can endure. The prophets were patient because God granted them the faith to endure. Job was steadfast because God imparted to him faith that relies on God alone, as the one who is more powerful than hardships and the one who delivers us from hardships. And we could add the one from today’s Gospel reading of John the Baptist.

There is an art to interruption. At its simplest, it’s knowing when not to interrupt. It is having the patience to let God carry out His plan and will. God’s people in the Old Testament constantly tried to interrupt the plan and will of God. If God had not had the patience to endure His people’s obstinance, He never would have sent His Son. If Advent shows us anything it’s that we try to interrupt His plan and will. Thank God He is patient with us. Just as He sent His Son to take on human flesh in His birth and carried out His eternal plan to send Him to the cross, He has promised to send Him again. Don’t interrupt that Plan, it’s a good one. Contemplate it. Meditate on your sins but even more your Savior. Don’t think so much of peace on earth as you do your patiently enduring others’ faults and even their sins against you. Don’t grumble against them, love them as Christ has loved you!

When you look to the examples James gave, you see the purpose of the Lord carried out. He knows what He’s doing. That’s why He went to the cross. That’s why He was willing to endure the insults, the pain, and patiently suffer your sins and mine, humbly submitting to the punishment you and I deserve. That’s why He stepped forth from His grave. If He has done that, we know He will make good on His promise yet to be: to come again in glory on the Last Day. On that Day will be the glorious interruption. Our Lord bringing to a screeching halt the affairs of this world, the sin, the evil. He will raise all, some to eternal death, some to eternal life.

What you know now is the end. Do you have to wait for it? Yeah. But you know. You know God’s promise—you know His love for you in His Son, you know He steadfastly keeps you in His care. It’s because of that we interrupt our daily lives to hear His Gospel proclaimed. To take into our mouths the body and blood of Christ. To daily meditate on His Word and repent of our sins. This is the art. Don’t interrupt Him. But when He interrupts you, that’s a good thing. Amen.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Veni Emmanuel

Midweek in Advent 2
December 8, 2010
Matthew 1:23

A nno
D omini In the Year of Our Lord—Luke 4:18-19
V eni
E mmanuel O Come, Emmanuel—Matthew 1:23
N ovum
T estatmentum New Testament—Luke 22:20

Of course, we don’t need to know Latin to know that our Savior has come. Most of us don’t even need to know Hebrew and Greek—the original languages of the Bible—to know that God has come to us for our salvation. But even if most of us don’t know these languages, we know, even if we don’t think about it often, the value and importance of language. Language is the way we communicate. God has communicated to us through language. The way we know God has come to us and is our Savior is that He has told us in His Word. Those who know both Hebrew and Greek as well as English have translated the Word of God into English. And it has been translated into many other languages.

Part of communication is the process of explaining meaning. We don’t even have to go from one language to another to see this. Sometimes we use a phrase or a word and the other person doesn’t understand what we mean. So we explain what we mean so that they understand. Communication is a constant back and forth—saying, responding, explaining, understanding. We all know what happens when communication breaks down. It makes things worse. Good communication clarifies things. It makes things better. Communication that is meant to muddy things makes things worse. Communication that is just not very clear does the same thing, even if it’s well-intentioned.

Communication not only is vital to our lives, clear communication is. We all probably learned somewhere along the line that you communicate not only with words but also actions. Non-verbal communication can communicate just as much, and even more, than our words do.

So what do we learn from the phrase “Veni Emmanuel,” the prayer, “O Come, Emmanuel”? We see that it is answered by God in a way where He doesn’t just tell us He loves us. His Word tells us, no doubt, but His Word also becomes flesh. He is Himself His very Word. Jesus is the Word made flesh, He is God in the flesh. Matthew brings this out with a little bit of communicatory translating when he quotes Isaiah, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel” and then he says, “which means, ‘God with us’.”

He doesn’t want there to be any confusion. He makes it clear that the boy born of the virgin Mary is God, specifically, God with us. God having come to us. God among us. God for us. God in the flesh.

