Monday, November 23, 2015

A Sunday with many names, but one truth!

Sermon for the last Sunday of the Church Year, preached on Sunday, November 22, 2015.

    This is a Sunday with many confusing names - Christ the King Sunday, the Sunday of the Fulfillment or Consummation, the Last Sunday after Pentecost.  It would seem that we have a name for every taste and preference for this end of the Church Year.  But if the names are a mishmash, so are the readings.
    In the Gospel Jesus tells us many things - a bit about fig trees, something about the signs of the times and the need to read them, and something about staying awake lest you be caught unawares.  What binds it all together and that which underlies all Jesus says is “Heaven and earth may pass away but My Word will NOT pass away.”  This keys everything together.
    Jesus’ claim separates Himself from everyone else on earth.  You will not remember my words tomorrow or next week or next year.  You won’t recall what you ate or did today when the time passes.  And that is okay – well, except that you should remember what I say!  Things come and go.  We are used to this.
    Things come and go, they change, they move in and out of style, and they move in and out of our memories. But there is one thing you cannot afford to forget. That is the Word of Christ.  His Word endures forever.  When everything else that we know is gone, His Word remains.  That is our hope!
    Jesus does not just say “My Word endures forever.”  Jesus fulfills the promise of that word by rising from the dead.  His resurrection proves the truth of Jesus’ word.  That death cannot claim Jesus or hold Him is not a curious fact.  It is, according to St. Paul, the foundation of all that we know and believe, of our forgiveness, of the hope of salvation, and of the gift of eternal life.  If Christ is not raised, His word is a lie and we are doomed.
    But because Christ is raised, His Word is the pivotal reality that defines and shapes who we are and how we live and what we hope for in the face of death.  On this the last Sunday of the Church Year here is the word and promise on which the whole of faith rests.  Christ is our risen King who lives and reigns for all eternity, who will call us before His throne of grace for the final judgment to give to us and all believers eternal life.
    I love it when a wordsmith can put a mighty truth into a few words.  Jaroslav Pelikan did just that with this claim of Jesus. He said “If Christ is risen, nothing else matters.”  If Christ is risen, our sins are forgiven, we are clothed with Christ’s righteousness, we have an Advocate before the Father, He has gone to prepare the way for those who belong to Him.
    If Christ is risen nothing else matters – not a darn thing!  Only the Word of the Lord endures forever.  So do not be dismayed by the troubles and trials of this mortal life.
You are destined for something better.  Do not be deceived by the glimmer of today’s glory and happiness, there is more and better glory to come.  Do not despair that the world seems your enemy and life is a struggle, your victory lies not in things going your way here and now but in the eternity no one can steal from you.  Do not fear the loss of this world’s treasures, for the treasure God has given you, none can take from you.
    And the converse is also true.  If Christ is not risen, nothing else matters.  No matter how much happiness or success you can achieve for yourself, your heart will never be satisfied and death will steal it all back in the end.  No matter how great your accomplishments or glory, you will be forgotten in the annals of history and you will still be dead.  No matter what great things you have done, your sins will still define you just the way we are taking down statues of yesterday’s heros because their sins speak louder than their accomplishments.
    It is the Word of Christ that changes everything.  Sinners stand forgiven.  The defeated are made victorious.  The small are deemed great.  The guilty are made righteous.  The short-lived are given eternity.  The dead are raised.  Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  That is the fulcrum on which our hope rests, the promise of our future hangs, and the comfort of our Gospel rests. This is what binds together the day and gospel.
    The lesson of the fig tree is that when it sends forth its leaves, summer is coming.  Christ’s resurrection is that leaf, the sign for our future and the sign of our future.  You can ignore many things in this life and nothing matters but you cannot ignore this or everything falls.  If Christ is risen, nothing else matters – everything will pass away and only what is Christ’s will endure.  If Christ is not risen, nothing else matters.  Every thing will pass away and nothing will endure – least of all you.  So stay alert.  Live today in this eternal hope.  You belong to Christ Your King.  Your future is in Him.  Everything passes away but Christ and His Word and because you live in this Word by baptism and faith, YOU are eternal.  Amen.

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