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, December 1, 2013
Put On Christ - December 1, 2013 - First Sunday in Advent - Text: Romans 13:(8-10)11-14
Let me begin by saying “Happy New Year!” Today is the first Sunday in our new church year and so it is our church New Year’s Day. With that said, today brings us also to a new beginning in our lectionary series, that is in our Bible Readings. For those of you who do not know, our readings, the Old Testament Reading, the Epistle Reading and the Gospel Reading, as well as the Introits, the Graduals and the like, these are all put together in series. There are several different series that have been put together by different churches and these have changed somewhat throughout the years. For many years our church used a one year series of readings so that every year we heard the same readings over and over. When the last hymnal was published, the Lutheran Worship, a three year series was added, so that over the course of three years the same Bible readings were read. With our newest hymnal, Lutheran Service Book our one year and three year series readings have been revised again. What all this means for us is that we will continue to use this three year cycle of readings with some revisions. Last year you may remember that the text for my preaching were mostly from the Gospel readings for the day. Today we begin with series A and for this year I will be preaching mostly from the Epistle readings for the day.
The last Sundays of the Church Year call us to be ready for the end of our time on this earth, the day of Judgement, that is the day the Lord will return or the day we each die and pass on from this world. We were reminded that this day will come, soon, sooner than we know and sooner than we might expect, so we were reminded of the importance of being ready. We are to live our lives being ready for the day we meet our Lord. The beginning of the Church Year has a similar focus. Actually it is a two fold focus. The texts are words reminding us of getting ready. We are to get ready at this time for Jesus’ first coming, His birth in Bethlehem. At the same time, His first coming parallels the fact of His second coming and so these texts do have a dual purpose and a singular focus, to remind us of Jesus’ first coming and His second come and to be ready at all times, that is to be spiritually ready.
Paul begins by reminding us that the time to be ready is now. Now is the time, we read picking up at verse eleven, “11Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (v. 11). Paul had not personally witnessed Jesus’ birth, life, suffering, death and resurrection, but he did personally witness Jesus on the road to Damascus. Paul was very aware of Jesus’ promise to return and he personally thought that Jesus’ return would be soon, even during his own lifetime. Perhaps if we each had that same belief, that Jesus may be returning during our lifetime, we might have a similar urgency about our own lives. The fact of the matter is, since Paul’s day, we have been waiting about 2000 years so we can know for certain that Jesus’ coming is sooner now than when Paul wrote these words.
We will, each one of us, stand before the Lord and be accountable to Him. That day of being held accountable will happen either when Jesus comes to us, the day He returns as He promised the He would and that is on the day of judgement; or that day of being held accountable will come on the day that we will go to Him, that is the day of our own physical death out of this world. I will not do it this morning, but you have heard me in the past read some of the ages listed in the paper’s obituaries, and from this evidence we know that we, each one of us has a limited amount of time on this earth, from the time of conception to maybe 100 or 110 years. And yet, death happens at any time during this length of time, at two months after conception, at one year after birth, at sixteen years of age, at thirty years of age and so on, it is inevitable, each one of us will die, and actually we can truly say, from the moment of conception we are destined to die.
Each year, each month, each week, each day, each hour leads us closer and closer to the end of our time on this earth. And so, how are we to live while we are on this earth? Paul encourages us to cast off the works of darkness and sin, we pick up our text as verse twelve, “12The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy” (v. 12-13). Ever since the Fall into sin, ever since Eve and Adam ate of the forbidden fruit of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, there has been evil, temptation and sin in our world. We may well speak of these as the unholy three and the temptations of the Devil, the world and our own sinful flesh.
Temptations abound in our world. Paul lists the temptations of sin in orgies and drunkenness, and in sexual immorality and sensuality, in quarreling and jealousy. Simply check the newspaper headlines or the morning, noon or evening news headlines. Temptation and sin are running rampant in our world. The devil is having a free for all and we are his victims.
