Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Sermon Dec. 30- 31, 2017

Title: Christ has given you life eternal!
Text: Luke 2-22-40

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

“This past year, this year of years, how shall it tell upon my whole life! All has gone well in a worldly point of view, how is it in a spiritual? My God how? I fear I have lost ground. I fear I have had less of the spirit of piety this year than during the last; yet God’s goodness has been given more than usually to me this year. How ungrateful! What a poor return!

One year ago I had myself under a tolerable discipline [and yet] the many secret determinations to pursue a straightforward course of industry, diligence, virtue … how few of them have I kept. I am almost weary of making resolutions and feel more like giving myself to circumstances.”

Those words written on December 31, 1843 are excerpted from the book, Forgotten Valor – the Memoirs, Journals, & Civil War Letters of Orlando B. Willcox, which was edited by my friend and fellow classmate Rev. Bob Scott.

While General Willcox’s sentiments still sound very contemporary for a journal entry written 174 years ago; the tone seems to reflect the wisdom of a veteran of many New Year’s Eves rather than the 20 year old officer fresh out of West Pointe, that Willcox was at the time of the writing.

His thoughts and his concerns mirror ours as we enter a New Year, with new resolutions and new uncertainty in the times we live.

Mary and Joseph had their own uncertainty.

22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, [Mary and Joseph] brought [Jesus] up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord

So Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple to make a sacrifice to the Lord of “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” And while there, to do as the Law required, they run into a man named Simeon who we are told was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, or the comfort and peace of God and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.

You may get a feel for this as we here at Peace do when a baby is brought into the Lord’s house and all the people come and gather around wanting to hold the baby with smiles of joy on their faces. But this brings a bit of a different reaction:
27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”

The joy of seeing this child, this Jesus, brought to fulfillment for Simeon what the Lord by the Holy Spirit had promised, that he would not die until he had seen the Christ.

The joy in Simeon’s song is, and will be once again sung by this congregation following the reception of the Lord’s Supper, as we too will sing in joy with Simeon what the Lord has given for the forgiveness of the sins of the world. The forgiveness we receive is the forgiveness Simeon held!

New Year’s Eve is a day of both joy and dread for most of us. You know we joy in the celebrating of the end of the old year and all its failings with the hope for the New Year to come, and with it, a better outcome for our lives in all that we say and do.

I look to this New Year, like you, with the added hope of continuing my new life’s work and all that the Lord has called me to do, here at Peace as I celebrate 5 years as Pastor here on January 6th and the joys and trials that await me in this New Year.
In Forgotten Valor, General Willcox continues:

“Oh how can I but feel that God has been with me! How can I but determine again & again that I will begin the New Year with a renewed heart, and lead a new and better life. But how weak am I, how incapable of carrying out such plans! Help, oh Thou who hast hitherto sustained me, that I may make a good improvement of the New Year. Not by living entirely to myself, but by preparing both mind & body for serving Thee as circumstances require.”

The truth is resolutions we make are resolutions we break. It seems that no matter how many or how few we always fall short. So also with our spiritual life as the Law is concerned; our ability is unable to keep the Law and it continues to point to that reality. And too, just like you, I will fall short of the mark I set for myself with this year, this ministry, and this church. But, I am blessed to serve and rejoice in the Lord’s calling.

Our Old Testament lesson sings the same praise:

10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Isaiah 61:10

Sin and its brokenness, brings death.
That is what sin does.
We who are born in sin will die.

It is at that time when many of us get older that we contemplate our life. Things we’ve done and things we wish we would have done; and we look at our finite lives and the eternity that continues after death wondering what will be.

If you think about measuring up and being good enough, how good will you need to be?

But, it’s bigger than that. It’s who we are. As those born in sin we come to this life separated from God. Hard as it may seem to us we are born God’s enemies and apart from God’s work we are condemned.

Simeon had, 26 [it] revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.

He had great joy in the Good News that a savior – this baby - would be the reconciliation and the peace of Israel. But this child would be Simeon’s peace and het is your peace and my peace too. We too can joy in the child that Simeon held because he has brought peace between God and man.

Christ has given you peace and life eternal!

Death’s sting has been swallowed up in victory by Jesus Christ and we can all have comfort in His blessed work and this blessed Good News. As we lose loved ones and think about this frail broken existence we inhabit here in this world - we can have peace. Not on our feelings … but on God’s word of promise.
Luther in his poem, The Unchanging word says:

“Feelings come and feelings go,
And feelings are deceiving;
My warrant is the Word of God–
Naught else is worth believing.
Though all my heart should feel condemned
For want of some sweet token,
There is One greater than my heart
Whose Word cannot be broken.
I’ll trust in God’s unchanging Word
Till soul and body sever,
For, though all things shall pass away,

― Martin Luther

Comfort and peace is in Christ, the Word of God, who has come to rescue you. Comfort and peace knows the joy of Christ Jesus in your life. Comfort and peace is being called to follow Christ by God’s Holy Spirit who indwells all believers and is called the comforter by Jesus himself,

“[Who is] the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [him].

Dear friends, you have access to the father through Christ Jesus our Lord who came to live, suffer, die and rise again for each one of you and will give you true peace - perfect peace - found only in His saving arms that were outstretched upon the cross as He gave His life for you.

That child, that babe that brought Simeon great joy is your joy as well. In him true peace is found.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit!


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