Archive for the ‘Jude 20-25’ Category

Watch and Wait

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

Last Sunday of the Church Year, November 22, 2009
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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Our text this morning is verse6 from our Old Testament lesson: “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner; but my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed.” [Isaiah 51:6]

Are you afraid of these words?  It is my prayer that you aren’t, and it is God’s desire that in these words you would find comfort, and an opportunity to be thankful and joyful.  Jesus is coming!  During the Easter season our standard greeting is “He is risen!  He is risen indeed!”  This morning our greeting should be, “He is coming!  He is coming indeed!”  “But Pastor, it’s not the same” you say.  “I just can’t get excited about the end of the world.”

 Well no wonder, Hollywood and our society is doing all it can to make you believe that the end of the world is something to be feared.  They are making a lot of money off of this fear.  Last week, the movie 2012 opened and it is selling a lot of tickets.  It’s a movie about the end of the world.  It’s based on a supposed prophetic ancient Mayan calendar, which indicates that the world will come to an end on December 21, 2012. In their sales hype, they promise that “2012” is an epic adventure about a global cataclysm that brings an end to the world and it portrays the heroic struggle of the survivors.  Survivors?  What survivors!?  Wait a minute, God’s Word tells us this morning that nothing will survive.  It is the end of not just the world but also the heavens!  Well, Hollywood has never let a little thing like God’s true Word get in the way of making a lot of money.  If you’ve seen the trailer for the film, it asks this question: “How would the world governments prepare over 6 Billion people for the end of the world?”  Answer: THEY WOULDN’T—Our Answer: BUT GOD HAS!  Together, let’s turn to God’s Word to discover just how He is preparing us.

 In our gospel reading Jesus is getting ready to expound on what Isaiah spoke of in our Old Testament lesson.  It is the Tuesday before Good Friday; Jesus and His apostles are on Mt. Olivet and He is teaching them about what will come; about the last things.  Listen, “But in those days, after the tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.”  In order to understand these words completely, we must first understand a little something about the tribulation.  The tribulation is now!  Every moment since Jesus ascended into heaven with the promise of His return we Christians have been battered, bruised, and attacked by sin, death, and the devil.  We are like sheep being led to the slaughter.  When others have taken eye for eye and tooth for tooth, those of us who are trusting in our Lord’s return have tried to turn the other cheek. 

In many of the Muslim controlled parts of Africa, Christians are being slaughtered for their faith.  In countries like Iraq and Turkey, where there were once millions of Christians, now there are only Thousands.  What happened to all of them?  Well many were murdered at the point of a Muslim sword.  And in this country, we are told ever more assertively by a politically correct society to sit down and shut up!  They would have us believe that our gospel message of hope is no longer relative in an all-inclusive modern society.

 Yes, we Christians really are good at being sheep led to the slaughter.  Why?  Because we will not be silence… we cannot be silenced.  Because we are watching and waiting for our Lord to return—because we have been ordered to warn others of God’s judgment and the only source of hope—the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!  Do you see the tension?  This is the tribulation.  It is our time of testing… a time of suffering.  But what is that when we compare it to our Lord’s own suffering upon the cross for us? 

 And now with His own suffering in mind in just a few short days, and our future suffering in this present tribulation, Jesus continues: “And then they (those who are alive) will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.  And He will send out the angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.”  He is coming!  He is coming indeed!  “But when Lord?”  Jesus knew that this was the question that everyone of His apostles were asking within their hearts.  He knows that it is the question that you ask within your own.  And to this He answers, “From the fig tree learn its lesson.” 

Now some might be wondering why Jesus did not just speak plainly?  Why can’t He just tell it like it is?  Well He is!  Think about this—when the fruit trees blossom in the spring you know that summer is coming.  And in the summer, what will those fruit trees provide?  Fruit!  Earlier in his conversations with the apostles Jesus was talking about earthquakes and famines… wars and rumors of wars.  Have we seen our fair share of these?  Yes!  These are the blossoms.  They are the tribulation.  So when we see these things we know that the end is at hand.  It is very soon!  The end of all things is the fruit that is certainly coming… the final judgment.  Those who are trusting in God’s love and mercy through Christ will be rewarded and those who are not will be eternally punished.  So watch and wait! 

