Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sermon: Populus Zion - 2017

10 December 2017

Text: Luke 21:25-36

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

There is the old illustration that shows how different people can look at the same situation differently: the glass with water in it.  Some people see the glass as half-full, while others see it as half-empty.  I was taught that this illustrates the difference between an optimist and a pessimist.

So what are Christians?  Do we see the water-glass of this fallen world pessimistically as half-empty, or do we see it optimistically as half-full?  I don’t think that the optimist/pessimist dichotomy is very helpful.  I think a better way of thinking about this is whether or not we believe our Lord’s teaching in Scripture.

For in a very real sense, we Christians are not optimists.  The optimists are the Communists and the Darwinists, the Fascists and the storytellers in Hollywood.  All of these people have a completely unrealistic view of our world and of humanity.  They don’t believe in original sin, but they believe in an innate goodness of mankind – even though these elites all inexplicably lock the doors of their mansions at night.  They see mankind in the midst of a cosmic evolutionary improvement leading to a universal Utopia.  Some believe technology will solve our problems and even make God obsolete.  Others believe that we are evolving into a kind of collective human supercomputer that will evolve to new heights of consciousness.  Others think that we can upload our minds into robots and individually live forever.

But of course, these are the same people that promised us that we should all have flying cars and world peace by the year 2000, and 2001 was supposed to be a great Space Odyssey instead of the year the World Trade Towers were blown up by Moslem invaders.

We Christians know better than to be optimistic, at least in that naïve Utopian way.  We know about original sin, the fall, Satan, and the second law of thermodynamics – that says things left at rest wear down and fall into chaos over time.  It’s funny how they think we’re the ones who are anti-science.

The optimists of the 20th century gave us a hundred million dead beneficiaries of their optimism.  On that great road to Utopia, they gave us the concentration camp and the mass grave.  But we Christians know better than to put our trust in princes and to see the world through rose-colored glasses.  We are neither optimists nor pessimists – we are realists.

We Christians believe what is real, because reality has been revealed to us in Jesus Christ.  He who created us and placed us in a perfect world, He Himself descended into that chaos that we made, so that He could rescue us from ourselves.  We killed Him, and He did not resist.  He submitted to the sacrifice of the cross out of love.  He rose again.  And now the launch sequence has started on the Lord’s reclamation and re-creation of the entire world. 

Meanwhile, we know that things are getting worse, and will degrade much more, dear friends.  Jesus has told us so: “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars… distress… perplexity… people fainting with fear… foreboding.”  Moreover, “the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”

And this means the end is near.  The Son of Man will be coming on the clouds.  And while our deluded optimists and Utopians (who speak so confidently of “cosmic consciousness” and other New Age gobbledygook that they think is so sophisticated), they will find themselves curled into a fetal ball in a panic attack.  Instead, it will be the realistic Christians, who will recognize the signs of the times, who will “straighten up and raise [their] heads,” because, as our Lord has said, “your redemption is drawing near.”

The tables will turn.  We who are so often accused of being pessimists, people who are negative and judgmental and always interfering with the next planned Utopia, we will be shouting for joy, while they, the optimists, will find their bubble burst, as the reality that mankind needs a Savior, just as Christians have always known and confessed, sets in. 

Dear friends, this will happen.  It is inevitable.  The Lord is returning to this world to put an end to our misery, and to usher in something better than a Utopia: true eternal paradise.  This is the central lesson of Scripture, for as our Lord says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”  The Word of God, dear friends, is where you will find your bearings and your comfort amid change and chaos.  You will not find reality anywhere else. 

So watch yourselves, dear friends!  Stay awake!  Be ready!  “Look at the fig tree,” says our Lord, “and all the trees.  As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near.”  The proof is everywhere around us: the glass which is half-full and half-empty: the brokenness and fallenness of our world, but also the redemption of that same world in Christ. 

That is the power of the cross, dear friends.  On the cross, the Lord took our sins and imperfections and crucified them.  In exchange He gives us His perfection and righteousness.  The world is being recreated, not through evolution or unrealistic economic theories, but by the loving redemption of a loving Redeemer, by His Word, and by His very body and blood.  

So in that sense, we Christians also see the glass as half-full.  For in that tiny splash of water is the explosive Word of God poured upon us to deliver us from evil and bring us to eternal life.  This is the hope of Advent, the message of Christmas, and the good news proclaimed by the Church throughout the year, and through the centuries: we who see the glass as both half empty and half full, not Utopians but realists, who can indeed raise our heads amidst the chaos, for our “redemption is drawing near!”  Amen.

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

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