The 5th Sunday of Easter
Love and Glory
Text: John 13:31-35
I think that my life would be at peace and I would still manage somehow to die a happy man if I never heard or saw a Kardashian again. It’s unbelievable. Those Kardashians are everywhere! TV shows, commercials, magazines. That means they have infiltrated our homes, our grocery stores, our doctor and dentist waiting rooms. But if that’s not enough, you can even get a little more Kardashian in your life as Kim, Khloe, Kourtney, and Kylie all have their own official apps you can download on your phone or tablet.
As ridiculous (or annoying?) as the Kardashian craze may be, you have to hand it to their publicists. They are certainly good at what they do. They put that unique family out there for the whole world to see.
Now you have to ask, “Why would someone want to do that? Why harness the powers of all these media channels? Why put yourself out there in front of the world?” The Kardashians have an entire staff of PR specialists because they understand a fundamental concept innate to every single human being: If you gain glory, you gain love. This is how our entire world—and especially our American culture—is set up. If you have glory, you will have love. Read the rest of this entry
5th Sunday after Epiphany
God’s Loving Plans for You . . . In the Past, Present, and Future
Text: Romans 8:28-30
“Everything happens for a reason.” “It’s all a part of his plan.” “God has a purpose for this.” “It will all work out in the end.”
For many Christians—even for non-Christians in our world today—they’ve become trained responses. Something bad happens and we have our pet catchphrase locked, loaded, and ready to fire. We might encounter the unexpectedly unbearable, but we know just what to say:
“You lost your job? I’m so sorry! Well everything happens for a reason.” “You have cancer again? Don’t worry, it’s all part of his plan.” “This is the deepest sadness you’ve ever experienced? The most challenging life has ever been? God has a purpose for this.” “Not sure you can get through this? Scared of what tomorrow will bring? It will all work out in the end.”
We guard these muddled mantras of clouded comfort, ready to pull them out of the back pocket at a moment’s notice. We can share nebulous sympathy with the best of them.
But then . . . I get cancer. Then my mother dies. Then my family is the one with problems. Then my job is lost. Then I’m the one with more stress and pressure than anyone else.
Now what? We resort to our recitations of relief: “Everything happens for a reason. Everything happens for a reason. Everything happens for a reason.” Like magical words, maybe if we say them enough we can really convince ourselves they’re true. And maybe, just maybe, if we truly believe what we’re hoping—then maybe, just maybe, things will turn out for good. Wouldn’t that be nice!
But this morning the apostle Paul reminds us that this isn’t a pipedream. This hope isn’t a vague vision of vanity. It’s real. It’s true. And it actually is the way that God works. Listen to Paul this morning as he teaches you about God’s Loving Plans for You.
The opening verse of the second lesson this morning is a verse that is probably the basis for all those catchphrases of comfort we hear so often today. Paul says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
What a comfort! What an encouragement! What confidence Paul expresses! We know. We know that God works all things for the good of his people. We dearly loved children of God, called to be a part of his eternal kingdom, have the assurance that God has a purpose and intention for us and our lives.
But easier said than believed, right? Just ask Job. Job was an upright man of God. He was blessed with extraordinary wealth and a large family. How easy it must have been for Job to praise God and thank him for many blessings! But later, as Job was robbed of all he had and was covered in painful sores and scabs oozing and bleeding, it wasn’t so easy. And as he stood next to the pile of rubble that used to be his house and then looked down at the tombstones of all his children, he began to teeter back and forth between faith and trust and doubt and despair.
“Fine, Paul. Fine. We hear you. You’re an apostle. All things work out for our good. God has called us to his family for his loving purposes. It’s God’s Word. I get it.
“But then why don’t things seem to be “good?” Why can’t I see that purpose? Maybe one or two things will teach me a good lesson. But why does God have to wallop me like I’m a modern day Job? Sicknesses and sorrows, debts and disasters, bills and bankruptcy, pains and problems—what’s next? How can that much bad ever be for any good? How can this possibly be a part of God’s Loving Plans?”
Paul answers our doubts of desperation with two power-packed passages of great comfort. He informs us of God’s Loving Plans for us as they are unfolding throughout history. He starts in the past: “For those God foreknew . . .”
God foreknew. Long before anything took place, even before the creation of the world, God knew. We laugh at Mayan calendar predictions and we raise eyebrows at Nostradamus followers because if there’s one thing we know, it’s that no one really knows what’s going to happen. But God does. God foreknew everything and every one. And I marvel at his majesty hearing that he even foreknew me, down to how many (or how few) hairs I would have on my head.
At first I tremble in fear, pondering that God knew the foul words I would let fly. God knew in advance the filth that would pass through my mind. God knew that I would live in a country driven by money and materials and that greed would consume my heart, too.
But then I tremble in awe, pondering that God also knew in advance that I would still be his own child. He knew that I would be washed in the blood of his Son and washed in the waters of Baptism. He knew that daily my many sins would be drowned in oceans of his forgiveness. Thousands of years and billions of people have past, but before the creation of the world God knew me and God knew you to be his own.
That’s not all of God’s Loving Plans for You in the past. Paul continues, “For those God foreknew he also predestined.” Not only did God know you before the creation of the world, but he also chose you before the creation of the world. He set up a fence—big and wide and tall—around you. That’s what “predestine” means. That doesn’t mean this was our fate and our unavoidable destiny. But it is an added assurance that God says he chose us to be his own.
Another marvel of his grace! He chose us to be sheep in his sheep pen! He put up that fence around us though he knew at times we would act like sheep who didn’t want to be in his sheep pen. He circled round us with his high walls though he knew we would be sheep that didn’t deserve to be in in his sheep pen.