 And still our sinful hearts ask, “But when Lord?!”  And to this Jesus answers most seriously, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words (mark my words) will not pass away.  (It will happen!)  “What generation does Jesus mean” we might ask?  If he meant the apostles, well they’ve been dead for almost two thousand years!  Well then obviously He didn’t mean the apostles generation.  So what other generation is there?  Why none other than the very one that still rejects the gospel today.  The very people that crucified the Messiah they were waiting for, and are still praying for today!  The Jewish people! 

Oh how it broke our Lord’s heart when He looked over the city of Jerusalem and wept for them saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!  How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” [Matt. 23:37]

Ah, but your weak faith is still asking when Lord, isn’t it?  Very well, and to this Jesus finally answers, “Concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”  And to this many people scratch their heads and say, “But you are God!  I can see the angels not knowing, but you?  How can this be?!”  And here we must relearn a little something about our Lord’s two natures.  Jesus is indeed very God!  In their essential oneness the three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit know all things equally and do all things in complete agreement.  But Jesus is also very man.  He had to be man in order to pay for your sins.  He intentionally chose to enter a state of humiliation out of love for the Father and out of His love for us.  In this state of humiliation Jesus also chose not to use His divine attributes unless they were needed to bring God’s peace.  That’s why there on Mt. Olivet, as He was teaching His apostles, He did not know the day nor the hour—He chose not to know.  Listen friends, knowledge will not bring you peace with God, but instead it is faith, trust in Jesus’ own Words that will bring you that peace!  We cannot understand this deliberate restriction of Jesus’ power because we are not God, so we simply allow it to remain a mystery, but one thing we do know, now that our Lord has returned to Heaven, He knows precisely when He will come again to bring an end to the old and make all things new!

 And now, Jesus closes our message this morning with these Words: “Be on guard, keep awake.  For you do not know when the time will come.”  Now since you have mastered Jesus’ last story, He is eager to use just one more story make this promise of the end times stick in our hard hearts.  Listen, “It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servant is charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake.”  Do you get what Jesus is saying?  Good, “Therefore” he says, “stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.”

Friends, Jesus is THE man!  He is not the man frightening us or keeping us down but the man who has called us into His very home and given us safety, comfort, and salvation!  In our own baptisms we were freed from all fear of sin death, and the devils…even fear of the end of the world.  In our baptisms, He has made us the servants of a very kind and loving God.  He has given each of us a calling.  In whatever station of life we find ourselves in, we are to live and work as if we are doing it all just for Jesus!  We don’t work to please our master so that He will continue to be kind and loving, but instead we work for Him because He is kind and loving.  It is the very essence of our new baptized natures to do this very thing.

Finally we must ask, “Who is the doorkeeper?  Is it the pastor?”  Yes, but it is also you!  Listen again to Jesus’ Words: “And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”  He says it to all of us.  We must stay awake and watch.  Watch for the signs of the age.  Stay awake in the tribulation and wait eagerly for Jesus to come and take us home.  Home to a place where there is no more humiliation, fear, suffering, or pain.  Home to a place where every tear will be eternally dried.  But staying awake is difficult, because after all, we are but weak flesh.  The apostles would soon find out just how hard it was to remain alert and awake in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus asked them as He prayed in agony waiting to be arrested and executed upon the cross, to stay awake with Him and pray…they could not… they were weak… they were but flesh.  So how do we weaklings summon the strength to wait and watch for our Lord?  By living and walking in our new nature… our baptismal nature.  We wait and watch for Jesus return by asking Him to wait and watch with us.

 You see friends, only God never sleeps. He watches us at all times.  He keeps us in Hs care, in His love and mercy, but He does it with His means.  What are those means?  They are His Holy Word and sacraments.  We are to watch and hold onto God’s pure Word (Law & Gospel).  We are to watch over our spiritual condition by living out our baptismal lives where ever he has placed us.  We are to hunger for His Holy meal where through His precious body and blood our sins are not only forgiven but our faith is strengthened.  We are to gather regularly together at the only place where these gifts are lavished upon us… we are to gather as His church.  We are to gather at His cross where His suffering and humiliation ended in His resurrection and His exhalation.  And when we gather, we are to remember that our own humiliation and tribulation will soon end.  It will either end in the blink of an eye when Jesus comes and the heavens and earth are destroyed or when we close our eyes for the last time in death, leaving this veil of tears mixed with joy.  Either way, we wait and we watch, and we say, “He is coming.  He is coming indeed!”

 And now, may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus…AMEN!