Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sermon: Trinity 25 - 2017

12 November 2017

Text: Matt 24:15-28

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

As the shadows lengthen and the days grow shorter, we approach the end of the church year.  Our readings direct us to darker themes about the Last Things.  In the words of one of the ancient prayers of the church, we ponder: “the end of the day, the end of our life, the end of the world.”

For the unbelieving world, these are frightful topics to be avoided at all costs.  We extend the day into the night with bright lights and “night life.”  We extend our youth ever longer through medicines and cosmetics, refusing to appear old.  And we fantasize about colonizing other planets to extend our human civilization in fear of a meteor or solar flare that may one day wipe out our planet.

The unbelieving world doesn’t deal well with conclusions.  In fact, nearly every day we read headlines about how scientists are trying to upload human consciousness into computers so that we can live forever in cyberspace.  Isn’t it interesting how eternal life is sought after by those who scoff at the idea of an eternal God? The world fears death, but at the same time, seems enthralled by death.  They accept evolution, which is driven by death.  They embrace abortion and euthanasia which treat life as a problem and death as a solution.  Only the still, small voice of the Christian church speaks for the unborn, the mentally ill, the elderly, the sick, and yes, the dying.

The church understands that our world had a beginning, and it will have an end.  The church understands that there is an eternity, and our place in eternity has been revealed to us in Scripture and through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We are not merely blobs of carbon and oxygen brought together by random accidents.  We are creatures with a will, a psyche, a soul, and we have purpose in this vast universe – because we were created by a Creator with a will and a plan.

But as for the Last Things, Jesus is blunt with us: “there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.”  The mess that we poor, miserable sinners have made of the world over the course of six thousand years will grow worse and worse.  The warfare between good and evil will come to a final head.  And then there will be false Christs and false prophets, they will “perform great signs and wonders” to try to lead you astray.  We are being warned right here and right now, dear friends: don’t believe them!  They are liars.  For when our Lord Jesus Christ comes again as He has promised, everyone will know.  There will be no doubt or ambiguity, “for as lightning comes from the east and shines in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” 

The world will see the coming of Jesus with dread, knowing their judgment draws near, “deeply wailing,” as we sang in the hymn, they “shall their true Messiah see.”  But for those who confess Him as Lord, those who are baptized and who believe, those who place their trust in Him alone, this will not be a time for wailing, but of rescue, of joy, of vindication, of the blessings of eternal life to come, as we sang in the hymn, we will see Him and recognize Him in His coming, by His wounds, the marks of the cross, “those dear tokens of His passion,” and “with what rapture, gaze we on those glorious scars.”

For the judged, this will be a time of wailing.  For the redeemed, this will be a time of rapture. 

So yes, we will have trouble in this world, tribulation, persecution, and events that we cannot even fathom as those days draw near, and yet, St. Paul encourages us to stay the course, urging us not to “be uninformed.”  There is no reason, dear friends, for us to be ignorant about the most important things in this life.  God has revealed these things to us in Scripture.  We hear it proclaimed in the Divine Service.  We study it in Bible Class.  We meditate upon it in our homes.  We pray and sing it in our hymns.  The Word of God is not hidden from us, unless we hide it from ourselves.  St. Paul says, “The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.”  And the apostle reveals to us that we, the dead and the living, will then “meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”  We will be in eternity with Him whose “dear tokens of His passion” serve as our passport to everlasting life.

And while the world is terrified of such things, seeing them as disasters to be avoided, we Christians ponder this promise with great hope and expectant joy.  As St. Paul says, “Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

Unlike the world, we do not “grieve as others do who have no hope.”

Unlike the world, we truly do have hope, dear friends.  The world puts its hope in technology, in politicians, in medicine, in entertainment and possessions, in the passing pleasures of the flesh, in the delights of a debased culture, in riches, and in all of those things that will not mean a thing at “the end of the day, the end of our life, the end of the world.”  But our hope is in Christ and in His promises, His blood shed for us at the cross, His forgiveness of our sins.  “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again,” says St. Paul, “even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep.”

So death is neither a solution to a problem, nor a problem to solve by our own efforts, but for us Christians, it is a temporary annoyance that has been fixed by Christ, through His death that atones for the sins of the world, into whose death we are baptized, and according to the promises of Holy Baptism, we believe, and through this belief, this faith, we have the promise of eternal life.

That is our Christian hope, dear friends, no matter what chaos or hatred or tribulation surrounds us.  

So as the shadows lengthen and the days grow shorter, and as we approach the end of the church year, as our readings direct us to darker themes about the Last Things, let us indeed ponder: “the end of the day, the end of our life, the end of the world,” and let us do so with hope, with expectant joy, with our eyes fixed upon Jesus and the cross, praying for the world that rejects our Lord that they may turn and be saved, living out our lives of hope in this fallen world, knowing that we are drawing closer to that day when we will sing to Christ one final time, describing what we are seeing in real time: “Lo! He comes with clouds descending…. Alleluia!  Thou shalt reign, and Thou alone!”  Amen.

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

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