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To The Finish And Back: The End Is Coming
November 27, 1994

JEREMIAH 33:14-16; LUKE 21:25-36

Picture yourself in a bike race. You have the bike all tuned up, oiled, cleaned, tire pressure checked. You've got your helmet, proper shoes, and a water bottle. You're all ready to go. Wouldn't it be helpful if you knew where you were going? If you knew where the finish line was? It would be nice to know if the finish line were in Snelling, so you didn't bike to Atwater! It would be helpful to know where the finish line is, so you could study the road, prepare for the hills, and pace yourself accordingly.

That's what Jesus has done for us in the journey of life. We know where we are headed. We know where the finish line is, so we can better understand the course. We still don't know all the pitfalls, potholes, sharp corners, but hopefully, when we come to forks in the road, we will know which way to turn. Why? Because we know where the finish line is. Also, we can better prepare ourselves. We know what to wear, what to take along on the journey, how to pace ourselves, how to live, because we know where the finish line is, and we have a fair idea of what the course requires.

Thanks to Jesus, we know about the finish line. Jesus was the first final human being, the first who lived from the end of time back into his own age. Through Jesus the end is already present in the beginning. Advent is the longest season of the church year, not in terms of actual weeks, but in Advent, we anticipate the coming of the Lord, both in his birth, and at the end of time. The Creator of the world at the beginning is the world's redeemer at the end. The One who comes in final glory was present at creation. The One who was born in Bethlehem is the One in whom history culminates.

The good news declares that which we expect in the eternal kingdom of God has here and now begun to take effect through Jesus. In the first lesson read today, Jeremiah prophesies how God will raise up a descendant of David to execute justice and righteousness in the land. The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise, Jeremiah 33:14. That promise is fulfilled in Jesus who is, who was, and who is to come, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, Revelation 1:7

Last Sunday I said that God is not in complete control, but is present in every event, in every moment, struggling to bring good out of whatever happens. God may not be in complete control, but God does have the last word, the final word. We have been privileged to see that final word in Jesus. We have hope in the eventual outcome because of Jesus. Jesus struggled with evil. Jesus died. But, God triumphed. God raised Jesus from the dead. Even the enemy of death was defeated. God has the final word.

A few months ago we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Normandy invasion. When the allied troops landed in Normandy, for all intents and purposes the war was over. Victory was assured. But, a great deal of fighting still took place before Germany surrendered. Many lives were lost. It was not always evident that Russia and the Allies would squeeze the life out of Germany. But, to all intents and purposes, the war was over when the allies landed in Normandy. To all intents and purposes, the war with evil was over when Jesus was raised from the dead, but the fighting still goes on. The devil has not surrendered. Often, it seems as if the devil has the upper hand. God is not in complete control. The battle continues, overcoming evil with good. Everywhere you look there is evidence of good. The other day I was sent to the supermarket. You can imagine the pre-Thanksgiving lines of full carts. But, two women let me go ahead of them with my three items! There is good in the world!

The war has been won. The battle is not over, but the final word belongs to God. The message of Advent anticipates eventual triumph. It takes music for us to get the full impact of Advent and Christmas. Next Sunday evening, our choir will help us experience and understand the coming of the Lord.

The gospel lesson this morning--Luke 21:25-36--tells us that whatever happens, no matter how devastating, no matter how destructive, no matter what horrible, cosmic things happen, signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations, Christ is coming. The Son of Man will come in power and great glory. No matter how bad things look, God is at work redeeming. Mary Chestnut lived in Columbia, South Carolina, during the Civil War. In her diary of March, 1865, she wrote, "Sherman marched off in solid column, leaving not so much as a blade of grass behind. A howling wilderness, land laid waste, dust and ashes." She was devastated, discouraged, hopeless.

We are seeing a lot of Gone With The Wind and Scarlet on TV these days, echoing the haunting description of the devastation caused by the Civil War. However, Mary Chestnut and Margaret Mitchell neglect to mention in their tale of the destruction of the Old South, that the slaves were dancing in the streets! It all depends on one's perspective, where one is standing. The aristocrats saw the end of an era, the slaves the beginning of a new age! The whites saw the destruction of the devil, the slaves saw the redemptive hand of God!

The point is: God has the final word. No matter what happens, God is at work. We are called to cooperate with God in overcoming evil with good. That is our life's work, our vocation. We are given God's amazing grace to live confidently and hopefully because Jesus is with us.

Sammy was five-years-old when the pediatrician found a lump the size of a golf ball growing rapidly in Sammy's neck. He was sent to a hospital where he was treated by a cancer specialist for children. Sammy did not respond well to treatment. Nothing could be done to stop the vicious spreading of the cancer. His mother played music for Sammy. One day he heard the words in a song, God is awesome.

"You're kidding, Mom!" he said. "God is awesome?"

His mother said, "Sure!"

"God is awesome?" he repeated. "Does God wear an earring?"

"Well," said his mother, "He would if He wanted to!"


During his illness, the cancer filled Sammy's brain. It robbed him of his speech, his vision, finally of his ability to walk. Yet Sammy maintained a serenity that was beyond explanation. He could barely move, but did what he could without complaint. He could finger his little yellow tape recorder and play his awesome tape. One day, he startled everyone around when he turned up the volume, and they heard,

We declare that the kingdom of God is here! The blind see, the deaf hear, the lame man is walking. Sicknesses flee at his voice. The dead live again and the poor hear the good news Jesus is King, so rejoice!

Sammy turned down the volume when that song was finished, and continued to listen quietly to the other songs. Then, with the little strength he had in the tips of his fingers, he rewound the tape. He played it quietly until he reached the same song, and again blasted the room, We declare that the kingdom of God is here... It was obvious that Sammy knew what he was doing. He smiled his sunny smile.

Several days later Sammy died. His mother reported that Sammy whispered, "I want to go home." The nurses thought he meant home to his house, but his mother knew what he really meant. She knew that he knew that this earth was never his real home. Even a five-year-old boy can live and die confidently, knowing the Jesus who was with him as he lived will be with him in death.

The kingdom of God is here! The blind see, the deaf hear, the lame man is walking. Sicknesses flee at his voice. The dead live again and the poor hear the good news Jesus is King, so rejoice!

Rejoice! Rejoice because we know where the finish line is, where God has the final word, where the battle is finally over.

© 1994 Douglas I. Norris