Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Mark’s gospel account the 13th chapter (Mark 13:24-37).
Beloved in the Lord,
When Jesus speaks of “those days” He means the “end of days.” He means the last days. He means these days. “For in many and various ways God spoke to His people of old by the prophets but now in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.” The great sign of those days, the end of days, the last days, is that Jesus speaks to us. And so we Christians are called to attention for when Jesus speaks of “those days” He is speaking of our days.
And our days are ripe with tribulation. The sun, the greater light of the sky, the sign and symbol of the Word is darkened with false doctrine, false preachers, and false righteousness. The Moon, the lesser light in the darkness suffers as Holy Christendom bears the cross of the Name of Jesus before the nations. Blood is spilled. Heads are lopped off. Persecution afflicts the Lord’s beloved more now in these last days, in our days, than all the days before since the time of the apostles. The stars – the messengers of light in Christ’s church fall away – chasing after the glories promised by money, lust, and power. The powers that be tremble under the weight of sin, corruption, death, and unbelief. Many are deceived. Many are unconcerned. Many, even the faithful, struggle and are shaken by the world’s events and the world’s words.
The signs are all around us. This world, our world, is passing away, a sign all too obvious, if only we would listen with open ears and see with enlightened minds. But we, like the world around us, too often refuse to listen and therefore we cannot see. Our world view is clouded with the haze of comfort and earthly security. Thus we live sleepy lives. We go about our days in a dream like existence seeking to experience as much as we can while here down below. We love life here down below. But life here down below can be difficult. We don’t want life to be difficult. We want life to be easy and comfortable. So, we chase after comforts and indulge in them to the point of borrowing from our children to pay for them. We want life to be pleasurable. So, we lust after the delights of the eye and sacrifice the well being of our families. We want life to be full. So we fill our stomachs. We gorge ourselves with meat and drink paying homage to our false gods. And ST. Paul says of those who do such things, “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” (Phi 3:19 ESV)
Sleepy people are living sleepy lives, tolerating all sorts of wickedness in their lives, their families, their communities and their nation because they have neglected the Word and fixed their heart and mind on things here below, things of this world, things that will surely pass away. Where the heart is there is your God and there is also your destiny. Those who are fixed on things here below will receive the same end as those things. As moth and rust bring ruin and destruction, so also unbelief, lust, immorality and impiety will bring you to the pit of despair. But those falling headlong into such things live unawares. They are sleepy. They are comfortable. They are full. They feel secure. And they will die forever in hell, as will all who practice such things.
These things have an end. The world has an end. You have an end. Behold the signs! Hear the message! The End is near, very near! At the Gates! And unless you repent and believe the gospel you will not survive THAT DAY, the day when Jesus comes back. For upon His return both sorrow and joy shall fill the world: Sorrow for those clinging to sin and unbelief, those who embraced their sleepy ways and turned a deaf ear to the gospel, and joy to those longing for the Savior’s hand to wipe away every tear from their eyes and usher them into an eternal life of blessedness.
Truly beloved, it is for joy and blessedness that our Lord first came. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Father has given us an incarnate Word, a fleshly Word, a visible Word in the giving of His Son. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. Giving Jesus He gives a good Word, and eternal Word, a Word that goes out and bears fruit and calls sinners like us to Himself. Calling us to Himself Jesus calls us to turn away from the sleepy, comfortable and filling things of this world, things here below, things that so easily entangle us in sin, unbelief, shame and vice. He calls us to repentance and He sets before us a Word of mercy, life, and love. For His Word is not like our words. His Word is God’s Word and God’s Word is great and mighty and powerful and gives what it says, and does what it promises. The Word goes out and the Word bears fruit and the Word pierces through bone and sinew to the very heart of our being. The Word forgives and heals and cleanses and makes strong what was weak, makes righteous what was sinful, makes well what was sick and alive what was dead.
His first advent was meant to deal with our sins, and our sinful world. He came. He saw. He conquered, but not as the kings of this world, Our heavenly King is unlike the Caesars of our world and our days. He conquers by dying. He wins by losing. He saves by suffering. Jesus bears the sins of the world on His shoulders even as He bears your sins on the cross. No one sin is left out. All sin is atoned for. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the World. And though He pass away into death, His death is the end of death. Though He enters the grave, His burial strikes the power of the pit. Though He is dead, He rises. He lives. He is the resurrection and the life. He passes away but risen from the dead He promises never to pass away again. The death He died He died once for all, once for you. Thus He dies no more. He endures. He abides. He remains. With Him endures, abides and remains His Word.
In Baptism the Living Word quickens the hearts of the dead. Those who sleep are awakened to newness of life, life in Christ, life with Christ, life covered over by the blood of Christ. Through Water and the Word the Spirit of our God fills the heart with good things, holy things, eternal things, things of greater value than food and clothing, comfort and experience. These things endure for they are brought into being by the Word made flesh. The Word endures. The Word gives life. The Word creates faith and brings eternal hope and comfort through the forgiveness of sins.
Thus, beloved, you have been quickened by such a watery Word. You have been washed. You have been cleansed. You have been forgiven, made alive, made righteous, made right. What Jesus bought with His blood He has given to you through this gift. Heaven and earth will surely pass away, but the Word of God endures forever. The Word preserves and the Word protects. No sin can tarnish you, no devil can desecrate you, no world can steal away your joy, the joy of sins forgiven and life renewed, even resurrected. What the Lord has given no one can take away. For nothing is able to separate us from the Love God in Christ Jesus, “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation” (Rom 8:38-39 ESV). For you who bear the Lord’s Name in your baptism bear His Reward as well.
Beloved in the Lord, you are awake! Stay awake! Stay vigilant! Pray with eyes wide open and do not hide from the world, nor from your God. Be bold! Be courageous like the saints of days gone by. Bear up the burdens of this world with a fervent faith in Christ who has conquered the world, overcome the world, even redeemed the world through His glorious death and resurrection. Lift up your head and call upon your Lord asking for the end of sin and the conversion of your neighbors. Seek His gifts while they may be found. Look for them where He’s promised to give them. Receive the holy things of God with a devoted heart and a joyful spirit. Christ is coming! He is coming soon. Let us not resist His first advent and heed the Word today. For today is the day of salvation. Today is the day of mercy. Today is the day of forgiveness. Today is the day that He comes to you in Word and Sacrament to save you, redeem you, be near you and love you. Today is the day for faith. Then, in “those days,” the “end of days,” the “last days,” the day when Jesus comes either in our death or at the end of the world, then we shall not tremble at His second advent but rejoice with all the saints and angels as the Savior takes us home. Glory be to the Father and the Son and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be world without end. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!