Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sermon for 11/16/14--Second-Last Sunday of the Church Year

My apologies. I've been fighting off illness this week.



Sheep Are Made

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

You are not a sheep or a goat based on what good works you've done for Jesus through your neighbor. When the last day arrives, the sheep are already sheep and the goats are already goats. And you are sheep. Why? What makes you a sheep? St. Peter says to be holy and blameless until that Day. And you are holy and blameless. It is not because you do good works. Rather, it is because you are washed, absolved, and fed. It is the Son of Man who has made you blameless. It is the Son of the Ancient of Days that has made you innocent in the sight of God. It is the Lamb of God who has clothed you with His own holiness so that now you are a sheep. Dear children of God, let this picture of sheep and goats stir you up to faithful service of your Lord through serving your neighbor. But do not let it cause you to doubt and question your salvation! Let it be a comfort that your Father in heaven has indeed prepared a kingdom for you.

When you stand before the Lord on the last Day, you will be judged. But you will not be judged for your sins. Your judgment will consist of hearing the proclamation of your inheritance and eternal blessings: "Come, you who are blessed of my Father, come and inherit the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world!" Brothers and sisters in Christ, the kingdom you will inherit on that day has been waiting for you since before the world was even made! Didn't we cast away that paradise the day our parents ate from the Tree of Knowledge? Yes. But our Lord Jesus came to get back that kingdom for us.

What a terrible thing the Father's judgment is! He will cast into eternal torment all those who don't love Him or their neighbor! It is that judgment that Jesus faces when He is nailed to the cross. At the cross, neighbors whom He loved demonstrated hatred to Him in return and crucified Him. On the cross, the Father whom He obeyed turned His back and allowed the sins of the world to kill His only begotten Son. There on Calvary the spotless Lamb of God was slaughtered like a worthless goat! That's your salvation. That's how you are made into a Lamb. The kingdom has always been there, prepared for you. And Jesus came and won it back for you.

There is great temptation to measure yourself by how many good works you do. Are you a Christian? Are you really a sheep? Have you done good things for Jesus by doing good things for your brothers and sisters in Christ? If not, watch out! You're not really a child of God. And in all honesty, you love yourself more than Jesus or your neighbor. But what does your Baptism say? It says you are a sheep. It says that you are holy and blameless, without sin in the sight of God. What does absolution tell you? Your sins are forgiven, as far as the East is from the West. No one in heaven or on earth can say otherwise! What does the body and blood of Jesus say? It is the blood of the Lamb of God, and it says that you are what you eat: so you are a lamb too! The Holy Gospel in word, water, bread and wine declares you to be a child of the Father, a subject of the true King, a sheep on the Last Day. There's a kingdom waiting for you.

So where do good works come in? When Jesus tells the sheep all the good things they've done for Him, what do they say? "When did we ever do that?" Jesus answers that to do it to the least of His brethren is to do it to Him. To bring comfort and aid to our fellow Christians is to serve Jesus. But you don't measure it! You don't keep track of it! In fact, as sheep, you don't even know about it! On the Last Day, you will be amazed at all that you've accomplished for others and thereby for Christ. You will be astounded and humbled to hear your Lord praise you for all you've given to Him when you didn't even know! It's just the truth for those who are inheriting a kingdom!

Our Scripture Readings this morning give us a warning. But the Lord is patient, and He wants none to perish. Therefore the Lord Himself rescues us from our selfish sin and death. He makes us His holy lambs and sheep. He washes, absolves and feeds us. Jesus has won back the kingdom for us. And now, protected in Christ from the day of burning fire, we are ready to inherit the kingdom of paradise prepared for us before the world was made. 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.

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