Archive for the ‘Luke 21:25-36’ Category

What Does This Mean?

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

First Sunday in Advent of the Church Year (B), December 2, 2012
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

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“”“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: The Lord is our righteousness.’” [Jeremiah 33:14-16]

Behold the days have come, Jesus Christ fully God and fully man was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered  under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.  He descended into hell.  The third day He rose again from the dead.  He  ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.  From thence He will come to judge the living and the  dead.  Christ has come and He will come again.  Let the church say AMEN!

That is the whole point of Advent.  We remember how Christ came; we remember the anticipation of the people of faith as they awaited  the coming of the Messiah.  And today, the church celebrates that He has come, and we look forward to His return.  Should any of this  make a difference?  What does advent mean to our community, to our nation, and to this world?  What does this mean to you?  Does it  make a difference in your life?  Can others see that difference in the way you live?

In last week’s news paper, my wife pointed out three stories that represented three related realities about this world we live in.  The first story was national in scope.  It was about that mega shopping day, Black Friday; so mega in fact that it could not be constrained to just Friday.  It seems that shoppers have been duped into using the holiday of Thanksgiving as just another day to acquire more stuff, instead of giving thanks and praise to God, on the one day we as a nation have set aside to acknowledge and thank Him for His many blessings.  How sad!

On another section of the paper, a story was run about the ever increasing pandemic known as hunger and homelessness here in America’s finest city, San Diego, California.  What jumped out at me especially was not the fact that the food bank is running out of food, and that the shelters are quickly filling; no what jumped out at me was the fact that the church no longer plays a lead role in caring for the hungry and homeless.  Now, you see organizations like Jewish Family Services and the Jacobs foundation are leading the way and teaching us as a community to be loving and kind to others.

Then on the international page I read another story about the newly elected president of Egypt seizing complete power, suspending the democratic rights of the people, but promising that if they just trust him, everything will be alright.  And while he is making everything alright, people who are in the streets crying out for help and justice are being terrorized and killed by that same man.

So why am I sharing these three stories with you?  Because as Jesus taught us in our gospel lesson (Luke 21:25-36), His pending return, or His advent will remind us that we are in a season of turmoil and distress, so much so that it will cause people to faint with fear and trembling because of what is coming on the world.  It is a time when the powers of the heavens will be shaken and those living will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  And Jesus said that when these things happen, the things that cause turmoil and distress, we should straighten up and raise our heads, because our redemption is drawing near.  The righteous branch of David is coming and he will execute justice and righteousness in the land.

Christ has come.  Born as a baby to a virgin girl in Bethlehem, He came to us in our flesh to make all things right; all things new.  This is the truth that the ancients waited for and it is the truth we celebrate today, this first Sunday in Advent.  Christ has come, what does this mean?  It means we must live out His coming; it means we must be His righteousness in this world, until He comes again to make all things new and right.

It means that on a day of Thanksgiving, we as the body of Christ, as His church here in our sin-soaked community must be His light; His source of righteousness.  While others are busy acquiring things, we should be busy demonstrating a spirit of thankfulness; we should be acknowledging and thanking our God and Savior, Jesus Christ.  It means that when there is a Thanksgiving church service, we will go out of our way to attend; after all, this thanksgiving business isn’t about us, it is about God!

Christ has come, what does this mean?  It means that when people are going hungry in this world and have no place to live, we as the church, the body of Christ ought to be making a difference.  We ought to be leading the way in demonstrating acts of love, because Jesus our Master and King, our Redeemer and Savior is the Source of all true love.

Is that what we do?  On the screen, you see some pictures of our pantry. Look at how empty those shelves are.  If we waited for food donations from this community before we were able to help out the hungry and homeless, it would not happen, because those donations are almost nonexistent.  While our cupboards are full at home, we can’t even seem to bring in and drop off a few nonperishable food items, or throw a few extra dollars in the Agape fund.  Instead, where do we get the food for our pantry?  We have to buy it from the food bank, which is run by the Jewish community, who seem to be “out-loving” Christ’s own people.

Christ has come.  Does it seem like He’s coming in places like Egypt, Israel, even here in the United States?  No, and the reason is clear, people have placed their trust in men and the governments of men instead of God’s promise to deliver and provide.  But Jesus warns us not to let these things, these truths demoralize us.  He says, “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” [Luke 21:34-36]

How do we stay awake?  How do we make sure that the way we live here in this world is pleasing to God?  We do it by remembering that Christ has come, and is coming again.  We do it by hearing the prophet Jeremiah’s words this morning, not as a threat, but as words of comfort.  We remember that we have an eternal King whose eternal concern and rule has us as His central interest.  It is Jesus who even right now, is watching over us in all our ways to keep us safe for Himself.  We have a High Priest who has a permanent priesthood, sealed by His own blood.  He is God’s permanent presence in our lives; He alone is not only the source of all love and charity, He is OUR source of love and charity.  “He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them”. [Hebrews 7:25]  We have the confidence that “if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sin, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” [1 John 2:1,2]

Christ is the one perfectly righteous King; He alone is able to rule and govern us perfectly.  He will never provide a reason for you to depose Him or impeach Him as earthly rulers deserve.  He reigns with perfect righteousness and delivers perfect justice.  He alone has laid down His life to earn your love and respect, and He alone took back up His life to gain your worship.  He alone can forgive sins, heal the broken hearted, and set the captives free.  It is He alone who can truly care for the poor.

Christ alone cares for you and He wants to care for your neighbors, even the world.   He does it first through His Word and Sacraments.  They are the means of the Father to bring new life and hope into the lives of sinners caught up in the darkness and hopelessness of sin.  He comes through these means with complete forgiveness, but these means come through people; they come through the church, a group of other sinners who were once also trapped in sin and hopelessness, but now have been freed and patiently wait for the return of their King.

How can we live lives of hope and trust when all around us seems to be overwhelming fear and faithlessness?  We do it because we are not alone.  We are together as the body of Christ.  You saints of Trinity are a light in this community we call Encanto, in a city named San Diego.  You are a city on a hill, where God works out his righteousness within you and through you.  You are those who have learned that true religion does not exist to deliver us from suffering and pain, but instead it leads us through those things as we draw others to follow us as we are following our King.  So the season of Advent reminds us that as Christ’s body here on earth, we have been appointed to follow our Savior and experience pain and suffering even as He did.

Before I close, I wanted to share my heart with you as your pastor.  Most of you know that since I arrived here, one of my primary tasks was to be your chief evangelist within our community.  I have done that tirelessly along with my staff, who are here every day of the week.  Together, we represent you and we do it well.  We pour out ourselves for those who come looking for rest, hope, and peace.  But I must confess that we do sometimes feel defeated and alone.

So many times we have reached out to our neighbors with the best of our time, talent, and treasure, and we have seen them flourish in God’s love, forgiveness and healing, only to see them leave without so much as a thank you.  We see them drawn to other churches or fellowships that have not ministered to them, but instead, upon their arrival, they give them more of the very world that destroyed them.  We see our neighbors take advantage of our love and in essence spit in our face.  So what are we to do?

“We are to continue walking the path before us (the same path our Lord walked), as (He alone) makes us increase and abound in love for one another and for all, even as we do for all of you.”  Why do we do these things, even though they bring us pain and suffering?  Because we know that the Holy Spirit will establish our hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” [1 Thessalonians 3:11-13]  Wont you join us in our journey following our King?  Will you support us and come along side of us with your time, talent and treasure, as together we proclaim the powerful Advent message: Christ has come, Christ is coming again… AMEN!