Monday, November 15, 2010

Sermon - Luke 21:5-36 - Pentecost 25

Luke 21:5-36
November 14th, 2010
“Words Enduring to the End”

It's that time of year again – that time of the church year, I mean. That time of year that we begin to speak about the end of time – the last days. The fancy theological word is “eschatology”. But you might think of it as judgment day, the second coming of Christ, or the beginning of the kingdom yet to come.

No matter what you call that day and its events, talk about the end gets people – even Christians – a little nervous. Maybe a lot nervous. Will there be gloom and doom and destruction and plagues and suffering and cataclysmic disasters? Will I, personally, have to stand before the throne of God and answer for all my sins? How will I be judged? These are the sorts of questions that make people want to read some other passage of the Bible. Let's just no think about it.

And some of what Jesus says today might bring us fear. For while he speaks, on the one hand about the end of days, he also weaves it together with predictions about the fall of Jerusalem. And still, he manages to include us and all believers in his warnings – and his promises – about the things to come.

Jesus knew it would be tough for his disciples, and for you. He knew that there would be all sorts of troubles and temptations. Persecution and pitfalls. He warns them, and us – of the difficulties – not just of living in this world, but as one of his disciples. The difficulty of avoiding false teachers who come in his name. The dangers posed by authorities who are hostile to his teaching and his people. There's a lot going against us. It could make us hang our heads.

But there's hope. Jesus says, "Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for 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. In other words, when you see the signs, you know the end is coming. But that end is a day of joy for you, my people. So lift up your heads and look toward the heavens. I come with victory for you and all who belong to me.

For Christians living in this world, there is hardship, trouble, grief, pain.... but all these things are temporary.

Even the most permanent things in this world will melt away. The great and mighty temple of Herod, with huge stones built high and magnificent – that would be torn down not 40 years from Jesus' departure.

And then there's our very life. Yes, we know we will die. This corrupted body won't last – it can't. Sin takes its toll. Its wages come due. And the grave waits for us all. Whether it comes through sickness or accident or because someone takes our life away – no matter. Our earthly life may be taken, but our eternal life is secure. Our body may be destroyed, but not a hair on our head is harmed – not according to his promise. For we shall rise at the end, and stand, and live in perfected and glorified bodies – living with our Lord and all his people forever.

None of the troubles of this world will last forever. Even death itself is on the clock. But Christ says his words WILL endure forever. And we believe it by his grace!

All that terror and destruction the Bible describes – all the horrors of the end – are all consequences of sin. And while we bear them in part, even now, and while we may bear them more fully as the birth pangs of creation increase and the end hastens – only one bore all the suffering for sin. Jesus Christ.

His cross is the end of sin's hold on this world, and on you. His sacrifice there is the death of death, the source of your life. And the words he speaks, even there, will endure forever: “It is finished”. Sin, death, the power of the Devil – all are finished at the cross. Salvation is accomplished there on Calvary. It is confirmed at the empty tomb of his resurrection. And it will be completely fulfilled on the day that he has appointed. For the world, and for you.

We don't know when it will be. But we see the signs. The fig tree has sprouted. All around us we see the things Jesus is talking about – wars and rumors of wars. Earthquakes, famines, and pestilence. Persecution of Christians – we may even feel we are under siege like ancient Jerusalem. We look around and the world seems so messed up, our country is in turmoil, and our own personal lives are a disaster.

But fear not! His words endure forever. And he calls you to endure, by faith, and to remain strong in his word. It's a sure word of hope in the midst of all that is tumbling down around us. It's a sure word of promise that gets us through the dark days into that bright tomorrow of forever.

They can take away our life, goods, fame, child and wife – but the kingdom ours remaineth. His word fells the adversary. His promise never goes away. We belong to Jesus – that's the eternal truth that will never change, yesterday, today, tomorrow – even at the end. Amen.

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