The worst temptations for us as Christians are the temptations to disbelief, despair and other great shame and vice. There is nothing worse than to fall into unbelief or disbelief, to despair of our faith. And the devil would delight in our demise. The devil knows our weaknesses and that is where he tempts us the greatest. Is our weakness the temptation to put other things before God? Is our weakness the temptation to curse and swear and misuse God’s name? Is our temptation to sleep in on Sunday mornings or have some other priority rather than be in Divine Service and Bible Class? Is our temptation to disobey and be disrespectful to those in authority over us, to hurt or harm others, to lust after others, to take things that do not belong to us, to gamble, to eat or drink too much, to say hurtful things about others, to covet what others have? Yes, the devil knows our weaknesses and he works to exploit those weaknesses so that we do fall into sin and then he works to move us to despair thinking that perhaps there is no hope for us. And left to ourselves, we would perish, eternally. Nothing would please the devil better.
Instead of falling for the lies and temptations of the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh, Paul urges us to put on the Armor of Light, that is to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. We pick up at verse fourteen, “14But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (v.14). How do we defeat the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh? We do not. We cannot. We cannot look inside ourselves to find the answer to defeat or even to counter the temptations of the devil. We must look outside ourselves for the answer. And when we look outside ourselves we are directed to the means through which our Lord saves us. We are to put on the Armor of Light, that is Jesus Christ and we do that through His means of grace. Jesus’ Name, His robes of righteousness, the Armor of Light, was put on us through the waters of Holy Baptism. As water and God’s Name were put on us, so He has claimed us and made us a part of His Kingdom and He works in us to help us to fight against temptation and sin. As we remember our Baptism and the fact that our Lord has put His name on us and we are His, so He helps us to bear up under the temptations of the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh.
We put on Jesus through the reading and hearing of the Word. As we daily read our Bibles, as we come to Bible class on Sunday morning, as we come to Divine Service, through this means of His Word our Lord gives to us, strengthens us and keeps us in faith and helps us to bear up under the temptations of the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh.
We put on Jesus through the forgiveness of sins given to us through Confession and Absolution. As we come here on Sunday morning and confess our sins and hear His most beautiful words of Absolution that “Your sins are forgiven,” then we know that this is what we are given, forgiveness of sins and with forgiveness of sins we know that we also have life and salvation. And so, also as we make use of this means of grace our Lord helps us to bear up under the temptations of the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh.
We put on Jesus through the eating and drinking of His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. As we participate in the Lord’s Supper, as we eat the bread and His body and drink the wine and His blood, so we participate in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection so that His life becomes our life, His death becomes our death and His resurrection becomes our resurrection. And so, also as we make use of this means of grace our Lord helps us to bear up under the temptations of the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh.
So, what does this mean? Today is the beginning of a new church year. This new beginning reminds us that for us there is always the possibility of a new beginning. Certainly we daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness and certainly our Lord daily gives us that forgiveness earned by His Son for us taking our place on the cross.
Today we continue to think two thoughts. Our first thought is that now is the time to get ourselves ready to celebrate Christ’s first coming, His birth in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago. Our second thought continues to be the need to make sure we are ready for Christ’s second coming, when He will come to judge the world, or to be ready for our own passing on from this world at our own death.
Because of the constant ebb and flow in our own lives, the falling into temptation and sin, the repentance and forgiveness, there is the reminder to always be ready!
As Paul urges, so I urge, the time is coming, the day of judgement is near, nearer now than in Paul’s day, nearer than we think or imagine, so it is important to put off the old ways of temptation and sin, drunkenness and sexual immorality and instead put on the armor of Christ, His righteous robes given through the waters of Holy Baptism and renewed through His means of grace, the new ways of Jesus which are pleasing to Him and righteous in His sight. May our Lord Jesus get you ready and keep you ready for His own Name’s sake. To God be the glory. Amen.