“Only Once”

“Only Once”  Hebrews 9:24-28
The 25th Sunday after Pentecost (B)  11/11/18
Pastor Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL

It would be safe to say that all of us have “do overs.” Things in our lives… in our past…  that we would like to do over… to do in a different way… make a different decision… choose differently… act differently.

It may be something as simple and innocuous as choosing a different shampoo.

But then again, it could be something more serious like choosing a different career path.

And then… in addition to all of this… there are things that, even if we wanted to, there are no “do overs.” No second chance or opportunity. What is done, is done.

This past week, Donna and I, along with our comfort dog, Samuel, wrapped up a three-year period of assisting state’s attorneys in providing support to a young girl who was testifying about her being raped and molested by a close relative. On Wednesday, that relative was found guilty of all charges brought against him and in January, he will be sentenced to a minimum of 27 years in prison. It could be that he gets over 100 years behind bars.

That’s it. There are no “do overs” for him. As there are no do overs for countless others who have to live with the consequences of their own actions. They very well may be behind steel bars as well. For others, those bars are in their mind and heart and just as much real. For still others, those bars are theirs in hell… and this, for eternity.

There are many no “do overs.” No “do overs” for those who take chances while driving and kill themselves and maybe others in the process.

No “do overs” for those who OD on drugs. No “do overs” for those who commit suicide. No “do overs” for those who have an abortion. And the list goes on and on of people who are paying the consequences for what they did or did not do.

The thing is my friends, we are not just talking about other individuals here. All of this pertains to us as well. For you see… when it comes to life… we only have one opportunity… only one life to live and how we live it… what we ultimately do with it… how we spend the precious and oh-so finite amount of years, months, days, hours and seconds graciously given to us by God. There are no “do overs.”

The writer to the Hebrews declares, “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)

That is it. At the end of every life… immediately… is the judgement.

At the end of time… the end of the world… immediately… is the judgement.

No “do overs.” It is you and I standing before our Lord who will judge the living and the dead. No “do overs.” No second chances. What we did with our lives, we did with our lives… period.

We live only once. We die only once… and after that the judgement.

Those divinely blessed with a sharp conscience will ask themselves, “What am I doing in my life, with my life, in light of God’s Word… in light of the Ten Commandments… in light of the duties God has given to me as a Christian man or woman, as a husband or wife, as a father or mother… as a family member or friend?

What did I do out there… in the world? And what did I do in here… in the Body of Christ, the Church?

We only live once. We only die once… and after that the judgement. So, you and I had better get it right the first time… or make it right while there is still time… while we still have breath in our lungs and a pulse.

The problem is… we never can get it right – our life, that is, in this sinful flesh… our thoughts and our actions. Try as we might, we stumble and fall… we fail again and again and again.

And here, dear brothers and sisters, is where we rejoice and take the greatest of comfort in another incidence of “only once.” Where no “do over” was needed… is ever needed or necessary… for His actions were perfect and what He accomplished was all sufficient for all time… for all people including you and me.

You see, the writer to the Hebrews in the text before us this morning is really not focusing on us… on man… but on our Savior, Christ Jesus, and he puts forth this important connection between our dying once and Christ dying once.

Christ dying once upon the cross as the perfect sacrifice for your sins and mine. Unlike all of the priests of old who every year entered the holy of holies to offer up the sacrifice for the atonement of his sins and those of the people… Christ our Savior was offered once… only once because that offering… His offering of Himself… His precious body and blood… was all that was needed. His sacrifice… perfect. Our sins… paid for! Done and done.

We read, “Just as It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:27-28)

Christ, indeed, soon comes as judge. But for us, this holds no terror or trepidation… for He, Jesus, dealt with our sins once and for all and we, by faith, eagerly await… indeed, we long for His coming to make our salvation complete by taking us home to be with Him in heaven.

Thanks be to God that in Christ Jesus, we are not concerned with “do overs” … with making things right. We can’t. Jesus did! End of story.

We are not concerned with “do overs.” Rather, we focus… we rejoice and give all glory to what was done “only once” … and it is all that is needed “for us men and for our salvation. Amen.