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Last Sunday of the Church Year

Text: Mark 13:24-37

Today on this Last Sunday of the Church Year, we are reminded that Judgment Day is approaching, when we will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. The Bible makes clear that Jesus Christ is coming again to gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. The one who created the world, who redeemed the world and restored the world by His death and resurrection, is coming back, as we confess in the creeds, to judge the living and the dead in perfect justice. So, the question for us is which side are we going to be on.

This second-coming of Christ isn’t something new. In fact, Christ Himself proclaimed it during His earthly life. But where many have gotten the words of Jesus wrong is when He will return. There have been countless second-coming prophecies of Jesus’ return, so-called raptures where Christ will gather all His believers and leave the non-believers behind. All these share one thing in common – they got Jesus’ return date wrong! They all must have failed to read this part of Mark’s letter: “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

It’s been 2000 years since Christ first appeared in such lowly estate to lowly parents. As Christ grew in His stature as the God-man, He proclaimed many things about His death and His resurrection, but He didn’t stop there. He also proclaimed that He would come again, though He never put a date or time on it; see His words previously. Our focus is on Christ’s return and not so much when, though it is.

“[Jesus said:] “In those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.””

Now when you hear that, it doesn’t sound like Judgment Day that we “know,” that is, the fictional judgment day. The end of the world represents dramatic action and a cataclysmic battle between good and evil that simply must be seen to be believed. It’s been popularized into a series of books and movies, albeit fictional. It is scary for the non-believer, as it should be. But for the believer, Judgment Day and the end of the world are the fulfillment of the promises of God centered in Jesus, the joyful end when we finally fall into the arms of a waiting Savior who won the victory of sin, death, and the devil.

We know the focus on today, the Last Sunday of the Church Year; it’s the same focus as it is every day – be ready for Christ’s return. How do we prepare for Christ’s return? Jesus tells us as much: the short answer is “Stay awake.”Be alert. Know that Jesus is returning and live in His forgiveness and grace. Know that the cross was about making us ready to stand before Jesus. Know that God draws close to keep our hearts ready for that great and awesome day that is coming. Know that God has more at stake in us being ready for the end of time than we have. He sacrificed His one and only Son on the Cross to make us ready!

Jesus wants us to be alert, on guard, to keep watching for Him to come at any time. This is underscored with the illustration of a man who leaves home and places his servants in charge while he’s away. Jesus is the “man,” the Church is the “house” and we believers are the “servants.” The first point Jesus makes with this picture is that we in the Church are to “be on guard,” as He says, for His return is any moment. Those in the first century believed Jesus would return during their lifetime, thus they lived in that hope and expectation, waiting and watching and longing for His return.

The message for us is the same today in twenty-first century as it was in the first. You don’t know when Christ will return, so always keep ready. Jesus tells us to be ready because one day He will return. This time He will not be the humble Savior who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, only to be killed on a cross. He came then to be our Savior, to give up His life on the Cross. When Jesus returns next, He will come to judge. He will come to destroy the present world and to establish the eternal Kingdom where all believers are to live for eternity. You have a place in that Kingdom as God washes you clean through the forgiveness that Jesus won on the cross.

As this Church Year ends and we look to the coming of a new Church Year, we watch expectantly. We keep watch because we do not know when Jesus will come back. Regardless of His return, we do not want Him to find us sleeping. We stay awake and watch vigilantly by coming to church so we hear the Word of God and receive the gifts which He has given to us in His sacraments.

The Day of the Lord is coming. The signs are all around us. We’re living in the last days. It won’t be easy for you as a believer. But don’t be afraid. Christ will soon come again in righteous judgment to take you and all believers in Him to be with Him at His side. Until then, He’s at your side. His coming may be sudden, but its certainty calls us to a life of joyful expectation. Be assured by His coming! Live as believers who long for the day of His appearing. Pray that day will be here sooner rather than later, the day when there will be no more headaches and heartaches, fears and tears, troubles or trials, strife and sorrow, just God’s grace in fullest measure, eternal life. The Lord’s desire for you is that His return would not be a day of terror for you, but triumph in Him.

The One who is coming has come so that we might live. The Babe of Bethlehem became the Good Friday Savior and the Easter hope for the whole world. As Christians, we live in Him now by faith, and on that Last Day we will be with Him forever in His kingdom! That’s good news for us and for all who believe. With faith in Christ, there is forgiveness for all of our sins. There is hope when things seem hopeless. There is life after death. There is eternity. With Jesus, we are more than conquerors. That’s why Jesus lived, died, and rose for you.

It is not important to know the date of the Last Day. In fact, Jesus says that we can’t know that time. It is not important to know anything about the details of our eternal existence. The important thing is the trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins that makes us constantly ready for the day when He will show Himself and raise the dead. Jesus urges us to be awake and on guard so that we will receive Him in joy – the joy that anticipates life forever with Him and the Father and the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2018 in Church Year, Pentecost, Sermons

 

Last Sunday of the Church Year–“God’s Forever Salvation” (Isaiah 51:4-6)

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Old Testament, which was read earlier.

