Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, November 18, 2012
Watch with Eyes That See - November 18, 2012 - Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 28) - Text: Mark 13:1-13
Thirteen years ago, already, as we approached the end of 1999 there was an air of anxiety and anticipation concerning what might happen as we moved into the year 2000. And even twelve years ago as we approached the end of that year, 2000, there was still some of that same anxiety and anticipation by those who believed that was the year change, which really moved us into the 21st century, was going to bring the end of the world. And still today, there are some in our world who live anxiously each year as the old year approaches an end and the new year approaches a beginning. Some are anxious about the possibility that the Mayan calendar might be true. I only mention this, because we in the church have a different calender. Our calendar ends at the end of Pentecost. You may have noticed that today is the twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost and actually is the second-last Sunday in the Church year, meaning that there is only one more Sunday left in our current church year. Our church calender, our church year begins with the first Sunday in Advent, this year that will be December 2.
This year, like years past, our emphasis at the end of our church year is on the end times, the final days of our time on this earth and especially the coming of Jesus on Judgement day. I believe that it is, indeed, fitting that each year, as we approach the end of the church year, that we concentrate on things of the end times. I believe this is fitting, because I believe too many people, even too many Christians have lost their focus on the fact that, just as God kept His first promise to send a Savior, even though it took Him some 4500 years to keep that promise, and many people missed the fulfillment of that promise because they had come to deny its possible fulfillment, so today, we have waited some 2000 years since Christ promised to return and since He has already waited so long, I believe there are many who no longer believe that God will keep that promise. It is imperative then, that we review the promise and remind ourselves of the fact that Christ will return and it may be that He will return during our lifetime. Now, certainly to the unbeliever these will be times of terror, but for us Christians we have the hope and confidence that God is with us and that, when our last hour comes, we will go to be with Him in heaven. This morning we watch with eyes that see, that is, we watch with eyes of faith.
There is a lot of watching that goes on in this world. As we watch television we see one advertizement after another asking us to watch and see if they do not make their promises come true. We have all heard the phrase, “Have I got a deal for you” and we all know what that phrase means. When we hear that phrase it makes us listen very carefully. Because of the scepticism of our world we hear that phrase and usually we try to find out what is the catch.
Yet, there are other signs which we watch in our world today. We watch for the budding of the trees and know that this budding is a sign of spring. We watch the clouds in the sky, the wind pick up it speed, and it looks like we might be in for a storm. We watch the weather radar and the Doppler radar to see what the weather might be. We watch the vector coordinates to see when is the best time to go fishing. We all have the little things we watch to help us get through each day.
For many their eyes are looking to see when the little hand is on the five and the big hand is on the twelve and that is quitting time. For little children they want to know how many days it will be until their birthday or until Christmas or until school starts or is out. There is indeed a lot of watching going on in this world and much of the watching has to do simply and only with this world and the things of this world.
In our text Jesus talks about watching for the end of the world to come. Jesus is talking about Judgement day, the day He promised He would come in order to take us from this vale of tears, this earth, to be with Himself in heaven. Jesus encourages us to watch out so that we are not deceived and lose faith. He even gives us hints of some things which will be happening as the end of this world approaches. He says that there will be wars and rumors of war, but we are not to be alarmed. At first glance we might come to the conclusion that we are at the end of the world, because especially today we continue to hear about wars and rumors of war and we continue to be in a war against terrorism. And we should be mindful that we might be close to the end of our time on this earth.
Jesus says that nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. Have you noticed all the conflicts that are going on around the world. Read the paper, watch the news on television, listen to the radio. One look at the land of the middle east brings Jesus’ words to mind. All around the world there continues to be conflicts as one nation and one kingdom fights against another. Again, we should be mindful that we might be close to the end of our time on this earth.
Jesus also mentions the fact that there will be earthquakes and famines. At other times He mentions other, what we call, “natural disasters” such as tornados and hurricanes and earthquakes and wildfires, and so forth. Every year we see, again, what we call the forces of nature have great and devastating affects on the earth. Paul reminds us that the whole world is groaning with the pains from the sins of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The whole world is waiting and watching for Jesus’ return.
