O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Standing Tall in Christ
Standing Tall in Christ
Based on Luke 21:5-28
Preached on Novemebr 17, 2013
Click on the Play button
to listen to the Sermon.
Fellow baptized saints, you can tell a lot about a person by their posture. People who kind of mope along with their shoulders slouched, always looking down, tend to lack confidence. Whereas, people who strut about with their head held high and their chests puffed out tend to be very proud. There are times that pride is well-deserved. I remember my drill instructors constantly yelling at us to keep our shoulders back, chests out, and heads held high when we marched. We were part of the Canadian Forces! That means something. Be proud! Look proud! Other times, however, that same puffed-up posture is a dead-giveaway for an arrogant, conceited fool. But most of us can tell the difference. People who sit up straight and tall in their seats give the impression that they care and that they're paying attention to what's being said. Whereas, people who slouch in their seats or recline back in an upright chair tend to put off that "lazy, couldn't-be-more-disinterested-and-bored vibe." You know what I'm talking about. My parents used to yell at me for doing this all the time. "That posture looks lazy. Sit up!"
As we turn our ears to the Gospel lesson for this morning, we hear Christ giving a similar "posture-related" command. Straighten up! But, before we go on, it's important to understand that this isn't a militaristic-type of command, as in "stand up! The fight is on! Prepare to charge!" I say that because that's how this text is often misunderstood. "This is Armageddon time! It's time to fight!" That's not what Jesus is getting at here. You see, that word that we translate as "straighten up" is not used all that often in Scripture (4 times-twice in John and twice in Luke). In fact, the only other time Luke uses this word is in chapter 13, where we hear of a woman who was crushed and distorted with a disabling, crippling spirit. She was hunched over and disfigured in her sin. Jesus recognizes this disfigurement for what it is-a symptom of sin; deadly sin which infects each and every one of us. Sin which curls us in on ourselves, twists our focus in on me. In the midst of His teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath Day, Jesus called this woman over to Him and declared to her, "You are freed from your disability." He spoke these healing words and laid His hands on her and "immediately she was made straight," and she glorified God.
Friends: I want you to think about that for a moment. Think about the deadly, crippling realities of sin in your own life, be they crippling physical realities, crippling emotional realities, or crippling spiritual realities. What do I mean by a crippling spiritual reality? Well…there's not one of us here who hasn't been sinfully paralyzed when it came time to stand up for the truth of God. There's not one of us here who hasn't quietly cowered over in sin when we should've boldly made a stand with Christ/for Christ.
Why? Because the truth hurts! Because you and I are afraid, made weak and cowardly by our sin! Standing with Christ in the face of sin means that you will experience pain, suffering, and tribulation. Yeah, count me out! But that's why Jesus says, "Take up your cross and follow me." We want that sin to die, but so often we keep it alive out of fear.
But perhaps the biggest thing that we often fail to recognize is that the deadly, crippling effects of sin infect everyone. We say this all the time and I honestly think we mean it, but it doesn't mean we understand it. It's easy to spot sin in other people, you know, "those people," especially when you don't care for them, or you think you've been wronged by them. It becomes a little more difficult to spot sin in those you're close to, those you really care for. But it becomes incredibly difficult-sometimes even impossible -to spot that same deadly reality staring you right in the eye when you look in the mirror.
Why? Because we're very good at rationalizing, classifying, and justifying sin. It's a daily thing for us to see someone sin and think "Injustice – that isn't right" yet look at the very same sin in someone else's life and say, "Well…that's different." And when we see our own sin, we say, "Yes, I'm a sinner…but I'm not as bad as those "real" sinners. It's not like I'm a drug dealer or a pedophile or a murderer. So I gossip now and again. So I'm not in worship as often as I could be. I mean, really, let's put things in perspective here, pastor!"
Yes! Let's put things into perspective! Let's look at sin-all sin-through God's eyes and from His perspective. From God's perspective, all mankind-from the point of conception all the way to the grave-is a disfigured, tangled mess of sin and death. God takes one look at our fallen, corrupted selves and sees us-each and every one of us-no different than He did the hunched over and disabled woman. Each and every one of us are so hobbled and disabled in our sin that God calls us dead! We're so sinfully crippled that God sees nothing more than a corpse of sin! Let that imagery soak in a bit. And corpses make for lousy soldiers! "Ineffective" doesn't even come close to describing a corpse's motives and abilities. That whole militaristic idea of "it's Armageddon time. Stand up and fight!" just doesn't work.
"Straighten up and raise your heads," Jesus says, "for your redemption is drawing near." My friends: Your Lord calls out to you this morning. He speaks upon you this same life-giving message of comfort, healing, and restoration. Straighten up! Lift up your heads. Lift up your eyes and your hearts to the One who brings you life and peace this very day in your midst. Look around you! In the midst of the sinful fog and din of spiritual war that surrounds you in the world, you see and hear Christ. He speaks to you. He feeds you. Through the eyes and ears of saving faith you recognize your Lord and Savior-your Redemption- here in our midst as He literally breathes life into our sinful corpses, feeding and nourishing us with His life-giving Word and Sacraments.
This present tense reality is important to remember! All too often we hear these passages of terrible tribulation and think only of apocalyptic, "dooms day" end times that haven't happened yet. I challenge any of you to tell a parent who had to bury their child that their tribulation wasn't great. I challenge any of you who haven't had to deal with the crushing effects of marital infidelity or poverty or terminal illness to tell someone who has that their trials and tribulations aren't what God has in mind when He says to "straighten up and lift up your heads to your Salvation."
Beloved: Sin is all around us. The trials and tribulations that shake and test and crush man's faith have been around as long as sin has been around, and they will continue to stalk and prey upon mankind until that blessed last day when our Lord says, "Enough!" Until that day, our Lord calls out to us, "straighten up," that is, "be made straight and be healed. Your redemption draws near. In fact, it's so close you can see it, touch it, and taste it right now. Your redemption is right here. Jesus says. I am right here. I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Hear my Words. Eat my Supper.
That's comfort. That's peace-a peace that surpasses all human understanding; a peace that is understood only in true, saving faith. May God bless you with this same saving faith so that when the trial and tribulations of life come (and they will) you may be able to confidently and joyfully stand straight and tall in the light of Christ Jesus-heads and hearts held high-forgiven, redeemed, and alive in Him.
"Come, Lord Jesus."
Rev. Cameron Schnarr