Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The end is the beginning. . .

Sermon for the Last Sunday of the Church Year, Sunday, November 23, 2014.

     The last few weeks have been strong on the subject of the end times.  Today is the end or culmination of that focus that comes at the end of the church year, the last Sunday after Pentecost.  These are unpleasant subjects for most folks.  Talk of judgment day and the end times seems a downer.  It is like God is raining on our parade and stealing away our lives from us – along with all the good things we want to keep and the future things waiting to be done.  But it is not what it seems.
    It is indeed the beginning of the end – not only the end of the church year but the literal end.  We are one year further from Bethlehem and Christ’s coming to the manger and one year closer to His coming in glory, showing forth all His majesty and sitting in judgment over all people.  We will not lose this focus as we start another church year November 30 but will continue to talk about the beginning of the end.
    The beginning of the end did not just start.  It began when the day of the prophets gave way to the day of the fulfillment of the prophetic word.  When Christ took flesh and blood as the Son of God in our form, that was the beginning of the end.  When sin’s back was broken by Christ’s death to pay all our debt for sin, that was the beginning of the end.
    When death was killed by the life that the grave could not hold, that was the beginning of the end.  The end times are not some future date to predict but clearly defined as the moment when the promise became reality, when Christ became incarnate as our Savior, when His suffering bore all our pain, when His death paid all sin’s debt, and when His resurrection overcome death with the power of His life.
    That was the beginning of the end so don’t go looking to unwrap the mystery of the day as if it were some puzzle God has given us to solve.  But there is more.  The end IS the beginning.   We seem inclined to focus on what will end on that day when the heaven’s open, when Christ rides down in glory to complete His new creation, and when all humanity will stand before Him and be held accountable.  But do we consider what begins then?
    For though this life and this worn out flesh and decaying world will pass away, the new will come that death cannot touch, that sin cannot soil, and that despair cannot steal joy away again.  On that day our lives of fear give way to the future of hope begun anew when we rise with Christ to our own joyful resurrection and enter into the place He has prepared for us.
    On that day our lives of selfishness shaped by fear gives way to what the generous love of God has prepared for those who love Him.  On that day hope is fulfilled for now and forever.
    On that day our feeble and small good works that none of us can recall shall be remembered for all eternity and receive the reward none deserve.  On that day the evils that everyone has forgotten will be remembered by the God who must deal with sin – either through the mercy of Christ or the eternal judgment of punishment.  That day is when the end becomes the beginning – the day of our own future as the children of God and hell‘s day for those who refused His mercy.
    The parable of the sheep and the goats seems all about the law but it is really about grace.  The end is not the end.  Our faith endures.  Our lives endure.  Death cannot steal anything from us.  Our sins do not get the last word.  Our good works live on.  Our judgment was the cross.  This is what Christ reveals about the future prepared for us and all who love Him.
    Now we wait.  Not as the aimless wait for the unknown but as the confident to anticipate the future.  Now we wait.  Not as the fearful who dread the end but as the hopeful who await the new and everlasting beginning God has prepared.  Now we wait. Not as the sad who worry about the outcome but as the joyful who long to hear the blessed voice of the Master: “Come, ye blessed of My Father; inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”  God grant it.  Amen!

1 comment:

Janis Williams said...

What joy to celebrate the end! So many protestants are out there telling 'ghost stories' to scare themselves. I was one of them. The search for the mysterious meanings of apocalyptic writings is totally off mission. I know so many who are fully focused on end times, and never seem to think of the glorious fact that it all means Jesus our Lord is coming back for us!