Lamentations 3:20-24, Revelation 21:1-6, Matthew 28:18-20
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As we meditate I’d like to tell you two stories today, two stories from Reuben’s life, and two lessons from those stories.
Story number 1. Pastor Griffin and I spent some time reminiscing about visiting Reuben, and Pastor Griffin told me, many times when he’d go to see Reuben, Pastor Griffin would say the Words of Institution, and together they would remember the promises of God, and he would hand Reuben the bread that Christ calls body and Reuben would take it and hold it up to the light, and say “Pastor, I need this.” And he’d answer back, “Yes, Reuben, you and me both.”
Dear Christian friends, I didn’t know Reuben in his heyday. I didn’t know Reuben in his golden years. No, I knew him in his twilight. I knew him in his need. I knew him in the Janesville Nursing Home and in the Cottagewood Grove Facility as he neared his last days. And I can tell you in his twilight, he knew deeply his need. That he did not deserve God’s grace. That his need was great, and he couldn’t fill it on his own.
And I can tell you something more: that the saving knowledge of his Lord Jesus Christ had taken root deeply, more deeply into his heart, that he was saved by grace, not because of his own works but because of the free gift of God so that no one can boast. The saving knowledge of his Lord Jesus Christ had taken ahold of him ever more firmly even as his own grasp of this world grew weak. The saving knowledge of his Lord Jesus Christ, that he held to firmly from his mother’s knee, now holds him firmly, as it ever has, because that is who his savior is and that is who his savior always has been and that is who his savior always will be and that, my dear Christian friends, is good news, really good news.
Lesson number one is that I would urge you in your days to know your need, or as Revelation says it, to know your thirst. In his twilight years, Reuben came to terms with his sins, his failure and his need for a savior to wash all of them away. Our savior is eager, absolutely eager to take away our sin, to do away with our guilt, to wipe every tear from our eye, to give to the thirsty the living water of pure, unadulterated, fresh Gospel without condition, without stipulation, totally and utterly free. Our Good Shepherd is eager, absolutely eager to take from us the crushing weight of our sin and to set us free like an earthbound farm boy flying a plane for the first time. Can you imagine that?
Story number 2. I remember in my times visiting Reuben, after communion I’d say the words of the dismissal blessing – “The body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ strengthen and preserve you now unto life everlasting. Amen.” And he’d say, “Oh, that’s good.” And then I’d say, “There’s more, Reuben” and sing the Song of Simeon – Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace” and he’d say, “Oh, that’s really good, pastor.” And then I’d say “But there’s more, Reuben” and I would say the benediction – “The Lord bless you and keep you…” and he’d let out a “Whewww!” in the way that only Reuben could, and he’d get all kinds of worked up and just go to town.
As often as he ate that bread and drank that wine, he was granted forgiveness from on high. As often as he ate that body and drank that blood, his sins though they were like scarlet were washed as white as the pure driven snow, and if you’re wondering what that looks like, just wait until Monday. As often as he remembered that his savior had bled and died for him on the cross, salvation for his soul was given to him. As often as he heard God’s Word and held fast to His promises, Reuben could see that God’s mercies had been new every morning, and that they still are new every morning, and every morning that is a morning begins with a shout to God “Great is thy faithfulness,” and that’s good news, really good news.
Lesson number two is that you would know God’s mercies when the dawn is clear and the sun is bright, yes, but that you would know them especially when the morning is clouded and the sun is hidden. Do you hear Jesus’ promise in Matthew 28? I am with you to the very end of the age. Do you think he means “I am there with you until things get pretty tough?” NO! Do you think he means “I am there with you until you really screw up?” NO! Do you think he means “I am there with you until the day you can’t see me anymore?” NO! He means I am with you, and that will never change. I am with you always, I am with you all your life, I am with you to the day of your death, and I am with you beyond into eternity. I am with you always, because I am your good shepherd, and I do what a good shepherd does: I follow you around with all kinds of goodness and mercy, whether you’re keeping to the path or I have to chase after you a little. I am with you beyond what you can even fathom, even to the very end of the age.
Today I invite you to hold fast to the one thing that really matters in this life – hold fast to the promises of God. Hold fast to the story of Jesus Christ. Hold fast to the hope of your salvation. Because that’s good news. Really, really good news.
Amen and Amen
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