Archive for the ‘Matthew 24:36-44’ Category

Now, Not Yet; So Now What?

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

1st Sunday of Advent, November 28, 2010
Rev. Brian Henderson—Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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“Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” [Matt. 24:44]  When I was in the Air Force, stationed in the Philippines I was a victim of a burglary while I slept in my off base quarters.  The burglar quietly broke in at around 2:00 am, and then drugged me with chloroform and made off with almost all of my electronic possessions.  If I would have only known that on that particular morning I would become a victim I would have been ready, but I did not know; I could not know, because only God knows the future!  And so it will be on the last day, when Christ comes again to judge the living and the dead!  We do not know when it will be, only God knows.  But Jesus does tell us to be ready, because it will come like a thief in the night!

“Christ is coming; He is coming indeed!”  This was the hope of sinful man ever since the fall into sin of Adam and Eve.  It was the promise of a Savior, God’s promise that gave them the hope that God still loved them and would save them from their sins.  Today we begin the Advent season all decked out in purple.  Purple is a royal color; it is the color we give to our King Jesus, the Christ, the only Son of God!  He came to us as a baby, humbly born in a manager, but this is not how He will return.  No He is coming soon as the King of Creation; He is coming as the Creator of the world who will judge His creation.  But as we have been learning these last few weeks, you dear Christians have nothing to fear, because you are resting in His kingdom of grace; protected by His Kingdom of Power, and promised a joyful and happy eternity in His Kingdom of Glory!  That is God’s promise to you if you continue to rest in His Kingdom of Grace.  And to help you rest in this grace we will look at three things:  First we will look at how God has already come to us and fulfilled His promises (Realized Eschatology); second we will look at how God has promised that He will come again in the near future (Future Eschatology); and finally we will look at how we are to live out our lives in this now/not yet coming of Jesus Christ and His kingdom of Glory (Vocation).

This morning in our first Sunday of Advent, and for the rest of our lives here on this earth, we can and should celebrate God’s fulfilling of the Old Testament promises that He alone would defeat sin, death, and the devil.  Above all else we celebrate that through the promised birth, death, and resurrection of God the Son, Jesus Christ, God’s Kingdom of grace has been given to each of us.  In this kingdom we have been given a new life as a result of our baptism, where our old sinful identity has been put to death and a new resurrected nature has been raised with Jesus Christ.  Right now we have victory over sin, death, and the devil, but yet we still are fighting our old sinful nature and the sinfulness of others.  But we must not look at this sin that still attacks us as a real threat to the peace of God which scripture says is ours right now.  Instead we must look at our fight against sin as a mop-up operation, in a battle that God has already won!  Victory has been assured to us and Christ’s presence within us as individuals and as His church assures us that He has already established God’s rule among us.  The day of salvation is at hand, and is nearer to us now than when we first believed. [Rom. 13:11b]

And yet, even though God’s rule has established itself already, it is not yet complete for those of us who are still living within our sinful selves in the middle of a sinful world.  The already realized promises of God seem to require us to look forward and wait for the “not yet” realized promises of the future.  God is telling us to get ready and be prepared, because Christ will come at any time!

God’s promises in the future are meant to focus our attention on the final day of Christ’s coming, which we celebrated last week on Christ the King Sunday.  As we learned, God has fixed a day for Christ’s second coming when Christ will come to execute his final acts of judgment and liberation.  The date has been set, and the outcome is certain.  We know the outcome; sin, death, and the devil will be destroyed and those outside of the Kingdom of Grace, or faith in Jesus Christ will be punished for their lack of faith and we who are in faith will be freed at last and ushered into Christ’s kingdom of glory.  Yes this much is certain, but what we do not know is when this will happen.  All we know is that it is soon.  In our epistle lesson we read, “That the hour has come for you to wake from (your) sleep.  For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” [Rom. 13:11] 

But what is this hour?  Friends it is the hour of your freedom and the hour of judgment.  When Christ appears he will come to execute his final act of judgment.  But for you dear Christian Christ shall appear to save you, because you are already expecting and waiting for His return.  And yet even those of us who are constantly watching and waiting will  be taken completely by surprise.  We will feel certain that this or that time He will not come, and on a time just like that He will come!

