SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT – DEC. 10, 2017
BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS AND BEGINNINGS AGAIN
LO! HE COMES!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting
To those at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center who are loved by God and called saints; Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Last Sunday of the Church year – all things end in judgment –no big shots - no class warfare – no victims - just sheep and goats. The first Sunday of Advent - Jesus rides into Jerusalem – the new Church year begins near the end of His visible ministry. Today - the Second Sunday of Advent and once again we are at the end of all things. At this time of the Church Year - so much beginning and ending – starting and stopping – changing and shifting.
Jesus shifts from speaking about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple to the end of all things on this earth. God withdraws His sustaining hand from His creation. The powers of the heavens will be shaken. Our privileged planet now preserved by Gods many life-sustaining gifts comes unglued! Hearts faint in fear at the earth’s distress – at cosmic signs of destruction.
Dear hearers of the Word made flesh – Jesus wants us to know this. No earthly power can prevent or postpone His return. All people are moving toward this fearful day. You are moving toward this fearful day. Since Christ’s ascension - we are in the last hour of human history (1 Cor. 10:11; Heb. 1:2; 1 John 2:18; Acts 1:7). In these end times - Scripture reveals that false prophets will abound and the love of many will grow cold (Mt. 24:12). It is easy to be indifferent and careless concerning the Day of the Lord – to be caught by the things of the world (Luke 17:22-30). We rightly and vigorously reject predictions of when Christ will return. We wrongly live if not awake and ready for His return at any time. So, stay awake!
God would use earthly problems to shake you and to point you always forward to this day. When earthly life seems unglued – by chaos in society – by horrific wildfires – by serious sickness - by draining disappointments – by significant change - Jesus would direct you to the cosmic end-time changes He here describes. To those with ears to hear Jesus uses many signs to point to the passing nature of our lives on earth and of every earthly kingdom. He uses many signs to point to His eternal kingdom – to His coming again! That’s why He continues to minister to you now – to keep you in readiness for His return to reign.
So, stay awake! The struggle to do so is daily and deadly – a drowning and rising again struggle. Our hearts can actually long for a good bargain more than for this awesome day. Our hearts can give much attention to posturing and planning and providing and playing on this earth - and little attention to prayer. But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.
Our hearts are a sinful mess – easily indifferent – often in disarray – always infected. Their basic beat is to chase every comfort but Jesus and to idolize passing things. How often in repentant examination have you resolved to set right your heart – in full and joyful trust – to put your mouth to work rightly raising prayers in Christ?
But, dear Christian, your resolve can never be the ground for your hope! Your help is not found in your own heart. That is why we pray – “Stir up our hearts, O Lord to make ready the way of Your only-begotten Son…” Our help is in the heart of God which is seen in the sending of His Son. Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Whatever was written in former days was written of Christ Jesus who reveals God’s heart! The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.
Your help and your hope are not found in your own heart but in the heart of the root of Jesse - the Son of Man. Son of Man is Jesus self-designation and it points to His passion. The Son of Man is the servant who suffers yet the exalted King whose reign is eternal. The Son of Man is the one man who is God – the man before whom you will stand on the Last Day. For the powers of heaven will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.
Fellow-redeemed you are moving toward this day which is a fearful day because of the shaking of the powers of the heavens. But you are moving toward this day which is also a joyful day for you because of Him who does the shaking! It is the glorious visible return of the crucified and risen and ascended and interceding Christ! The supreme goal of all that you are is to stand at last in the presence of the Son of Man. The strength to do so does not come from your own heart or from any passing thing in this world. The strength to stand comes from Jesus and His words. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
His words are your life! They are words of the one man whose heart was never heavy with idols! Yet with intense and eternal love for you He packed His heart with your idolizing sin. He weighed His heart down with every sinful and distracting care that weighs your heart down – even now. He bore in His heart all the coldness and carelessness and calculating self-centeredness of every human heart.
In order that you may stand before the Son of Man in judgment – the Son of Man bowed in bloody sweat and agonizing prayer in the garden. In order that you may stand straight with head raised before Him at the last the Son of Man was tread down like the wicked before God’s wrath burning like an oven. Crucified, dead, buried. Cosmic signs - darkness over the whole land while the sun’s light failed (Luke 23:44) – bore witness that He who holds all things together was Himself torn asunder in death and judgment. It seemed as if the root of Jesse was left with neither root nor branch.
But this is not possible for Him whose words will not pass away. Turn again, O God of hosts! Look down from heaven and see. But let your hand be on the man of your right hand, the son of man whom you have made strong for yourself! The man of God’s right hand was made strong also for us – stronger than death! The sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. The Son of Man rose with healing medicine from His wounds bestowed by healing words from His mouth. Peace be with you – His gracious words fresh from the grave to unburden hearts heavy with guilt! Peace be with you – forgive the sins of those who repent. His words spoken to and through His sent ones – apostles of old – pastors of today.
