Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Sunday of the Fig Tree

The Second Sunday of Advent 
Luke 21:25–36                                                        

We are duty bound to hear the Word of God every Lord’s Day. To hear that Word of God, believe it and take it to heart. And today he gives us clear words. Everything will come to an end. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken and then we will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory to judge the living and the dead. But first nation will rise up against nation. There will be wars and riots terrorist attacks, hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsuanamies. Record high heat, record cold, record snow, record floods. As we look around it’s becoming clear that man and the elements are out of control. All of this is evidence that things are coming undone. That things cannot continue as they are.  

The environment is stifling itself with pollution. Crime is out of control. Politicians are being exposed for their greed; sports stars are being exposed for their violence. Abortion, gay marriage, sodomy is celebrated.  Even America’s favorite dad this last week has been exposed as a sexual predator. No family on earth, not even the huxtables, is free from sin and public scandal. And neither are we. King David was right when he said that all men are liars and no one is righteous before God. No not one. 

We say all sorts of things to make us feel better about the situation. We blame it on young people, we blame it on the media, politicians, or a decadent culture. But that’s not the problem. Jesus says out of the heart come all evil lusts and inclinations, adultery, theft, and fornication.

There is a cartoon way before my time, called Pogo. In one of his most famous quotes he says "We have met the enemy and he is us." No one is innocent. We are the problem. Hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes pale in comparison to the chaos of our sinful hearts. And the anarchy out in the world is a reflection of the lawlessness which exists in every sinful human heart. 

As Pogo said “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Which is to say, the buck stops here. Advent is a season of repentance, of coming again to the sobering realization that we are dying sinners in a dying world. To confess with our mouths that we need Jesus to come, not just for this whole world gone awry but most importantly for us, for you personally, for me. Advent is a time to confess that we have exhausted our resources, our resolve has failed, and that we are in desperate shape. It’s a time to confess that we need a Savior.

In the meantime the violence out there and within us will continue. But do not lose hope. The Word of God teaches us in Psalm 46 verse 2, saying: “Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea” God is with us.       

When you see all these things, Jesus is here to comfort you. Even now, this morning Christ says to you, “Do not be afraid, you are my disciples, you are Christians…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 Lord ends his teaching this morning with a parable. He says: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

This is a wonderful and comforting picture. Jesus is teaching us that when all things are crumbling and falling apart in this whole creation it does not signal death and destruction, not its cold winter, but the dawning of the unending summer of God, and so the creation’s completion, its final joy, its perfection. Our Lord’s words are designed to chase the fear away from our hearts when we see the universe (or our personal universe) crumble; there is something more certain than the universe. The words and promise of Jesus.

On that day when we shall finally be free, the prophet Malachi tells us, then we shall go out leaping like calves from the stall after a long winter. Free from the bondage of our sins, free from death, and free in the glorious resurrection and everlasting life.

The child born in Bethlehem is called the Prince of Peace because he dies for sins he didn’t commit. He lays down on the altar of the cross to make right everything that’s gone wrong. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whomever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Even now He calms the wind and the waves of your anxious heart. And says, Peace, be still, know that I am the Lord. I am making all things new. And everything will finally be calm. Everything will be still. Your sins are forgiven, you belong to me. I have called you by name. Do not be afraid because I am with you. Enter into the kingdom of God prepared for you from the foundation of the world and receive this crown of righteousness that will never fade away.

And enter in. For there is a city set high in the heavens – the new Jerusalem -with streets paved with gold. This city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is Christ.  Here it is eternal summer. Everything is in full bloom. Rejoice and be glad.

Dear Christians at St. Paul Lutheran Church. All the signs are out there. The end is near. So straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption draws near. He draws near this morning, swaddled in lowly bread and wine – He comes with clouds descending to rest in the manger of our hearts and under stable of our souls. And we have peace. He says heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away.  

Here in Christ, and only in Him, is true and lasting comfort for anxious hearts and weary souls. And so we pray Come Lord Jesus. Come Quickly. In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

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