It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)!

25th Sunday in Pentecost B, November 18th, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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“”And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time.  But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. [Daniel 13:1b]

The song we just heard by R.E.M., is also the title of our message.  It’s the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine)!  Well if the end  of the world were too come say next month, on December 21st as many say the Mayan calendar predicts, would you be fine with that,  or does it cause you to worry?

Or if the end of the world would have happened on May 21st as Harold Camping said in one of his many false predictions, would that  have been alright with you.  Were you ready for it?  Are you still ready?  Can you ever be ready?

The truth is friends, God has been telling us in his Word that there will be an end of all things created and we need to be ready.  You can  sense it can’t you?  You can tell that there are many things that just aren’t right; things that seem to be so unfair in this life that this can’t be all that there is.  If you need proof that something here is broken, just look at all of the wars and threats of wars, the earthquakes and hurricanes, and the deaths.  Nations and alliances are formed and peace is always destroyed, no matter how hard we try to keep it.  Children disrespect their parents and parents abuse and abandon their children.  False messiahs and cults seem to pop up everywhere.  Isn’t that proof enough that something big, something terrible is getting ready to happen?

I like to go into Wal-Mart with some spare change in my pocket, so I can drop it into that charity bin they have.  You know the one I’m talking about don’t you?  It looks like a big concave bowl sitting on top of a giant funnel that drops into a glass box.  I like to drop my change from the top of the bowl and watch it go around and around and around.  And the closer it gets to the hole in the bottom, the faster and faster it goes, until it plops into the box and disappears.

That’s how I feel this world is moving.  In the beginning God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. [Genesis 2:7]  But in just the next chapter of Genesis we read how God’s first children, our parents rebelled against their Creator, and one of the terrible consequences of that sin was death.  And just like that, our existence has been dropped into the bowl of death and it is going faster, and faster, and before you know it, plop it is all going to drop into the bin of destruction.

The truth is, like Adam and Eve, all of us must return to the ground from which we came.  In every generation since Adam and Eve’s fall from paradise, our greatest fear and our greatest enemy has always been death.  You could say that since the fall the death rate has remained the same—one per person.

So how should we feel about our death and the end of all things; should we be afraid or should we feel fine?  Well, that all depends on the kind of death you have to look forward to.

In our reading from Daniel (Daniel 12:1-3) we are told of two different kinds of deaths; there are those who die with their names written in God’s book of life, and those who aren’t recorded in that book.  Each of us, after we die will rise again; we will all be called out of our graves, no matter where they are or how we have been laid to rest, and each of us will have to face our Creator.  And many of us who are raised from death will be given everlasting life in paradise, but many will also be given everlasting life in shame and contempt.

Those who spent their lives avoiding God and running after false gods and false messiahs will experience a dreadful day, even if they don’t believe it now.  They will hear God say, “Very well, you wanted to be without me; now be without me—forever!”  And they will be sentenced to and eternal divorce from God—a never ending existence of shame and emptiness.  It will be a loneliness that that will consume them like fire, yet they will never know and end to that suffering.  They will suffer in complete awareness and hopelessness.

That idea of hell and suffering doesn’t go well with people today who like to turn God into some lovable, soft-hearted, incompetent old fool.  But God’s Word says different, doesn’t it.  God’s anger and His punishment are evident throughout scripture.  We start with the expulsion from paradise of Adam and Eve, and then we go to the flood and countless people screaming out of the agony of death by drowning.  And then God’s Word takes us to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in a hurricane of fire.  Yes He is is the same God who fed evil Queen Jezebel to the dogs and allowed countless people, including children, to die in wars that He sent Israel to wage against unrepentant sinners.  That same God still reigns in heaven today!  And what’s more, He has told us that He does not change; what He has done before, He will do again; He is doing again.

And Those who’s names are not written in His book will stand before Him on judgment day and be sentenced to shame and everlasting contempt.  They wont simply cease to exist, as if they were cast away into some celestial junk yard to simply rust away into nothing.  No, God would never dishonor His creation like that.  For all eternity those who fall into judgment will retain their personality and the ability to experience God’s eternal rejection and His displeasure.

But for you dear saints, for you who are resting in the promises of God’s forgiving love, things shall be much different.  You are those who God told Daniel are wise.  From God’s Word you have learned to recognize your sin and the need for a Savior from that sin.  You have learned to trust God in hard times; times of war, natural and man-made disasters, and economic despair.  You have learned through God’s Word to remain hopeful and to show restraint and sound judgment, even when your savings are dwindling and there is no food in the cupboard.  You have simply learned to wait on the Lord to provide both comfort in times of trouble and a way out of that trouble.  This then, is one of the ways that you shine like a bright star in heaven.  As others are suffering and crying out in fear and desperation you are waiting for your God.  You become one who shows others what the peace of God that surpasses all understanding is.  You are a light in your community that helps others find the way into God’s family and ultimately into a place at God’s side.

You and the many other saints who wait in peace on the Lord will live forever in glory, as you shine like the brightness of heaven.  You know that on judgment day, the end of the world as we know it, you will stand before God and be inspected, and you will actually survive that inspection because you have the promise of the gospel!  In the Word of God you have learned and you believe by faith in God’s forgiving love you will not only survive God’s inspection of your life, but you will thrive forever after that inspection.  But how?

Because of Christ alone.  It was Jesus, God’s own Son who has forever sat down at the right hand of the Father as all of His enemies and your enemies are put at His feet like a foot-stool. [Hebrews 10:11-25] What enemies are those?  Sin of course; your sin and even the sin of our first parents that was committed long ago in the Garden of Eden.  But another enemy, the great serpent, the father of all lies Satan Himself will have to submit to the rule of the Son of God on that great day.  And finally, the enemy that we all fear the most, death itself will be defeated.  All because the Son of God was obedient to the will of His Father; a will that led Him to the cross to suffer and die for the sins of the World, even your sins.

It is the promise of God that tells you to hold on; change is indeed coming.  It is a change that the world may fear, but you need not fear.  Even when the great monuments and governments of this world are falling, you need not fear.  Even if your own family is against you because of your strong faith in the promises of God and the real presence of His Son Jesus Christ in your life, you need not fear.  Even if you should be persecuted because of your faith in Jesus by the government itself, you need not fear, because through the gift of faith in Jesus alone you are able grab onto His perfect life, the life He lived for you.  By faith, you are able to claim His innocent death as your own, and find not only pity from God, but His delight; just as a father delights in his own child. [Mark 13:1-13]

To be sure there is trouble ahead, and it will only get worse until the end of the world as we know it arrives, but there is also the promise of God that He will never leave you nor forsake you.  And it is this promise of God that brings peace and joy in knowing for certain that through all the things that will happen around you and even within you, because you are resting in Christ Jesus, you really are fine.

Now, may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus until we enter into God’s new world that He has prepared for us since the beginning of time… AMEN!

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