The Eternal Date Line
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Delivered By
Rev. Nathaniel Schwartz
Delivered On
December 31, 2013
Central Passage
Romans 8:31-39

NEW YEAR’S EVE                       DECEMBER 31, 2013                         ROMANS 8:31-39


In 1522, a ship originally commanded by Ferdinand Magellan arrived in port at Seville, Spain.  Three years earlier, it had left port there and headed westward.  It crossed the Atlantic Ocean, skirted past the tip of South America, traversed the Pacific and Indian Oceans, rounded the Cape of Good Hope at the southernmost point of Africa, and returned home to Spain.  This worm-eaten, storm-beaten ship had become the first vessel to sail around the world.

But when the sailors arrived home, there was something that puzzled them.  They were baffled because it appeared that a day was missing.  By the sailors’ accounting, it should have been Wednesday when they landed.  But to those who were ashore in Seville, it was Thursday.  The mystery continued to confound voyagers for some time, until 1884, when representatives from all over the world gathered to solve the problem.  They did so by establishing the International Date Line.  We now realize that the solution to the mystery was the need to establish a point of origin to make sense of time all over the world.


Well, my friends, you and I also need a point of origin.  We need a date line, a point of origin to make sense of our times.  This is because we live in times that often don’t make much sense.  Think of what we’ve witnessed during the past year.  On the national and international scenes there have been war, crime, violence, corruption, upheavals in politics and government, economic uncertainty, and moral chaos.  We have endured a government shut-down, a health care crisis, the striking down of the Defense of Marriage Act by the U.S. Supreme Court, and school shootings.  On a personal level, you may have experienced problems with your job, family, and finances.  Some of us in the past year have experienced unforeseen illness and tragic losses.  Yes, our times could well be described by the list Paul gives us in verse 35 of our text from Romans 8:  tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, and danger.


And these things just don’t seem to make any sense.  Aren’t we God’s people?  Isn’t he all-powerful?  Shouldn’t he be with us when our times seem to be falling apart?  Where is He when the world seems so bent on ignoring him and his will and making life so miserable for us?  Will it get worse?  It seems to be headed that way!  What will next year bring?

So we need a point of origin to help us navigate the perils of the present, and the unchartered waters of the future.  For the future could indeed hold for you and me experiences like those listed in our text:  trouble, hardship, persecution, scarcity, danger, violence, even death.

Yes, as we look into the unchartered waters of the coming year, we may have fear.  We may fear some potential peril or deprivation.  It could be a loss of your health, a loss of your wealth, a loss of loved ones.  It could even be the loss of your own life.  For all this and more, we need a “date line” to make sense of our times!

Well, my friends, the good news is that Scripture points us to a date – and even more so to a God – who can make sense of our times and help us navigate the transition from 2013 to 2014.  And this date that enables us to make sense of all time can be called the “Eternal Date Line.”  It is the reference point for all history.  You may be surprised to learn that it’s a date we just celebrated.  That date is Christmas – not Christmas 2013 but the original Christmas.  You know, the one that occurred over 2,000 years ago!  This date line marks the coming of God into human history as a human.  It marks the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  In fact, we even align our calendars according to that date:  the year AD 2014 – AD stand for Anno Domini, which is Latin for “the year of our Lord.”  Every year before that timeline is BC – “before Christ.”  Every year after it is AD – after the Lord appeared.  Our calendars are calibrated according to the most momentous event of all history, the appearance of God in human flesh on earth.

That one life has brought to us the solution to all our problems:  past, present, and future.  This is because God entered into time and space in Jesus Christ to take on himself all our sins – past, present, and future – and to suffer their consequences on the cross.  Romans 8:32 puts it succinctly but powerfully:  God “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all.”  Other Scripture further declares this mission of God.  2 Corinthians 5:19 says, “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.”  And Hebrews 9:26 says, “He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”

This one life – the life of Jesus Christ – has made all the difference in the world.  That’s because Christ has delivered us from sin, condemnation, and death.  So we not only can make sense of our calendars by that date, but also our lives!

Moreover, this “Eternal Date Line” enables us to make sense of our future.   For while we don’t know what the future holds, the message of the Eternal  Date line – the message of Christ’s coming – means that we need not be afraid.  Yes, the message of the angel on that first Christ night – “Fear not!” is a message for you and me tonight.  Why?  Because the one who love us, who came to earth for us, who lived and died for us, who rose from the grave for us, who now watches over us, is none other than the Lord of history, the God of all ages!

Someone has stated:  “We do not know what the future holds.  But we know who hold the future.”  Well, the one who does so is God.  And that’s good news for us, his children.  It’s especially good because not only does God hold the future in his hand, but he also hold us.  He upholds us!  He is for us, not against us!  The apostle Paul makes this abundantly clear in our text:  “What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, ho9w will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn?  Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

My friends, God is on our side.  He is for us, not against us.  He has given his Son as proof of this.  God now justifies us – he regards us as blameless – for the sake of Jesus.  Thus we need not fear his condemnation.  Christ is now interceding for us – he takes our side in the heavenly courtroom of justice.  So we need not fear his rejection or judgment, now or in the future.  God holds our future, and he promises to uphold us in the future.

Let me illustrate.  A storm raged on the Great Plains.  The wind rushed fast and furiously.  Tornado sirens were sounding.  A father and his young son ran from their house to a nearby storm cellar.  The dad opened the cellar door and lowered himself into the cellar.  He then held up his arms for his son to follow.  But in the darkness of the cellar, the dad was not visible to his son.  Terrified, yet hearing his father’s voice, the boy exclaimed:  “I cant see you, Dad!”  In response, the father assured his son:  “But I can see you!  Jump!”  The youngster did jump, landing in the strong arms of his dad.  He did so because he trusted his dad.

In the storms of our lives and the uncertainty of our future, you and I don’t know what the future holds. But we know who holds the future – our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  And He holds us safe and secure.  We can face the future – we can face the New Year – with confidence and hope.  Not because we can see, but because we know we are seen by our loving and forgiving Savior who is for us.  He is the one who makes sense of our times, now and in eternity.

So may this bring us courage and hope as we walk by faith and not by sight throughout the New Year!  Amen and Amen.