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
Beloved of God - here is reason to lift up your hearts! To you with ears to hear He speak words of forgiveness and life – week after week – year after year – pastor after pastor. The words of Jesus make God’s strength perfect in your weakness. The words of Jesus make the day of His return an occasion of great joy for you. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads because your redemption is drawing near.
So much beginning and ending today – starting and stopping – changing and shifting. 27 years quickly pass – so also 35 – all a good gift from God. Amid all the changing – He does not. He who is the first and the last the beginning and the end says – Behold, I am coming soon (Rev. 22:13).
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Dear children - My words baptizing you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit will not pass away. My cleansing word of absolution spoken into your ears will not pass away. It is why I send pastors to you My saints - My beloved people at Luther Memorial Chapel and throughout the world. Dear spotless Bride of mine - My words of giving heavenly food – My holy body for you to eat – My holy blood for you to drink – will not pass away. The highest worship possible now is your desire to receive My forgiveness – present also in this gift. But your need for the healing forgiveness therein will soon pass away!
That is reason to kick up your heels – leaping like a calf from the stall - anticipating with joy the coming of the Son of Man. Straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near – your full, end-time, body and soul, knowing perfect peace and love, standing in the visible presence of the Son of man, serving Him with a pure mind, redemption. This is your future in Christ! Forever! Say to the daughter of Zion, Behold, your salvation comes. The Lord will cause his majestic voice to be heard and you shall have gladness of heart.
As you hear the words He continues to speak through His sent ones on this passing earth – consider also with gladness of heart - the words of intercession He speaks for you at God’s right hand. The one who will return as judge is He who prays for you with love so deep as when He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. You know some of the words He prays for you according to God’s will - Our Father in heaven – Your kingdom come. What does this mean? The kingdom of God comes indeed without our prayer, of itself; but we pray in this petition that it may come unto us also. How is this done? When our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead a godly life, here in time and hereafter in eternity.
Beloved of God so rich in future life and joy - He invites you to join with Him in prayer. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man. He carries you on His back and ushers you into the Father’s presence. God rejoices to hear you pray “Thy kingdom come.” In part, you pray with Jesus for God’s kingdom to continue coming to you – to stay awake in faith – in receiving God’s salvation in Jesus. In part, you pray with Jesus for God’s kingdom to go out to all people - to those whom Jesus brings to your doorstep – and that God would use you and that by which He prospers you to extend His kingdom. In part, you pray with Jesus for what He reveals here – for the end of this groaning world - for you to stand before the Son of Man when He returns in glory.
As you so pray – awake in the faith - May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Raise your heads. Lift up your hearts! Dear brothers and sisters in Christ - As your risen Lord continues to minister to you - May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In His Name and in His love, Amen.
Prayer of the Church
Let us pray for the whole Church of God in Christ Jesus and for all people according to their needs.
Heavenly Father, by speaking You created out of nothing the entire universe and the earth on which we dwell. All that You created was good, yet the first parents sinned and brought the world into corruption and decay. We give You thanks that Christ came into the world to save us from our sin. As we await His second coming, grant us faithful hearts that eagerly wait for His reappearing. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
God of mercy, You cause Your majestic voice to be heard. Your Law is a hammer to our hearts, exposing our every misdeed. You know that we have failed to keep Your commandments in every way. We do not deserve Your mercies or any good thing. Yet, You sent Your Son — our Good Shepherd — to take away the sin of the world. Restore us, O God, and let Your face shine on us that we may be saved. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Lord God, the world is filled with sin and trouble. The devil, the world and our own sinful nature try to deceive us and mislead us into false belief, despair and other great shame and vice. Guide us by Your Spirit, that we may escape these things and remain firm in the faith. Keep watch over us and strengthen us, that our hearts may not be weighed down with the cares of this life. Grant that we may receive the goal of our faith: the eternal salvation of our bodies and souls. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Eternal God, we thank You for the ministry at Luther Memorial Chapel where the Word of God is proclaimed in its truth and purity. Receive our thanks for Pastor Wieting, on the 35th anniversary of his ordination, and thanks for his 27 years among us preaching the Gospel, administering the sacraments, and bringing consolation to this congregation. Bless Pastor Wieting and Barbara with rest and refreshment, as they look forward to your continued blessing. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Creator of all, many in our midst have been afflicted with pain, sickness, trials and difficulties. Be merciful to those who are close to us, that they may be granted health or strength to endure their afflictions. Help us all to see that when Christ returns in glory, He will make all things new; even our bodies will be incorruptible and immortal. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Merciful Father, You have taught us to straighten up and raise our heads when we see the coming of the Son of Man. Even now, Your Son comes to us under the bread and wine in the Sacrament. Grant that all who commune today may receive the very body and true blood of Christ for the forgiveness of all their sins. Lord, in Your mercy, hear our prayer.
Into Your hands, O Lord, we commend all for whom we pray, trusting in Your mercy, through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.