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.
Saturday, December 31, 2016
Be Ready - December 31, 2016 - New Year’s Eve - Text: Luke 12:35-40
Do you remember what happened last week on Christmas Day? After church the family had gathered at Uncle Jim’s house. Everyone was there. You remember, it was a pot-luck meal. Everyone brought their favorite dish. It was quite a spread and everything was delicious, especially Aunt Bee’s buttermilk pie. It was a good time to sit around and catch up on what was happening in everyone’s life. A little later in the afternoon we all sat around the Christmas tree and opened presents. You do remember, don’t you? And then it happened. You opened the present from Uncle Jim. It was the keys to a new car. Do you remember what you did? You took out you wallet and offered to give him five dollars. (Pause) No, that is not what happened. And of course you are thinking, that would be so tacky and that would never happen. No, what happened was that Uncle Jim gave you one of those very thoughtful presents and you were so taken aback that you thanked him about a hundred times. You even told him that if he ever needed anything, to let you know and you would be honored to help him.
Now, although that story may or may not have happened at your Uncle Jim’s house, that story helps us to understand the difference between wanting to earn our salvation, trying to pay Jesus with a few good works for His paying our eternal death penalty, and wanting to respond with thanks for a gift for which we could never pay. Now, please do not label me as a doomsday naysayer, but the fact of the matter is, the end is coming. Either the Lord will return to take us out of this world, or we will die and leave this world, those are the only two ways we have of getting out of this world. It will happen. The end will come, sooner than we know and sooner than we might expect. In our text we are encouraged to be ready for when it happens and we are given an indication of how we know that we are ready.
We will first look at being ready and we do that by looking at the last part of our text. Jesus says, “35Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, 36and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks” (v. 35-36). We are to be ready for the Lord’s return. How do we get ready for the Lord’s return? We get ready by being about His business, that is by being in the Word, by reading our Bible, by being in Divine Service, by being in Bible class. It is through these means that our Lord comes to us to get us ready and to keep us ready for His return.
And what happens to those who are ready? We continue with our text, “37Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them” (v. 37). The master, and here we are talking about Jesus, who finds his servants ready, will do, not the expected, but the unexpected. What normally happens when the master returns home is that he sits down and the servants wait on him. In the case of Jesus, our Master, when He returns to gather us, His faithful people from this earth, He, who humbled Himself and took on the form of a servant and gave His life for us, will serve us.
Our text continues, “38If he comes in the second watch, or in the third, and finds them awake, blessed are those servants! 39But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into. 40You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (v. 38-40). The kingdom of heaven, Judgement Day, will come. It will come whether we believe it will come or not. It will come before we know it and when we least expect it. It will come like a thief in the night. And so we are to be ready at all times. We are ready when we take our focus off our feet firmly planted in this world and move our focus heavenward. When we take our focus off our temporary surroundings and focus on our eternal life in heaven.
Which brings us back to the first part of our text and the question of “How do we know if we are ready?” One way we know we are ready is by our understanding, acknowledging and confessing that we are unworthy of all the good gifts and blessings our Lord so free lavishes on us. Indeed as we have just celebrated Christmas and the exchanging of presents we focus our attention on the greatest gift, the gift of God in flesh for us and our sins. Thus, our first fruits, tithes and offerings are not a guilt offering but a response of faith, a response to the gift of eternal life earned for us by Jesus and given to us by faith worked in our hearts by the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God. We respond by being good stewards of all that God has given to us and by knowing who or what is our god.
In the verses before our text and verse that would be fit to be a part of our text, we read, “32Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (v. 32). As we end this current calendar year, and as we do every year, we are reminded that our time on this earth is fast and fleeting. Yet, here God assures us that heaven is a present reality. Heaven is ours, now. Heaven is not something we have to wait for, it is ours now. Yes, we will have to wait until, either we pass away in this world, or until Christ returns in order to move into heaven, but heaven is ours at this time.
Jesus goes on to tell us that there is a difference between earthly treasure and heavenly treasure. He says, “33Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys” (v. 33). Actually Jesus speaks of stewardship and giving more often that we might imagine and here He reminds us again, our treasures here on earth may last twenty, thirty, eighty, or a hundred years, but our heavenly treasures last forever, for eternity.
And so we are back to the question, “How do we know we are ready?” “How do we know what is truly our god?” Jesus tells us plainly in our text, “34For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (v. 34). “Where your treasure is,” that is, where you spend you money, “there your heart will be also,” this is what is most important to you in your life and that truly is your god. These are not my words, I did not make this up, this is what God tells us and this is an indication of what is important in your life. Where is your treasure? Where do you spend your money? Although we may profess certain priorities in life, if we really want to know what are our priorities, they are what we live, what we do, how we speak, where we spend our time and our treasure.
In our Epistle lesson we are pointed back to where we are always to be pointed in order to hear the Gospel and the Good News of salvation, Indeed, “if God is for us, who can be against us?” As we end one calendar year and are on the verge of beginning a new calendar year, if the Lord is willing for that to be so, we do so with all boldness and confidence. We do so, not simply speaking with our lips that we believe that with God all things are possible, but with our actions as well.
As we look forward to a new year, as we do every year, we look forward to a lot of uncertainties. We do not know what the future holds. We do not know what God has in mind for us as a nation, nor as a congregation. We do not know if the Lord will tarry for another year, or two, or a thousand, all we know is that the Lord has promised to be with us and that He will return and so we live on in faith, trusting in Him and in Him alone. And in so doing, we are ready.
So now we take what we have been hearing and we apply it to our own lives. We do this by taking a sober look at our own lives and what we value. What is it that we value? What is truly our god? Do we look at what we have done for God, or what we think we have done for God, and reconcile our account with what He owes us, or do we acknowledge what God has done for us and give thanks for all His good gifts and blessings? And what has God done for us? God has done everything for us. He has given His Son to take on human flesh and blood. He has given His Son to live for us, perfectly in our place. He has given for His Son to take all our sins upon Himself and suffer and die, to pay the eternal death penalty for us, for each one of us. He has given His Son to earn eternal life, heaven for us.
After His resurrection and before His ascension, Jesus promised that He would return. And He will return, thus it is imperative that we are ready. So now, we add to all that our Lord has already done for us the fact that He also works to get us ready. And He does that as we make regular and diligent use of the means He has given to get us ready, His means of Grace, the Bible and the sacraments.
Finally, we are left simply to respond to all that He has done for us and given to us and we respond by praising Him for all His good gifts and blessings.
I urge you, be ready. I encourage you to know that you are ready as the Lord makes you ready. We will see Jesus, sooner than we know and probably sooner than we might expect. May the Lord make you and keep you ready. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.