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Anticipation is something we deal with on a daily basis these days. It used to be with excited anticipation, but recently I think much of our anticipation is dread. We are sitting and waiting for something to go wrong. The anticipation of today is not what I enjoy. It has been a tough season of anticipation.
This January when I went to Israel I bought this Bethlehem wood sculpture. It is one my favorite things I bought there. I bought a lot of things for teaching students and families. I got coins, prayer shawls, pictures, and a rams horn, all so I could teach about Jesus to others. This item however was for me. It was supposed to be a reminder of what Jesus did for me from beginning to end.
I spent way too much on this item and if my wife knew how much it was she would have told me no. Well maybe not, but she probably would have shook her head. I couldn’t resist it though. For me this little item has been a great reminder for holy week and our struggles with anticipation. Here is what I see. I see the baby Jesus with Mary and Joseph and I see the cross. From the very beginning of all the eager anticipation of the coming of Jesus it was all meant for the cross.
Today many of us are waiting in anticipation. We are waiting for new numbers of people infected, or if a loved one is sick, or if someone in my family will pass away. Our Anticipation is something we deal with on a daily basis. It is certainly not the anticipation of joy we are used to. And yet I imagine the Angles in heaven, from the time he was born looking on with baited breath in anticipation of when it all would happen. When would God redeem his people and the whole world. I imagine they looked on in wonder, or maybe sadness and fear as it all played out. Even when God sent Jesus to the cross maybe they didn’t even fully understand everything that was going on. Fear may have even enveloped them as it did for His disciples. Maybe fear is enveloping you in these days of anticipation.
For this week I would ask you to turn off your TV and focus on something else. Focus on the cross. The cross was where our place was taken and as we enter these days ahead we will make it to the empty tomb. All of this Anticipation went from dread to hope. Maybe today as we get closer to the cross, His death and Resurrection you can look on with anticipation of the hope we have in Jesus and throw off the dread that so easily takes hold.
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Romans 8:18-25 ESV
Change is hard. People don’t like change. People don’t want to change their lives. People don’t want to change their actions. People don’t want to change really anything about themselves. We like to be comfortable and safe. We like things to run just the way they have because we know what to expect. The only time people like change is they are the one making the changes. I had a friend who used to say “I like change as long as I am the one making the changes.”
Change is something we don’t like but is a part of life as a disciple. Thank God it is. I am struck by how when change happens to me I really don’t like it. Change is hard and painful but often necessary. I struggle with change because I am messy. My relationship with Jesus is messy. You see I don’t always like to look in the mirror and see the changes that need to be made. I struggle with the changed life in Jesus. It isn’t a strait line with a definite end point. It has a beginning in baptism, it has and end in Death but the middle is messy. I think it is why we get so angry with our faith because we want everything to be better and easy. Our sinful nature in all of us is a twisty road, and just when we think we get the hang of it we take another turn, we are reminded of more change needed in our lives and the need for Christ’s grace.
This weekend as I sat and participated in Easter services I thought about change. I thought about the changes in my life. I think about people who come in and out of it. I thought about my faith life and how the resurrection of Jesus really impacted me. How Jesus came to change the equation, how He came to change me. You see when I see the cross and empty tomb I think about how Jesus came to forgive me and to change me. To take me from my original place and move me to another place. A place of change. A place where I have to look in a mirror and know I am a broken man, yet I have a risen savior who is changing my life. Not just saving me, but changing my life.
The cross brings change. The resurrection brings change. Many people get angry at Church, Church workers, faithful people, and family because they remind us of our need for Jesus. They point us to a Jesus who didn’t come to keep the status quo in our lives, but to bring change. The cross and resurrection brought about the greatest change. It brought you who were dead into a new life, but the change didn’t stop there. The spirit continues to work on you and me.
Change is a struggle but it is part of being a Disciple of Christ. So when you are feeling that frustration with the change look to the cross and empty tomb, and the change it brought for you. That change from being away from God to being with God in Christ Jesus.
Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Romans 7:16-25a ESV
This weekend I got to spend time doing something I really enjoy. I spent time at Concordia University Ann Arbor at an event I spent four years serving and investing in to help students grow in faith. It was a joy to take students to this event this year, but it was probably more special to me because my daughter was able to attend the event as well. This weekend was definitely the high of the week.
The problem with ministry much like life is that it is filled with far too many lows and not nearly enough highs. You see the whole week leading up to the event is spent in the mundane of meetings, meetings, reading, meetings…did I mention meetings. It was a long week. Thankfully, it was a fulfilling time in life and ministry.
I think I discovered why it was so fulfilling based on the Gospel lesson for last Sunday. John 3:16 is one of those texts that is very powerful and although it gives me great hope I think the important part of the verse is the story leading up to it, John 3:1-15. The story brings images of the symbol of us living in darkness and Jesus being our light. I love how Jesus reminds us of the point of this season in the Church year, His cross.
We, as the Church and disciples of God are called to point His people to the cross. At Tool Time, I got to experience a group of students leading an event dedicated to leading students to that cross (this is not an altar call moment). What I mean is these students were constantly showing the students I serve, Jesus. Whether it was small groups, general session speakers, or time in the chapel for offerings, the goal of the weekend was to show them Jesus’ love. It wasn’t about awesome bands, or great sets, servant events, or funny skits. All those things were about pointing kids to Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
This week reminded me of something so important in my ministry and my life. It is how I should judge everything I do with students, with my family, and with those I meet. I should say to myself did I show them Jesus? Did I point them to the cross? No matter how you do this, no matter what vocation God has called you to serve in, remember our call as the people of Christ is to point them to Jesus. I want to point them to His life, death, and resurrection so that we might have that eternal life hear on earth and in the life to come.