Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Hope for a better life. . .

Sermon for Penteocst 13, Proper 15C, preached on Sunday, August 14, 2016.

    My parents raised me with the hope that I would have a better life than they have had.  They scrimped and saved on themselves to provide for me.  That is how their parents raised them.  That is how I raised my children.  It is the way most parents think.  And often it seems that this wish comes true.  I have plenty of technological toys and help saving devices – don’t we all!  On the surface it seems things are good.
    But we live in an age of terrorism, burst housing bubbles,  economic uncertainty, vulgarity, confused gender identities. . . What happened?  What went wrong in our hopes to present our kids with a better world and a better way of life?  Did we fail?  If this is the direction of things, what will the future hold for our children, grandchildren, great grandchildren?
    The hope of a better life entices us – not a simple wish for more money or things but a safe, easy, comfortable life. That is what we really want for us and for our kids.  We want a life without great sorrows or struggles.  We dream of a life without crippling fears or dooming failures.  We want our kids to dream, to pursue their dreams, and to be happy.  And it would not hurt if we ended up with some of that ourselves.  We are not greedy but seek security, safety, a little pleasure and peace.
    If at all possible, we want a life without disappointment and death.  If we cannot have this, we want to lessen the disappointment and make the death as painless and easy as possible.  And this is what we pray for, what we seek from the Lord, and what we go to church in the hopes of having.
    But the Lord makes no such promises. Just the opposite. He insists He has come to cast fire, to bring division, to set family member against family member, and to warn of a bad storm cloud on our horizon.  It sounds like all sorts of doom and gloom but it is not that.  It is a call to faith.  It is the anticipation of a better life to come – not here but in the eternal future God has prepared for His people.
    Faith calls to see what the eyes in our heads do not see.  The better life we have been promised is not a temporal moment but an eternal one, not today but in the everlasting future to come.  And the Lord gives testament to those who like us have looked around us in despair and put our hopes in what our eyes do not see but our hearts do see by faith.
    By faith Abraham offered up Isaac and by faith Isaac blessed Jacob and by faith Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph.  By faith Moses was guarded and kept for the future God had prepared. By faith the people escaped the Egyptian army and walked through the sea on dry ground to the promised land of God.
    By faith Gideon and Barak, Samson and Jephthah, David and Samuel and all the prophets conquered their enemies, enforced justice, obtained promises, overcome lions and fire, escaped the sharp edge of the sword, were made strong in their weakness, received their dead to life, survived the torture and persecution of their enemies.  They did not receive what they were promised in this life but in death God gave them the better promise of perfection and everlasting life.  We too are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
    Their lives were hidden in Christ’s suffering just as ours. Their victory was not in earthly triumph but Christ’s own resurrection from the dead never to die again and in the new and glorious flesh He wore as the firstborn of the dead who live in Him.  Therefore, let us cast off every constraint that holds us down and rune with endurance the race set before us, looking not to the world but to Jesus, who for the joy set before Him enduring the cross, despised its shame, and sits at the right hand of the Father in everlasting glory waiting for you and me.
    The world my parents delivered to me may be falling apart but they kept their promise and delivered a better life to me.  They brought me to the baptismal font, taught me to pray, raised me in the faith, and brought me to feast upon Christ’s flesh and blood.  They kept their promise and fulfilled their hopes and dreams when my voice was joined theirs in faith.
    So what shall I do?  Complain that it is not enough?  What I have done, you have done for your children.  You gave them the same baptismal miracle of your own new birth.  You taught them to pray “our Father who art in heaven...”   You brought them to church and they tasted the goodness of the Lord in anticipation of the heavenly banquet in the Lord’s Supper.  And if they are wise, they will do the same for their children.
    In this way, they will run with us the race of faithfulness – toward a goal seen by faith and not by sight but known through the means of grace.  In this way they will learn not to be content for the joy of this world and expect the everlasting joy to come.  They will cast off every weight of disappointment and fear and run in Christ to the promise prepared for us all.  In this way each and every age and generation will keep their promise to their children – a better life, a good future, more and not less, full and not empty, eternal and not temporary, in Christ alone. 

O God, You have prepared for those who love You such good things that eye cannot see and surpass all understanding.  Pour into our hearts such love toward You that we, loving You above all things, may obtain Your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, Amen

1 comment:

Janis Williams said...

And people say Lutherans can't preach "relevant" sermons....