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A Life Complete - By Pastor Thomas Engel


In a past congregation that I served, there was an elderly man named Arnold.

I’m sure each member in the congregation would agree that Arnold was a beloved favorite.

Arnold was a huge fan of sports. With his die-hard enthusiasm leading the way, everyone rallied behind him through each season of football, basketball, and baseball.

Arnold was such a genuine type of guy, even if you weren’t all that into sports, you just wanted to be around Arnold and catch the passion that he had for all of life.

Also, when your birthday came around, you could always count on getting a card from Arnold.

His cards were not just signed, but they always included a note that covered from the top of the front cover to the bottom of back cover.

After reading Arnold’s card, you had to feel good about yourself because the note had his deep reflections about how he was so blessed by knowing you.

When Arnold died, everyone in the congregation talked about how they would miss Arnold and his exuberance for sports, love of life, and his cards that showed so much care.

I’m not one for keeping things, but I wish I would have kept Arnold’s cards, even at least one of them.

I do remember one of the things he wrote, “I and all of heaven are so happy that you were born and are here today.”

It’s those days that I’m not feeling so good about my life that I wish I had one of Arnold’s cards to read with a note from the top cover to back cover about how important I was to him.

Did you ever have one of those days when life was not coming together and was not working out as you would like it to?

On that day, wouldn’t it be nice to get a card from someone like Arnold?

Since we are all human, I can step up and answer that question for all of us.

You and I have had and will have days when we feel like life is not coming together as we would like it to.

I can say that life can get this way because that’s part of what happens to humans as we go about living in this old world.

I’m willing to put out here that each of us here today have something going that is hard.

We might be going through a family conflict, some tensions at work, stress by end of semester exams, or financial issues.

Life is always one problem after another.

As humans, we will experience those hard days that get us feeling down about life, and when those days come, it sure would be nice to get a card from someone like Arnold.

Don’t we want more of those days or all our days where we feel like life is coming together?

We want to feel like we belong. We want to feel like we have meaning and purpose. As we go about doing things, we want to feel that those things are working out. We want the feeling of a sense of fulfillment, so we are complete in every way.

I don’t like any kind of empty feeling inside on of me. I don’t like that I’m feeling that even one part is missing.

I want to feel that life is coming together in every way all the time.

How about if I told you that getting a life that is complete where everything always comes together is way overrated?

Now, you might be thinking that we have endless ways to get our lives to come together.

All we need to do is to find them and do them.

In our time with so much technology, it’s as easy as sitting down at our laptops and doing a search to find those ways.

We can find so many articles, blogs, podcasts, and products that give seemingly endless possibilities to things that are so helpful.

We gotta love Pinterest with so many ideas, Twitter where we can connect with thousands of people and get their input, and Amazon where we can buy anything.

But, with so much out there, I have to do a lot work to see what is best for me.

I have to analyze and evaluate everything I read or hear. Is what stated as a fact indeed a fact?

With so many numbers these days, I get lost in all the data and statistics. And with so many studies, it seems that they contradict each other.

I’m not sure if eggs are bad for me because of the cholesterol or good for me because they have protein.

As I’m feeling the effects of getting older, I’m not sure that my memory or energy will increase by taking some pills. I’m skeptical that anything coming from a pill will make me feel young enough again, so I can do cartwheels.

Although, when I was young, I couldn’t do cartwheels. I’ve come to accept that my life is going to be one without cartwheels.

It’s not that I’m making the point that nothing out there in the market place of ideas and things are helpful. I’m just saying that a lot of what’s out there falls short on making me feel so complete.

How about you? How would you categorize your feelings about how things are going in your life?

Will things never work out? Work out a little better? Work out a lot better? Work out perfectly all the time?

I want to be so optimistic about life.

But, I’ve lived long enough to know that as long as I am in this body that is walking around in this world, my life will never completely, in any shape, size, or form, come together as I like.

I know that all sounds so dismal to the point that all sounds so hopeless.

Have I brought you to the point of despair?

If I have, that is kind of my intent.

We are good Lutherans if we see that the things of the world are not able to bring us to a complete life.

This morning we confessed that we are sinners and are poor and miserable as sinners.

We talked about things of the world, so let’s now go to things of faith.

Those problems that make life hard are caused by some kind of sin.

In some way, we have sinned, others have sinned, and the world is a place of sinners.

But, also, as good Lutherans, we know we are not to be left in sin, and we are not to be living in despair.

Sin does not need to have the last word.

We have to know that faith is always wanting to kick in.

I want to make the case that we are complete. I want to convince you and myself, too, that all is good, even in the hard times that come.

For us to see how life is complete and is good at this very time, I would like for us to take a minute or two and do the world’s shortage Bible study of our first reading.

Last week in our first reading, we heard about Paul’s conversion. He went from Saul the persecutor to Paul the Christian. Such a change that his name was changed.

We learned how Paul was a persecutor of Christians and was converted to faith in Christ on the road to Damascus.

Today’s first reading jumps ahead to after his missionary trips where he spread the Gospel.

We know how St. Paul faced hard times throughout his missionary trips.

The world was hostile to his message of the Gospel.

At this time of the reading, he is knowing he is facing the end of his life.

He says this about his life, “But, I put no value on my life, if only at the end of it I may see the work complete which was given to me by the Lord Jesus, to be a witness of the good news of the grace of God.”

With our short Bible study, it’s in this one sentence we see how we do belong. We see the whole meaning and purpose of life. We see how we are to go about doing things. We see how the things that we do are working out. We get a sense of fulfillment, so we are complete in every way.

We see how a complete life does not come from the world.

A complete life can only come from our Lord Jesus.

And our Lord Jesus does give us a complete life.

Our Lord Jesus gives us a complete faith, and it’s this faith that we live by.

From God thinking of us out of eternity before He created all things, we will go on to live eternally in heaven.

I’m not sure how we can be anymore complete than to have come from eternity to be going to eternity.

This talk of coming from and going to eternity is beyond our thinking, for we are use to thinking in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years.

But, by faith we get it. We get that eternal things are here in our present times.

Our time here in worship is short. We are not here for a long time, but we do here is complete and powerful.

We sang with all heaven this morning these words, “Power, riches and wisdom and strength, and honor and blessing and glory are his.”

Our Lord Jesus has all these things, and we know that whatever Jesus has he gives to us.

Jesus’ life was complete. From his conception, birth, and life to his death and resurrection, he won a victory over sin, Satan, and eternal death.

This complete victory is ours and fills all parts of our lives.

Just because we go through things that are hard for us, it does not mean that we are not complete.

As Paul was at the end of his life, he wanted to know if his work and life was complete.

I think he knew the answer to his own question. His life and work was complete because he lived it by faith in his Lord Jesus.

What he did in his life had an effect.

Anything done by faith in our Lord Jesus is complete and had an effect.

On those days when life does not seem like it’s not coming together, it is not seeming like we belong, we are not feeling meaning and purpose, and we are not feeling fulfilled, it’s nice to get a card from a guy like Arnold.

Arnold lived out his faith in every way from a sports fan to a good friend to everyone.

Arnold lived a complete life of faith.

St. Paul lived a complete life of faith.

You and I can live a complete life of faith, too, for all eternal things are here for us right now.

We can’t get anymore complete than that.


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