S-1531 NY/3C 12/31/15; Hymns: (O) #897 (S) #733; L.S. 739; 740; (C) #917
Texts: Psalm 111; Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; Romans 8:31-39; Matthew 6:25-34
Theme: “Looking Ahead, by Looking Back” (Luke 9:62)
Question: “What are you hoping for in the New Year?” (20th Sermon at Trinity).
Faithful followers of the Savior, Happy New Year to all of God’s beautiful children. The text for our meditation is from the book of Luke: “Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God’” ( Luke 9:62).
In Nomine Iesu
Saints in Christ, we find ourselves one more time standing on the threshold of another year. The year past is over. All its mistakes, all its success, all of its failure and all of its heartaches are behind us. Before us lies another year with all of its promises and hopes and dreams. We stand on the door of closing one year and opening another. Always hoping, always dreaming that the New Year would be better than the last.
This evening we call on the Holy Spirit to awaken us to the truth that time keeps marching on. We know we are getting older and the time is going a lot faster; and it is hard to believe 2015 is almost over and 2016 will start soon.
So it’s another new year. If you’re like me, you look back into the old year and scratch your head and think, “What did I accomplish last year? I know I was busy, but what did I do with my time, how was it used? Did anything of importance happened?” For me, I need to pull out my red calendar and flip through it, and then I remember. “Oh yeah, that’s what that was like…thus and such happened in this month…” What’s written down jogs my memory, and then I know what happened in the old year.
But you don’t see what’s not there. If you flipped through your own calendar or thought back over your year, what do you notice that is missing? The kind words you never spoke to someone else? The time when you unleashed your tongue when your spouse or a family member provoked you; instead of being calm and forgiving. The hug, the smile, the loving gesture you gave to someone that you knew was having a hard time – that’s missing because you were too busy with your own things to notice when someone else was struggling. The patience, the joy, the kindness you never showed to those around you who deserved it the most. The act of love that you just never did, even though you knew it’s what the other person wanted more than anything from you. The sin you should have struggled against, but didn’t. The times you chose to put others first – they’re all not there. You can’t remember them because you never did them.
But there is more to life than looking back in regret. This evening we call on the Holy Spirit to help us look ahead by looking back. As you hear me say that you say to yourself. “Pastor what you say, doesn’t really make sense! How can we look ahead by looking back?” PAUSE.
The answer to the question is this; you must know what happened in the past so that you may know to look ahead. Our Synod’s President the Rev. Matt Harrison stated: “When a Church body forgets its past, it loses its compass and doesn’t have a future!” Dr. Luke in chapter 9 speaks of the discourse of Jesus with some people who wanted to follows Him. This is how this encounter is recorded for us in Holy Scripture. “To another He said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Jesus gives a most perfect advice, when we are about the Lord’s business. We should be looking back, in order to look ahead to find the means and methods of proclaiming the Gospel. And I don’t want you to think that I am going contrary to My Lord’s advice and command.
I am simply stating for us Christians in order to look ahead to the promised future we must look back. But not just back to 2015 or 2014, but back all the way to the Garden of Eden and His promise to give us a Savior. And back all the way to Good Friday the day Pilate and the Jewish leaders determined that the innocent Lamb of God must die. Go all the way back to the dark and dismal day when the Savior was hanging on the cross and learn what that means to you and me.
The instrument of shame and cruelty became a badge of honor and glory. That day—a day of infamy for Jesus when He died, became a day of triumph. That day Satan was silenced, Sin conquered and death destroyed. That day of darkness became a day of light and life. A day of hope and promise of life with Him forever. That day is day of victory and confidence.
When you look ahead through the prism of looking back, you see much more than dollar sings, and bright tomorrows. You see so much more. You see God coming to you in Word and Sacrament to bless you and enrich your life. You see the God who became Incarnate serving you in all of your presents and tomorrows. You see a future that is secured. You see eternity guaranteed, you see sins forgiven and heaven’s door opened wide for all who put their trust in the ONLY Lord and Savior. PAUSE.
Beloved and purchased saints, my father-in-law Ed Miedema plowed SD farmland with a John Deer tractor. There is one thing that he taught me and it is a no-no. You never try to plow while looking over your shoulder. If you do, your rows are crooked and your field is difficult to work. Just ask me about it. The day was so nice and dad said, “Go ahead and plant some wheat.” Which I was eager to do! But remember, I am a city boy. So I drove the tractor proudly to the North and that had many points of reference of keeping straight rows. But the problem started when I turned around to head south, and there was nothing in front of me except open spaces. At first it wasn’t noticeable, but when the wheat began to grow some of the neighbors began to whisper, I wonder how many beers did Ed have that day?
To “put your hand to the plow” means to begin the task of plowing. The Greek verb tenses underline the point. Literally, “No one who puts (Aorist tense, past complete action) his hand to the plow and looks back (Present tense, continuous action), is fit for the kingdom of God.” Jesus isn’t saying you can’t look back. But He is saying you can’t continue to look back once you’ve begun to plow. If you do, you’re not “fit,” Greek euthetos, “fit, suitable, usable, convenient for something.”
But I do want you to look back at the cross and pay close attention what Christ has accomplished for you. Look back not only on the cross but more importantly on the empty tomb and mighty deeds the Savior accomplished. The Psalmist often tells us of the mighty deeds of God for which we praise His name.
So go on and look ahead, but don’t forget where you have come from. Look back and thank God for what you see ahead of you—a bright and blessed future. One that is guaranteed that there is nothing in this world or the next that can separate you from His loving hands and that there is nothing to worry about for tomorrow, because we know who holds tomorrow that is our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.
On this final day of 2015, I exhort you in the name of the Living Christ to look ahead by looking back. Amen.
Now the peace…
SOLI DEO GLORIA