Look & Live
Numbers 21:4-9; Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:14-21 9/11/2016
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TEXT OF SERMON
A number of years ago I revisited my childhood church in Kirkwood, Missouri a suburb of St. Louis. I had not been there in 40+ years. It is a large gothic style church with a huge pipe organ in the back balcony, and small stain glass windows along the sides. The membership is now over 5,000.
Changes have included:
- moving of the baptismal font to the center,
- moving of the pulpit from one side to the other,
- new flooring and new pews including cut pews for wheel chairs for the physically challenged,
- and the side chapel which is now part of the sanctuary.
But one thing has not changed. Imbedded in the wall above the altar and surrounded by lovely stain-glassed windows is the huge, thick cement or concrete cross. That cross hasn’t changed since it went up over 60 years ago.
As a very young child I would wonder if that cross would ever fall down. And I remember being fearful of getting too close for fear that it would do just that and land on me for something I did or didn’t do.
As I got older I began to realize and understand that barring any natural catastrophe: fire, earthquake, etc., that cross wasn’t going to change. That cross wasn’t going anywhere. And as I grew in faith I began to understand that the empty cross symbolized not only the resurrection of Jesus, but also the never changing love of God through Jesus Christ.
We have a cross before us representing the risen Christ. It too reminds us of God’s love for us. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son . . .
This cross reminds us of the risen Jesus – the cornerstone of our faith. Belief in what Jesus has done for us, as symbolized by the cross, makes us “children of the Resurrection” or “Easter People.” We are “Easter people” – not just once a year, but every day of the year.
Now here is something you need to understand. As a Christian you can’t have an Easter w/o a Good Friday. It just doesn’t work. And when I say “Good Friday” I’m not just talking about the Friday of Holy Week. I am talking about the Good Fridays of our everyday life.
We all have them because we are Easter people the year round.
- Our Good Fridays in Life can include our feelings of sadness, depression, loneliness, being worn out; our feelings of anger & hate that tends to control us, separate us, and drain us emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
- Our Good Fridays in Life would include being stressed and anxious; or having an injury or disease; or going through a sickness; or loosing a job, or not finding a job, or not finding purpose in the work we do.
- Our Good Fridays in Life would include our relationships, which might include the loss of a friend, or a breakup with a loved one, or losing a child (born or unborn). And it can include separations, divorces, even the death of a loved one.
- Our Good Fridays in Life would include our struggles with addictions; struggles in school; struggles in our families; struggles in our church.
- Our Good Fridays in Life are when life seems to overwhelm us, when we’re tired, depressed, or sad, and find it difficult to identify purpose or joy in our life.
But in our faith tradition, wherever there is a Good Friday, there is always an Easter.
That’s what the cross reminds us. The cross reminds us that there is hope, and there is joy; and Easter always comes.
- As Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the wilderness and called on the children of Israel to look and live;
- as Paul writes in the Letter to the Ephesians that “by grace we have been saved”;
- and as the Gospel reminds us “God so loved the world.”
- I invite you to look to the Cross again for the first time – Look and Live.
Now, let me ask you a few questions about this cross. Is this the same cross that was here last week? Last month? Last year? Has it changed? And if the cross symbolizes the love of God what does it mean when it is the same cross week after week?
Even throughout all the change and chaos that you experience in your individual life; or as a family; or as a congregation, the one thing that stays constant is the empty, non-changing cross which reminds us of the reliable, never changing love that God has given to us and continues to give us (through his son Jesus Christ).
Barring a natural catastrophe, a chain-saw, or vandalism, etc. I am willing to bet this cross is going to be here the next time you see it. It is going to be here next week, next month, and next year. And even if something does happen to this cross, what it stands for and its purpose will not have ceased, and a new cross would be erected.
We are on a journey, as individuals and as a congregation. Change is happening and will continue to happen – Jesus is about change; the Gospel is about change; Martin Luther was about change. And throughout all this change in your lives I invite you to – Look to the Cross. Look and Live.
God is in charge of our lives. God is in charge of this congregation. The cross is about who we are, and where we are going because God is leading us.
Now along the way some will decide that they don’t want to be a part of this journey and will not participate, or may even go elsewhere. And that is OK, because I believe God either needs them out of the way so that God can have happen here what needs to happen, or God needs these people at other locations because God has other great plans for them.
During this journey, and during our time together, there are a few things I need to ask of you. I ask that you remain:
- Faithful in Prayer and in your Devotional life
Pray for the church council, this congregation, and the staff; pray for yourself; pray for the world, pray for each other, and pray for me. Pray that the Holy Spirit will begin to work in the heart of the next settled pastor for this congregation But PRAY!!
- Faithful in Corporate Worship
- You need to worship regularly
- You need to be here together
- You need to introduce yourself to one new person who you’ve never met. This should be done on a weekly basis. I promise that it will enrich your life.
- You need to reintroduce yourself to those whom you have not visited with, for whatever reason(s) over the past months or year. This too will enrich your life.
- Faithful in Stewardship
- Take care of yourself. Work through all the emotions that are triggered by what is happening in your life and in your congregation.
- $$$ – increase your giving.
I know some of you may be struggling financially at this time. But let me ask you, has God ever not provided for you? Every little bit can help right now.
Time – I know time is like gold. And there never seems to be enough time. But if everyone would just find one small way to serve here at ULC, this would go a long way in assisting this congregation during this transition.
It’s the little things that are going to help us to keep going. How you participate is up to you. This is not the time to stand on the sidelines. This is not the time to wait & see. This IS the time to get involved. Our God does not enjoy nor appreciate complacent, pew sitting Christians.
That is not biblical.
Look to the Cross. Look and Live.
Let me guarantee a few things that will help to keep things in perspective during this time of change, transition and my time with you:
- ULC will continue to hear the Word of God both preached, taught & sung.
- When the opportunity presents itself, ULC will continue to baptize infants, children, youth and adults, and welcome them into the family of God and into this community of faith.
- ULC will continue to gather before the altar as a faith community and share the bread & wine; the body and blood of our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ.
- ULC will continue to have and continue to develop education, music, fellowship, and outreach events.
- ULC will continue to develop ways that welcomes the guest into our congregation, and helps them find their niche in the ministry of this congregation.
- ULC will continue to build up one another and encourage one another during this time, because we are all working for the Kingdom of God, and not for ourselves.
- ULC will continue to work for the world, for peace & justice, and pray for each other as we have been commanded by Jesus to do.
And when this time is all done, when we have completed all that needs to be done, as we move into the future, as the commercial says, “You are going to like the way you look. I guarantee it.”
Easter People, I appreciate and welcome our ministry together. Amen
@Rev. Tim Wolbrecht, 9/2016