E100 – December 31, 2017

“Yesterday, Today, Forever”- Misc. Texts


Christmas 1 – December 31, 2017




Yesterday… The turning of the year always gives us the opportunity to look back on yesterday, doesn’t it? It gives us the chance to consider and to reflect upon what has happened during the past 365 yesterdays. When we do that we can appreciate again all of the bounty our God has built into this world, and we can count again all of the blessings that He has showered upon us through all of those yesterdays right up to today. God has been good to us in physical ways – blessing us with health and strength. God has been good to us in material ways – providing us with all the food and clothes that we need – and then some – to sustain our bodies. God has been especially good to us in meteorological ways – with lots of sunshine during our summer yesterdays, and even a stretch of sunshine during our  pre-Christmas yesterdays. And God has been so very good to us in spiritual ways – continuing to bless us with every spiritual gift in Christ and continuing to forgive our sins.

We need forgiveness of our sins, don’t we? Yes, because some of us look back on the yesterdays and we look back too far… to the ‘good old days’ and then we complain about the todays… we long for the ‘good old days’ – life was simpler then, people are too greedy now, I can’t keep up to all the changes in technology and transportation and politics and entertainment. Yes, some people are not content with today. Others of us look back on the yesterdays, to our mistakes, our sins, our failures and it seems that we don’t learn anything… we just keep repeating our sins, the same sins, over and over and over again. We certainly do need God’s spiritual blessing of forgiveness for all of our yesterdays.

The turning of the year may lead us to appreciate our history as well. “Look to the rock from which you were hewn,” God’s ancient people were urged. When the American people look to their history, to their yesterdays, they quite literally look to a rock… Mt. Rushmore, that huge rock in South Dakota in which are carved some of their most famous presidents. To gaze on those presidents must evoke patriotism, emotion and loyalty among Americans, as they consider all of the best qualities of their yesterdays.

“Look to Abraham and Sarah,” we hear in Isaiah 51. They were considered the father and mother of God’s people of faith. They were the standard of faith and righteousness. Their faces might be carved on your Mt. Rushmore of Faith, along with David, Peter, Paul and others. And you can look to your own ancestors in the faith – our own Abrahams and Sarahs, the spiritual rocks from which we were hewn… maybe a parent or grandparent, an aunt or uncle, a pastor, a youth leader, perhaps a special Sunday School teacher or your godparents. People like these have had a spiritual influence in your yesterdays.

And as we look at our own yesterdays – the joys and sorrows, the tears and the triumphs of the past 365 yesterdays – and as we look at the people in our yesterdays, let us be aware that Jesus Christ was there… in all of our yesterdays, and in all the faithful people of our yesterdays. Our most recent yesterdays – just 7 yesterdays ago – celebrated again His coming to be among us. We heard in the Scripture reading how, risen from the dead, He took the time to open the Scriptures for His disciples and show them His place in their own history, the importance of His suffering and rising for their own future. “You are witnesses of all these things,” He said. The disciples were witnesses, but we are too – not eye witnesses, but ear witnesses for we have heard and rejoiced in the good news of Jesus’ birth and we have taken to heart that God made the Jesus who was crucified both Lord and Christ… our Lord, our Christ, our Saviour, our Redeemer, our Prince of Peace. In every hearing of the Word made flesh we are ear witnesses, for Jesus is there… in the Word!

At the turning of the year, we look to yesterday and witness one unchanging fact: Jesus Christ was there for us… on every yesterday of 2017! And for that we can only be thankful.




Today… perhaps the turning of the year is an appropriate time to pause and consider ‘today’. It’s not yesterday, and it’s not tomorrow, but it is a day… today. Too often at the turning of the year we spend so much time looking back, remembering the past and wishing it were here again, and we spend so much time looking forward to what we yearn for and hope for and plan for… that we overlook today.

But of the three, today is the only one we really have right now, isn’t it? The past is God’s gift to us, to be sure, but we can’t change it, and it is now behind us, in fact, irretrievably so. And the future – which is also God’s gift to us –  is not yet here, not yet ours. There is a saying: yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the “present.” Today is God’s present gift; so, in that sense it is a watershed day, the day which divides the past from the future.

Have you ever traveled out to see the Continental Divide Creek near Lake Louise? I stopped there a number of years ago and took this photo. The creek is running north, but as it approaches the large rocks in the middle of the photo you can see that at the rocks the water in the creek parts, with some of the creek flowing west toward the Pacific, and some of it flowing east toward the Atlantic. Today, the present moment, is like that. What happened even five minutes ago flows indistinguishably into the past, while even the near future is part of the future creek, and we don’t know where it’s actually going to flow and what it’s going to look like. We have only the present, today, right now. God’s Word informs us how important the present is. Today is the time to repent, it tells us. Right now is the time to believe, to recommit, to trust, to bear witness, to love, to forgive, to do!

