This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Jody Winston March 13, 2005
Grace and peace are gifts for you from God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.1 Every one of the some six and one-half billon people living on earth has a unique story to tell but in a very concrete way, all of these stories share both a common character and a common purpose. I think that you would agree with me that it is a rather unlikely coincidence just to share a common character in our stories much less a common purpose. Just think about it. How could we all share one character in our stories, when we don’t even know each other? Let me give you an example. I don’t think that anyone here knows that I have been coming to Christ the King for the last seven months since I have only been here on Tuesdays for text studies with your pastor and others in the area. So, how likely is it that we have the same character in all of our stories? I am also not talking about the popular theory known as “six degrees of separation” because this theory states that if we look at six friends of friends, we will all ﬁnd a common acquaintance. I am instead asserting that we all share a common character in all of our stories, not that we might have a passing relationship with someone. So, given that we do not know whom the common character is, how likely is it that we share a common purpose? The common purpose is not that we all will die. If our only reason for living is death, then why were we even born? And how can something that we all must do even be a purpose? The character that we all share in our stories and our stories’ purpose was given to us in today’s Gospel reading. Jesus tells us at the start of today’s story “It is for God’s glory.”2
Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, Philemon 1:3.
God is the universal character in everyone’s story, whether they know it or not. God is the one who caused you to be born. Not a single one of us asked to be born. No one has ever created life except God. At your death, God is the One who tells you once again that you are accepted. No one else can pronounce your acceptance because it is only God who has set the boundaries that we all live by. So, in a very real way, God has written both the start and the end of your story. And according to Jesus, your purpose for living is to give God glory. Now that we know that God is the common character in all of our stories and the purpose of our stories is to give God glory, we can turn our attention on the two letter word “it” and try to understand what “it” is. In Lazarus’s case, “it” was bringing Lazarus back to life.3 But it is difﬁcult to see that! The story tells us that out of love, Jesus does not come to those who love Him!4 Jesus waited until Lazarus was good and dead before He came to the tomb. Jesus took all of these actions so that God would be gloriﬁed.5 To reinforce this difﬁcult to learn lesson, Jesus gives us cause and effect. Jesus tells Martha that God’s glory will be seen and then Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb.6 What is “it” in our case? I’m afraid that you might not like my answer. I do not know what “it” has been or what “it” will be in your life. But I can give you some help in ﬁnding “it” since “it” will occur at least once in everyone’s life. The reason that it is so difﬁcult to know what “it” is, is that most of us do not practice looking for “it.” We refuse to acknowledge that God is a character in our story. To keep up this illusion, we must actively try to keep God out of our story and we have to ensure that nothing that we do points out to others God in our stories. Keeping up this charade is difﬁcult work and we soon will become tired of this game. One hint for Lutherans on where to ﬁnd “it” is to look at your vocation. When we serve others as part of our work, we are doing what Christ told us when He said that we should love others as we love ourselves. Of course, this could mean
The line in John 11:4, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be gloriﬁed through it.”, is the summary of this story. See S.D.B. Francis J. Maloney; S.J. Daniel J. Harrington, ed., The Gospel of John, Vol. 4, Sacra Pagina Series, (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1998), p. 322. 3 Neither the illness that leads to Lazarus’s death nor the resuscitation of Lazarus are the “ultimate” purpose of the story. Instead, the story’s purpose is to glorify God and it starts the fulﬁllment of Jesus’s glory (John 7:39, 8:52-54). See Ibid., p. 325. 4 Ibid. 5 Another result that we could talk about is that we cannot ever meausre the actions of Jesus using our limited knowledge. Ibid., p. 326. 6 John 11:40; Ibid., p. 332-333.
that we lead a Bible study during our work break. But doing “it” is much harder than that because Luther tells us we are to give everything in God’s service.7 God wants all that we do to bring God glory. So, we need to be honest in our dealings with others, we need to treat others at work as we want to be treated, and we need to help those in need. For all of us, all 6.5 billon people, we get “it” when God gives us grace. I do not know when you will be given grace or what that grace will look like.8 But when grace comes to you, all that you have to do is accept it.9 It is our responsibility to give God the glory when we see, by the power of the Holy Spirit, that grace in others or ourselves.10 But even if we do not do this, just like in Lazarus’s story, others will see what really happened, give God the glory, and ultimately believe in God.11 Every human will see “it” at their resurrection. The dry bones in the story from Ezekiel saw “it” when they knew that the L ORD was their God.12 Lazarus and the others knew “it” when Lazarus came out of the tomb.13 And in the New Testmant, Paul tells us that everyone will say “it”. We will call say Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.14 On that day, we will all do “it”; we will give God the glory that God deserves. God knows how hard it is for us humans to see “it.” Because of this fact, God sent His Son to not only tell us about “it” but also to show us what “it” looks like. Jesus also gave us three other things to help us ﬁnd “it”: the Holy Spirit, the Sacraments, and the Church. The Holy Spirit gives us the ability to ﬁnd “it” and moves us to the right place so that we will be there when “it” occurs. The Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion have something that we can see, touch, and taste. These Sacraments, by God’s power, are ways to see “it” in others and ourselves. The Church is the body that teaches us about “it.” Additionally, the Church provides us with a place to “practice it” through prayers and confessions.15 We will only know that we share a common character and a common purpose
Theodore G. Tappert et al., eds., The Book of Concord, (Fortress Press, 1959), p. 412. Paul Tillich, Chap. Chapter 19: You are Accepted In “The Shaking of the Foundations”, (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1948). 9 Ibid. 10 Ibid. 11 John 11:45. 12 Ezekiel 37:6, 14. 13 John 11:40, 45. 14 Philippians 2:10; Romans 14:11. 15 It is ironical, in almost all cases, that a confessional church, the Lutherans, refuse to use testimonials, otherwise known as confessions, in its Mass.
when we read each other’s stories in the context of the greatest story ever told. In this story, we hear that God loves each of us and is willing to do what ever “it” takes, including death on the cross, to give God the glory and to bring us back from death into life. Once we know this, we can then see that the common purpose for all of our lives is to bring glory to God. God wants us all to practice reading our own story and the stories of others. Go out and practice reading these stories out loud so that we all will learn of God’s glory because it would be a tragedy if anyone died without knowing their purpose in life. “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Francis J. Maloney, S.D.B.; Daniel J. Harrington, S.J., ed.. The Gospel of John. Vol. 4, Sacra Pagina Series. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1998. ISBN 0-8146-5806-7. Tappert, Theodore G. et al., eds.. The Book of Concord. Fortress Press, 1959. ISBN 0-8006-0825-9. Tillich, Paul. Chap. Chapter 19: You are Accepted In “The Shaking of the Foundations”. Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1948. ISBN 684-71908-8.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?