O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
The Rest of the Story
The Rest of the Story
Based on Luke 23:27-43
Preached on Novemebr 24, 2013
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Fellow baptized saints, can you picture what life would be like if you only knew half of the story? If you only ever heard the beginning of what happened? "History" would begin to sound pretty different, wouldn't it? "The "unsinkable" H.M.S. Titanic set sail from Southampton, England on April 10th, 1912." And…? What happened? Did the unsinkable ship sink? Where did it go? Bah, why are you telling me this? In fact, if you want to get a good laugh out of your children, try this out on one of their bed time stories. "The clock struck midnight, and Cinderella fled the Ball—the end." Noo ho ho, Daddy. You're being silly. Because we know the "rest of the story," don't we? And when we know the rest of the story, there is something unnatural about cutting it short.
You've probably noticed then, that our Gospel lesson and hymn of the day - yes, this entire service this morning is focused on the crucifixion of our Lord. And this could seem a bit out of place; or out of season, especially given the fact that "store world" has already bombarded us with "Christmas cheer." However, the Church's calendar is not the same as the world's calendar. And this Sunday happens to be the Last Sunday of the Church Year. The Last Sunday of the Year. Happy New Year's Eve everybody! But that means something new is going to start next week, Advent, so this morning, so we don't cut the story in half, and have all the children saying, Noooo, you're being silly - we hear the rest of the story, the fulfillment of Jesus' work here on earth.
Now you've had a chance to live it, you've participated in it all year long, but did you notice just how beautiful the Church Year is? It follows the complete life-cycle of a person, from birth to death and beyond death to eternal life in Heaven - but not just any person - your Savior Jesus Christ. Through the Church Year, you have been immersed in His life, in those anticipatory advent moments awaiting His coming, and in His actual birth at Christmas. In those languishing Lenten moments longing for death and in His glorious resurrection at Easter. In His triumphant ascension into heaven, and His sending of His Spirit on the day of Pentecost. You have been immersed in His life, and how fitting for you who have been baptized into Christ, because His life is your life. This is your life now. This story. Because He did all of these things for you, so that you may be in Him, immersed in Him as He works in you, causing you to confess Him to those around you as you await His return. There are no half stories here. Your full story is the story of Jesus. It is this Church Year. And God keeps you spiritually alive by keeping you in the life of Jesus.
Now, it is important to note that I am not saying in any way that by being immersed in the life of Jesus your time here on earth will be easy, or at least easier than the average unbeliever. It won't be! Christians' check books still get low. Christians still get sick. Christians still die. In fact, if anything it will be harder, for in this fallen and sinful world every other influence will try to pull you away from Jesus.
But you know this. You've experienced this. No, you may not have said the exact words of our Old Testament lesson, "It is vain to serve God" but you have had one of those days, weeks, months, even years where you find yourself crying out "Why? Why Lord? I serve you, I worship you, and this is how you repay me? Look how easy these unbelievers have it while I struggle along. Don't you even care? Surely I deserve better! Surely I deserve more! It just doesn't make sense."
And you're right. It doesn't make sense. It doesn't make sense that your perfect and sinless Lord had to shed His innocent blood for such an entitled self-righteous sinner as you. But He did. If anyone deserved better; if anyone deserved to ask "why," it was Jesus Christ, who came down from Heaven into this fallen and sinful world to rescue you, living a perfect life in accord with all of God's commands. And what did He get in return?—a common criminal's execution. Worse than that, He actually suffered the fate that no person has ever had to suffer while they walked this earth and still had air in their lungs—He was truly forsaken and forgotten by God, not because He deserved it, but to save you from it. No, it doesn't make sense. It is an undeserved gift - promised to you for free in this preached Word.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ: This is the theology of the cross, and it stands in direct contrast to the popular (and false) preaching of the theology of glory, which teaches that the more successful we are in this life, the better we have it, the better things go, the greater the glory - the more certain we can be that God loves us and has chosen us to be saved. Beloved, beware this false teaching that seeks after glory, and keep an eye on yourself, for Old Adam loves all things glory. Because life here is a cross. It is Christ's life. Being immersed in Him and His humiliation, knowing what awaits you in Heaven is exaltation. It is suffering and dying to yourself, but rising to walk in the new life of Christ each day. Death and Resurrection. The full story. Your life in Christ is a bloodied cross and an empty tomb. And yours is this paradox of victory, joy, and peace admist what looks like failure, heartache and war. Christ's life is your life.
So, as the Church year now comes to an end, see your own earthly life drawing closer to its end; drawing closer, every day, to that day when your Father will summon you home to Heaven to be with Him forever. Because for you, one who is in Christ, death is no longer something to be feared. For Christ's blood lines its path. It has no claim on you. In fact, death has been made your doorway into eternal life. A mere step across a threshold your Lord has prepared for you by His cross. A victory walk. Your V-Day. Because you know the rest of the story. You have already lived it with every Church year. And Christ has made it your story even now. Lift up your heads, therefore, for the day is coming when Christ will finally say to you, "Amen, amen, today you will be with me in Paradise." In His Holy Name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr