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What Do We Do Now? By Pastor Thomas Engel

As you know, we read verses from a Psalm in the liturgy every Sunday.

Last week, we read verses from Psalm 25.

One of the things that Kind David does in this Psalm is talk about the sins of his youth.

Here is that part: “Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!”

Knowing that David was a shepherd growing up, I often wondered what his sins could have possibly been as a youth.

I think of a young David as so innocent as he was so committed to the care of his flock.

I’m not sure how David sinned when he was young. Maybe he used some of his mom’s clay pots for targets as he practiced his slingshot skills.

I guess we can say that young people will do what young people do.

By the nature of developing into mature adults, young people are impulsive, and by going about things without really thinking, they will engage in reckless behavior that can lead to getting into some wrong places.

Looking at it all in positive way, what we are to do as we are developing maturity is to live and learn.

I have heard it said that when a person has good judgment in later years, it’s because he used a lot of “bad” judgment in his younger years.

Young people are trying to find their niche in life. A niche is a special place that is just meant for that person, so it will take some searching to find that special place.

In that searching, a young person will find himself in places where he does not belong. Back then, we might have asked ourselves, “How did I wind up here?”

Hindsight is 20/20. Today, it’s easy to see now the mistakes that were made yesterday. Life has its twists and turns, and we have to admit that some of our turns were into downright sins.

That’s why an older David is looking back and asking for God for forgiveness of his sins as a youth.

With the left over thoughts from last Sunday, I’ve thought about that verse on Monday as I started writing this sermon as we go into a season that emphasizes repentance.

Advent is a time of preparing for our Lord and Savior for his first coming in Bethlehem and his second coming on the Last Day.

We do this preparation by taking a look at ourselves in the light of God’s law.

Ouch! We see that we are not always doing the right things and are in the wrong places. How did I wind up here in this mess?

Not that I’m afraid of transparency to tell about my youth, but to say, I don’t have any secrets, and you willl have to wait to know the details of life when I write my memoirs in my retirement.

For now, I will tell you that I did find myself in some wrong places while I was searching for the right places.

If you don’t mind, I think I can say that we all have our share of mistakes in our younger days with some turns into downright sins.

But, we are all older and wiser because of them.

We are meant to move through our old places to new places.

We live to learn, and we learn to live better lives.

Every day is a new day that gives us a chance to do better.

With a lot of days behind us, we should be pretty good by now, and we are.

But, with that said, one of the things that I’ve noticed in getting older is that I still make mistakes with some turns into downright sins.

Not that I’m afraid of transparency of telling my present sins, but I will leave the details of my confession between God and me.

It’s enough that we all have in our public confession that we have made this morning agree that we have sinned in thought, word, and deed.

In our younger days, we could say we have an excuse for our mistakes and sins because it was our first time doing things. Well, I don’t think there is ever an excuse for sin, maybe for mistakes, but never sins.

Although it does seem that God gives special attention to those sins of our youth.

If there is such a thing as extra grace for forgiving sins, God gives it for the sins that we had done when we were first starting out in life.

But, we should know better as we get older. As mature adults, we are without excuse for anything. Right?

David, as a king, committed the sins of adultery and murder. It doesn’t seem he learned too much. He should have known better. He even didn’t realize these big sins at first. Come on, David, get your act together.

My shame, guilt, and regret over my latest sins feel so much heavier than ever before because I should have known better in these more mature years.

Come on, Tom, get your act together.

It seems to be that there should be a verse for the sins of older folks that God forgives those sins, too.

If there is extra grace, it seems that I’m in need of it at times.

We do know that we all sin at every age and all sin needs forgiveness.

When I was in my twenties, I made sure that I went I went to church. I can remember I had a thought or two about going into ministry back then, but those thoughts were whispers, and they were still on a back burner.

In my searching for my niche, I was feeling lost. Nothing seemed to be working.

So, maybe from remembering my confirmation days the lesson about confession and absolution, I made sure at least I was going to church. I don’t remember if that lesson about sin and forgiveness was pounded into the class by the pastor, but I do remember he was no-nonsense in his approach when it came to teaching us about sin and forgiveness.

I think he was pointed and direct because he knew what kind of world we were headed into as young people.

Maybe I picked up on his intentions because I thought if there was one thing that I can do that was absolutely right was to confess my sins and hear of God’s forgiveness in Christ.

I was asking myself, “What can I do now in my life that is sure to be right?”

The answer was that I was certain that worship was one right place to be in my life where all other places didn’t quite fit or were so wrong.

Sitting in church, I was for an hour in the right place, and after that, I would go from there hoping to find my place in the world.

