Exaude, the Sunday after Ascension May 16, 1999
217, 408, 423, 215
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them’—before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim; when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when men rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint; when men are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags himself along and desire no longer is stirred. Then man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets. Remember him—before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Here ends our text.
In Christ Jesus, Dear Fellow-Redeemed,
According to many modern efficiency experts, there is one overriding problem that stands between most people and personal success. That problem is—Procrastination, with a capital “P”! Everyone procrastinates about certain things in their lives. Some people more than others. Some people seem to live by the motto: “Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow or the day after!” Well, if you walk into a bookstore these days, you’ll find dozens of self-help books designed to rid you of the problem of procrastination. They all end up saying pretty much the same thing: if you want to stop procrastinating, you have to learn to set deadlines for yourself, and stick to them.
There’s a lot to what they say. If you’re a homemaker, you know that you’ve got to get certain things done on time, or you’ll have a messy house on your hands. If you’re a working person and you keep missing deadlines, eventually you’re going to make less money, miss a promotion, or lose your job altogether. And that’s serious. But there’s one area in your life where procrastination can be fatal, and that’s discipleship. Our text for today urges you to “remember your Creator,” and to dedicate your life to His service. And it sets a deadline on that goal. Our theme today is:
Speaking of procrastination—Do you know who one of the most famous procrastinators in history was? Augustine of Hippo, better known as St. Augustine. He’s one of our most revered church fathers, by the way, and his writings had a great influence on Martin Luther. But he was a procrastinator—he didn’t get serious about being a Christian until he was almost 40 years old. He tells us that, as a young man, he used to say this prayer: “Oh Lord, give me chastity and soberness, but not yet!”
Have you ever prayed that prayer? Maybe not in so many words, but we all tend to put off discipleship. All of us have a Bible in our homes, but we put off reading it. We know God’s Word is preached in church every Sunday, but we put off going. We put off dedicating ourselves completely to God. And it’s a sad fact that this is especially true about younger people!
It’s more than sad, really—it’s a tragedy! God is speaking especially to the younger people when He says, in our text, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth!” You young people who have so much going on in your lives, so many things to think about—stop for a second! Take a look in the mirror. Remember who it is who made you. Remember who it is who loved you so much that He sacrificed His only Son so that you might live. Remember who it is who watches you every second of the day, who protects you around the clock, who takes care of all your needs! Your Father in heaven does all those things. How will you serve your Father? Will you serve Him with the cream of your years—or with the dregs?
The deadline for discipleship is NOW, because God wants the cream of your years. You’re young now, with plenty of energy and skills and resources to give. But the time is coming when all those things will fade. The sin of Adam and Eve doomed a perfect world to imperfection. That means that natural things, including man, don’t just keep on running. They wind down. Young people don’t think about that very often, but it’s true. Just ask a few of our older members! Our text gives a vivid picture of old age, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them’—before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim; when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when men rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint; when men are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags himself along and desire no longer is stirred.” The eyesight grows dim, and you just get over one storm of sickness, when another one takes its place. You find yourself stooping. Your “grinding” teeth go, one by one. The sound of a bird is enough to disturb your sleep. Your hair becomes as white as the pure white almond blossom—the pleasure that your senses used to give you grows less and less. Young people, are you going to wait till then to follow God? Is that your deadline for discipleship?
Remember your Creator NOW! Give Him the cream of your years! Or rather, allow Him to give them to you! Because God has a treasure-house full of good things that He’s just waiting to give you. Are struggling under a load of guilt? God has sweet forgiveness for you. “Let the wicked man forsake his way,” God says, “and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Isaiah 55. Are you depressed? Weighed down with cares and anxieties? Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matt 11:28. Does your life seem aimless and hopeless lately? Give yourself to God, and let Him put meaning back into it. The Psalmist says, “You have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth…I will ever praise you!” Psalm 71:5-6. Uncertain about the future? Turn your life over to God, and lock in a happy future! Then you can say, with King David, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6. These are all good reasons to make NOW your deadline for discipleship!
There’s another reason to serve God NOW—because He sets a limit to your time of grace. And you just don’t know when that limit will come! One day a woman came to see her pastor and said, “Reverend, I just can’t get my daughter to come to Jesus. I’ve talked and talked to her, but it’s no use.” The pastor went to see the young woman and said, “Your mother keeps bothering you about your soul’s salvation, doesn’t she? What if I convinced her to leave you alone about it for a whole year? How would that be?” The young woman replied, “Well, I don’t think it’d be safe to put it off for a whole year. Something might happen. I could die by then!” ”Yes, that’s true, the pastor said. “What if we say six months?” No, she didn’t think even that would be safe. “How about three months?” After hesitating a moment, she said, “I guess it isn’t safe to put it off at all!” So she prayed for God’s forgiveness then and there, and from that moment forward she knew the love and pardon of Jesus.
Our text says, “Remember your Creator—before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” Most people, especially young people, don’t think about death very often, if at all. God wants to remind you that He sets a limit to your time of grace.
I’ve always thought it peculiar that some obituaries give the exact length of a person’s life. Did you ever notice?—“Harold Jacobson died at age sixty-one years, three months and eleven days.” It always sounded strange to me. But it’s a vivid reminder, isn’t it, that each of us has an exact number of days that the Lord gives us here on this earth. You, personally, have one day less than you had yesterday, seven days less than you had last Sunday! As the writer of our text puts it, your life is hanging by a single silver thread. That thread will break one day. And it can break at any time! Do you remember the last time you dropped a plate or a cup and broke it? It startled you, didn’t it! You didn’t expect it! Your last moment may come just as suddenly and unexpectedly. And there are no “maybe’s” about what will happen then. The time of grace will be over. In an instant you’ll step from time into eternity; from this world, into the presence of God Himself! JUDGEMENT DAY—and on that day, well, the “procrastinators” will be out of luck! Your deadline for discipleship has to be NOW—any other time may be too late!
I started out by saying that we’re all guilty of some procrastination, and it’s true. We all share the guilt of putting off some of our duties to God. Of settling for halfhearted service, and postponing complete discipleship for later. But there is one Person who didn’t procrastinate. One Person who served God perfectly from the day He was born until the day He felt the nails being driven through His hands. We don’t love God with all our heart, all our soul and all our mind—but Jesus did! We don’t love our neighbor as we love ourselves—but Jesus did! Jesus kept all the commandments in perfect righteousness. And today He offers that righteousness to you. Take it now! Don’t wait until tomorrow—tomorrow may never come! Come to Jesus’ feast of forgiveness today—receive the full pardon He offers you in His Word. You won’t be disappointed. Today your gracious Lord makes you this promise: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isa 1:18.
Three men were in town one day, arguing about when was the best time to cut a walking stick from the ash tree. One said that the best time was in spring, when the sap was rising. A walking stick cut at such a time would be strong, yet supple. Another said that summer was the best time, because then the wood is at the very top of it’s form. The third man said they were both wrong—autumn was best, when the sap had matured and perfected the wood. Just then, a wise old farmer came down the street. “Here comes John,” they said. “Let’s ask him. Tell us, John, when is the best time to cut an ash-stick?” He replied, “When you see it, gentlemen, when you see it! It may not be there the next time you pass that way!” NOW is the deadline for discipleship! TODAY is the best time to dedicate your life to the service of your God! The Apostle Paul is speaking to you, today, when he says, “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation!” II Cor 6:2. AMEN.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.