Last Sunday of The Church Year


The end.

That’s what today is.

Today we mark the end of one Church-year, and the beginning of another.


In the usual way, the Scripture readings appointed for us these last few weeks

have been preparing us for the end.

With prophesies, encouragements, and warnings,

Jesus has been telling us to be ready when he comes again.


It’s really nothing new.

Through the mouth of His Prophets,

By the letter of His Word, from generation to generation,

He could not have made Himself clearer.

His Bride, His Church, should be awake and ready!


And He’s been very up front and honest about how that looks:




A Winsome Witness,

Love and Action,

Faith and Faithfulness.


One thing that didn’t make Jesus’ list of expectations, though, is pity.

And yet, that seems to be about all the people have. St. Luke writes:


There followed Him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for Him. But turning to them Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children…”


To you members of the great multitude of people following Jesus,

Hear Him now, this morning.

He is not interested in your pity.


From forever, Jesus knew exactly what He was getting Himself into.

In a story that seems like it could have ended so many other ways,

This was always the only ending that made sense to Him.

To us, it doesn’t seem so sensible.

And so we share in the cries of those looking on:


“Jesus, You have saved so many others, save Yourself.

If You’re God, if You’re the Christ, if You are who You say You are,

Then why don’t you act like it?!

If you don’t want our pity, please just come down.

That sign above your head says you are a King,

So for heaven’s sake, act like a King!”


They didn’t want a Jesus with a cross, and neither do we.


Because like looking at a wound you’ve inflicted on another,

Every glimpse of Christ Crucified has the potential to remind us of things we’d rather forget:

The harm we’ve done.

The love we’ve withheld.

The words we can’t take back.

The nails we’ve pounded into Him.


And so we mourn Him. We pity Him, because its so unfair. It’s the least we can do.


But Jesus does not tell His story that way.


For Jesus, Good Friday is His coronation!

It is the beginning of His reign.

He is ascending to His throne.

Wooden cross, thorny crown, surrounded by criminals.


It’s the end of the devil’s kingdom, and the beginning of His.


This is the ending we get when Jesus tells His story His way:

A kingdom where you will not be mourned.

But rather, remembered.


It’s such a simple request.


Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.


Remembering, Jesus’ way, is more than a memory.

It means to make good on all that has been promised.

It means to deliver what you said you would.


For Jesus and for the criminal, that is not some day a long way off.

In His own words, Jesus says that He is coming into His Kingdom today.


And so the criminal does not live and die in pity for himself or for Jesus.

Rather, He lives and dies in gratitude and hope.

He does not die mourning a life wasted.

He dies celebrating a life gained.


He looks Jesus in the face as he closes his eyes,

And he looks Jesus in the face as he opens them again in His Kingdom.

And so, for all of that, today is a day of ending and beginning,

of entrance and exit,

of life and death.


A day which means that you and I can live like criminals, too.


That is, we can live and die not as people in mourning and lament,

but as those who rejoice and live in hope –

All because we’ve got a Jesus with a cross, a crown, and a kingdom.


Of course the criminal was a sinner,

And he lived in a sinful world.

That means he had a cross to bear, literally and figuratively.


And part of living in hope means bearing your cross, too.

You don’t need to go out and find them, they’ll find you.

That’s discipleship.

Bearing your crosses, and bearing them hopefully.


It can be tough. And some days are more difficult than others,

Especially as we approach the holidays.


But one great thing about life in the church is that you don’t do it on our own steam.

So if you would like some encouragement in that,

In living joyfully in a busted-up world,

Then try singing our closing hymn today with some extra bravado.


It is a hymn of triumph and joy, of sleeping and waking, of ending and beginning.

It is one of our greatest musical treasures, the queen of the chorales,

Written in 1598 by Philip Nicolai.


He wrote it just after a great pestilence had come upon the town of Unna,

In Westphalia where he served as pastor.


When all was said and done, Pastor Nicolai had buried one thousand, three hundred men, women, and children in six months.

That’s seven to eight funerals a day, every day, for half a year.


So while we might expect him to be mourning and lamenting;

While any sane person would be saying, blessed are those women who never gave birth;

While reasonable folks like us would beg for the mountains to fall on us and end it all,

Pastor Nicholai takes a cue from a criminal. He writes:


Zion hears the watchmen singing

And all her heart with joy is springing;

She wakes, she rises from her gloom.

For her Lord comes down all-glorious,

The strong in grace, in truth victorious;

Her star is ris’n, her light is come.


You can sing that because your Jesus, The Crucified One, makes good on His promises.

And He has forgiven and forgotten every one of your sins,

even as He has remembered you.


So come now, all you criminals and would-be mourners.

Today you will be with Jesus in Paradise.

Because today Jesus brings paradise to you.


Now come, Thou Blessed One,

Lord Jesus, God’s own Son,

Hail! Hosanna!

We enter all,

The wedding hall

To eat the Supper at Thy call.


That’s an ending we can live with.


About Pastor Hopkins