Now that I am pastor, I can evaluate myself when I was in my twenties, I was right in my thoughts back then. At least, I was right abut church, for I was just about wrong in everything else about my life.

I remember walking out of church knowing my slate of sins was clean.

A clean slate of a soul is a good place to start from.

Why I go to church now hasn’t really changed much since those years in my youth when I was figuring out my life.

I do feel that I’ve found my niche after all of these years, but I still got a lot to figure out about life.

I’ve never been in my early sixties before, and it does offer some challenges as my back likes to remind me every time I bend over.

There is one difference from my youth until now about why I go to church. As a pastor here at St Philip, I don’t think CeeCee and I would be allowed to live in the house next door if I wasn’t showing up here on Sunday mornings.

Other than that, the reasons for going to church are the same. I’m still in need of confession and absolution. I’m still in need of grace. And, if it’s possible, an extra measure of grace at times. Or in other words, all the grace that I can get, and thanks be to God, I do get all that grace in Christ.

So, that’s my story. What about your story?

Why are you here today? Can you go back and trace your way here starting from your youth?

I’m not calling for any testimonies, but it would do your heart and mind good to make sure that your slate is clean from your youth to this very moment.

What I mean is that you are in the right place for that cleaning up of our slates.

But, in order for the slate to be clean, you need to think for awhile about what is on your slate of sin.

If you were here last week, the week before, or last year, you did confess your sins and were forgiven of all the sins that you have ever committed in your life.

We live in a continuous state of forgiveness, for God’s grace does not have an on and off switch. His grace is always freely pouring in us.

God’s grace in Christ is always here giving us forgiveness and the power to start a new life.

Are you living that new life in God’s grace or are you still stuck in some ways?

Are you still taking turns in some downright sins?

Or, in going with an Advent theme, are you producing fruits in keeping with your repentance.

John is concise with his words. The shortest yet most powerful sermon, “Produce fruits in keeping with your repentance.”

Going through the church year, we see its seasons: Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. They together tell us the story of our salvation.

I could say we are resurrection people, or people of light, or people of the Spirit, and that would all work.

But as far as our niche, our special place in the world, we go into it as Advent people.

The reason that there are four advent candles is that each one represents a thousand years, so that’s four thousand years, roughly the amount of time from Adam and Eve to Jesus’ first coming in Bethlehem.

All the people living in those years were waiting for Jesus’ first coming, and they were to prepare for that first coming.

We are living in the time waiting for Jesus’ second coming.

So, we are to prepare for the End Times when Jesus comes again to bring this world to a close. After ending this world, he will begin a new heaven and new earth.

Until that time, we are in a very special place. We are not too much different from the people who were waiting for Jesus’ first coming and the people in John the Baptist’s time when he answered them about what they should be doing.

Like my pastor did back when I was young, and like I should, and we all should, John the Baptist was pointed and direct when he talked about repentance and what should be coming from it.

To those who were not getting it, he called them, “Brood of vipers.”

We don’t want to there with the vipers.

Those who were serious about their repentance wanted specifics and asked, “What do we do now?”

I’m not sure how many tunics that you have in your closet. I’m not sure if you are a soldier, or if you are a tax collector, but, we are to be fair-minded, reasonable, honest, and generous people in all that we do.

Or, to make it simple, we can think that we are just to be good people.

In many conversations with people lately, the talk quickly goes to how horrifc the world is now.

Where is a good to place to go? Where is our niche? What are we to be doing now?

For us, who are God’s children, we go to where there is God’s grace, and His grace is everywhere.

You have done what you are to do this morning. You have done all that you can do. You have examined your life in the light of God’s law. You have seen that you have sinned. You have confessed your sins. You have heard of God’s forgiveness in Christ. You have praised God for this forgiveness.

You will try to find your place in this world. You will keep trying to be good person in this world.

Here is a point or two to remember about going out as Advent people who are producing fruits in keeping with our repentance.

We are to be good people, but we are not going out with our goodness, for the mere fact that we can’t because we don’t have any goodness on our own.

David asked for himself to be thought of from a perspective of God’s goodness, for God’s goodness is perfect.

With having God’s goodness, we do good for the sake of doing good. We are not out to fix the messes of the world, which there are too many.

Although a mess or two may get cleaned up by our good deeds, we are not out to change the world for the better.

The world will do what the world is to do until Jesus comes again.

So, what do we do now?

My guess is that you, like me, have been repenting since your youth, so we keep repenting as we always have done.

Then, in such a world as ours, we can only go to our places by the grace of God that is in all places, and be who we are, Advent people doing good things just for the sake of doing good things, and we wait in trust and hope to see what happens.

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