nullFirst Sunday in Advent 2019
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
Dec. 1, 2019
Isaiah 2:1-5, Romans 13:8-14, Matthew 24:36-44

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Judgement day risk management

There are a lot of clever commercials on television for insurance.  We have the gecko and mayhem and Aaron Roger’s agent.  What is the purpose of insurance?  Insurance exists to help manage the risks of life.  Insurance helps you to be prepared for large and small disasters in life and protect your family and belongings and your health in case of certain unfortunate events.  You can spend a lot of money on insurance.  I have car insurance, homeowners insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, health insurance, identity theft insurance; I even have insurance on my cell phone.  Some insurance cost a little; some cost a lot, but I am glad to have it.  Insurance is big business because individuals and companies and even churches want to manage risk.

What is your biggest risk?  An earthquake, tornado, flood, fire, car crash, health crisis, disability, death?  What is your biggest risk?  It is none of these.  Your biggest risk is that Jesus suddenly returns and you are not ready.  Your biggest risk is that Jesus comes back and finds that you have abandoned Him; you have forgotten His promises to you.  Your biggest risk is that Jesus’ second advent happens and He finds you living as if God does not matter and as if you mattered most.  This is your greatest risk.  This is the risk of you spending eternity in hell.  This risk makes all other risks seem insignificant.

What can you do to manage this risk?  Can you buy some kind of insurance plan?  Jesus knows that on the last day you will stand before His judgement throne.  He knows that on your own you will be found guilty and unworthy.  He knows that you are tainted by sin inherited from your parents and back down the line of your ancestors all the way to great-great-great grandpa and grandma Adam and Eve.  He knows that you are by nature sinful and unclean.  He knows you are a poor miserable sinner who justly deserves punishment now and for eternity.  He knows you deserve death and Hell.

But God so loves you that He sent His only Son Jesus to be your substitute; to be the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  God loves you so much He sent Jesus to wash you clean and take away your sin.

God delivers this forgiveness to you in the waters of Holy Baptism.  Baptism is depicted in our front window by the shell and drops of water on the lower right side.  You are baptized once for the forgiveness of sins and you have a baptismal certificate to prove that you were baptized.

God delivers this forgiveness to you in the Word of God; the words of Holy Scripture and the Words of absolution spoken to you by the pastor who speaks on behalf of the Church, “I forgive you all your sins.”  This forgiveness through the word of God is depicted in the lower left corner of the front window as a Bible and a cross.

God delivers this forgiveness to you by giving you the very Body and Blood of His Son Jesus.  You take Jesus’ body and blood into your body; into your blood, and Jesus and you are united as one.  This is shown in the lower center window as grapes and wheat, wafer and chalice.

Jesus loves you so much He takes your punishment and pays what you owe.  He suffers what you deserve and gives you what He deserves.  Out of love for you Jesus has totally and completely redeemed you from sin, death and the devil and He is coming back in glory to take you to be with Him forever.  God has sealed you as His beloved child destined for eternity with Him.  And so we pray, Lord Jesus come quickly.

Jesus has completely redeemed you and He promises that you are His forever, but you live in a world where there are endless temptations to give up on God’s promises to you and give in to the ways of the world.  As you wait for Jesus to return there is a very real, ongoing risk that you will grow tired of waiting for Jesus’ second advent and you will start to act like He is never coming back.  Right after our Gospel reading today Jesus tells a little story to illustrate what this looks like.  Matthew 24:45-51 (ESV) 45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 47 Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. 48 But if that wicked servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed,’ 49 and begins to beat his fellow servants and eats and drinks with drunkards, 50 the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know 51 and will cut him in pieces and put him with the hypocrites. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. [1]

There is the faithful and wise servant who does what he is supposed to do and there is the wicked servant who falls into doing evil because the master is delayed.  Remain in Christ.  Be watchful for His return.  Be a wise and faithful servant of the Lord.

Jesus loves you so much He takes your punishment and pays what you owe.  He suffers what you deserve and gives you what He deserves.  Out of love for you Jesus has totally and completely redeemed you from sin, death and the devil and He is coming back in glory to take you to be with Him forever.  God has sealed you as His beloved child destined for eternity with Him.  And so we pray, Lord Jesus come quickly.

In our reading from Romans St. Paul warns us in light of Jesus’ impending return, Romans 13:12 (ESV) 12 …So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.[2]

You live in a world of darkness.  You live in a world where there is great pressure to cast off God’s armor of light and take up the works of darkness.  You live in a world where there is an almost irresistible pressure to give up on having the Word of God as your authority, and instead to follow your feelings.  You are by nature sinful and unclean, so following your feelings will lead to no end of immorality and sin.  Resist following your feelings; follow the Word of God.  Do what you are supposed to do.

As St. Paul writes, Romans 13:13-14 (ESV) 13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. [3]

St. Paul warns that drunkenness, and sexual sins, and sins of anger and division are perilous to your being ready for Jesus to return.  Living a life of drunkenness is perilous to your soul.  Giving in to a life of sexual sin is eternally hazardous.  Living in anger and hatred can separate you from the Lord forever.  And the great danger is that you live in a world that is steeped in drunkenness and sexual sin and division.  You live in a world that celebrates drunken sin, and sexual sin, and encourages hatred and anger.  Each day remain alert; stay on guard against the snares of the devil.

Romans 13:11 (ESV) 11 …you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.[4]

As the hour nears for Jesus to be arrested and crucified He takes time to encourage His disciples that not only will He rise from the dead, but He will return one day in glory.  We are encouraged that Jesus will return and eliminate sin, evil, sickness and death.  But the encouragement is also a warning.  Stay awake!  Be prepared!  Do what you are supposed to do.  Love God and live in His love.  Love your neighbor and serve one another.

There is no insurance plan you can buy for the greatest risk in life; the risk of not being ready for Jesus to return.  And you do not know when it will be and anyone who says they know is lying because Jesus says, Matthew 24:36 (ESV) 36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.[5]

Jesus will return for judgement without notice and this is your greatest risk.  This risk is managed by living a life of humble sadness over your sin; by living a life of repentance.  It is a life of an ongoing turning from sin and turning back to God.  It is a life of knowing you are a sinner who needs Jesus.  This risk is managed by your continuing struggle against sin in your life.  By rejecting the ways of the world and following the will of God.  This risk is managed by staying close to Jesus; gathering with each other each week to receive God’s gifts and hear God’s word.  This risk is managed by being always aware of the threat, and not being lulled into a false sense of security that Jesus is never coming back.  The risk is managed by knowing that Jesus has already delivered to you the Kingdom of Heaven.  It is managed by clinging to His cross and promise.  Each day live in the promises of Jesus, flee from sin and the devil, and do what you are supposed to do.

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

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

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

 

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