You can have the intention to believe in Jesus some time in the future, you can promise to be a witness next fall, you can make a New Year’s Resolution to be more forgiving or to become involved in some aspect of ministry in the church… but maybe when that tomorrow comes, you will have lost your resolve or forgotten your promise or life will just have changed. Today is the day, now is the time. And be assured that in all of these things – in your witnessing, your loving, your forgiving, your doing… Jesus Christ is here! He is not just part of a collection of ancient, yesterday, Bible stories in a dusty old book, nor is He just a mystical presence in the sky somewhere ahead in the future. No, He is Immanuel – God-with-us, right here, right now, today. You can pray to Him, you can talk to Him, you can stay with Him, you can walk with Him. He is a God of the present, a God of today. In fact, when God revealed His name to Moses at the burning bush, He referred to Himself as “I AM who I AM” – a pretty simple descriptor of Him being the God of today. He is with you as you cross this watershed day… into tomorrow, a New Year, 2018, and into the next tomorrows, and into 2019, and even into the year 2020.

That is why Jesus urges those who follow Him not to worry. In Matthew 6 – the Sermon on the Mount – Jesus says, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.” He adds that God feeds the birds of the air and clothes the grass and the flowers of the field, so He will certainly care for us, since we are more valuable to Him than are the birds and the flowers. He will provide what we need for today – the food and the drink and the clothes. Then Jesus concludes this little section by turning our attention to the important things: “Seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” If God is going to provide for our daily needs, that leaves us with the opportunity to focus on what’s really important – His kingdom things: His Word, the Sacraments, forgiveness, salvation, our spiritual gifts, the fruit of the Spirit, the Great Commandment to love God and to love our neighbor, the Great Commission to be God’s witnesses to the ends of the earth. And since Jesus Christ is the same today as yesterday, we can attempt things for His kingdom knowing that His constant help and blessing are there for the asking just as they were 2,000 years ago for the very first disciples, and knowing that His promise of forgiveness is like a net if and when we fall.

Our lives are always lived in the fork of the creek between yesterday and tomorrow, but that’s where Jesus lives with us, too… in the present, in today!





Forever… that word is really kind of out-of-sequence, isn’t it? In a line-up that begins with “Yesterday and Today” you would expect the next word to be… “Tomorrow”. In a way, it is, of course. And that is part of what we celebrate at the turning of the year. “Happy New Year!” we say to one another… and we look forward… perhaps one day at a time, one tomorrow at a time… to the future. “Happy New Year!”

And “tomorrow” – each tomorrow as it arrives – is a gift of God not to be despised, but to be anticipated, planned for, welcomed, as a blessing from the Lord. So while it is sinful to worry about the future, it is not sinful to plan for the future. It’s not wrong to make New Year’s Resolutions, or to establish a business blueprint, or to invest money for the future, or to set a date for a wedding, or to dream about your life’s ambitions and career directions, and to begin working toward those goals in life. But James reminds us of the proper attitude as we think about tomorrow: “You do not even know what will happen tomorrow… you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’” James prompts us, then, to include the Lord and His will in any plans we have for our tomorrows – whether that be marriage, retirement, having a baby, changing jobs, moving out on your own, going back to school for additional training, community involvements. Ask God to lead, to go ahead of you, and to bless you in all you do.

As we begin to include the Lord’s will in our future plans on this New Year’s Eve, the Word of God explodes the future for us like a great door thrown open on eternity. For the Bible’s next word after “yesterday and today” is not just “tomorrow” but FOREVER! “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever!” WOW! That’s a blessing that takes us beyond tomorrow, a blessing that exceeds our hopes and expectations and imaginations, a blessing that far outlasts and outshines all of our tomorrows.

And what makes it possible, of course, is that Jesus Christ is already there!

In the movie “Back To The Future” the idea of time travel was developed. At the end of the show, Doc Brown traveled to tomorrow (actually many tomorrows down the road) and then came back to today to report to Marty McFly and his girl about their kids. They had just started dating. Doc Brown had been to the future and had come back to say the future is bright.

In a way, we could say that Jesus has done the same. He has been to the future and He has come back to take our hand and walk us there. He knows what’s coming, He knows how to handle it, He knows how to get us through any difficult times. The future, eternity, belongs to Jesus. We can trust Jesus’ character and nature and love and forgiveness to be the same tomorrow and forever, just as they are today, just as they have been in the yesterdays.

Jesus fulfilled the past for us by living each of His ‘todays’ in the presence of God – including that ‘today’ on which He gave His life away. But then He rose again from the dead, and now lives and reigns eternally – through all the tomorrows – and He offers us that blessing of living eternally, too. “Whoever believes shall not perish, but shall have eternal life,” we are promised, even when all our tomorrows have come to an end. And we know that it is so, because the One who was there from the beginning – through all the yesterdays – and is here with us now – in our today – is also waiting to receive us once again – forever. That you can know… with everlasting certainty. The years may change, the world may change, people may change, as time goes by, but “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever!” Amen.

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