A Sermon for Series C Proper 28 2016 “The End is Near”

Old Testament Lesson  Malachi 4:1-6

Second Lesson  2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

Gospel Lesson  Luke 21:5-28

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  The text for our meditation this day is the Gospel lesson just read.  [Luke 21: 5-28]

Well …. We’re still here.  The election is over and the world hasn’t come to an end.  The nation isn’t embroiled in civil war.  Clinton supporters are protesting, but they aren’t storming D.C.  Second amendment activists haven’t started brandishing weapons on the streets of downtown Bremerton.  Race riots haven’t overtaken Chicago and Atlanta, or even LA and St. Louis.

Worldwide, there certainly are wars and tumults.  Nation has risen against nation, as new alliances are shaped and old ones are weakened. Russia builds up its military defenses as it finds growing reasons to fault the United States.  The European Union is squeamishly making signs of setting out on its own, with little help from us.  There’ve been great earthquakes, and in various places like Ethiopia and Central Africa there’re famines and pestilences.

There are reports of great signs in the heavens as an asteroid’s orbit brings it close to the earth; and we do see people arrested for standing up for their faith, where they risk being brought before kings and governors, or at least before judges and magistrates; clerks in Tennessee, a judge threatened with censure in Wyoming, a florist in jeopardy of losing her business in Washington state.

So what do you think?  Is it time to get out the bull horn and the soap box?  Is it time to stand on the street corner and shout, “Repent for the end is near!” ?  I remember walking through downtown LA on a hot summer afternoon in the mid-1970’s and seeing a very sober faced man carrying a sandwich board that read “Repent, the end is near!”  And some forty years later, on another hot summer afternoon, I saw history repeat itself as I was driving through downtown Fort Wayne IN and saw a man standing on a street corner with a bullhorn shouting, “Repent, for the end is near!”

People have always thought they could predict when the end was coming.  In our epistle lesson today, some of the Thessalonians thought the end was near, and they stopped working and sat idly by, waiting for Christ to return.  As the plague swept across Europe and the pope’s army stormed across France, Germany and the Netherlands, killing thousands upon thousands of Protestants, people in Europe thought the end was coming.

Seventh Day Adventists thought they could calculate the date of the end.  They were desperate for Christ to return and save the world, (like some of our neighbors who hoped the end would come before the day of the  presidential election).  But, when March 21, 1844, the date they calculated, came and went, they didn’t give up; even today they look for different ways to interpret scripture to identify the end that they know is near.

In the late 1990’s outside San Francisco, a group of mathematicians and engineers sold everything they had and took their own lives because they were sure aliens were coming to put an end to our world; and after the World Trade Center towers went down on 9/11 there were people who committed suicide because they feared the end was near.

So, what should we do if we think the end is near?  What should we do if we think that God’s judgment is imminent?  Should we cover up and look good when Christ returns; or maybe stop caring so much about ourselves and start caring for our brothers in need.  We could call all those people we’ve ever wronged and ask for their forgiveness.  We could even call all those people who’ve wronged us and forgive them.

Maybe we should prepare a defense for ourselves, to make a case for ourselves, a convincing case that’d prove to God that our lives are worthy, that we deserve his mercy because we do our best and we try hard to follow his laws … even if we do occasionally slip.  We could explain ourselves.  We could defend our actions.

But, that sounds hard.  God did say we’d have to keep the Law perfectly to be saved by the Law.  Maybe the Thessalonians had it right.  Maybe we should just stop what we’re doing and wait, like them.  Maybe we should sit idly by letting everyone else wait on us.  Surely God wouldn’t find fault in that.

If only we could know the time.  The signs are there; but then, they’ve always been there.  Nations rise against nations, earthquakes and famines plague the earth.  Christians are persecuted for their faith.  Christians are even killed for their faith.  What does this mean? … Just as we were created in the image of God, but corrupted before we could even be born, by the sin that we inherited from our father Adam, so the entire universe remains corrupted until our Savior comes again to make it right.  Of course there are wars and rumors of wars, famines and pestilence of every kind, earthquakes and massive storms that take lives and destroy the land.

These are the end times, and the man with the sandwich board and the man standing on the corner with the bull horn were right!  We need to:  Repent, for the end is near!  Repent daily and remember the grace and mercy that are yours through your Baptism; the Baptism God brought you to as the water and the Word cleansed you of all your sins and the Holy Spirit entered in, dwelling in you from that point forward, guiding you and protecting you from sin.

Repent and in this faith that God has worked in you, through his Spirit and his holy Word, receive the grace and mercy that God so willingly gives you for the sake of his Son.  Because you’re in Christ, you can live your life as a sacrifice to your heavenly Father.  Because you’re in Christ you can persevere in this life, trusting in God and his protection, trusting in God and his blessings, trusting in God and his strength that’s yours for the asking.

Because you’re in Christ, you can endure in this life, through hard times that bring us closer to God as he becomes strong in our weakness, and through good times when we’re tempted to think we don’t need God, when we’re tempted to think our good fortune is a result of our own hard work and luck.

Persevere and endure in Christ.  Live in Christ.  Live in him no matter what happens around you; no matter what the sign of the times is each day.  This is not a time to sit idly by, but a time to live lives that show the world that we belong to him; that all we have, and all we are, is on account of his grace alone.  He puts faith in us through the working of his Spirit in his holy Word.  He brings us to the font, and to his table, renewing our faith in him as he unites himself with us.

Knowing the exact time and date of his return isn’t important; knowing he could come at any time is; living lives that reflect the urgency of living in the end times is.  Remember Paul’s words to us today: do not grow weary of doing good.

Pray that our lives may be a sacrifice acceptable to God.  Pray that his will be done, not ours; that we follow the Spirit’s lead and turn away from temptation; that we follow the Savior’s lead and forgive as he has first forgiven us; that we become his feet and hands, his voice in all the world, so that his Word may be known and his Spirit may work where and when he sees fit, to enlarge the kingdom before that day.

God is long suffering.  He waits.  He would not have one sinner lost, although there will be many, even on that day, who refuse him.  The end will come according to God’s will.  Calculating the end won’t make us any more ready for it.  Nothing we do will make us ready.  Our readiness comes from him.  It all comes from him; our repentant hearts, our faith, our perseverance and endurance.

We will see him, and that’s the only way we’ll know the end has come; and on that day, we’ll celebrate because the time of waiting will be over; but for now brothers, do not grow weary of doing good.

Amen.

In Christ’s Service

Pastor Huelle