THE LAST SUNDAY OF THE CHURCH YEAR
26 November 2017
Rev. Michael C. Larson
Christ Our Lord is coming again to judge both the living and the dead. He will descend from the heavens with his holy angels, the blast of the trumpet of God, and he will sit on his glorious throne. He will judge all the nations and separate the sheep from the goats. Everyone’s life will be an open book. We will render an account for what we have done. Who can stand on that the great and glorious day?
The King will say to the sheep on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”
These righteous ones will suffer a sort of amnesia of their good works. They are ignorant to the fact that they were serving the Lord God. They say “Lord, when did we do these things?” Our Lord answers them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” The Lord has no need for his saints to climb and claw their way to heaven to serve Him there. Martin Luther once remarked “God doesn’t need your good works! But your neighbor does!” John the Evangelist writes, “And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:21).
Does this mean we merit salvation by works of love or charity? By no means. The righteous are saved by faith alone, but faith does not remain alone. Faith is a busy and active thing that produces good works, spontaneously from a pure and clean heart. And apart from faith it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6). If one claims to have faith but closes off his heart toward his neighbor in need his faith is counterfeit and no faith at all.
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’
According to the holy law of God, his expectations and demands we are all nothing but goats. None of us measure up. None live out the life of love demanded by the law. Just compare your obsession with feeding yourself with your desire to feed the poor. Consider your obsession will clothing and stuffing your closets with your zeal for clothing the naked.
None of us has lived the life of faith and selfless generosity that God demands. Well, all but one. Remember when Joseph clothed himself in goat skin to receive the blessing of the first born son? You see, it was Jesus who bore the curse for us all by bearing our goat-like sins, and being nailed to a cross.
In the Old Testament on the Day of Atonement lots were cast for two goats. One goat was slaughtered and its blood sprinkled in the most holy place. The other goat was laden with the sins of the people and driven into the wilderness. Jesus has fulfilled it all. He is driven into the wilderness as the scapegoat, carrying our sins away. His blood purifies us from all sin. He blood atones for the sin of the world. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
He triumphed over sin, death, and the power of the grave by his resurrection. He ascended into heaven. He is coming again to judge the living and the dead. Who can stand on the great and wonderful day when Christ returns? What judgment will be spoken to you?
You heard the judgment this morning, ahead of time. All your sins are forgiven. You are God’s elect, called, baptized, and led into the presence of the king. Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH
Let us pray for the whole people of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs.
For all the people of God, that they may always be prepared for the Son of Man to return in glory by continually being kept safe and secure in the Lord’s flock, where they are fed and nourished by His Word and Sacraments, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For all who are scattered and gone astray, that by the power of the Holy Spirit they may be returned to the fold before Christ returns to judge the living and the dead, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For all pastors in Christ, that they may remain ever faithful in proclaiming our death in Adam and our resurrection in Christ as we ever look forward to the resurrection of the dead, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For all in authority, that even as the kingdoms of this world are passing away, they may be granted wisdom and protection as they carry out their duties, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For the hungry, that they may be granted daily bread as they have need of it, and that the Lord’s servants may be moved to provide for them, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For those who are imprisoned, that they may be granted those who are willing to visit them with the Gospel of peace, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For the sick, Teresa Staff and Lou Gabriel, that they may be granted healing in body and soul, and that they would be granted comforters to visit them in their affliction, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For Mark Wieting and Kimmy Heidenreich preparing for God’s gift of holy marriage, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For all who receive the Lord’s body and blood this day, that they may be granted eternal life and resurrection on the Last Day, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
For all the faithful departed, that we remember them with thankfulness and look forward to the day when we are reunited with them in the world to come, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy.
Into Your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.