Epiphany 7C

In the movie Groundhog Day, a washed up reporter who was sent to cover Punxatawny Phil finds that he has to live that day over and over in an endless loop until he gets it right. 

While he knows it, no one else does 

and, eventually, he learns everyone's routines, words, and actions, 

and falls in love with a woman he meets over and over, 

always February 2nd, 

each and every day. 

And while each day he learns more about her, she of course, can't remember anything about him, 

because she is, after all, meeting him for the first time 

every day, 

always on Groundhog Day. 

The movie is a real study on the question, “if you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?”

Sometimes in life we get second chances, but the first times aren't forgotten. 

Even the term, “second chances” assumes it's an effort to try to do things right. 

No one wants another opportunity to fail or mess things up. 

So, when we get that opportunity, 

we try our best to learn from previous experience, 

make better choices, perform better, and avoid previous mistakes. 

It sounds so easy, doesn't it?

Yet, even when given a chance, we still make mistakes. 

Sometimes it's the same ones over and over.  Others are just a variation on a theme. 

So, when confronted with the failure of our do overs, 

we either must conclude we are incapable of learning from our past, 

or we are simply too broken to fix ourselves. 

And that, my friends, is when we come to the realization that we are poor, miserable, sinners. 

When we realize we can't really ever get to perfect. 

And that we will always be confessing one thing or another that we have done wrong. 

And this is why the resurrection of Jesus is so important.

 aside from its importance as the proof that he defeated sin and death, 

is the fact that it validates his promise to raise us from the dead as well. 

And by that promise of a resurrection to new life after death, 

we are given a new perspective and impetus for this life as well. 

Because we know God will one day hit the reset button on our eternal life, 

we are given the freedom to not only try to emulate that new life today, 

but, when we fail, to not wallow in guilt or shame. 

Because each and every day we rise is another day God has given us to follow him. 

And each day that his past is already forgotten for those who know Jesus.

This boldness to do things differently today than yesterday is what is on Paul's mind as he writes to the Corinthians.

 If it weren't for the promised new life he would receive on judgment day,

he would not have been able to endure the pain and suffering inflicted upon him by those who opposed him. 

Nor would he have been so passionate in his sharing that good news to the world as he traveled. 

In fact, if it weren't for the glorious life that lies ahead for him as a believer, 

he would have no incentive to follow such a path in life 

and, instead, would embrace a hedonistic life focused on physical and temporal pleasures. 

“Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” is how he put it. 

If there is no resurrection, then life is way too short to worry about, well, anything that doesn't satisfy. 

And Paul's approach to life is, sadly, becoming increasingly rare as fewer people have this hope of the resurrection. 

Instead of looking to God for direction toward a preferred future in heaven, 

they look only toward their own present desires to lead them through life. 

“Laisse le bon ton roulette.” is not only a Mardi Gras slogan, 

but for many people it is their motto for an entire lifetime. “Let the good times roll.”

Of course, the good times will end, and in about 9 days or so as far as Mardi Gras is concerned. 

That's because Lent will be upon us when we will begin preparing our hearts to once again reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus. 

And when we, for a time, put aside in very overt ways, the desirous and the cheerful and the things of this world.

And, sadly, Lent will come and go unnoticed for most of those celebrating this week. 

They won't hear about the suffering Savior 

and, consequently, they won't hear about the resurrected Lord either. 

And so, they might wonder, “why can't every day be Fat Tuesday?” to live it over and over again! 

the good food and the drink. 

The fun with friends. 

The excesses that seem to get excused just because... it's Mardi Gras! 

But, unfortunately for them, no matter how long the party goes on, it one day will end. 

And then there will be no more endless loop of days lived however we desired to live. 

And all the eating and drinking will stop because it is the day to die. 

Or when Jesus returns in judgment. 

And without Jesus in the heart, 

they will not be resurrected to the final do over into perfection, 

But, into the endless loop of the excruciating loneliness and emptiness of hell.

You and I, however, want to be in that number of the Saints who go marching into heaven. 

And, by the gift of faith 

given by the Holy Spirit, 

and sealed by the waters of baptism, 

you can have an assurance that you will be in that number. 

But faith should never be taken for granted because it can be lost. 

For there are powerful forces working to scratch snatch it from you, 

because the entire world wants you to join its unending party. 

And even the devil wants to be sure all your ones and desires are fulfilled. 

And it will be your own wants and desires that strike the hardest most. 

That internal struggle is the most insidious because it is hidden from view. 

And because it is an internal war within the conscience and even our minds 

it's hard to seek help from others so that we can hold each other accountable, 

And encourage one another with those most private of struggles. 

And while each of us should have that person we can confide in; 

we also need to arm and equip ourselves for that spiritual warfare.

And that comes in the form of the word. 

Not only God's word in the Bible, 

but the word made flesh. 

Jesus himself. 

Found in the sacrament of the altar. 

Especially in challenging times it is imperative to be in worship and in the word together.

Let's talk a minute about this togetherness since it is so important. 

I'd like to start by encouraging those of you here today to come back next Sunday as well. 

Someone told me this week to expect an empty church with fewer than a dozen people next Sunday. 

One person even jokingly asked if we were canceling worship since it was the day after Endemion! 

Of course, this is ridiculous, yet the temptation to make an excuse to refuse the word of God is great. 

Secondly, I'd like to talk to those who regularly watch online. 

While it is a great service for those who are truly homebound or who are looking for a new church, 

it is not a suitable substitution for attending in person. 

We need you and you need us to be the most complete expression of Christ’s Church in this place. 

It is no more dangerous COVID-wise than your trips to the store or out to eat or wherever else you go during the week. 

And so, I encourage each and every person watching us today to make a plan to come and worship in person in the coming weeks. 

And the reason I'm so adamant about this is because each Sunday is a, “foretaste of the feast to come.” 

that is, when we share the sacrament together on Sunday, 

we are joined with all of the Saints across time and space. 

So that, in our communion, the fellowship of heaven is approximated, even if only in a minute way. 

And if there ever was a time when all Christians needed to dwell in unity, surely that time is now. 

Moreover, when we gather around word and sacrament, we are given another do-over. 

From the confession and absolution at the beginning of the service, 

to communion at the end, 

every component of our worship together conveys the fact 

that Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection from the grave 

guarantee our forgiveness, life, and salvation. 

So that we can start each day anew to live more like Jesus. 

And to follow him and his ways and invite others to follow along with us. 

So that they too might get that daily do-over which comes from forgiveness.

We as a congregation get a new start when its individual believers realize that new start in Christ. 

Because if you and I have truly left behind our own sinful past, 

we will also be willing to put behind us the sinful things others have done in our midst. 

And old grudges will be forgotten. And slates will be wiped clean. 

And when the past and all its pain is left behind, we can focus on now and the future. 

instead of mourning what we have lost, we are eager for what is being born. 

Instead of conserving the crumbling and the obsolete we study what is effective, new, and relevant. 

And through all of this, we grow closer to one another, and to God. 

Because it is all centered on Christ, as we gather around word and sacrament,

and as we train up one another to be better disciples and fishers of men. 

Some days it may seem like we are far from that ideal future. 

But we remember that each journey, no matter how long, begins with the first step. 

And that through repentance we can stop doing that which is not helpful to the Kingdom 

and can turn in the other direction and do what Christ is calling us to do.

May each of us see each day in Christ as a new start, 

filled with hope and promise to walk closer to Jesus, 

and displaying his love to the world around us 

so that we and those we love would one day wake up in heaven to that perfect day that never ends. 

In the name of Jesus, we pray it.