Where the Last Word is Not the Last Word

You and I… and Jesus. We got somethin’ in common. All of us: you, me, Jesus… all sons and daughters of the King of Heaven. How about that! And as such, each of us is a Prince or Princess, not through any merit of our own, but just because we are relatives of the King of Heaven and Earth. We can’t help it. We’re special from the start and unexpected at the end. Because God has the first word in our lives, any last word not God’s is no last word at all! Of all of this there is no question. In fact, the only questions on the subject are these. Do we know it? Do we believe it? Do we live it?

Many of us live our span of years between two awful ailments. Amnesia (I forget) and acrophobia (I’m afraid of heights). First we forget who we are, where we come from. And then we get uptight about moving up and reaching out. No need. No need! If you doubt me in this, you might wanna consult with Dr. Stacey King. Well, actually, Stacey’s not a doctor. He’s an ex-NBA basketballer who once played on the Bulls with Michael Jordan. In fact, his rookie year, his first game ever, he scored a grand total of… one point. (He hit a foul shot.) But that very night, Michael Jordan, greatest of all time, hit 69 points! King was asked across his career if his beginning game wasn’t greatly discouraging. He regularly responded like this. “I don’t remember much about my start. Except, I’m pretty sure that was the game where Michael Jordan and I shot 70 points between us!” Sometimes we forget who we are. And as to heights, well in truth, we’re a lot like trained fleas. Flea circuses put the youngest in a shoe box for a week. ‘With the lid on. True. After a week they remove the lid and the critters. They never have to worry about the little buggers jumping away. See, they will never jump any greater height or length than floor-to-lid of a shoe box! Friends, Scripture teaches us to be more in-touch than “Dr. Stacey” and so much bolder than a “flock o’ fleas!”

Consider Jeremiah. Why, you might be alot like him. When God wanted him to be what he was meant to be, young Jeremiah needed reminding where he came from. (And how high he could go.) See, like you, Jeremiah came from divine stock! The Lord came to Jerry with a reminder, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. Before you were born I set you apart: a prophet to the nations.” Jerry’s response, “NOT. I’m just a kid!” God was, and still is, disinclined to take no for an answer. “Don’t be a wimp, you’re a prince,” God sorta said.  “You’ll go where I send you, and say what I tell you. NO FEAR! I’m with you to deliver you! (Whenever somebody else appears to get the last word…. Well, Jerry, with me, the last word’s not the Last Word… unless it’s mine. And look, I’ve put my words in your mouth.” Then (get this) the Lord put forth his hand and touched Jeremiah’s mouth. He gets a new, an unforgettable start. And his ends aren’t any thing like Jeremiah ever imagined. The rest of his life will be “outside the (shoe) box.”

He’s not the only one! Consider Jesus. All I gotta say is Christmas! Never, ever before, ‘anyone born so special. But Matthew’s Gospel will tarry on Jesus’ baptism. He’ll tarry long enough to let us see the Baptist apply the water, the Spirit descend like a dove and the Voice assure us, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Mark remembers differently… and closer to the event than Matthew. Mark says the Voice speaks to Jesus directly, “You art my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” As with Jeremiah, so with Jesus. To us, to the Lord himself, or to both, there comes that confirming moment: ‘Special-in-My-Sight, you are (he is)! There’s a born-anew-ness here, a kind of foreshadowing clue of what God will offer to me and to you.

But there are also these marvelous endings stories. Jeremiah ends up the skunk at the Garden Party. He’s constantly telling King and country, “You’re going the wrong way. Repent. Turn around. Submit to the yolk of Babylon.” (That means give in to your enemies, give it up, and trust God for a surprise ending!) Well this was worse than telling O’s fans to love the Yankees, or Raven nation to root for the Steelers! The result: Jerry gets junked, thrown down a dry well and left for dead. “Good luck and good riddens. Bye, Bad Boy. We got the last word!” Well… not exactly! The day came, “they drew Jeremiah up with ropes, lifted him out, [and] Jeremiah [still] said to the king, “Surrender to Babylon, [only] then your life shall be spared.” The last word’s not the last word, ‘til God speaks it! …O Jesus. Jesus knows. In the wilderness (his, ours), the devil always tries to last-word us. When we are hungriest, body and soul (Can you think of a time?), to Jesus and to us that ole Devil offers stones into bread. Jesus says God offers more! What do you say? Who here hasn’t looked some hard road in the face and wondered. Do I have to? Who here hasn’t heard some Satan hissin’… “Take the easy way.” Same for Jesus. Just make a showy miracle, says the Devil. “Throw yourself down.” Surely this will be the last word! But Jesus says no to the show, easy is too greasy, “I’m not messin’ with my blessin’… God’s got better and I got God in my soul.” Finally, here comes the Devil’s last delight: I’ll tradeja: the world, for a hallelujah. For a shout out… I’ll get you out… of every trouble you’re in. Whadaya say Jesus, the whole world, for a little sin?!” This is the siren call of the Sylvan Casino: Alive Md.: not even close, the last word in temptation. But Jesus said NO. (What do we say?) See, the last word’s not the last word, ‘til God speaks it! And we hear God speaking, you and I, in Jesus Christ. And the seeming last place we hear him…the cross: forgiveness, fellowship, family, forsakenness, fulfillment, finished. Everybody thought, “Got him! We graved him! He’s gone!” Only, God had him, loved him, lifted him, gloried him. And he lives today: in you and in me! The last word’s not the last word, ‘til God speaks it! What’s God saying through you?!

Friends, we dare not let amnesia have the last word. We cannot forget any day, every day, we are children of the King. Princes and Princesses. Imprinted with the Royal Image of Heaven. The other day, I was at the hospital. The family was bereft. The Doc.s have said it’s touch and go they said. They expected mom to go. She may. But I reminded them of who touched her at the start and said, “You belong to me. My princess and my prize.” And I reminded them that only God gets the last word on when to go. But his word is, “Come!” O, sweet friends, in summer days of fun and tempting haze, may we know no fear of heights. I don’t mean at the park with wild rides. I mean in our everyday lives. When the boss, the report card, the H S coach, the college prof., the doc. or the bum knee wants the last word, or even the devil himself, we are called to say… “I am lifted higher. It is God in Christ who lifts me.’ He came to meet us where we are, and treat us as though we were where we were meant to be. And have us offer that to each other in his name. And that’s the LAST WORD!

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