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Pentecost 23 2019 Proper 28
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
November 17, 2019

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Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

In our Gospel reading today it is the week of Good Friday and Jesus is teaching His disciples and others at the temple in Jerusalem.  Jesus just commended to them a poor widow making a sacrificial offering of all that she had.  The disciples are instead admiring the majestic, beautiful temple.  Jesus uses this opportunity to warn them that this magnificent temple will soon be destroyed; things are going to be really bad.  Jesus is turning the world on its head.  He praises a poor, lowly widow and tells them the great temple will be torn down.

This text is a bit confusing because Jesus is talking prophetically about two things at once.  He is prophesying that in 40 years the Roman army will destroy the temple in Jerusalem and Jesus is talking about the Last Day, when He will return to judge the living and the dead.  And, as prophecies can be, it is kind of cryptic and Jesus switches from 70 AD to the last day without warning.  Many of the people to whom Jesus is speaking will experience the horrible Roman siege of Jerusalem, and then its capture and destruction.  The first part of Jesus’ prophecy has come to pass, but we still wait for the second part of the prophecy.

The Last Day is approaching.  Jesus will return in glory for judgement.  Each day we get one day closer, but we do not know when it will happen.  And so we wait.  We wait for Jesus to return.  We wait like the church has been waiting for 2,000 years.

Now waiting is hard.  I recently had to go to the new Hamilton Westside BMV for a vehicle registration and there is now a big waiting area and you take a number and sit down.  So I go up and pull my number… 35.  I look at the sign on the wall and it says now serving number 18.  I sigh and take a seat.  The sign on the wall says no cell phone usage, but no one seems to be paying it much mind, so I pull out my smart phone and open the kindle app and read for a bit while I watch the number on the wall climb ever closer to 35.  I can distract myself from the waiting but I still stay pretty focused on the wait sitting there watching the number on the wall go up.  I know why I am at the BMV and what I need to accomplish and I know my turn will come.

We really don’t like to wait but we endure it because we can see the end of the line.  We have a number and know that our number will come up as we see the progress.  We also wait in a waiting room so we stay focused on what we are doing.

Waiting for Jesus to return is a different kind of waiting.  Jesus said He is coming back but He didn’t say when.  There is no sign on the wall with the number being served.  There is no line snaking towards the Last Day that you can see yourself getting closer.  You don’t know how long you will have to wait.

It is hard to wait when things are going well.  When everything is good it can be easy to be distracted by all the good things of this life.

It is hard to wait when things are rough.  When there is conflict and persecution and sickness and injury and people are dying.  It is hard to stay focused on what you are waiting for in good times and in hard times.  So remember what it is that you are waiting for.

You are waiting for the fulfillment of all that Jesus promised.  You are waiting for your full redemption.  You are waiting for an end to warfare and violence and terrorism and abuse and neglect and heartache and pain and death.  You are waiting for the day of perfect peace.  You are waiting for the dead to be raised.  You are waiting for Jesus to return and take you to be with Him to live in the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem forever.  You are waiting for God’s Kingdom to come in its fullness.  You are waiting for the day when eternity with God begins.

Waiting is hard.  It is frustrating to wait in line at the store or an amusement park, to wait for the doctor, to wait in traffic.

Waiting for Jesus to return is the ultimate wait.  You have no idea if the wait will be one day, 10 days, 10 years, 100 years, 1,000 years, 10,000 years.  And life can be hard.  It is easy to get distracted.  Jesus warns of this at the end of our Gospel reading today.  Luke 21:34-36 (ESV) 34 “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. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 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.”[1]

Together you stay on guard against giving into dissipation; sloppy living; laziness, drunkenness, sexual immorality.  Together with your brothers and sisters in Christ around the world you support one another through hardship and persecution.  Together you stay alert for Jesus’ return which will come suddenly, like a trap.  Together you wait.  You love.  You serve.

Watch yourselves.  Stay awake.  Pray for strength.  Be prepared for Jesus to return.  Remember what you are waiting for.  Come together here each week and think about this place as a waiting room for Jesus’ return.  Here it is easier to remember what you are waiting for.  Here you gather to receive the gift of God’s forgiveness, here you sing praises and thanksgiving to the Lord, here you receive the Body and Blood of the Lamb of God to strengthen you and keep you in the true faith until life everlasting.  Here you look forward to the marriage feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom.  Here, together, you wait for Jesus to return.  Here, together, you wait in humble service, bringing the light of Christ to a world of darkness.  Together you watch.  Together you stay awake.  Together you pray for strength.  Together you guard against idolizing the powerful and influential and instead you honor humble servants of God.  Together you resist the urge to love the beautiful, shiny things of this life instead of being thankful for God’s basic gifts.

Together you stay on guard against giving into dissipation; sloppy living; laziness, drunkenness, sexual immorality.  Together with your brothers and sisters in Christ around the world you support one another through hardship and persecution.  Together you stay alert for Jesus’ return which will come suddenly, like a trap.  Together you wait.  You love.  You serve.

The wait for Jesus’ return has been going on for 2,000 years.  It has been going on for 123 years here at Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church and School of Hamilton, Ohio.  Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ have died and their bodies are buried while their spirits have gone to be with the Lord to wait for the resurrection of their bodies on the Last Day.  They wait with the Lord, you wait here, we all wait for Jesus to return.  And while you still have breath in you, you use your time wisely; making the most of each day.  Live your life as a baptized Christian, redeemed by the blood of Jesus.  Do what a Christian should be doing.  Do what you are given to do in your various vocations.  Seek out ways to love and serve your neighbor.

Your waiting is not a time to despair or a time to distract yourself from the wait.  Your waiting time is a time to, in the words of St. Paul in Philippians 3:14 (ESV) 14 …press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.[2]

Your waiting is a time to persevere against the onslaughts of the devil, the world and your own sinful nature.  And when the fight is fierce, the warfare long, steals on the ear the distant triumph song, and hearts are brave again and arms are strong.

There is great persecution against the church in many parts of the world.  Churches are being destroyed in China by the communists.  Christians are being arrested and imprisoned in many nations.  Christians are being killed for the faith in Nigeria and elsewhere by Muslim extremists. Here we can see dark clouds rolling in as the forces of the moral revolution in America are attempting to silence the truth of God and force their beliefs on everyone.  Standing on the solid rock of Jesus we watch and we prepare and we stay on guard and when things get tough we remember Jesus tells us to Luke 21:28 (ESV) 28 … straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” [3]

As you wait for Jesus to return, keep your head up, keep your eyes on the goal, stay focused on what it is you are waiting for, do not get distracted.  Live each day as who you are; a Christian waiting for Christ to return.  Amen.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

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