Yet he also knew that the great Lamb, the Good Shepherd himself, would lay down his life for his fellow sheep. He knew that the Lamb would take the place of the sheep and be slain for the sheep. He knew that because we sheep would be purified by the blood of the Lamb we would then, as Paul says, “Be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Because the Lamb was sacrificed for us, the sheep, we are transformed and conformed to the likeness of our Good Shepherd, so that, dressed with his forgiveness, we can even call Christ our brother.
These were God’s Loving Plans for You. Long ago in the past, even before the creation of the world, God foreknew you and predestined you. What great love! What great mercy!
Continue then throughout history. See God’s Loving Plans unfold. See his fingerprints among his creation as a promise was passed from Adam to Abraham to Isaac to Jacob to David to Solomon to Mary and Joseph. See as God prepared the world for the perfect time for his Son to be born and fulfill his plan of salvation.
Then see as God continued to guide history for his good purposes. From the apostles being sent to all nations to the rise of Christianity. From the subsequent corruption of Christianity to the Reformation of the church. From the colonization of the new world to the American Revolution. From the settling of immigrants from around the world in a new land of golden opportunity, to your family long ago or just recently coming to America.
These were all part of God’s Loving Plans for You, because he had more in mind for you. Paul continues in verse 30, “And those he predestined, he also called.” God orchestrated all of history so that he could call me, so that he could call you.
We were lost in the deep darkness of depravity. Down to the depths of our hearts our desires were corrupted with a passion for evil. But God had loving plans for you and for me. He has called us out of darkness to see his marvelous light. And through his Word and his Sacraments he has personally called us to see the radiance of the glory of our crucified and risen Savior. God’s Loving Plans for You in the present were to call you to faith and keep you in the faith.
And to that Paul adds, “Those he called, he also justified.” The courtroom was silent. The outlook was grim. The charges were great and gross. Satan, the Accuser, slammed down a book as thick as a mountain with every heinous and horrible detail of all that I’ve done. I don’t care for you to know how thick my book is or what’s written in it.
Yet when the mighty Judge Jesus opens this book he sees page after page that is empty. Every sin erased. Each offense blotted out. All guilt wiped away. So he declares us innocent. For he was the one that justified us through his innocent life and death, and that verdict became ours personally when he brought us to faith.
Trace through all of history and see his work. Examine more carefully your own personal history. How did God work in your life? How did God guide you? What led to you being part of God’s family? What led to you being right here, right now today? These were God’s Loving Plans for You that continue in the present. God called you. God justified you. What great love! What great mercy!
But God’s plans aren’t finished for you. Oh, no! He has much more planned. Paul concludes: “Those he justified, he also glorified.” As so many around us clamor for fame and fortune and prosperity and possessions and power and prestige, we so often get sucked into these traps. We look for personal glory by our reputation, by putting others down, by trying to add more zeros to our bank accounts and investments, by doing whatever we want to do because, “It’s my life to live.”
Yet God has given us a different glory—a better, greater glory. He has given us the glory of being kings and queens in his kingdom. He has given us the glory of reigning as conquerors with Christ over sin and Satan. He has given us the glory of knowing true peace and true joy in a world where so few know what that really means.
And he’s still not done! God’s Loving Plans for You continue even further in the future. We revel in the glory of reigning with Christ our King here on earth, but this is only a foretaste of the glory God has in mind. You see, God’s Plans for You in the future are eternal plans. The glory we have now with Christ is just a hint of the full glory we will have in heaven. There we will be perfectly glorified. There we will reign forever. There our glory will see no end.
These are part of God’s Loving Plans for You in the future. God has glorified you now and will for all eternity. What great love! What great mercy!
Daily we trudge through the muck and mire of an imperfect world. We experience sickness and disease and death. We deal with troubles and tragedies. We have pain and sadness. We wonder: What good can possibly come from this? What plan, if any, does God possibly have?
Today our mighty God speaks to us tenderly and compassionately as he gently reminds us through the apostle Paul: We know that in all things God works for our good. How do we know this? Why do we know this? Look at God’s Loving Plans for You! He foreknew you. He predestined you. He called you. He justified you. He glorified you. He will glorify you forever.
If our God is wise enough and powerful enough and loving enough to orchestrate and arrange all of history so that he could bring little old me into his family forever . . . Then most certainly that God has loving plans for every other facet of my life.
God has loving plans for me. He has in the past, he does in the present, he will always in the future. This is my confidence, my strength, my joy.
Text: Romans 8:28-30
“You’ll thank me when you’re older.”
Ever have someone say that to you? Ever say that yourself to your kids? Parents often say that to their children because they know better. The child may not understand it, but the parent knows what is for the good of the child–even if they don’t like it at the time.
Here’s a better question: Ever say something like this? “Thank you, God, for this cancer.” “Thank you, Lord, for these financial struggles.” “Thank you for giving me struggles right now.”
Probably not. But we Christians could! God promises that all things work out for our good and for his purposes. All things. There are no exceptions. And as God, our heavenly Father, certainly always knows what is the best for us. We may not get it or understand it or even enjoy it at the time, but God promises that all things work out for our good.
Just look at God’s love for us! He has orchestrated all of history in a unique way so that he could reach you and bring you into his loving arms. He knew and chose you before the creation of the world, he called you to faith and declared you innocent (justified) through the work of his Son, and gives you glory with Christ now and forever.
What great love! What great mercy! What great grace!
God worked all things so that I could be his own dear child. Most certainly then, God has the power and the love to work everything else for my good too. All glory be to him!
Prayer: Lord, give me the faith to trust that you know what is best for me life. When I experience trials and struggles help me to see through them and to see you clearly. You are my rock and my fortress, my shield and my strength. Continue to bless and preserve me each day as you keep me in your loving care. Amen.