Sunday, May 12, 2013

Giving Away the Ending

Seventh Sunday of Easter
May 12, 2013
Jesus would have made a good film critic. While critics make an effort not to spoil the ending of the movie, they give away a lot of the details and of the plot when they do their film reviews. Some of us won’t read film reviews before seeing the movie because of this. Some of us don’t want the movie spoiled for us because we want the details and the plot to unfold as the movie brings it about for us. But some people want to read the review so they can get an idea if they might be interested in the movie.

Some people love watching previews. They want to see what the movie is about so they can determine if it looks interesting to them. There are those of us, though, who shut our eyes for the previews so that we can see what the movie is all about when we actually see the movie.

The worst thing some of us can imagine beforehand is having the ending spoiled. And to their credit, often when a critic will give spoilers they will alert you to that beforehand so that you can stop reading at that point.

Not Jesus. He lays out the details. He tells you how it’s all going to turn out beforehand. In short, He gives away the ending.

And as much as I don’t like that when it comes movies, I can’t think of any better way for it to be when it comes to my life, this world, and eternity. You and I living as Christians in this world need Jesus to be our film critic. We need Him to say, “This is a spoiler alert!”, and we need to keep reading. We need to know what’s coming and how it all turns out, and that the movie isn’t going to be ruined by knowing what happens ahead of time.

Jesus lays out for the apostles in the Gospel reading what will occur when He ascends. Guess what? It all came about. And so we begin where Jesus did, with the Holy Spirit who will bear witness of Him. That’s what He does. And so will they. What will they do when they are opposed? How will they respond to those who are opposing them and bringing harm on them when those doing it believe they are accomplishing God’s will? They will go not on their words and actions but on the word of Christ. They will remember that Jesus laid this all out for them beforehand. For three years in ministry He was laying before them the cross, His suffering and death and resurrection that He would undergo. After He ascends into heaven what will come about for them? Their own cross. Their own suffering. Their own undergoing of bearing the cross of Christ.

So what does Jesus say to them? I haven’t told you these things up to this point, because I have been with you. But now I’m going away. I will be ascending into heaven. I will be sending you the Holy Spirit. What will they know as they go forward? What will they have that Jesus armed them with regarding making known to them what would come about? They will have the Holy Spirit. And what does Jesus say of the Holy Spirit? He is the Spirit of Truth. You see, when people are persecuting you; when people are killing you because they believe they are doing service to God; when you are bearing your cross on account of Christ, knowing ahead of time what will happen to you and who you have on your side makes all the difference in the world. They had the Spirit of Truth on their side.

When you’re up against the world, you will be denigrated. When you tell people the truth of the Word of God you will be scorned. All you have to do is look to Christ and see how it all played out. He knew He was going to the cross, and it played out exactly that way. He knew what was before the apostles, and so He told them ahead of time. He spoiled the ending for them so that they would be prepared.

And so you and I have come to a crossroads of sorts. We can treat this as some of us would going to the movies. Wanting to be surprised at the outcome. Or we can hear Jesus as He gives it all away; as He tells us every last detail of what we need to know. We can see beforehand what will happen to us both in this life and forever.

And to this we have a wonderful description of what this cross-shaped life looks like in the Epistle reading. Each of us has been called to various vocations, ways God has set before us for serving Him through serving others. There are many examples we could use. There are the many occupations people have, whether they be a teacher, a firefighter, a cook, an accountant, a trash collector, a grocery stocker, a farmer, a nurse, a physicist; and we could go on and on. There are countless ways God serves the people of the world through ordinary people doing ordinary, and even extraordinary, jobs. Very close to home, and yes, the pun is intended, for Christians, are those vocations which never see a paycheck. Father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, brother, sister, grandfather, grandmother; and we could on more here as well.

Of course, today, we have an actual day set aside for one of the most blessed vocations, that of mother. Those who have been blessed to have been raised by a godly mother, know firsthand the amazing blessing of receiving the care and love of a woman who desires first and foremost to give God’s gracious love to her children. In fact, looking at the description of the cross-shaped life in the Epistle reading, in a godly mother we have a beautiful illustration of what this looks like.

See how Christian mothers are often self-controlled and sober-minded and in prayer, especially when the other members of the family are warring with each other. See how their love for their family is love that is in earnest, and that this love covers a multitude of sins. See how Christian mothers provide a place for their family where they are in a safe haven, and godly mothers continue to do this without grumbling.

And see what a blessing each one of us has, whether you are a mother and give thanks that God has called you to serve in such a blessed way, or whether you are the recipient of this gift from God and have the opportunity and calling from God to love her in return and give her all honor and cherish her. You know all of this beforehand, and so when there’s friction, and when certain family members aren’t pulling their weight, and yes, this applies to every family member, you can go back to the word of Christ. He has told you beforehand. You know how the world is going to treat you. Sometimes the world inserts itself into the Christian home. Sometimes your sinful flesh rises up and you don’t act in patience and love toward your family members. You know this beforehand, and so you can repent, and you can go to each other in repentance, and you can forgive each other.

Jesus specifically told the apostles what He was calling them to. He laid it all out before them, He spoiled the ending. He calls you as well. To live in this world. To serve Him by serving others in your many vocations. And just as He gave His apostles the Helper—the Advocate, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth—so He gives you His Holy Spirit so that you may know that you’re not left to yourself. As you go forward, it will be difficult. Others will sin against you. You will stumble at times. You will sin against others. You know this beforehand.

But let me give away the ending for you. You know how you were Baptized? This is how it turns out for you, you have been brought into the eternal care of God. Each day you die and rise to new life. You know how you hear the declaration of the forgiveness of your sins by God’s called and ordained servant? That forgiveness comes straight from your Lord Himself. And this is how things turn out when your Lord does something: it has lasting effects. When you are forgiven, you are forgiven. When He forgives you your sins through the pronounced Absolution, your sin is not counted against you—now or on Judgment Day. He has given away the ending, you know how it all turns out.

He has told you beforehand what He desires to give you. And so He extends His invitation to you to partake of His Holy Supper. When you receive the bread and wine of this sacred Meal, He has given it away already as to what you are actually receiving. In and with that bread and wine He is giving you His precious body and His precious blood. Oh yes, and along with that, guess what you get? Forgiveness of your sin. Strength for your daily life.

And there’s more. He’s already told you that in His Holy Meal He gives to you often and invites you to partake of often that He is giving you His actual body and blood. He has already told you that He is giving you this for the forgiveness of your sin. The good news is that with Him, there is always more. For where there is forgiveness of sin, there is also life and salvation. So not only do you know ahead of time that when you are looking around at the world, and you are struggling in life, and you’re not sure how exactly things are going to turn out; you can know. You can know now. The ending has been given away. In the eating and drinking of your Lord’s Body and Blood you receive forgiveness; and where there is forgiveness, there is also life and salvation. That is yours.

It is yours now. It is yours forever. It is yours in body, and it is yours in soul. It is yours in life and it is yours in eternity. Sorry to spoil the ending for you, but since Christ has already done it, I figured I couldn’t do any less. Amen.


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