Advent 2 2014
What does the Bible say about the future? In our gospel lesson today Jesus spoke to the disciples about their future. God’s judgment would come upon those who still followed the Old Covenant at the Jerusalem Temple. The Old Covenant that had pointed to the promise of Jesus coming had become distorted. It had become a do-it-yourself religion that had rejected the visitation of its true Savior and Lord. Forty years from this time Jesus told the disciples that the temple would fall, not one stone would be left unturned, for it had become a den of thieves selling religious wares and services offering a pulpit of legalistic self worship. Fear and foreboding would come over all who were there. The tribulations that would befall them were God’s judgment on their idolatry and no one would be spared.
When this happened in AD 70 some tried to make the temple into a military stronghold and they told everyone in Jerusalem to find refuge inside. Many listened, but not those who had believed in Christ. As the followers of the old covenant believed God would send them a savior, the Christians knew that refuge was found in the Christ who had already come. Jesus is the fulfillment of the old covenant and author of the new. So, they listened to Jesus’ Word that told them to flee for the mountains and to abandon that place lest the judgment fall on them.
The disciples were not spared hardship and trouble though. Imagine how they felt as Jesus explained to them their gray future. He was telling them they would lose their homes and their work. He told them that they could expect slander, persecutions, to even be arrested and some killed for believing and confessing that Jesus is the Christ come to save the world.
Imagine if your Lord said that to you. What if today you would leave the warm comfort of this sanctuary and outside awaited the world’s hatred? You will be slandered, despised, arrested, and even killed for the reason that you bear Christ’s name. Imagine if you would not celebrate Christmas around the quaint Christmas tree and the cozy warmth of the fireplace. Instead you will celebrate in hiding. Gone are the comforts of stable employment, safe home, or secure retirement. Could you bear up to the loss of reputation for serving Christ? Perhaps, but what if you lost it all? That is what you risk as you confess Christ in a dying and broken world. How much do you believe that whatever is taken from you in this life will be returned to you in the next? Jesus is calling you to entrust your time, your history, your life into his hands and his hands alone.
Jesus did not come in the nick of time or at the last minute. The Scriptures teach that He came at the fullness of time. Everything that had taken place of old by the preaching and writings of Moses and the Prophets pointed forward to this event. Everything that happened in history was for the purpose of Christ coming to save us. Time was pregnant with expectation of the moment when the world would meet Jesus Christ the Savior. Likewise what has happened since will only find its meaning through the Christ event. That’s what the fullness of time means. All time past, present, and future will be judged by this single moment in history—the cross of Jesus Christ.
We remembered last week that Jesus came as a humble king, the Christ, who would come to save the people from their sins. He would enter the fray of the war of sin, death, and hell that assails this world and become our victor and champion by dying our death and becoming our resurrection. Everyone who flees to him for refuge will find protection and therefore we await that day when he will return. On that day all people will know that he is God and Lord. Our lives will be hung in the balance and scales of God’s justice and all will be found wanting save those who have called on the Lord Jesus Christ and trust his word from the cross, “Father, forgive them.”
This is why it is no small thing that you dear brothers and sisters in Christ support what is proclaimed here and throughout the world. God is casting the great net of the gospel through the sea of the world to save people from drowning in the sin-poisoned environment in which they swim about. God is seeing to it that the Word and the Sacraments are being properly distributed here in this place and elsewhere and he does this through you. Not just through your financial support, but through your lives and your mouths as you learn to confess Jesus’ saving name. The net of Word and Sacrament continues to be drawn through history by Jesus to bring fish into his keeping.
