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A Work Not Quite Done, Yet - By Pastor Thomas Engel


While visiting my son, who is living in Southern Indiana, he took me to the church that he and his wife are attending.

The church is out in the middle of corn fields. It was founded in the early 1800’s. We walked around the cemetery that was in the back of the church.

With the older churches, it’s common for them to have cemeteries. For one reason, like my son’s church out in the country, it has land for a cemetery.

A second reason, a cemetery in the church’s backyard makes for a good symbol of the Christian life.

Inside the church is the beginning of faith at the baptismal font, and the cemetery shows the end of this life.

Although the physical life has ended, at a Christian funeral, we hear of new start- how a person of faith receives the goal of his or her faith. That person’s spirit lives now in heaven.

We can also say that the middle of a Christian’s life is the active worship in the church where a person spends many Sundays sitting in the pews hearing God’s Word and participating in the Lord’s Supper.

I don’t know if a cemetery in the backyard of a church is a motivational tool. As a person looks out at the window at the backyard cemetery, does a person say to himself, “Some day, I will be out in that cemetery, so I better stay awake during the sermon and keep coming back?”

As my son and I walked around the cemetery, we read the memorials that marked the graves. It’s interesting to see the names of families to see who were the founders of the church.

I like to see the dates of birth and death to figure the spans of people’s lives. One person was born in 1889 and died in 1969. My son and I talked about the changes in this person’s life. This person was born before cars, electricity, and telephones were in any kind of wide use. But then, this person in his lifetime saw rockets going to moon.

Some of the memorials were quite faded from the weather over the decades, and we could not read several of the names and dates. I asked my son about those graves, “Does the church keep a record of who is buried here?”

Our little trip to my son’s church with the cemetery got me thinking about how fleeting life is.

Several places describe in Scripture how short life is. From 1 Peter, we read, “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off.”

I wonder, if at some point, someone will be standing by my grave and say, “I wonder who is buried here.”

If this old world keeps going on for more generations, I have to think that I will be forgotten.

As much as we do in a life, and to be sure, what we do does have purpose and meaning, our lives do whither, and we do fade away.

Take a minute and think about your to-do-lists, chores, and all the roles that you play as a worker, a student, a member of a family, and a neighbor. All that we do is important.

Just the tedious small things like shopping, cooking, homework, and laundry are all essential things to keep our lives moving.

This morning we are fed and are wearing clean clothes.

As we are nearing the end of Lent and going into Holy Week, we have spent time these past weeks getting a perspective on life.

Do you remember on Ash Wednesday when we said, “From dust we came and to dust we shall return?”

We have the heard the phrase, “Written in stone.” When we say this phrase, we are meaning that something is sure to happen. If something is written in stone, it can’t be erased or deleted.

But, as I looked at these memorials, the weather over the many decades and the mold wore down the stone, so we could not read what was engraved on it any longer.

Nothing lasts, not even stones. Everything is wearing down and fading away into dust.

As I said, about people remembering me, I wonder how long it will take to be forgotten. The great people of history like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln who get chapters now in history books will maybe only get a paragraph or two as the centuries go by and more history is added.

It’s sad when you think about how time goes by, isn’t it? But that is what time does. The clock keeps ticking, and all keeps changing with each tick.

To think that even Scripture emphasizes that we are not getting any younger. And, over the decades and centuries, the memories that people have of us after we are gone will diminish.

Before we get to despairing about how fleeting life is although it does help put life into perspective, let’s be sure that we read all of what Scripture has to say about us.

A psalm says, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”

God knew us before we were born.

In another place, we read in Scripture, “He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”

I’m not sure that if that book of life in heaven is a book made of stone, but Jesus says that our names are written there and will never go away.

As a pastor, I’ve been in many cemeteries, and when I was with my son at his church, I can’t help but think how that one day that the earth will tremble and shake. Then, those graves, even those who are long forgotten, will open up and the bodies will rise up to meet their spirits that have been in heaven.

After death, we think that God is finished with us, but God is not quite done with us, yet.

God will send Jesus to judge and take all believers to heaven. In that day, bodies will rise up from the graves and be united with the spirits that have been in heaven.

That Last Day will be a glorious day, and that day is so glorious that we pray that it comes as soon as it can.

For us who are here today living in this troubled world, it’s essential that we know that Jesus’ is not quite done, yet, with his work.

Knowing that Jesus will come again and make everything new again is our hope. As we go about these hard times, we know that it will not always be like this.

It’s in these times that we keep going over and over again what the work that Jesus has done, what he is doing for us now, and what he will be doing in the days that are ahead of us.

On this day, we begin another Holy Week. We will go again to the cross to see Jesus’ death for the forgiveness of sins. And then, this time next week, we will say again, “Alleluia, Christ has risen!”

I am sure we will have good attendance next week. I mean Easter is hard for a Christian to miss, for it is the central day of the church year.

Although that first Holy Week did have a mixed-up start. On that first Palm Sunday, people did miss what Jesus had come to do. They did show-up and shout, “Hosanna!” But, they thought Jesus had come to be a worldly king who would lead them out of a Roman government that was oppressing them.

When they saw that Jesus’ work was not to save them from the Romans, they turned against him, and they yelled, “Crucify him.”

Isn’t that just like human nature-we don’t get what we want when we want it, so we toss it away. Here, the people were so disturbed that Jesus didn’t meet their expectations that they wanted him dead.

Talk about getting disturbed about unmet expectations for our world and lives. On one hand, we have a lot to be disturbed about. We are living in a pandemic, dealing with social unrest, and hearing constantly about political conflict that seems to go nowhere.

We live in a contentious world that causes anxiousness. But, maybe, it’s our reaction of anxiousness that is to at least partly blame for our messes.

The cure for anxiousness is certainty. We need to know that things are okay and will be okay.

For that crowd on that first Palm Sunday that turned into a mob on Good Friday, they needed to know that Jesus did come to fight for them.

But, Jesus’ fight was against the enemies that wanted to cause them everlasting harm-sin, Satan, and eternal death.

Jesus’ work on the cross was to take the punishment for our sins by dying, and then, his work continued by rising on the third day to give us victory over all that wants to harm us.

As I was writing this sermon, I was thinking that this was sounding like a funeral sermon.

In a way, we are going to a death bed and then a funeral this week. On Friday, Jesus dies, and then we go to his tomb.

A funeral sermon sees the heartache of our loss over a loved one, but it also gives hope-a sure and certain hope.

For we hear these words at a funeral from Job, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.”

It might sound like a strange idea, but the next time that you are at a cemetery imagine how on one day the ground will shake and how bodies that have pretty much turned to dust will rise up to meet their spirits one day in the sky when Jesus comes again.

With no doubt, this world is falling on hard times. But, we see Jesus’ work for us again on the cross and in his rising on the third day. Then soon, on one day, we will see how he will come again to take us body and soul to himself.

We have so much now in Christ by his Word about his death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life that gives us comfort, and so much to hope for knowing that Jesus is coming soon.

Next week, we come back to feel the earth shake that rolled back a stone, so we can see an empty tomb, and we keep coming back until we feel the earth shake that releases bodies from graves and see Jesus coming down from the sky to take all believers forever to himself.

What comfort it gives that Jesus has done so much work for us, and what hope it gives us that also his work is not quite done, yet.


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