Sermon for Populus Zion. “We are not of those who shrink back.”
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Luke 21:25-36
December 9, 2012
“We are not of those who shrink back” Hebrews 10:39
The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with His death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ.
When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p. 44.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Amen. Rom. 15:13
There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars, and on earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the waves of the sea.
The ocean and its waves crashing on a beach in the sun is the picture of paradise to a lot of us who have spent our years among cornfields and blizzards. But ask the people who live on the coast about the ocean, and you might get a different perspective. The sea can turn wild and malevolent and swallow 50 years of work and building in a few minutes. It’s only the illusion and dream of sunbathers that the sunny beach is always paradise.
People fall into dreams about their lives, too. We are sure that the security and comfort that are ours now will be there forever. We often think that the confidence and strength we have now we will always have, not realizing that we have not been tested yet and that we are depending on things that are not stable. Then the unthinkable day comes and confidence is replaced with terror and perplexity—confusion. We run here and there looking for answers but cannot rest.
That is what happens to unbelievers when death suddenly becomes a reality. Even worse, when the end of the world is no longer a possibility, but is upon them, unbelievers will be bewildered. Certainly it was no real surprise that the world is not really a safe place that supports us in all our dreams. History shows us wars and disasters have engulfed people who were better than we are. Yet people continue to believe that it will be different for them—until the reality is forced upon them that they too must die.
And then everything we have learned in our society fails us. We have been taught to find meaning in ourselves—who we are and what we like. When you go to a funeral of a person whose family has no connection to the Christian faith you see, painfully, how false these gods are. The favorite song of the loved one who has died does not comfort the grieving. The memories of better days do not give peace, but only remind that these things were only temporary—not enough to support a person or his loved ones through death.
But now it is too late to find more solid and certain comfort.
As the end of the world approaches, Jesus warns His hearers to watch carefully so that their hearts are not burdened and weighed down by the cares and pleasures of this world—the things that seem so certain that they demand our full attention. Neither the troubles of our lives nor their pleasures are permanent and solid.
What is solid and certain are His Words. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Words will never pass away.”
Yet we have allowed our hearts to be weighed down.
We have lived as if the concerns and pleasures of this world (drunkenness, feasting, cares of this world) are permanent.
Then when everything seems to fall apart and come to nothing we are dismayed.
As our personal dreams come apart, or the work of our lives seems to come to nothing, we are reminded that even this creation—heavens, earth, sea—will be destroyed.
Soon the Son of Man will come in power and great glory.
And the unbelievers will grieve, because in resisting the destruction of this world they were resisting the Messiah. And so have we done when we looked for the world to remain forever.
But Jesus says: Lift up your heads when these things are happening!
The day is coming, burning like an oven…and all that is evil will be burned up. But Jesus says to head toward that day, look toward it, embrace it. The fire of that day comes to you who fear His name as the rising sun of righteousness who heals you. Jesus who is risen shines upon you now through the word of His grace—your sins are forgiven. On that day He will rise upon you with perfect healing, when the old adam is completely incinerated and the new man replaces him like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis.
The burning up and destruction of this creation and the things that we want to be stable in it is actually our redemption. The old Adam and the evil that is in us—all that does not fear the Lord—will be burnt up.
What is temporary is destroyed. What is eternal remains—His Kingdom. Our life, which is hidden with Christ in God.
The Savior will rend the heavens wide. The earth, sky, sea will be rolled up like a scroll along with false hopes. But He who rends the heavens is He whose body was torn open and whose precious life He gave to us, streaming out so that it might be ours. He was torn open so that we might hide in Him, be destroyed in Him and be recreated in Him, when He returns in glory and those who set at nought and sold him are looking for mountains to fall upon them to hide them from the day that is burning like an oven.
We are baptized into His death that we may be raised from the dead.
We eat and drink His body and blood and receive life—but everlasting life is the destruction of the old Adam.
In confession and absolution, the old Adam with his false righteousness dies a humiliating death in confessing what he really is. But this is replaced with Jesus’ recreating, enduring word—Your sins are forgiven.
The sun of righteousness rises on us with healing in his wings. Do not run from judgment, but toward it. His mighty power which seems against us is really for us, for He has risen from the dead for us and He rises on us with healing in His wings.
5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus,6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:5-6
Soli Deo Gloria.
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- Sermon – All Saints’ Sunday Revelation 7:9-17 (deprofundisclamaviadtedomine.wordpress.com)
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