Tuesday, November 15, 2016

When? Do not fear. . .

Sermon for Pentecost 26, Proper 28C, preached on Sunday, November 13, 2016.

The disciples were strolling through Jerusalem like tourists marveling at the temple which was a rather grand building even by today’s standards.  Even more than the building, they were enamored with the life they knew, figuring things would be the same forever.  We are like them.  We marvel at the things mankind has accomplished and presume that life will go on forever.  We treat the earthly things as if they were eternal and the eternal as if they were temporary.  It is the same problem every generation has had.

Jesus insists it will not last.  The end is coming.  But they could not conceive of the end any more than we can imagine it.  So instead of focusing on what Jesus says, we turn our attention to the timetable.  When?  When will all these things happen?  How will we know?  We are the same.  We know death is coming but it is more important to us when we will die.  We know as Christians the world is coming to an end but more important to us is when it will happen.

We have stuff.  That is why when is important.  Our lives are all tied up in our stuff. We want to protect our stuff.  We are worried about our stuff.  We hand onto this life and the things of this life, to all our stuff, as if this were all we expected.  We fear for our things as much as we fear for our lives.  We do not want to let go of our stuff.  Even when we purge our closets, drawers, attics, and basements, we are ready to buy more.  We are purging for more space for more stuff more than we are letting go of our things.  This is how wrapped up we are in our stuff.

We say you cannot take it with you but that does not stop us from trying.  We define a successful life as one without regrets but only a fool lives without regrets. We define a happy life as one rich in experiences and yet those memories provide little consolation when staring into the darkness of a grave.  We define a good life as one filled with the comforts of things, of all the technological toys and wonderful stuff this life can provide to us.  Jesus says it is coming to an end and we are so foolish that all we are concerned about is when it will end.
The world is coming to an end.  This is no doomsday prophetic utterance but the promise given to a dying and decaying world since sin gave way to death and the eternal was overwhelmed by the temporary nature of life.  The big question for us is whether we think this is good news or bad news.
So what do you think?  Is it good news or bad news that the days are coming when stone will not be left upon stone, when all our things will fade away, and when all that we have come to know will pass away?

Faith teaches us to go beyond our fears and to rejoice in the promise of the eternal. Good riddance!  Stuff that cannot be kept will self-destruct and only the eternal will be left.  Faith teaches us to let go of all that is passing.  We can use it for holy and godly purpose, to provide for our families and loved ones, to care for the poor and those in need, and to glorify God but none of what we see around us will last.  All of it will fade into the eternal that St. Paul says is beyond imagination.

Our treasure was never in the here and now.  Our hopes were never in the present lasting forever.  Our dreams were for more than a better version of today.  Our confidence lies not in this world or all its stuff but in what the blood of Christ has washed and cleansed, what the death of Christ has paid in full, and what the resurrection of Christ has prepared for you and me and all who love Him.

You are not like your things.  You are worth more than your stuff.  You are more than the sum of your possessions or all of your accomplishments and memories.  You belong to Christ.  He has purchased and won you.  The world will pass away but YOU will not pass away.  You will pass through death to your own joyful resurrection with Christ and the saints who have gone before.  You are not destined for a moment but for eternity.  Do not live as though your life was anchored in your stuff or in the things of this moment.

Nation will rise against nation and this has been the way of the world since the fall.  Earthquakes and famines and disasters have been the norm since creation was kicked out of the garden to pursue its own self-appointed life.  Armies will rise up and threaten.  People will flee in terror.  Cities will be ruins and even the heavens will be shaken.

But not a hair of your head will perish.  You will gain your lives for all eternity in Christ and in this faith you will endure threat, fear, enemy, persecution, and even death itself.  Do not be captive to your fears.  Witness boldly to what will not pass away, to the Word of the Lord that endures forever.  As the world trembles, speak the Word of Christ that calms the soul and gives peace to the heart.  Christ has come.  There is salvation in His name.  He has shown us the mercy of God. 

Our sins are forgiven.  Our lives belong to Him who gives to us a share in His own eternity.  Heaven has been prepared for us and the glory of the moment will fade from our memory as we meet the glory to come.

Our hope is not in things – the gods of our stuff and our mortal lives must give way to the God who gives eternal life.  Do not be afraid.  Do not fear.  Your stuff has an expiration date but YOU do not.  Instead of being worried about when all of this will happen, rejoice in the God who will keep your life today and for eternity.

Because the things of which Jesus speaks have already happened and continue to happen.  Look around you.  Listen to the news.  Christ has already told us what is to come.  We are not brought low by the realization that today will pass away because we are heirs of eternity.  We sing the praise of an eternal God who has given to us the eternal victory that is ours in Christ and made us mortals eternal by His promise.

Like the saints of old, we are tempted to fear but do not give into it.  Not one hair on your head will perish.  Christ promises it!  Like the saints of old, our hope is not in today lasting longer but in an eternal tomorrow.  We rejoice in the promise that we will be raised from the dust of a dying world to everlasting life and to a future the devil cannot prevent and death cannot steal.

So repent not only of your sins but of your fears.  Repent not only of the wrongs you have done but your doubts.  Repent not only of your love for the things of this world but your failure to take serious the things of God that are yours eternally.  Repent and believe.  And peace will be yours.  Your redemption is near.  The Word is your peace.  The water of your baptism has give you new life.  The food of this table feeds you not simply for this hour or this year or this life but the food of eternity.  In Jesus name.  Amen.

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