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Fifth Sunday of Lent 2018

By March 18, 2018May 11th, 2018Sermons

Normally I begin the message with a funny story, or one that at least I think is funny anyway. But today the story I will begin with is not funny; it is serious. Some years now, I was called to meet with an elderly woman who was literally on her death bed. She was dying and knew she was dying.  When she saw me she began to cry and said that she was afraid to die. Now the reason she was afraid to die wasn’t because she did not know God or because she did not believe in Jesus.  She continue to speak and said “But I know God made me for a reason; I know he gave me life and put me here on earth for a reason, but I don’t know the reason and I don’t know if I did whatever it was He wanted me to do and now I am going to die and I cannot do it.” I stayed with her and talked for quite a while and I was able to comfort her but the point of her concern is a real one. Why am I here? Why did God make me?  After we have died, when you and I meet with God, is He going to be satisfied with how we lived the lives he gave us?

As we look back in history some people seem to be tailor made for certain situations.  Queen Esther was perfect for the saving of her people, and as her Uncle Mordecai said to her when she did not want to step forward, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” In other words, this is the reason for your existence! David was perfect to take on Goliath.  St Paul was the perfect one to be the apostle to the Gentiles.  Queen Elizabeth the First was perfect to unify the Protestants and the Catholics in England.  George Washington was perfect for leading the troops during the American Revolution.  Abraham Lincoln was just the right man for our country during the Civil War. Winston Churchill was perfect for leading England in her darkest hour.  We could go on and on through history and show how it seems as just the right person shows up to do just exactly what is needed.

But most of us are not such heroes or heroines. Most of us will not hear a “Who knows but for this very reason you have come for such a time as this?”  But have you ever thought about why you are here on earth? What is the point of your life?  Typically, we just do the next thing.  We work, we eat, we sleep, we pay our bills and life just goes on.  But sometimes it is good to consider why, why we are here; why did God put us here?  From our gospel lesson we see that Jesus had a purpose for his life.

In the gospel reading today we read that Jesus said, “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say– `Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour.” For Jesus, everything was about his mission—his reason for being here on earth.  And what was that reason?  His reason for being here on earth, his mission in life was to arrive at a particular “hour” that is, his time on the cross.  One might be tempted to wonder why that was the focus of his earthly life.  After all, he was a great teacher—the greatest our world has ever had and it was pretty important for humanity to learn what he taught us about God.  Also think about all those people who were healed.  They were certainly happy that Jesus came to town and healed them.  But the teaching and the healing were always on the periphery of where Jesus was going; yes, it was important to teach, yes it was important to heal, and it was important to do all the other things he did, but those things only became valuable because of his death on the cross.  What humanity needed most was for us to have a way back to God.  We needed a sacrifice for our sins in order to be able to return to God. And once his people returned, as we see in the Jeremiah reading, God had a way to put his law in his people’s hearts. And for people to be able to have God’s word in our hearts humanity needed a way to somehow become a new people. To become new people we needed a way to be re-born like Jesus told Nicodemus.  For this new re-birth to grow we needed someone to baptize us with the Holy Spirit like John the Baptist talked about. That baptism of Holy Spirit could not take place until Jesus ascended into heaven and was glorified, after he was raised from the dead, after he died on the cross.  The cross is the linchpin, the hub, the centerpiece to the plan of redemption. It was only through the cross that humanity could be saved.

Jesus clearly knew all this.  His life and his ministry were focused to this end.  That was his purpose in life. And that brings us to us.  What is our focus? Should we have a life goal, a sort of over-riding plan for our lives?  Yes we should! As followers of Jesus, as Christians we have been given such a goal, an over-riding paradigm through which we can focus all our life’s activities, something which all our life’s activities can be measured against. St. Paul once said, “For me to live is Christ!” And in Ephesians 2, that we are told that we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works that God has prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. In Hosea the prophet tells us that we are to love mercy and to do justice and we are to walk humbly with our God.

The point, the reason for the life of Jesus was the cross because through the cross we could come to know God and become new people.  And that process of becoming this new person is to be the goal of our lives now.  That is the point, the purpose of our lives now.  Jesus died to give us that opportunity.  The point of the cross was not just so we can have eternal life.  Eternal life could have been given to Adam and Eve by letting them eat from the tree of life.  But then they would have been eternally infected with sin in their lives.  God loved them too much and us too much for that.  Sin warps our thinking, twists our actions, and disfigures our humanity; it twists and warps us into being less than the human beings God created us to be.  The process of Christianity to become the humanity God intended.

Our life goal then as Christians is to become those people Jesus died that we could become. When we think about being more like Jesus we may simply think about giving up our sins but concentrating only the sin in our lives may counter-productive.  Sometimes it is better to concentrate on what we should begin to do rather than what we should stop doing. I love our collect for today where we ask God to grant us His people grace to love what He command and desire what He has promised.  When we love what God has told us to do and yearn for what he has promised us, sin is not an issue.

We know why we are here. We know the reason God made us and gave us life. Now our life goal is to become the humans God intended us to become. He wants us to do those good works he has given us to do. He wants us to walk humbly in relationship with Him.

This is the 5th weekend of Lent. After we have died, when you and I meet with God, is He going to be satisfied with how we lived the lives he gave us? May God grant us grace to love what He commands and desire what He promises! Amen