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Sermon for Populus Zion

by chaz_lehmann ~ December 5th, 2008

Rev. Charles Lehmann + Populus Zion + Luke 21:25-36

In the Name of + Jesus.  Amen.

We are one week into December, and, by the way most people count it, we’re about nine days into the Christmas season.  Cookies are being baked, and holiday sweets are starting to stack up on tables everywhere.  For many, December is the month that they put on all the pounds that they resolve to get rid of once the New Year comes.

But, as usual, the Church isn’t in sync with the rest of the world.  When the rest of the world is racking up all sorts of credit card debt and throwing dietary caution to the wind, the church is in Advent.  We are considering Christ’s return at the last day, and because of that, we have heard today, in our Lord’s own words, a stern warning against the excesses and frivolous things of the world.

There is no “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” in today’s reading.  Instead, Jesus comes to us and says, “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.”

The end is coming soon.  When we hear these words it’s easy to scoff in unbelief.  It’s been nearly two thousand years since the Lord spoke them, and as the years wear on we are tempted to think that Jesus must not have meant it when He said that His return was near.  We tend to judge God according to our own sin-soaked measuring stick.  Sinful man is fickle, changable, and cannot be depended on.  And so, if God waits before He returns in judgment, we can easily conclude that He’s just as unreliable as we are.

If you tell your wife that you’re going to take out the trash and she finds it still in the house an hour later, she might come and take away your chips and turn off the T.V.  She’ll say, “You said you were going to take out the trash.”  And chances are you have completely forgotten about your promise to do it.  You’re too busy thinking about how Roethlisberger is going to do against Romo.  You’re wondering if Ware going to breach the Steeler line and add another sack to his record.

Each of us has our distractions.  Each of us can have our attention swayed by the unimportant and passing things of this world.  The cares of this life can easily make us doubt the promises of God.  But that Christmas sale in Oakland and NFL football will pass away.  There will be no shopping in heaven.  John Elway and Terry Bradshaw will receive no honors for their passing record in the New Jerusalem.  None of these flights of human fancy will endure on the last day.

On the great and glorious day of the Lord, all the best shops will lie in rubble and Heinz field will be consumed by unquenchable fire.  The world of distraction will pass away as Jesus ushers a New Heaven and a New Earth in to take its place.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but the Word of God shall never pass away.

The Lord is not slow in the way we count slowness.  Though He has tarried for thousands of years, we can still believe His promise.  He is coming soon.  He says, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place.”  At these words we might be tempted again to doubt the Lord’s promise.  Peter, James, John, and all the rest are dead and buried.  If we wanted to, we could travel to many of their tombs.  No one who heard the Lord’s words when He spoke them is still alive.  All are in the sleep of death.

But the generation of the Lord is the church.  The Lord waits for the full number of His saints to be revealed.  The Lord waits, because the Lord is merciful.  He waits so that all might hear the Word of His Gospel.

For some, however, the day will come like a trap.  It will be a day of wrath and mourning.  It will bring terror upon all who fear men rather than God.  It will be as Solomon tells us in the book of Proverbs, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is secure.”

Those who have their focus on what the world thinks about them and would have them do will not endure on that final day.  They will be consumed by fire.  They will be raised to eternal death.  They will be separated from the Lord’s love forever and live eternally under His implacable wrath and judgment.

But that is not what the Lord wants.  The Lord desires that all repent and come to a knowledge of the truth.  The Lord wants heaven to be filled and hell to be empty.

But some for whom Christ died on the cross will refuse Him to the end.  Some whom He desires to redeem will go to hell anyway.  Those who reject His redeeming grace will live forever without it.  Their bodies will suffer where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.  For them, the Last Day, the day of the Lord, will come like a snare.

But for you, people loved by God, for you who trust the Lord for mercy, the day will not be like a snare.  The Lord says to you, “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees.  As soon as they come out in leaf, you see bfor yourselves and know that the summer is already near.  So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.”  The signs that the Lord has given are all present right now.  Stars fall.  The sun and moon are eclipsed.  People tremble in fear at the many evil things that are in the world.  These are the tender shoots and the green leaves that tell you that summer is near.

The kingdom of God has been upon us ever since God bore your sins to the wood of the cross.  He began His gracious rule among you when He destroyed your sins.  He rules among you even now.  You heard it this morning when the service began in the Name that God gave you in your baptism.  God continued to rule when after you confessed your sins He forgave them through the words He spoke using my lips.  He continued to rule as He taught you in the Scripture that was read.  He continues now as you hear His Word preached in this sermon.  He will do it again when in a few minutes He gives you His body to eat and His blood to drink.

The Lord’s reign is gracious.  He rules by the forgiveness of sins.  His reign is hidden among simple things.  He uses words, frail pastors from Montana, handfuls of water, little pieces of bread, and tiny swallows of wine.  He uses His creation that will pass away to give the gifts of life and salvation that will endure forever.

The Lord’s judgment is coming soon.  He will come on the clouds to judge every human creature.  He delays it so that more might hear of His gracious rule.  He waits so that the full number of Christians might hear the good tidings of great joy that are for all people.  He waits so that the Holy Spirit might work faith in those who are consumed by the cares of this life.  He waits so that His Word may have it’s way in us.  He waits, because He loves you.

And so, dear Christians, lift up your heads.  Look with eager expectation to the sky.  Your Lord is coming soon.  His rule is for you mercy, love, and grace.  All who trust in Him will receive all that He has promised.  The snow might be on the ground, but the summer is near.  Your redemption is drawing nigh.

In less than three weeks we will consider the Lord’s first advent.  We will rejoice that your Savior was willing to humble Himself to be born of a virgin.  Today, however, we look with joy and hopeful expectation for the Lord’s final return.  We look forward to the day that will never end.  We look for that time when in the New Jerusalem, we will have Jesus as our light, and darkness will flee forever.

In that final day there will be no shopping to do because the Lord will provide us with all we need.  And there will be no need for the entertaining distractions of the NFL.  The Lord will be our all and all, and we will lack for no good thing.

In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in faith in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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