Maybe you’ve seen the commercial, either this season or years past. It has a guy and a girl with usually a gold necklace or bracelet with a sparkling diamonds. His expression to her is one of eternal love to her. At the end of the commercial you hear the tag line: “diamonds are forever.” The question we have to ask ourselves is this: is it really?

Granted, for all practical purposes a diamond may outlast most of us. But will it last forever? That’s a long time, a very, very long time. In fact, God says through His prophet Isaiah that we are to consider the heavens and the earth and know that “the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner….” Eventually, everything will be destroyed, even diamonds.

When we look at God’s salvation, it is different in this manner. Though the heavens vanish like smoke and the earth wears out like a garment, God’s salvation is forever. It is forever already now and not yet. There is a now to God’s salvation, for it has gone out to His people. Something has been done. God seeks our attention today to come to Him with a simple invitation: “Give attention to me, my people, and give ear to me, my nation….” God used His prophet Isaiah to prophesy of the coming Messiah. This Deliverer would be the Great Servant of the Lord. God had announced His coming through Isaiah in chapter 42. This Servant was the One in whom the Lord would delight and on whom He would put His Spirit. In Isaiah 49, we hear the words of the Servant Himself.

Even though we already have that salvation from God, we wait for the full enjoyment of God’s salvation. When Christ comes again at the end of time and the dead in Christ are raised for eternal life in the new heaven and earth, then the full enjoyment of that which we already have will be ours. There is a call to enjoy and to hope for God’s salvation, a call for all the peoples.

If you were a Jew living in Babylon at the time of Isaiah, you may have thought that any hope of a return to Jerusalem remained a hopeless and impossible dream. The once glorious city now lay in ruins. All the beauty that once belonged to Zion and Judah had disappeared. During the period of captivity, the Promised Land remained nothing but a wasteland. Yet God promised to have compassion and to bring joy, gladness, thanksgiving, and the sound of singing again to His people. The faithful were not to despair. They were to listen to the promises of God, because God wanted to reinforce their faith with His promises. The deliverance He promised drew nearer. Israel was going to be saved.

Isaiah is a crafty wordsmith here in our text. He doesn’t say anything that doesn’t have meaning. When he says that “the coastlands hope for me,” the word is suggestive for all the world’s peoples. That means that Christ is not just reserved for the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people, but that the coming Messiah will indeed come to save everyone. This indicates the blessings God intends for all peoples: salvation and righteousness. God declares sinners right and holy. Through faith in that declaration, they are saved from the consequences of sin. Both are God’s; they do not come by human effort or merit. They are a wonderful gift that comes only from God. His wonderful and gracious declaration and its consequences endure: even though the earth and the heavens will disappear and vanish, God’s righteousness and salvation will endure.

For the Christian, we look to God and wait in hope for His coming. Today, we focus on His second coming. We yearn for the return of Christ, knowing that God is able to satisfy, help, and save His people. We wait in hope for His glorious return, but we also wait in hope in for the first coming of Christ that we anticipate in the weeks ahead.

This salvation that is offered is offered to all. God invites all peoples of all nations to experience His true and forever salvation. That means that salvation is offered to you. That means that salvation is offered to the vilest of persons as well. In our hearts there are people whom we would love to see excluded from heaven and from God’s forgiveness and salvation. However, God knows no such distinction. St. Peter writes, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

God’s salvation is forever given by God and no one else. There are many who seek forgiveness through other means and there are many who seek to provide that forgiveness through other means. Life itself may seem to offer salvation. We seek salvation through self-help books and works that we do. We fill our lives with those things that promise salvation or the things that we think will provide salvation. Isaiah reminds us though that “they who dwell in it will die in like manner.” You see, everything will pass away. The things of this world. The false promises of salvation and the like. But the one and only thing that will remain is God and His steadfast love for us.

These words from God through the prophet Isaiah are not a matter of selfishness on God’s part. These are words that are a matter of reality and truth. The salvation that God offers is the only true salvation. He is the One to whom we will all answer. It is through Him that we can have life and have it abundantly.

The salvation that our Heavenly Father provides for us is a gift that will last forever, even beyond the passing away of the heavens and the earth. There is a difference between what God offers and what the world offers. God is willing to say so. In fact, He is so willing to say so that He sends His own Son to the cross in order to prove it and to show that the promises of God are never broken. His salvation lasts forever.

His righteousness will never fail. God’s righteousness did not fail to secure our salvation. Jesus said, “It is finished.” For three days He lay in death’s dark tomb. Even then, God’s righteousness did not fail to vindicate Jesus by raising Him from the dead. And even now, God’s righteousness will not fail to finish the work He has begun in us by the Holy Spirit’s power.

