Getting Our Affairs In Order - By Pastor Thomas Engel
It’s a nice quiet Sunday in St Petersburg, Missouri. But, it’s not a nice quiet day because people are going on picnics or taking naps on their porches.
The townspeople of the little town are walking solemnly to a funeral. All that can be heard is the toll of the church bell and the shuffling of feet on the dusty streets.
It’s sad day for the town as they mourn the death of three young boys who have been missing and are now presumed dead.
The boys, Tom, Joe, and Huck, were not exactly the pride of the town. They were boys who liked to cause mischief, but
they were sons of the town.
To bring you inside the story, the boys are not dead, but they are up in the gallery watching all that is said about their short lives.
In the midst of tears during the church service, there’s joy. The boys walk down the aisle and are greeted with hugs and kisses. The preacher breaks out in songs of praise.
They are not even thinking about the “bad” joke that has been played on them, but they are only so glad that the boys are back.
I don’t know if it worked here, but I’ve a sensitive subject to talk about this morning.
By bringing up Mark Twain’s story of Tom Sawyer’s fake funeral, I’m looking for a way to ease into talking about the sad subject of funerals, and not any funeral, but your funeral.
Let me try to further introduce the sensitive subject by a favorite sitcom.
There’s a Dick Van Dyke episode where Laura is upset. Their insurance guy wants to make an appointment with the Petries to update their insurance policies. As it turns out, Laura is avoiding the meeting because she doesn’t want to talk about life insurance.
For Laura, talking about life insurance means thinking that someone is going to die and leave the surviving spouse alone.
With no doubt, that thought of a loved one’s death is sad, but it’s a reality we need to prepare for.
It’s a very sad thought to think about anyone’s death and our own death.
The thought of death is something that we like to keep on a way back burner.
But, it’s good advice for any adult to think about getting his or her affairs in order.
I’m not getting any commission from an insurance company with my suggestion for having a life insurance policy.
I’m not working with any law firm when I’m suggesting about getting a will.
I’m not working with any funeral home when I’m suggesting to make those final arrangements.
Some churches give seminars on end of life planning.
I do strongly suggest end of life planning, so your loved ones can honor your wishes after you are gone.
Again, it’s all sad thoughts but necessary for us to follow through on those responsibilities.
Why am I bringing up these sad thoughts of a funeral?
After all, this is Transfiguration Sunday when we should be talking about the bright light of God’s glory.
I should have started by getting us to imagine that we are up on a mountain top. On this mountain, we are seeing Jesus transfigured before our very eyes.
We are seeing Jesus as an ordinary human, but, then, we see his appearance changed before us into God’s radiant glory.
In seeing God’s glory in Jesus, we get all excited like Peter, John, and James did when they actually did see Jesus in the light of God’s glory. What a thing to see as they also saw Moses and Elijah and heard the voice of God.
With that said about seeing God’s glory, and although not as dramatic as it was on that mountain top as eyewitnesses of seeing God’s glory, isn’t what we are doing in worship this morning a mountain top experience?
I’m not sure if anyone of us thought this morning as we were getting out of bed, “Yup, I’m going to the mountain top to see God’s glory in Jesus.”
We might not have specially thought all of that about a mountain experience, but we are seeing God’s glory in this church during this worship service.
Starting with the invocation, we are in the presence of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
In our song of praise, we are singing with all the angels and all of the saints in heaven.
In the confession and absolution, we receive God’s forgiveness for every sin.
In the hearing of God’s Word, we are encouraged in faith.
In prayer, God hears our hearts’ desires.
In the Sacrament, Jesus comes into us with all that he has for us that is good and holy.
In the blessing, we know God cares for us in everyway.
So, we are seeing God’s glory this time in church during this time of worship.
With that said, this time of seeing God’s glory has a purpose.
This purpose goes back to how we started talking about death and funerals.
If we are reading just a little bit carefully, we see that Moses, Elijah, and Jesus are having a conversation on the mountain top.
They are talking about what happens when Jesus goes down the mountain to fulfill his purpose in Jerusalem.
Jesus’ whole purpose with his coming here to live was to take the punishment for the sins of the world by his suffering and death on a cross.
Why ruin a glorious mountaintop experience by talking about death?
As with how we started out today, why ruin this time of glory in church by talking about our deaths?
For one, we need to talk about our death at some point, for we all are going to die.
Death is unpleasant subject, but it is a truth, as hard as it is, it’s true. All people die.
Talking about death here in church where we are sure to have God’s glory is the perfect place.
The reason Moses, Elijah, and Jesus talked about Jesus’ death on the mountain top is that Jesus’ death was going to be hard. It was going to be horrific as horrific can get.
To talk about the hard things to come, we need to be in a good spot, and what better spot to be in than God’s glory.
When we have experienced God’s glory, we know we have all of the power of heaven and earth with us.
With Peter, James, and John, we see that Jesus had all the glory of God to do what he had to do.
Jesus had to battle sin, Satan, and eternal death and win that battle.
Jesus could only win that battle by the power of heaven and earth, and Jesus’ transfiguration showed that he had all that power.
Going down that mountain to Jerusalem, Jesus knew he could complete the mission that was before him to save the world from sin, Satan, and eternal death.
So, it is a similar way with us.
Jesus had his mission, and we have ours.
We will leave this mountaintop and have to face our lives.
With no doubt, life can be hard. It be so hard that it is like facing death.
King David as a king with all of his trials said it was like walking in the valley of the shadow of death with evil all around him.
St Paul talked about how a life of faith is like facing death every day.
When Paul said, “I die daily,” he reminded the church that he faced the possibility of death every time he strode into a new synagogue and proclaimed Christ to those who didn’t want to hear
Paul wrote often about dying to sin, to the flesh, and to self.
Paul saw his life as a daily death to himself. He expressed this understanding to the church elders of Ephesus: “I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
This dying to self empowered Paul was the only way he could face unimaginable suffering and many persecutions for the sake of the Gospel.
With that said about St Paul, in our confession and absolution have died to sin.
In a sense, we have been to a funeral of our old sinful self, and a new self has risen in Christ.
With that said about us, we can now get our affairs in order.
I do feel Laura Pertrie’s pain as she does not want to talk about life insurance, for I do agree it has to do with talking about the sad subject of death and funerals.
But, I am for getting one’s affairs in order.
With talking about “getting our affairs in order,” it’s here as we approach the season of Lent that we are talking about the affairs of faith.
In a sense this Lenten season, we will be going to a funeral. This funeral will be the death of sin.
It might be a little strange to think of it this way, but sin has died. Since sin is dead, we can’t go back to it.
Something that is dead can’t react. It can’t move. It has no breath in it.
The death of sin is a good thing.
During this funeral for sin, we will be going to Jesus’ cross, and see how when Jesus died, sin died.
With that said, and we come to hear God’s Words that do require a response from us. We will spending our time in Lent “getting out affairs in order.”
To be sure, I’m not talking about the specific affairs of funeral arrangements.
We will be talking about our affairs as we go about our lives with our families, schools, neighborhoods, and places of work.
With it said that sin is dead, we can respond with love anew, courage anew, patience anew, and strength anew.
Although what Tom Sawyer did by his fake funeral was a bad joke, and I’m not sure if Mark Twain was making an allusion to Christ’s death and resurrection when the boys came walking down the aisle and the townspeople rejoicing, but there was joy.
With that said about joy, we can rejoice because we have been on the mountaintop and have seen the glory of God in Christ here in church in this time of worship.
With that said about seeing the glory of God in Christ, we can go down from this mountaintop into our lives with the affairs of our faiths in perfect order.