February 8, 2015
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bossier City, LA
INI + AMEN.
(1. Oops!: We live a stress-filled life.)
Stress could probably be considered a staple of life. I think most of us don’t need to long to agree with that. We don’t just know it. We feel it! You know how it goes: someone asks for something, and, before you can even catch yourself, you hear the words pass from your lips, “Sure! That sounds great! Of course I’ll help.” It’s more than just what people ask from us. We’re the one who took that job, who agreed to do that project. We’re the one who decided that this program would be a great opportunity. Then we’re left with the nagging and ever-present question: Do we really have the time and energy to get everything done? Because school, work, family, home, friends, and free time just go so well together, don’t they? So to keep it all straight, we bust out the almighty to-do list and it’s ever-present friend, the calendar. But how many different to-lists do we have? How many calendars do we need? We’ve got the wall calendars, digital, the white-board; we get phone notifications; and, when all that fails, what’s a “few” post-it notes, right? We fight reality: that we can’t get it all done, but does that stop us from trying? And when that happens, we stress out. Can our lives handle anymore stress?
(2. Ugh!: It’s not just stress, we get burned out on life.)
But there’s always more, isn’t there? Because we all know, no, we all live it, we feel it: it’s not just self-created stress. What I mean by that is this: self-created stress is all the things we take on that cause us stress, the commitments, the promises, the deadlines that we set for ourselves. In some sense our work, school, and family deadlines fit in this too. When you’ve got a family or a job, you’re not really surprised when a commitment comes up: a tournament, a play, a project deadline. With school we know that assignments and papers have to be done at a certain time. That’s all some-what expected stress. It’s a little easier, but still stress.
But then there’s stress of a completely different sort. There’s stress from things that, to the best of our ability and strength, we couldn’t avoid. Something happens that we’ve really had no control over, or we thought we had it under control. We like to think that we’ve got everything under control. Then there’s the trip to the doctor’s office. The diagnosis. The test results are in. What’s he gonna say? Is it cancer? What percentage of functionality do I have? There’s the days when the first thought is: “What will we fight about today?” The arguments were welcome a little bit—at least you’re still talking and not ignoring each other. But then you get the papers in the mail. The finality of it all…it’s over. What will life be like now? Or what do you do when third and fourth notices come in the mail? “I guess it’s the minimum payment again.” Or there’s those we love who longer care to have a relationship with Jesus.
We try to hold it all together. We can make a good go of it for awhile, and then things just fall apart all around us. We don’t just stress out about it. Stress’ good friend worry shows up, and the end of it all comes when we’re more than just stressed or worried or even sad. We’re burned out. We’re running on empty. We’re used up, washed out. When we’re at the end of our rope, we feel abandoned by the Lord. We feel that He’s left us on our own. Maybe you feel like you deserve it because there’ve been so many things that we’ve done to contribute to the problem. Maybe you feel like you don’t deserve it at all. It doesn’t matter. That’s a dark and potent feeling: God’s abandoned me. We put on the good show, but inside we’re a mess. We cry out like Israel and Judah did in Isaiah’s day: “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God.”
But we have Jesus.
3. Aha!: We have Christ Jesus who can sympathize with us.
The author of Hebrews says, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses.” Jesus bore our sicknesses and diseases. He ate and drank with the broken-hearted. He bore the never-ending task of teaching not just His disciples but the crowds. He had the anguish of heart with dying friends. His family thought He was crazy. He had a close friend betray Him to death. His closest disciples abandoned Him. He had to complete the greatest to-do list. He was sent by His Father to fulfill all the Law. He was sent to die. He was abandoned by His Father. “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary.” Jesus never tired in His task until, “When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
(4: Whee!: This Jesus renews our strength in this place.)
This Jesus was brought to the brink, past it even…for you. He bore all that the world and His heavenly Father could through at Him. This Jesus didn’t just die, but He was renewed, resurrected. This Jesus, our Jesus comes to us to renew our strength here in the place. “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.” He comes to do it today. Here He makes no demands of us. Here He gives to us, freely and abundantly. Here we have His Font reminding us that we are truly children of the heavenly Father and blessed with the Holy Spirit. How can God abandon you if you’re His child? He can’t and won’t. You have His Word to hear how you’ve been forgiven. Yeah, we’ve got our hand in the mess we’re in, but to that the Lord says, “Take heart! You’re forgiven.” Here we have Jesus’ body and blood, given and shed for you. It’s for our strengthening, as is His promise: “The true body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ strengthen and preserve body and soul to life everlasting.” Then you truly can “Depart in peace.” No demands from Jesus, just His gifts continually given to build you back up from the past week and strengthen you for the week ahead. No matter what’s going on in your life these promises and gifts from Jesus remain for you and everyone else.
(5: Yeah!: CHRIST JESUS RENEWS OUR STRENGTH NOW AND FOREVER.)
Yes, we grow weary. The weeks are long. The months drag on. And we have those days that never seem to end. “Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted.” But this is exactly why week in and week out for our entire lives we come to this place, to Jesus’ Church. For Him to strengthen and preserve us in this life. We’re carried through the tumult by His Word and grace. But it’s not just in this life. It’s also in the life to come. “They who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” That’s the Lord’s promise to you. This will be forever: “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Then you shall run and not be weary, you shall walk and not faint in the Lord’s presence because of Jesus. And we must always remember that
CHRIST JESUS RENEWS OUR STRENGTH NOW AND FOREVER.
INI + AMEN.