God’s call to listen is a call to look to Him and away from all the false hopes that the world offers. It is a call to seek His eternal salvation, to yearn for it more than we do for all the things of this world. While none of us can claim to this perfectly, it is precisely for this reason that God’s salvation is so precious and pure, for His righteousness will never fail. It is His salvation that will last forever. He calls us to receive what He has provided, and He promises that will be forever glad. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2012 in Church Year, Sermons

 

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Seventh Sunday of Easter

A-57 Easter 7 (Jn 17.1-11)O King of glory, Lord of hosts, uplifted in triumph far above all heavens, leave us not without consolation but send us the Spirit of truth whom You promised from the Father; for You live and reign with Him and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Readings

Acts 1:12-26
1 Peter 4:12-19; 5:6-11
John 17:1-11

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2011 in Church Year, Easter

 

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Sixth Sunday of Easter

A-55 Easter 6 (Jn 14.15-21)O God, the giver of all that is good, by Your holy inspiration grant that we may think those things that are right and by Your merciful guiding accomplish them; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. (Collect for Easter 6)

Readings

Acts 17:16-31
1 Peter 3:13-22
John 14:15-21

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2011 in Church Year, Easter

 

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Fifth Sunday of Easter

A-54 Easter 5 (Jn 14.1-14)O God, You make the minds of Your faithful to be of one will. Grant that we may love what You have commanded and desire what You promise, that among the many changes of this world our hearts may be fixed where true joys are found; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Readings

Acts 6:1-9; 7:2a, 51-60
1 Peter 2:2-10
John 14:1-14

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2011 in Church Year, Easter

 

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Fourth Sunday of Easter

A-53 Easter 4 (Jn 10.1-10)Almighty God, merciful Father, since You have wakened from death the Shepherd of Your sheep, grant us Your Holy Spirit that when we hear the voice of our Shepherd we may know Him who calls us each by name and follow where He leads; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Readings

Acts 2:42-47
1 Peter 2:19-25
John 10:1-10

 
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Posted by on May 15, 2011 in Church Year, Easter

 

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Third Sunday of Easter

A-52 Easter 3 (Lu 24.13-35)O God, through the humiliation of Your Son You raised up the fallen world. Grant to Your faithful people, rescued from the peril of everlasting death, perpetual gladness and eternal joys; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Readings

Acts 2:14a, 36-41
1 Peter 1:17-25
Luke 24:13-35

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2011 in Church Year, Easter

 

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Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
See Him dying on the tree!
‘Tis the Christ by man rejected;
Yes, my soul, ’tis He, ’tis He!
‘Tis the long-expected Prophet,
David’s Son, yet David’s Lord;
Proofs I see sufficient of it:
‘Tis the true and faithful Word.

Tell me, ye who hear Him groaning,
Was there ever grief like His?
Friends through fear His cause disowning,
Foes insulting His distress;
Many hands were raised to wound Him,
None would interpose to save;
But the deepest stroke that pierced Him
Was the stroke that Justice gave.

Ye who think of sin but lightly
Nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed,
See who bears the awful load;
‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s anointed,
Son of Man and Son of God.

Here we have a firm foundation;
Here the refuge of the lost;
Christ, the Rock of our salvation,
His the name of which we boast.
Lamb of God, for sinners wounded,
Sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded
Who on Him their hope have built.

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2011 in Church Year, Hymnody, Lent

 

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O Sacred Head, Now Wounded

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O sacred Head, now wounded,
    With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
    With thorns, Thine only crown.
O sacred Head, what glory,
    What bliss, till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory,
    I joy to call Thee mine.

How pale Thou art with anguish,
    With sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy face now languish
    That once was bright as morn!
Grim death, with cruel rigor,
    Hath robbed Thee of Thy life;
Thus Thou hast lost Thy vigor,
    Thy strength, in this sad strife.

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered
    Was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression,
    But Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior!
    ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor,
    And grant to me Thy grace.

My Shepherd, now receive me;
    My Guardian, own me Thine.
Great blessings Thou didst give me,
    O Source of gifts divine.
Thy lips have often fed me
    With words of truth and love;
Thy Spirit oft hath led me
    To heav’nly joys above.

What language shall I borrow
    To thank Thee, dearest Friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow,
    Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever!
    And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never,
    Outlive my love for Thee.

My Savior, be Thou near me
    When death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me,
    Forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish,
    O leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish
    By virtue of Thine own!

Be Thou my consolation,
    My shield, when I must die;
Remind me of Thy passion
    When my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee,
    Upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfold Thee.
    Who dieth thus dies well.

Hymn Study: O Sacred Head, Now Wounded

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2011 in Church Year, Hymnody, Issues, Etc, Lent, Video

 

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Fifth Sunday in Lent

A-36 Lent 5 (Jn 11.1-45)Almighty God, by Your great goodness mercifully look upon Your people that we may be governed and preserved evermore in body and soul; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Readings

Ezekiel 37:1-14
Romans 8:1-11
John 11:17-27, 38-53

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2011 in Church Year, Lent

 

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