When you pray, O Come, Emmanuel, you look to Jesus where God has answered your prayer. Look to God, but specifically to God where He has most wonderfully made Himself known, in the flesh, in the baby born of Mary. In the first reading we heard this evening God said that He Himself would give a sign: the virgin would conceive and bear a son, and His name would be called Immanuel. The sign pointed to what it said. What it said is what happened. We look back on that as the actual event that happened. How we know who God is is that He came in the flesh. He became “God with us.” Before the fall into sin God was with Adam and Eve. Since the Fall we are separated from Him. His way of restoring us to a relationship with Him is by coming to us. He has done that in Jesus, God in the flesh, Emmanuel, God with us.

We’re accustomed on Sunday morning to hearing the Benediction known as the Aaronic Benediction. It is a Trinitarian blessing, “The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you, the Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace,” the Lord placing His name on us three times. There are times when the apostles end their New Testament letters with some form of a Trinitarian blessing. It’s easy to pass right over the last words of these New Testament letters. It’s a simple sentence, but it’s amazing what Paul says to the Corinthians at the end of his Epistle to them: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.” This is after he has taken them to task for a number of serious issues. How is God with us? Because Jesus is with us. He has come in the flesh.

How is this a Trinitarian blessing? It doesn’t mention the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or repeat the Lord’s name three times as in the Aaronic Benediction. It is Trinitarian in that it is a blessing of the Lord, of God. That is, it is a blessing of the Triune God. How is the Triune God our God? In Jesus. God is with us in Jesus. Jesus is God with us. Jesus is how we are blessed by God. So the apostles are freely able to bless the people of God with a Trinitarian blessing, as in Father, Son, Holy Spirit, or a Trinitarian blessing with just Christ named, as we have it in our second reading: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.” Notice what Paul is saying. He is saying nothing else than, “God be with you.” Nothing else than what God commanded Aaron to bless the people with and the same blessing that is so familiar to us. When the grace of the Lord Jesus is with us God is with us. That’s because the grace of the Lord Jesus is with us when Jesus is with us. And when Jesus is with us God is with us. That’s what He would be called, after all, Emmanuel, God with us. That was the promise in Isaiah and that was the fulfillment in Matthew.

But Matthew doesn’t say, Jesus was born and that was God with us, so have a great day! He goes on. This is only the twenty-third verse of his Gospel account. What Matthew goes on to tell us about is what it means that God is with us in Jesus Christ. Just this: that Christ was born in order to suffer on the cross and die for the sin of the world and rise from the grave so that we might have eternal life. In other words, life with Him forever.

It makes sense, and sounds wonderful, for Matthew to say that when Jesus was born that is God with us. And it’s true. But Matthew also shows us in his Gospel account that when Jesus is on the cross procuring salvation for the world that that is most truly and wonderfully God with us. That’s what God’s sign in Isaiah ultimately was pointing to. It’s what Matthew ultimately was showing us when telling the birth of Christ. When we look at the cross we see Emmanuel, God with us. We know God is with us because of the cross. Our prayer, Veni Emmanuel—O come, Emmanuel—is answered in and because of the cross. Just as He came at Bethlehem and went to Calvary, so He will come again in glory so that we may be with Him forever. Amen.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Where Do You Look for God?

Second Sunday in Advent
December 5, 2010
Romans 15:4-13

If you know where to look you will be able to find it. If you know what you’re looking for you’ll be able to see it. Otherwise you would go right on by never knowing it’s there. Never seeing it.

One day my family and I were on a hike in Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada, just above Glacier National Park in Montana. A ranger was taking us on a nature hike. Through one portion of the hike, all I saw was old, dead, dried up, burnt bark. Nothing to see there. I would have walked right on by. But the ranger knew where to look. She knew what to look for. Let’s take a look here. I would just have soon continued on by but she wanted us to see the new growth. Before I could think too long about how I wondered if she was really qualified to be a ranger, she pointed out to us the new growth that was coming out from underneath all of that dead stuff, all of those trees that had been destroyed in the fire. It was very pretty. Green shoots coming from underneath a brown blanket of what used to be tall beautiful trees. But there they had lain, providing a warm moist blanket for the ground beneath it, a fertile sphere for new life, new growth to shoot forth.

