Tuesday, May 19, 2015

I have lost not one. . .

Sermon for Easter 7B, preached on Sunday, May 17, 2015.

    We are forever losing things  -- keys, wallets, notes, cars in parking lots, things put away for safe keeping. We lose things so often, we are accustomed to it.  We expect it. So when you read about someone who found a long lost love letter or wedding ring after it went missing for many years, it surprises us.  We do not expect to see the things we lose again.
    But the Lord cannot lose YOU.  We can walk away from Him or reject what His love offers.  We can lose Him, forget Him, choose to disregard Him, and decide we no longer want to remember Him, the way to His Church, or how to pray.  But the Lord will not and cannot lose us.
    In the Gospel for today the Lord is praying for His disciples and for those who will believe in Him through them.  He is praying for you and me.  This prayer comes in the final moments before the cross.  In it all, Jesus does not lose track of you or me.  He prays, “I have lost not one except Judas, the son of destruction, who betrayed Me.”  That ought to come as great comfort to us.
    Jesus does not misplace us or lose track of the urgent prayers of our hearts.  That does not mean He is obligated to make things work out like we want.  But it does mean there is one who will not leave us alone in suffering, alone in doubt, alone in fear, or alone in sorrow.  He cannot forsake us in our hour of need.
    Even when we fall into grave sin and live with its shame, Christ will not desert us.  Whether we see Him or not, whether we see Him at work or not, whether things work out as we desire or not, this is certain: we live in His grace and favor and He will enable us to endure through this life to the eternal life -- to the eternal place He has prepared for us.  We fear God might forget us but we are the ones who are forgetful.
    He will keep us from the evil one -- not simply from the momentary disappointment of plans that do not go as we desire or happiness that proves elusive.  Here is where we often have it wrong.  We have greater enemies than dreams that turn into disappointments or laughter that becomes tears.  Jesus is addressing the greater enemies the devil, the world, and even the voice of our stubborn and sinful will.
    The world is not a fairy tale place where happy endings seal every day.  The world is by nature a place at odds with God’s purpose and an enemy of His people.  The devil has lost but he will not go down without creating every bit of hurt, doubt, and pain he can in those for whom Christ died.
    The Lord is not with us only when all is well.  That is the devil’s greatest lie.  Remember Job.  The Lord is with us when everything else is gone.  When all the props of life have let us down, Christ is there forgiving, redeeming, healing, and saving for eternity.  When all the troubles of life heap their worst, Christ is there restoring, strengthening, and sustaining His people by grace.  When we are left bruised, broken, battered, and bleeding in life, Christ is there.  We are not lost or left on our own.  Christ is with us by His Spirit.
    He will not surrender us to our enemies.  He will not give us up to despair.  He will not allow death and the grave their victory over us.  He will not give the devil the satisfaction of stealing what belongs to the Lord.  We have a greater glory ahead of us than finding a way to band-aid this present life.  We have an eternal future prepared for us in Christ and He will guard, guide, and give us what belongs to us by His promise.
    Because we lose things, we fear God can too.  So we pray as if God was not listening and then we complain that our prayers are not answered.  We pray our doubts and fears because we are not sure God is there instead of praying God’s promises and then we complain things are not going like we wanted.  God is not the forgetful one; Jesus will not lose us.  We are the forgetful ones who lose heart when we should stand firm.  Jesus' words are solemn promise.  He cannot lose us.  Let us not lose Him.  He has made His home among us in the means of grace.  Abide in Him in His Word and Sacraments and we will prevail in Christ.
    To be sure, we will feel the final bite of the enemies Jesus defeated.  We will face illness because these bodies are not eternal.  We will face financial struggles because our treasure is in heaven.  We will face worries about success because we find it hard to believe that faithfulness is the standard for us.  These are not signs of God's displeasure but the struggle of a people in but not of the world, a people marked for God in baptism, who live not by sight but by faith, and whose confidence is the promise of Christ that can never fail us.
    Our contentment and joy will always be compromised here by a world at odds with God’s purpose -- at least until He comes to finish His new creation, to stand upon this earth and deliver us to His Father forevermore.  Our hope lies beyond the moment.  Christ will not lose us.  He has fought the devil and won, He has won forgiveness and sin cannot have the last word, and He has given to us an eternal future beyond all imagination.  You are not some toy or temporary interest of God but Christ’s eternal focus. There are moments in life when we lose sight of this, but Christ never loses sight of us.  Now, brothers and sisters, do not lose sight of Him.  Keep the faith.  We will endure.  We will prevail.  Christ has invested too much in us to abandon us or lose us.  In this confidence, we hold onto Him.  Amen.

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