+ 26th Sunday after Pentecost – November 13th, 2016 +
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series C: Malachi 4; 2 Thessalonians 3:1-13; Luke 21:5-28
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“Come quickly, Lord Jesus,” we pray. And maybe you’re like me and you’ve been praying that prayer a lot these past few weeks, or several times a day even. We long for Jesus’ return. We look for the new heavens and the new earth. And so we wait, watch, and pray.
There will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
Add some shocking pictures, the gruesome headlines from the nightly news, and a few viral videos on YouTube, and Jesus could have just as easily spoken those words in the 21st century as he did in the 1st century.
The fact is, all is not right with this world; never was, and never will be until Christ returns to judge the living and the dead. That’s what Jesus prepares us for in today’s Gospel reading. The Last Day. The signs are all around us. Wars and rumors of war. Earthquakes. Persecution. Violence. Famine.
Some have tried to cut the tension by joking that the Lord’s return is imminent because the Cubs have finally won the world series. They’re right about this at least. Christ’s return is imminent. Today we’re one day closer. And yet, it seems that some days Christ’s return can’t come soon enough.
We’ve just witnessed one of the ugliest election cycles in recent memory. But whatever your feelings about the election results may be – happy, sad, or indifferent – know that your hope does not rest in political platforms, party loyalty, or earthly rulers, but in Christ Crucified and risen for you. Kings and kingdoms come and go; but the Word of our Lord endures forever.
So hopefully, you didn’t come here this morning to listen to listen to more election news, but rather to hear good news Jesus gives to you. You are forgiven all your sins. Yes, the world is fallen, broken, and in need of rescue. That’s exactly why he came and why he’ll come again. In this world you will have trouble, Jesus said, but fear not I have overcome the world.
But do not fear. Do not despair. Do not let your hearts be troubled. Jesus came to redeem us from this horrible mess that we’ve made of his creation. And one day Jesus will return to rescue us and make the new heavens and the new earth we long to see.
When you see these things take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.
In these Last Days, God calls us to live as those who are baptized into the Body of Christ and have put on Christ. We live a life no longer controlled by the lusts and compulsions of our sinful nature.
In these Last Days, we stand on holy ground; we eat a holy meal; you are washed with holy water; you hear holy words. The church has faced numerous challenges before, endured far dark days. Chaotic, tumultuous times are nothing new. In apostolic times Christians faced a pagan world far worse and more hostile than ours with courage and glad hope. So, in these grey and latter days we take up their same mission yet again, emboldened by Christ’s eternal promise: “Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”
In these Last Days, fix your eyes on Jesus Christ who is the Light of the World, the Light no darkness can overcome. Jesus is with you as surely as he was with his disciples, teaching us and preparing us for his return.
See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them.
Perhaps we’re tempted to join Peter in declaring “Even though they all will fall away; I will not.” And yet we do. All we like sheep have gone astray, each to our own way. Our most dangerous enemies are not political. They’re spiritual. “Devil, world, and flesh, as the catechism teaches us. We’re always looking for someone else to blame for sin in the world or our own. But as the great author G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “What’s wrong with the world? I am.” What then shall we do? Deny yourselves, take up the cross, and follow me, Jesus says.
This is what gives us hope in a fallen world, hope in the face of the devil’s temptations and lies, hope in spite of our sinful flesh. Christianity has the cross at the center – Jesus Christ and Him Crucifed.
We are baptized under the sign of the cross. We are forgiven under the sign of the cross. We are fed the Body and Blood under the sign of the cross. We arise and go to sleep and do everything in between under the sign of the cross. Christianity isn’t so much a way of life as it is a way of death. It is to die with Jesus in order to be raised with Him. It is to live as dead to Sin and Self but alive to God in Christ who took up his cross and denied himself for you.
But of course, living under cross, living as God’s baptized children, also means we’ll stick out in our culture. The disciples and early Christians did. They were persecuted, imprisoned, brought before kings and governors, handed over by family and friends, and many were put to death.
It’s a sober reminder that these Last Days are also days to boldly confess our faith; not with the latest fads and trends, but with the faith once and for all delivered to the saints; and not with lukewarm platitudes, but with 200 proof Gospel: Jesus Crucified for you for the forgiveness of all your sin.
This will be your opportunity to bear witness, Jesus says. Thankfully, we’re not called to convert the culture, but to speak the Gospel to people who live within our communities, neighborhoods, and families – with those people in your life whom you know need to hear the Gospel. This mission begins anew every day as we die to sin and no longer live for ourselves, but for Christ who for our sake, died and was raised again. In Jesus, you cannot fail; His light shines in the encroaching darkness. He is the Light no darkness can overcome. And He has promised to be with you as he was with the disciples:
I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. What is that mouth and wisdom? Your mouth filled with Jesus’ body and blood. Jesus’ word filling your ears, hearts, and minds, and then your lips that declare his praise. It is the wisdom of the cross: Jesus Crucified for you.
We hope in and we long for Christ’s return; we endure these Last Days under the cross, where Jesus endured everything for us. Your faith in Christ may be mocked. You may suffer persecution, hostility or death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.
And yet, hear Jesus’ promise in the face of all that…
But not a hair of your head will perish. Oh yes, some of his disciples were crucified, beheaded or fed to the lions, but not a hair on their head will perish. We face the fallen world, the devil’s temptations and our own sinful flesh…but not a hair on your head will perish. “Whoever believes in me lives even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will not die forever.”
That’s the hidden comfort in these last Sundays of the church year and the end of the world as we know it. The end is also the beginning. For you, the baptized, for us who fear the name of the Lord, “the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” The destruction of the old brings the revelation of the new. “Behold, I make all things new,” Jesus says. And he says it for you.
Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.