When I am in nature I am drawn to the grandeur, the magnificent scenery, those things that are easy to see because they stand out with their obvious beauty and glory. What I learned on that day is that there is a lot more beauty than what at first meets the eye. I learned that to see some of the most amazing things you need to know where to look. You need to know what to look for. And you need to know that it’s sometimes in the places you wouldn’t expect.

Maybe that’s the problem with us. We don’t know where to look. We don’t know what to look for. We rely on what we see at first glance. We’re looking for the grandeur, the glory, the powerful. We’re wanting the God who will swoop into our lives just when we need help and magically, powerfully take care of our situation, and then give a wave and a wink as He goes back to sitting on His throne and keeping everything under control. God is the God of glory, is He not? So where’s the glory? We look for it, but it isn’t always apparent. Most of the people in Allied Gardens aren’t waking up every Sunday morning to join us here as if to ignore the obvious: that here is where there is the glory and grandeur of the Almighty God and His abundant blessings. If anything, they look at our little church and wonder what the big deal is. Many people look at the trials and tribulations of Christians and wonder why we would believe in a God who would allow us to go through such things. Where’s the glory? Where’s the grandeur?

Have you ever chopped down a tree and just left the stump there? You got that problem taken care of, the tree had gotten too big, it was in the way, you needed the space for something else. Months went by. One day you looked at that stump just sitting there, useless now. But from it you see something not dead, not useless, but something green. A little shoot. Coming from that stump. The tree came from the ground for life and even chopping it down to a stump wasn’t going to prevent it from fulfilling its purpose.

Paul says in the Epistle reading that the Root of Jesse will come. He will be the one who arises to rule the Gentiles; in Him will the Gentiles hope. What kind of God, what kind of Savior, do you think the people of God in the Old Testament were looking for? What kind of God do you think would catch the attention of non-believers, Gentiles? Wasn’t a mighty, powerful, glorious God, one that the Israelites should have been expecting? Isn’t a God who erases all the things that make life tough for us the kind of god non-believers would think to look for?

But the Old Testament makes a promise of the God who will come as Savior, and one that doesn’t necessarily fit the description of what we might look for. We heard it in this morning’s Old Testament reading: “There shall come forth a Shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a Branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” The promise is of the Almighty, Glorious, Lord of All coming as a little sprout. A sprout that comes from an old stump. Some glory. Some grandeur. Some power. God’s people might have wondered about their God. The Gentiles might have thought those Israelites, and now the Christians who were believing in that same God, were a little crazy, or at least people they should feel sorry for.

Isaiah was a great prophet. Many times He speaks of the greatness of God. Why here in the portion we heard in today’s Old Testament reading does he then refer to God the Savior as the Root of Jesse? Jesus was descended from the line of King David. That’s King David, the powerful king, the one who was glorious and a great leader for the people of God. But Isaiah tells us of the promise of the Savior as coming from David’s father. That’s Jesse, the simple man from the country. The man who raised sons to help out on the family farm, to serve King Saul in the army against the Philistines, to be simple men who would serve God in ordinary ways as most of God’s people do. These are the humble beginnings of the Savior. From King David, yes, but also from Jesse, a man who never thought his youngest son who tended sheep would be considered to be the king of God’s people.

From this prophecy in Isaiah we see the pattern. God likes to come in ways where you wouldn’t think to look unless He showed you. Would you have thought the Savior would be born in a stable? Would you have looked for the woman to give Him birth in a simple peasant girl? Would you have walked all the way out to the country as Samuel did to Jesse’s house to find the next king? Samuel did because God directed him there. I don’t think he would have thought of Jesse on his own, let alone know who he was.

If Isaiah used such a humble description of the Savior to come, Paul had the opportunity to paint a portrait of the glorious, powerful, Almighty God who had come in his appeal to Gentiles. But he picked up on the theme of Isaiah. The Root of Jesse. The one who came from a stump. The one who thought it was a grand plan to come in as Savior as a sprout rather than a Sequoia.

