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January 26, 2020
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation for this celebration of the National Lutheran Schools Week comes from our gospel text where John records, “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” Here ends our text; dear Christian friends…

We prefer a “full” reading on the gauges of our lives. It’s a good feeling to drive away with a full tank of gas, and we are thankful for the full feeling after a delicious meal. The desire for fullness follows us to church. We rejoice in a full sanctuary of worshippers; we celebrate full enrollment in educational programs; we are relieved when a project has a full list of volunteers. Lutheran schools prefer full classrooms, fully-funded budgets, fully- and professionally-staffed classrooms.

The reality of our lives is that things are often less than full. Fuel tanks need to be refilled … shortly after one meal we start wondering about then next … and not every classroom is full or every budget fully funded. More challenging than the discomforts or inconveniences of physical “tanks” left unfilled is the reality of emotional emptiness. “I feel so empty” is the lament of the one who has lost a family member, the spouse who has been abandoned, and the child who’s been rejected by a friend.

Most devastating is our spiritual emptiness. Matthew’s gospel tells of Jesus’s encounter with a rich young man who is described as one with great possessions. In his own eyes, he was full of righteous deeds. In many respects, his life was full … of possessions and power. When Jesus asked this young man to take what he had and give it to the poor, the man could not walk away from his earthly fullness. In reality, his life was empty.

Our schedules may be full; our homes may be full of goods and conveniences; our garages may be full of vehicles and toys; we may be filling our retirement coffers; and yet our lives are empty. Without Jesus, emptiness prevails. The apostle Paul had authority in the church, significance in his heritage, and a well-rounded education, and yet his life was empty. By grace through faith, he received the riches of his grace. Peter, Andrew, James and John may have had nets full of fish, but when Jesus came and called them, they were filled with His presence and grace.

“But, when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under that law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4–5). God emptied Himself so that we might receive the fullness of His grace. Jesus came to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus’s journey in the flesh is described briefly in the gospel of John. The God who rightfully could have chosen to be full of anger and judgment is described as “full of grace and truth.” In the gift of His Son, the Father grants full forgiveness of all sins.

John, who introduces “the Word made flesh,” goes on to describe Jesus’s earthly ministry. The first sign of Jesus’s power and authority as the Son of God occurred at a wedding in Cana. Jesus took jars full of water and miraculously turned it into “good wine” for the wedding guests. He would go on to fill diseased bodies with health and vitality. He would fill hearts emptied by grief with the joy of seeing family members raised from the dead. He would fill panicked disciples with the peace of His presence and Word.

Every action of Jesus was part of His journey to the cross. His spirit was emptied in prayer in the garden, and His body was emptied of all life as He announced, “It is finished.” Every part of Jesus’s being was fully emptied to pay for the sins of the world. The sacrifice was full and complete. Receiving by faith the fullness of Jesus’s sacrifice and the full assurance of His resurrection, we receive John’s gospel promise: “And from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” We have fully received God’s grace. The infant is held above the baptismal font. Physically small and mentally not yet developed, the child receives the fullness of God’s grace with sins fully forgiven. The communicant comes to the altar. The meal is small — a wafer and a sip of wine — but the feast is plentiful. In faith, the penitent receives the fullness of Christ’s body and blood. Worshippers gather with guilty consciences, complicated lives, strained relationships, fearful hearts, and every other malady imaginable. The Word is spoken:

“As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore forgive you all your sins.” There is no sin that does not receive pardon. The forgiveness is full and free. The “Joy:fully Lutheran” theme is a celebration of the fullness of God’s grace in Christ. Our Reformation heritage reminds us of God’s grace. Lutheran schools may not always meet the quantitative measures we desire. However, as the Word is taught and the Sacraments are administered, these schools are always full of grace. The grace-filled Lutheran school teaches the truth of grace from the Scripture, celebrates grace in worship, and lives grace in relationships.

By God’s grace, that is St. James. The greatest strength of our Lutheran school is that we are a “grace place.” The grace of God, which became ours through Christ, is shared in Word and Sacrament and received by every student, parent, and other person blessed by our ministry. By no means are we perfect or sinless – quite to the contrary, God’s people are more targeted by the enemy’s schemes, and we may not always be “graceful” as we go about our hectic daily routines here, but we are always “grace-full” as we hear Christ proclaimed in our school. St. James Lutheran School is grace-full! We are full of God’s grace to be shared joyfully, thankfully, faithfully, peacefully, and hopefully with all.

+ In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

Tags: John 1:14-18