Meanwhile the world has dressed itself up well, but it’s only a veneer. There is not much between us and the horrors of sin underneath, just about a coat of varnish. We see our sinful condition break through the veneer, but the world tries its hardest to hide the evidence of human depravity. It has gotten fairly good at it too. Riots, terror, and murder breakout, but the world makes its own explanations to excuse the hellish behavior. We convince ourselves that is only the bad behavior of the few, but we being more informed, fair-minded, and civilized know better than to act like brutes. Yet, we do not want to confess that the same sin that dwelling in the heart of rioters also dwells in us. We can become convinced with the world that if only we had more education and less poverty we can perfect society. The record of human history and human efforts could be studied as our attempts to wash away the stain of our rebellion against our Creator. If we only had the right technology, the right philosophy, the right government then, just then perhaps we would reach a utopia without sin.
It never occurs to us that “utopia” is derived from the Greek word meaning “not place”, or in other words “nonexistent”, but still we keep imagining we have power to perfect ourselves. The world likes to believe we are moving upward and certainly life has improved with technology and knowledge. These same things, though, have been used for evil. The 20th century was the most violent in history with two world wars and multiple genocides. The 21st century greeted our nation with terrorism and two warfronts. Still, many people recover from the hangover of the wreckage believing that the perfected human society is within reach. They tell our youths to find meaning and significance in the technologies they use everyday as if that will be their salvation. Meanwhile we’re all so distracted by all our entertainment and increased pleasure that we’re blind to the rot surrounding us. How naive are we to believe that technology and increased pleasure and comforts will help us escape evil? Yet, the world continues to believe the lie. History is moving forward, but not upward. In fact Jesus taught that the fall of the Temple was typological for the day of God’s judgment. One moment the people were comfortable and living like they always did. Next the judgment for their sins assailed them unprepared.
We live in an age where we’ve become so distracted that we can no longer see the weeds that grow around us. We in the church wonder what we can say and do to keep people from being deceived. And that too is an admission of our sin and our idolatry for we think it is up to us. We think one more program or just the right amount of knowledge may turn the tide for the church and we will have the utopian ideal. Since we think it’s up to us we hate how the church really does look like a hospital for sinners. As we convalesce receiving the healing balm of Christ’s forgiveness the old Adam struggles with his unattractive scars and how there are still open wounds. We try to dress the wounds ourselves and cover them up, but its only a veneer. Only God can heal our sins.
This world and the future would be terrifying without the promise that comes from the cross. It’s here where we need to meet our creator and his grace. We deserve to be turned away and cast aside, but he does not reject a single one of us even as we are sputtering wicks of half-faithful people. We are like the disciples upon the stormy sea. Afraid for their lives they call on Christ to save them. Jesus could have prevented the storm all along, but then they would never know their need for him. Yet, when they cried out to him he saved them and with a Word the wind and the seas obeyed him.
This means even the tumult and the troubles we see in the world, in the church, and in our lives are woven into God’s plans to save us. He is doing it now by his life giving word of forgiveness for you from the cross! With that forgiveness comes all the promises of God. He covers you will all his promises by your baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection. That means even whatever happened to you this last week and or what comes in the week ahead for good or ill find its ultimate meaning in the cross of Christ. If sickness you will be healed in Christ. If sin you will be forgiven in Christ. If death you will rise again in Christ. You have all these promises because you are forgiven and you belong to the one whose coming brought life and immortality to light.
Jesus told the disciples to watch and to be sober minded as he told them about the future. So, Advent reminds us of these two things, to watch and to be sober. We watch for his second coming where all the promises of Christ will come to fruition. We watch by being attentive to the Holy things of God, the Word and the Sacraments. So do not despise them, but gladly receive them as Christ forgives you and strengthens you as you wait on him. Then also be sober minded. That means to be calm. Trust that Christ is control. He is on the boat with you, the storms cannot end you, and he will rescue you. So, even if they should take your life, goods, fame, child, and wife, though these all be gone your victory has been won. The kingdom yours remainth. Your life is hidden in Christ who is risen from the dead. Even if this world should pass away his word will never pass away. Baptized into Christ by his eternal word your life is kept forever. Even now he does something just as awesome as he feeds you his body and his blood. The blood of God will now flow in you. The blood the grave could not hold now holds you into the eternal promise of resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come when Jesus comes again. This is what the Bible says about your future. Amen.