John the Baptist had quite a time trying to get people to see that his cousin from the backwater town of Nazareth was the Savior of the world. There are some who would never believe. Some who would mock. Some who would simply feel sorry for those of us who believe in such things. Yes, there are those of us who look to things like a dead stump for a glimmer of growth. For a sign of life in a little sprout coming forth. Who look to a stable and among smelly animals for a Savior. And not just a Savior, God Himself. We would never have thought to look for God and our Savior in one who was so beaten that He couldn’t carry His cross to the hill where He would be crucified. We would never have thought to look to one who would die in such a way, among common criminals. That’s just not the way we think. When we think of God we look for glory. He says for us to look among the weak and ordinary things of this world.

When there’s so much in this world that paints a picture that God obviously cannot be in control, obviously does not have the means or the power to bring us out of the mess we’re in, God says, Be still, and know that I am God. Be still and look into that very mess and you will find Me. Be still and believe that My glory and salvation come through the cross, through the weak and ordinary things of this world.

The world can offer plenty of glory and power and enticement. Only God can offer salvation and the true glory. If you know where to look and you know what you’re looking for you’ll see it. If you look to the font you will see that there is where you were brought into the eternal care of the Almighty God. Whatever you face, whatever doubts you have, whatever knocks you down, God has you in His care. He won’t let you go. He will carry you through the trials to the eternal glory.

If you’re looking in the wrong place or for the wrong thing you might pass right by it. If your Lord thought it was a great idea to come from a backwater town, to be born in humble circumstances, to come from a line that started off in the simplest of circumstances, He will in the same way come to you in ordinary bread and a sip of wine. There’s life in that bread and that wine because your Lord is present where you wouldn’t expect Him. His Body and Blood are in and with that bread and wine to give you growth in faith. And if a shoot from the stump of Jesse can bring life eternal then our Lord’s Body and Blood in and with the bread and wine can do the same.

The really great thing about all this is that you don’t have to look for God at all. That’s a human-centered way of looking at it. He comes to us. He finds us. He meets us where we’re at and rescues us in our lost state. You don’t need to search for glory, you don’t need to look for great things to come your way. Rest in your Baptism. Rejoice in hearing that your sins are absolved. Know that bread and wine are humble means of delivering to you the glory that compares with nothing else: Your Lord in all His fullness and glory. When He comes He brings with Him forgiveness and the true glory of life forever with Him. Amen.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Anno Domini

Midweek in Advent 1
December 1, 2010
Luke 4:18-19

A nno
D omini In the Year of Our Lord—Luke 4:18-19
V eni
E mmanuel O Come, Emmanuel—Matthew 1:23
N ovum
T estatmentum New Testament—Luke 22:20

I have just what you need this Advent, a little Latin for you. I’ve taken the word ‘Advent’ and divided it up three ways, for our three midweek Advent worship services. Each pair of letters stands for a Latin phrase that helps us focus on the work of our Lord coming to us with His gifts.

The three Latin phrases we’ll be drawing from are fairly familiar to us, at least the idea behind them if not the exact translation. The last one, Novum Testamentum is so similar to its English equivalent we could easily guess that it’s New Testament. The second, Veni Emmanuel, may not be as easy but we could probably make a good guess, if only for the fact that we’re pretty familiar with the hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. And that’s what it means, O Come, Emmanuel. And the first one, Anno Domini, even though a lot of people may not know the actual translation, will probably know that it stands for the time we’re in now and have been in since the first Advent of Jesus. We’re in the year 2010 A.D. It means “In the year of our Lord,” so the proper way to say it would be: In the year of our Lord, 2010.

The word ‘advent’ itself comes from Latin. It means ‘coming’. The season of Advent has a dual focus, one a preparation for our celebration of Christ’s coming in humility at Bethlehem and one of our continual preparation for His return in glory on the Last Day. It’s quite remarkable that our whole calendar system is based on the entrance of Christ as a man into this world—the time before Christ and the time since Christ was born. There’s nothing in the Bible about it, but whatever year we are referring to in this era is ‘in the year of our Lord’. In other words, in the year of the era of the time when our Lord came to earth. We Christians know why He came to earth. It is the basis not only of a calendar system but our belief system. It is far more important than the basis for how we mark time, it is the very basis of our salvation.