And while the whole world is watching and waiting, there is also the personal side of watching and waiting. As Christians, Jesus reminds us that we will undergo personal persecution. Jesus tells us that we will be arrested simply for the fact that we are Christians. While we may not fear this type of persecution, yet, here in the United States, I understand that in Canada, to the north of us, and in other countries around the world, there are, already, laws which do not allow for the preaching of any kind of intolerance. In other words, a person could be arrested for suggesting that any behavior listed as sin in the Bible is wrong. Today we are getting close to such a law as our lawmakers discuss such laws as anti-discrimination laws. In other words, there may soon come a day here in the United States that you or I could be arrested for speaking the truth of the Bible when we declare deviant behavior as sinful and wrong.
Yet, Jesus comforts us and tells us that we are not to worry about what to say when we are confronted with the issues of our faith, when we are put in jail and asked to stand before the courts. He comforts us by telling us that he will give us the words to speak to give testimony of the faith that is in our hearts. Where do we get these words? We learn what to say through Divine Service and through the Word and the Sacraments. Why do you think personal reading of God’s Word is so important? Why do you think Divine Service and Sunday School and Bible Class are so important? Why do you think family devotions are so important? Why do you think I make such a big deal about making regular and diligent use of the means of grace? These are the times and the places, these are the means where and through which we learn the answers God gives us to speak out for the faith and the hope that is in us.
Jesus comforts us and tells us that we will give testimony to the nations. This is not a have to, but a get to. What a privilege the Lord has bestowed on us as His children. He allows us to be able to go out and speak for Him. He gives us His authority to proclaim His message of salvation. Particularly, right here at St. Matthew He has given us a great location, even if our access is a bit difficult. People drive by and see our church and so we pray they will be able to find their way over and come to visit. God has also given us a Mother’s Day Out Program and only He knows how much He will bless our program and whose lives we may touch through this program. Through this program, as well as through our Vacation Bible School, even our Sunday School and Bible class, parents and children come in contact with the message of Jesus and His work of salvation.
Again, the words of comfort of Jesus are that the Holy Spirit will give us the words to speak so that it is not we who are speaking, but the Holy Spirit who is speaking through us. Here let me say it this way, not if, but when our time comes, when we are faced with persecution, we can find comfort first in Jesus’ love for us, seen in His death and resurrection for us. Greater love has no one than this than that they would give their life for another and that is exactly what Jesus did, He gave His life, He paid the price for our sins, on the cross, for you and for me. We can find comfort in Jesus’ words of giving us His authority and His promise that He is with us, always, even to the end of the world, and now here in our text we find comfort in His words that He will give us the words and the courage to speak and give testament of the faith that is in us. He will be with us in our own personal watching.
So what? Do we live life with a fatalistic attitude? Do we live life for what we have here? Or do we live life watching for the world to come? Jesus helps us, here too, by giving us the measure for judgement. Jesus does not tell us to be successful while we are in this world, rather He tells us, “The one who endures to the end will be saved.” He has given us faith, through Holy Baptism and through His Word. The world defines success, usually in terms of power, wealth and fame, as we have said in other messages. Jesus wants from us, not success, especially not success according to the ways of the world, but He wants us to remain faithful, to endure to the end, and stand firm on His will and Word.
And even more, He also promises to be with us, to give us faith, to strengthen and keep us in faith until He comes again. As we confess in the explanation of the third article of the Apostles’ Creed, “the Holy Spirit, calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies” us while we are still on this earth. And He does His work as we make use of His means of grace, the Word and the Sacrament. Here again we see the importance of continuing to make use of reading the Bible, attending Divine Service and Bible class, having family devotions and the like. All this is included in our watching.
The end of the world will come. It will come for each one of us either at our own time of death or when Jesus returns to take us all to heaven, both of which I believe will be sooner than we know and sooner than we might expect. Until that time we are to watch. We are to watch for the world to come. We are to make sure that we are prepared. And we know we are prepared as He prepares us, by having our faith firmly planted in Jesus and His death and resurrection for us.
The signs of this world do show that the end of the world is near. The signs remind us of our need to be ever ready and ever believing in Jesus. We cling to His promise to never leave us nor forsake us. We find comfort in His promise that at the right time He will give us the words we need to speak in testimony of the faith which He gives to us. His word to us is to be faithful until death and He will give us the crown of life, so that we might stand before His throne with all the saints and say, to Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.