The Text for the Sermon: St. Luke 21: 5-36
Signs, signs, Everywhere there’s signs, Jesus said. They are signs about the end, the last day…and the beginning of the new heavens and new earth. Can’t you read the signs? Therefore, the Lord gives the disciples this crucial tutorial in reading help for the signs of His coming again. Signs point us in the right direction so that we do not get lost. The world, the flesh and the devil want to darken the true path of righteousness of faith in Jesus Christ, especially as He is always near to those whom He has saved in Baptism and faith: you, His Church. As recorded in St. Matthew, our Lord Jesus refers to the signs as “birth pains”. As the delivery gets closer so do the contractions, of the heavens and the earth, pain in child bearing: in sea and sky, in persecutions, in wars and rumor of wars, in all that is anti-Christ. Signs, everywhere signs…it is the sign of the those who say I AM the Christ that I concentrate. And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. First those who come in the Name of the Lord will say I AM, the Greek could be rendered as last week’s Old Testament lesson in Exodus of the burning bush when the Lord said to Moses: I AM sent you, I am who I am. Then the false Christs will say, The time is at hand. Don’t go after them. Luther preached on the Gospel:
“ This pertains not only to the Jews, but also to the whole world and, especially, the Christian church, which has been illumined by the light of the gospel. What will be its lot at the end of the world? When once the gospel has come into the world, Christ is saying, the devil will multiply the enthusiasts and the sects, false prophets and false teachers around the believers, so that those who view the world through spiritual eyes will wonder whether anyone will finally be saved. The seduction will be so pervasive and the false prophets will perform such great signs and wonders, that even the elect—were that possible—succumb to error.”
In fact, John warned in his first Epistle that many “anti-Christs” will come. Luther was being pastoral: it will result in those with “spiritual eyes”, that is the eyes opened by Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection for sinners, “…will wonder whether anyone will finally be saved.” All this begins bit by bit step by step with every accommodation of the truth of Scriptures and the Faith to make it palatable to the public because of being ashamed of the Gospel. Today’s Hymn of the Day, Built on the Rock was misnamed in the Lutheran Book of Worship, Built on a Rock. The change from the definite to the indefinite article seems small but it is significant. This past week the reportage burning up the internet was 2 British comedians who are starting up atheist mega-churches. In article about these atheist mega-churches a professor said:
“When we think about religion in America, we talk about oh, belief in God, belief in Jesus, but for a lot of people, it’s the community. It’s the Sunday school, it’s the seeing people afterwards in the foyer or in the courtyard, it’s the having coffee”
“They want that kind of moral community that is about connecting with others and is about celebrating life, celebrating morals and ethics in a non-supernatural context”
Hmm…it sounds like what goes for church in general in the United States: a club with singing. Salvation without the Savior…and no forgiveness, no grace, mercy and peace…no Cross, no heavy stone rolled away and no resurrection, no hope, no faith….just OUR love. A community built upon our natural affections is like a wagon wheel with only the rim and spokes but no hub, no center, no core, but nature abhors a vacuum. Pretty soon there will be a hub, Lo, here is the Christ! And as happened at Mount Sinai, Exodus 32, man makes the golden calf of his desires when he denies there is God: political, entertainment, religious gods to whom we cry, You brought us out of Egypt, out of bondage. The gods come from the womb of the people. The professor said such a church of the world is for people “celebrating morals”. Will such a religion have morals? Yes, only the morals we want. Only the morals that the political elites will permit. Only the beliefs we want. Yet, it stands in the Bible, All Scripture is inspired by God not just the parts I find inspiring.
Jesus taught His tutorial on reading the signs in His last week on earth. After His triumphal entry He taught day by day in the Temple.Right after this, Judas betrayed Him to the chief priests. Yes, signs, signs, everywhere there are and will be signs…but there is only one Sign which signifies salvation for the world in tumult and turmoil, in fear of the roaring of the seas: the sign of the Cross. In His holy body,
“…born of Mary,
That our sins and sorrows did carry,
And Thy blood for us plead
In all trial, fear, and need:
O Lord, have mercy!”
Read, learn and inwardly digest the sign of His Cross. The world’s terror is death, and death is the wages of sin. Jesus knew the terror: take this cup away from Me, He prayed in Gethsemane. He received the wages of our sin: death and it was not the minimum wage. All of the sin of the world was laid on the sinless Lamb of God. All that mankind treasures as gods: mammon, power, fame is smashed as the nails were driven into Him. In His Holy Body is the end of the world, the flesh and the devil. “In many and various ways God spoke to His people by the prophets, but IN THESE LAST DAYS He has spoken to us by His Son.” (Hebrews 1). “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11) Here, not only the Pastor, but the whole Church in His congregations, you preach and proclaim His death for our salvation, because He died, yes! But more, He is risen. . This is the apocalyptic Supper: His Body, His Blood. All humankind would agree love is central, the Cross and His supper is proof of it.
“Thy holy body into death was given,
Life to win for us in heaven.
No greater love than this to Thee could bind us;
May this feast thereof remind us!
O Lord, have mercy!”
No greater love than this…nothing we treasure as number 1, wealth, fame, power…things do not love. Even family and friends cannot so love, yet in Jesus Christ, love is made alive in His forgiveness, the fruit of faith for the faith of others. All our idolatries are shattered around His Cross shown for what they are: death things, with no life in them. The almighty dollar did not die for you, but the Almighty God did.
What do we do? We do as the Lord commands: pray and witness.
When we are asked to give an account of the hope that is in us, be prepared: know He loved and died for you. He is the end of the world. He will come again. He will give you the words to say, you don’t have to prepare the script of the witness. He has provided the Script: the Scripture…to invite others to His apocalyptic Supper…and He invites us to Himself daily in prayer for our lives in His Church to proclaim His death and resurrection for us all, the sign of His salvation once and for all. The Apostle’s inspired, God-breathed prayer is mine:
Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, 2 and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you andguard you against the evil one. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ. (2 Thessalonians 3)