The way the Bible talks about time is as a means by which our Lord brings about His salvation. Our second reading we heard this evening described it this way: when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman. God had it all planned out. Paul goes on to say the reason God sent His Son: He was born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. He brought His salvation into the time of our existence. In that sense, every year in history is the year of our Lord in that history revolves around God and His salvation in His Son Jesus Christ, whether that be in the era God’s people were looking ahead to the time when He would be born of the Virgin, or the time we are in now when we look back on that historical event.

In Advent we look back to the Old Testament and see how what was promised there was fulfilled in Christ. In the first reading we heard this evening from Isaiah we hear of the promise of the Anointed One. The one who was sent to bring salvation. The one who came to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. In the third reading we hear from the lips of Jesus Himself that that Scripture from Isaiah 61 was fulfilled in the hearing of the people who heard Jesus read that Scripture. They had waited for the Lord’s coming and now they were face to face with Him. They were living in the year of the Lord’s favor because Jesus had come. Jesus was bringing salvation, proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor.

Because we live in time we talk and think in terms of time. But think about it from the perspective of God. When He promises in Isaiah and when Jesus says in Luke that He was sent to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, is He talking about a unit of time? Namely, a year? No, He’s talking about eternity. That’s what Christ came to bring to us who are in time and who are mortal. Jesus came into this place of time and space, He who is eternal and spiritual. Jesus came to this place as one who had to get around as we do, by walking or taking some sort transportation. He did this to bring us from this place into the place that isn’t a place as we can understand it. Because it’s heaven, it’s eternal. It’s not a place of time and space. We will rise bodily on the Last Day and live in heaven there but it won’t be a place like we understand being in a place while we’re living in this life.

As Christians we live in this world as everyone else does but at the same time in a different way from everyone else. Like everyone, we are mortal and subject to the laws of time and space. We are born and at some point we die. Perhaps more aware than everyone else, we are sinful and can’t escape the selfish desires that infect our heart.

But we are also people who, as the Bible describes us, are not of this world. We are in the world but not of it. We live here but at the very same time heaven is our home. Even as we have been born here and live out our lives here we are strangers and pilgrims on this earth. While non-Christians are very much at home in this life, we Christians are in one sense out of place. Have you ever heard someone say to you that they feel like they should have been born in another time in history? That they don’t quite fit in in the world of today? Maybe you feel that way yourself. In one sense that’s the way it is for us Christians. We’re here, when and where God wants us to be, but we feel a little out of place. On the one hand, we have been called by God to live out godly lives here on earth, in this time and place, and bring the Gospel to those in our lives, where we’re at in our daily lives. On the other hand, we should never get too comfortable with this world because God has also called us to our ultimate home.

He has called us to this here in time so that we may be with Him in eternity. Jesus, when the fullness of time had come, was born of a woman to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. How He proclaimed the year of the Lord’s favor was by coming as He did, in the flesh. How He did it was by going to the cross as He did, in the flesh to suffer on behalf of the world. How He did it was by stepping forth from His grave as He did, in the flesh, never again to be bound by space or time or death or the grave.

He lives and reigns eternally, but not just to reign. To continue to serve. To continue to grant His gifts, shower down on us His favor, His grace, His mercy, His peace. The year of our Lord’s favor is here and now, eternally present for us in His Word and His Sacraments. The very Body and Blood that walked the earth, that suffered on the cross, that emerged from the grave, given to us in His Holy Supper. Himself preached into us when we hear His Word read and proclaimed. Faith imparted to us in those gifts. Strengthened in us by those very means. In the year of our Lord eternity is the measurement of time. In other words, there is no time. There is nothing finite about it. Nothing that comes to an end. Nothing that can be measured. Nothing that can be defined or described of as time. There is only Christ and our being united with Him forever. Amen.