When I was a Border Patrol Agent one of the most boring duties I had to perform was what is called “still-watch.”  The name pretty much sums up the function of the duty.  We were to sit for hours on end watching one little portion of the border.  At night, your eyes can play tricks on you, and you begin to see things that aren’t really there!  On one particular night, I positioned my vehicle right in front of a hole in the border fence.  After several hours of seeing phantoms in the night, I began to relax and I thought, “No one’s there and no one will be!”  I turned on some easy listening music, got out my Bible, and I began to get lost in the Word.  About an hour later, I decided to get out and stretch my legs, when I stepped on an illegal entrant right outside my vehicle door.  To say I was startled would be an understatement.  But wait, that’s not all; after I regained my composure and arrested the fellow, I quickly discovered three more illegal entrants who were quietly laying around my vehicle!  After I arrested the four, we began to talk and they started to tease me, because I let my guard down.  Then the older man of the group looked at me with a very serious expression and said, “Officer, you really should be more attentive.  Not everyone out here tonight is as nice as we are!  So be ready because you never know when they will come!”

“For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.  For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. [Matt. 24:37-39]  Yes friends, Christ is coming again; He is coming soon and He wants us to be ready!

Think of His coming this way: Either He comes on the last day or He comes on your last day when you close your eyes for the last time in this sinful world.  Jesus says, “That two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left.  Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.” [vs. 40,41]  This is a picture of Christ coming when all will be judged and held accountable.  Another way to look at this truth is like this: “Two men are out playing golf and lighting strikes them both dead.  One will be taken to heaven; that is he will be ushered into God’s Kingdom of Glory, and the other wont.  He will go to judgment because he was found without faith in Jesus Christ.  Two women will be driving on the highway when a semi-truck will hit them head on and kill them.  One will be taken to heaven because of her faith in Jesus Christ and the other will not.  She too will go to be judged because she was found without faith in Jesus Christ!”

So we now see the tension of the now/not yet reality that we live in.  Certain promises that God makes to us have been realized and some must wait for our last day.  And yet we are called to live a life of faith, centered in the grace of Jesus Christ and the future promises of God!  This life we live by faith is called our vocation.

In scripture, every part of our Christian life, all its activities, and all its sorrows are brought into the light of the last day, our last day and the glory that will be revealed to us!  Because you are waiting for your Lord to return, you dear Christian are always busy doing things that please God.  And what pleases God?  Well, serving Him and your neighbor!  You will stay centered in the gospel and you will share that gospel with whoever God puts into your life.  Your time, talents, and treasures become a means to further and advance the Kingdom of God.  Even though you live in this world, you are not of this world, so you will guard yourself against the temptations of this world that has been around since the time of Noah.  You know that your night-watch is almost over and the day, which is the pure light of God, is at hand.  As St. Paul says in our epistle reading, “Let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.  Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.  But put on Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the flesh, to gratify its desires!” [Rom.13:12-14]  This then is God’s call for us to live out and become what He has already declared that we are; holy, perfect, and righteous because of Jesus Christ!  So if you are a parent, you are a Christian parent, living to serve God and your Children.  If you are a child, you are a Christian child, living a life that honors God and your parents.  Everything we do and everywhere we go is a call to put off our old sinful nature and put on the robe of righteousness that Jesus clothed us with in our baptism. 

But what if we fail?  What happens if we fall into sin?  Well that is a good indication that you were not staying alert and watching!  But don’t be discouraged; you see this call to watch, wait, and put on Christ is an ongoing process.  Remember, you live by faith within God’s kingdom of grace, so don’t grow tired of confessing your sin and then living out your life as a forgiven saint.  “But I’m still a sinner.  I know that I will sin again!”  Yes, that is true, but that is part of living out that “Now/Not Yet” tension.  That is your vocation.  You must receive God’s forgiveness and then model and give that forgiveness to your neighbor!

Dear friends, as you remember that Christ has come and will come again rest in the truth that Christ is here with you now.  He is with you in His Word and in His Sacrament; rest in the reality that He is with you when you hear your pastor or a neighbor say, “I forgive you!”  As your providing and protecting king, Jesus extends His rule into your heart and life every moment.  His loving presence comes to us in different ways; often it seems incomplete and broken because of the evil that still exists all around us.  And yet, He has assured us of His real presence and power in our lives until our last day of earthly life.  This work of His continues in this sinful world through the day to day lives of believers like you and me, until He brings each of us finally to Himself in Heaven!  I pray that you will rest in this real presence of our God and learn to live a life of victory in this world where Jesus says all that the Father has given to me I give to you… now and not yet!  I ask this in Jesus name…. AMEN!