On Wednesday mornings I volunteer at the Milwaukee Rescue Mission and teach a basic doctrine class in their New Journey rehabilitation program, as well as preach chapel. Attached is a zip file to the full slides and handouts I use for the class, as well as other resources. There are 24 lessons total (originally composed Spring of 2018).
The following sermon was preached at South City Church on December 17, 2017. In anticipation of Christmas, it explores the theme of Christ’s incarnation, based out of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 8:9.
My question—that which at the age of fifty brought me to the verge of suicide—was the simplest of questions, lying in the soul of every man … a question without an answer to which one cannot live. It was: ‘What will come of what I am doing today or tomorrow? What will come of my whole life? Why should I live, why wish for anything, or do anything?’ It can also be expressed thus: Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy?
—Leo Tolstoy (A Confession), channeling his inner Qohelet, Ecclesiastes.
The answer: no, nothing, futility, or, as the book of Ecclesiastes itself puts it, a mere “striving after wind.”
Death is the ultimate “vanitizer.” Nothing escapes its finalizing, universal stamp of “pointless.”
Christmas is a time of celebration, a time to celebrate the wonder of the incarnation (the becoming human) of God. But, with this, it is also a time for those dealing with sorrow, for those who suffer.
The world into which Christ was born was, and still is, a world wrecked with tragedy and pain. And we can look back across the course of our own lives, even just the world events of the past week, and know this.
The “Christmas story” itself witnesses to this, as young children are slaughtered at the hands of Herod; and the gospel writer, Matthew, echoes the sin-caused exilic woes — the exile Jesus was born to end, mind you — penned by Jeremiah,
“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”
Jesus himself, as a child, entered into this suffering, as a refugee fleeing to Egypt. And of course, this incarnational participation in our suffering climaxes at the cross, where Christ bears the burden for all who trust in him.
We truly do have a high priest who is able to sympathize.