The Value of an Entire Life
October 18, 2015

The Value of an Entire Life

Passage: Hebrews 5:1-10
21st Sunday

after Pentecost

Eric Stelle

October 18, 2015

Year B

Hebrews 5:1-10







We all know the Christmas carol, “Away in a Manger”. It’s sweet and sentimental…but not necessarily true in the Biblical or historical sense. In particular is the pious image of little baby Jesus who seems to find crying unnecessary:

The cattle are lowing

The baby awakes

The little Lord Jesus

No crying he makes

Now – I’m sure the song writer was well-intentioned. It was probably a mother who had spent enough wakeless nights with her own crying kids to fantasize about the perfect child who never wakes up in the night crying. Actually, I looked it up. A man wrote it. Figures.

But the point remains, there’s no reason to believe that Jesus didn’t cry when he woke up in the night. He was a baby. And that’s babies do. They cry…because that’s how they get their parents’ attention. And they need their parents to come to them, to provide for them, to burp them, to hold them, and to whisper tenderly to them that everything is going to be okay. And it is through this cycle of tears and comfort that the child grows and learns what it means to be human in this world – to know isolation, discomfort, and fear, as well as the bond of love and the comfort it brings, and the deep hope that all will be well.

The incarnation, after all, is the belief that God joined us in this real life we’re living, and was formed through it, just as we are formed. Jesus lived a whole life. He was born, he was raised, he went through puberty and adolescence for heaven’s sake! And he became an adult who stepped into his vocation and struggled through it. He was taken advantage of, he was misunderstood, even by his family and friends. He had enemies. And when it was time to face death he was afraid, just like we are. He wanted to get out of it if there was any way possible. But he didn’t. He couldn’t escape death in the end.

Like all of us, Jesus lived an entire life. Which means that the whole of his life must have been essential. If all that mattered was his death and resurrection, then why not get the whole thing over quickly and take the fast train back to heaven? Herod could have had his way at the beginning when he slaughtered the innocents.

But that’s not the way it happened. The whole human experience was essential to his incarnation. The writer of Hebrews describes it this way, “Although Jesus was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.”

God must have a value both for our formation and the process by which we are formed. And in the end, it seems, that the destination of it all is that we learn to be obedient to God – to learn as Jesus did, that deep soul formation that can say, “Yet not my will be done, but yours be done, O Lord.”

God could have made us to be perfect in the first place – perfectly obedient and faithful. But in the wisdom of God, that’s not what he wants. I suspect that obedience only has value if it is learned. And – as we’ve all discovered in one way or another – that kind of learning usually comes through the hardships of life. “Although Jesus was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.”

God cares about our whole lives. And the point of it all is that we be formed into the men and women God has called us to be. The later years of our lives are just as important as the younger years. In fact, in some regards, they are more important. For these are the years for which the rest of life was preparing us. These are the completing years – the years when we finally get to bring in the harvest, to live into the mature men and women we were born to become. For over the years we have suffered and learned and been formed. And through it all, these become the years for us to discover the deep wisdom of true obedience to God – not the caricature of “God the tyrant” we might have believed in our youth – but “God the source of our life and center of our being” who only asks of us to be our true selves, now partners in God’s kingdom of love and mercy, wisdom and grace.

And so it becomes part of the mission of the church to come alongside our seniors and to support them in these years of their harvest. That is why St. John’s is looking to partner with Agnus Dei Lutheran Church in developing a common ministry for seniors that will support them in their ongoing formation. That is why I want to have friendships with seniors, because I believe that they can help me in my own formation along this life’s journey. And that is why we invited Mary Dickau to lead our conference this past weekend on the theme of a Spirituality for Elders.

Many of you were able to come, but not all of you. So I would like to invite Mary now to come and share briefly some of what we experienced this weekend.



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