Sunday, January 01, 2012

Sermon for 12/31/11--New Year's Eve

Here's the audio:

And here's the text:

Waiting for the Master

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Whether or not you stay awake tonight, the clock will strike Twelve and the New Year will begin—unless, of course, the Lord should return in glory before the stroke of midnight. It’s going to happen whether or not you’ve got your drink in front of you and your best gal or guy to kiss. It doesn’t take a lot to be prepared for the New Year. It’s going to happen, even if you sleep through it.

In the Holy Gospel appointed for today, Jesus tells His hearers to be ready, to watch, to be alert for His return on the last day. This being New Year’s Eve and all, you know exactly how long you have to stay awake if you want to ring in the new year right when it happens. Unlike the transition from 2011 to 2012, however, Jesus won’t let you sleep through His return. The problem is, you don’t know the day or the hour in which the Son of Man will return in glory to judge the living and the dead. If you knew, you wouldn’t have any reason to remain vigilant, to remain faithful, while you await Christ’s return.

That’s exactly what Jesus is talking about when He says to be ready. He’s not saying that you must lose sleep over His return. He’s already done all the work, so there’s nothing you have to do to be ready. There’s no need for last day resolutions like we all tend to make as we ring in the New Year. But He does want you to take stock of your life. Examine yourself through the lens of the Ten Commandments. Are you truly being vigilant, ready for the Lord’s return, when you wallow in your sins? Are you truly prepared for His return when you take lightly the Word of God, treating it as something to hear on Sunday morning and special occasions and then disregarding it the rest of the time?

Jesus says that He’s coming at an hour you do not expect. He also says something about Himself that you expect, perhaps, even less than His return. “Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them.” Of course, you know that He is the Master and we are His servants. That much is obvious. But He does not rule by tyranny. He rules by grace. Unexpectedly, He serves us!

If you think it is a burden to be a servant of God, then your sinful flesh is sadly mistaken. Your sinful flesh wants to be a lazy slob. It wants to rebel against the demands of faith. But Jesus tells you something different than your sinful flesh would have you believe. “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve.” He delighted in His humble birth, laying in a manger in Bethlehem, because He did it for you and for your salvation. He delighted in the humiliation of a farcical trial before the Sanhedrin, before Herod, before Pilate, for He received the sentence you deserved. He delighted in suffering and dying on the cross, for He bore to the cross that death sentence which is the wages of sin. He delighted in rising again from the dead, for in Holy Baptism He raises you to new life with Him.

He also delights in setting before you this heavenly banquet of His own body and blood, a foretaste of the eternal feast which Christ will share with His holy Bride, the Church Triumphant—and in this feast He lays before you the riches of a glory that will be fully yours in heaven. The Master serves the servants, so that His servants are prepared for when He returns. He comes to you that you would be strengthened and lifted up. He blesses you so that you overcome in the time of trial and temptation, so that you may remain awake and vigilant. And when He returns in glory, you will dwell with Him, face to face, for all eternity. In the name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.

No comments: