14 June 2008

50 Years of God's Grace at Redeemer Lutheran Church

Fifty is a year that our Lord loves. It was on the 50th year that the Great Jubilee of ancient Israel was celebrated. Michael Card captured it exactly in his song from The Ancient Faith:

The Lord provided for a time
For the slaves to be set free
For the debt to all be cancelled
So His chosen ones can see

His deep desire was for forgiveness,
He longed to cede their liberty.
And His yearning was embodied in the year of jubilee.

Jubilee, Jubilee,
Jesus is our Jubilee.
Debts forgiven,
Slaves set free,
Jesus is our Jubilee.

At the Lord’s appointed time
His deep desire became a man
The heart of all true jubilation
And with joy we understand
In His voice we hear a trumpet sound
That tells we are free.
He is the incarnation
Of the Year of Jubilee.

Jubilee, Jubilee,
Jesus is our Jubilee.
Debts forgiven,
Slaves set free,
Jesus is our Jubilee.

To be so completely guilty,
Given over to despair.
To look into your judge’s face
And see a Savior there.

Jubilee, Jubilee.
Jesus is our Jubilee.
Debts forgiven,
Slaves set free.
Jesus is our jubilee.

Here we are celebrating 50 years – a Jubilee – and what we celebrate tonight and tomorrow is that Jesus is our Jubilee. He’s the reason behind all the celebration. It’s not about memories and friends long gone – however precious they may be. It’s about our Jesus, and the fact that He here, smack dab on Lacy Street in Burlington North Carolina, has himself a Church. And what He’s up to in that Church is the Jubilee. He’s all about forgiving debts, setting slaves free, and showing up not as the Judge, but as the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.

Long ago many counted Redeemer out. Such a little parish. I remember when I was here is was all of 4 % of the Lutherans in Alamance County and the Lutherans all joined together only made up 4 % of the whole population of the county. Such a tiny little outpost. What could it do?

It could do what it has done: it could be a colony from the Lord’s future, a gift of the age to come, dishing out the Lord’s gifts for any and all who would receive them. Forgiveness bigger than all our sin. Life stronger than all our death. Joy abounding more than any sorrow of this age. All gifts given because the people of Redeemer gather around Jesus, who is the incarnation of the year of Jubilee.

And now you’ve reached 50 years, the Jubilee itself. It’s not 50 years to celebrate your blood, sweat and tears, poured into this parish community. It’s 50 years of celebrating the blood, sweat, and tears of the Son of God, poured out to give you forgiveness, life, and love.

Yes, it is a time to remember the peripheral joys. How could I forget the parish where my children were baptized, every last one of them, into Christ? I’ll forever remember Zak Whaley, having escaped from the nursery, flying up the aisle on his little bike and hightailing it up and around the organ as his mother Linda chased him, yelling "Carry on, folks" – even as I was trying to preach. It was sort of the end of that sermon. I’ll remember when I forgot the words of institution, and Frankie Hubbard, bless her heart, refused to play the Agnus Dei until I got the message: “Time out! No sacrament of Jesus without the words of Jesus.” I’ll not forget baptizing Steven Bowden, God rest his soul, as he ran down the aisle shouting: “I don’t wanna. Don’t make me, mama!” I’ll not forget the countless Sunday evening prayers with Jan, Bill and Doris Gudd, where they taught their poor impoverished pastor how to pray. I’ll not forget Richard Roarick’s kindness in telling me that Cindi’s eyes were robin’s egg blue; nor Jan and Ruby Hooft’s, Jim and Amy Huffman’s, Carlton and Mil Gerni's hospitality and friendliness. Countless evenings losing to Ruth Holler and Muriel Rose at Liverpool. The mother’s day sermon when John Byrnes ruined my point by doing all the typical mother stuff for his kids. The unquenchable joy and laughter of Mel and Peggy Strauss. So many more memories all to be treasured. If I went on about them all, you’d be sitting here at dawn. But I called them peripheral joys on purpose. They are the fringe benefit of living together as God’s forgiven people and every pastor you’ve ever had could share many, many more with you and at least some of you would remember, laugh and smile.

But better than all the peripheral joys is the unshakeable joy of Jesus Christ Himself, the Eternal Son of the Father made flesh and blood of the holy virgin, giving Himself to you week in, week out, in His Word, in His absolution , in His body and blood. What makes a Church great, says C. F. W. Walther, is not whether it is big or small; but the presence of Jesus Christ. And that’s the heart of our jubilee celebration tonight and tomorrow. Jesus is the reason you’re here and you’ve been here and you will be here. And all the other reasons are just icing on the cake.

Thank you for letting us share in your joyful Jubilee.

2 comments:

Stoleman said...

Pastor Weedon,

How was crossing Lake Gaston?? From my house I can see the road during the winter. It is off the Bracey Exit, last exit in VA before getting into NC!

Hope your trip continues to be a blessing to you and all those you get to visit and see!!!

YIC,
Darian L. Hybl

William Weedon said...

Darian,

I thought of you as we crossed the border. If only we had more time to look up our internet friends as we travel around the country!!!