Last Sunday of the Church Year 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
November 21, 2021
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14, Revelation 1:4b-8, Mark 13:24-37

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                           pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                        bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:   bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

            If you get a chance to visit our Nation’s Capital, one thing not to miss is the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. 

            According to the cemetery website, “The Tomb Guard marches exactly 21 steps down the black mat behind the Tomb, turns, faces east for 21 seconds, turns and faces north for 21 seconds, then takes 21 steps down the mat and repeats the process.  (The number 21 symbolizes the highest military honor that can be bestowed, the 21-gun salute.) Next, the Sentinel executes a sharp “shoulder-arms” movement to place the weapon on the shoulder closest to the visitors, signifying that he or she stands between the Tomb and any possible threat.”

            Every hour, on the hour, in the slow tourist season, and every half hour in the peak season there is the changing of the guard.  “The relief commander conducts a detailed white-glove inspection of the weapon, checking each part of the rifle once. Then, the relief commander and the relieving Sentinel meet the retiring Sentinel at the center of the black mat in front of the Tomb. All three salute the Unknown Soldiers who have symbolically been given the Medal of Honor. The relief commander orders the relieved Sentinel, “Pass on your orders.” The current Sentinel commands, “Post and orders, remain as directed.” The newly posted Sentinel replies, “Orders acknowledged,” and steps into position on the mat. When the relief commander passes, the new Sentinel begins walking at a cadence of 90 steps per minute.

            Post and orders, remain as directed — Orders acknowledged.

            Jesus commands His disciples, Jesus commands you, Mark 13:33 (ESV) 33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. 

            There on the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem, Jesus puts His disciples on guard duty because judgment day is coming.  He gives them orders “Be on guard, keep awake.”

            Mark 13:34–37 (ESV) 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. 35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” 

            Jesus is preparing His disciples because He is going to go away for a time.  After His crucifixion and resurrection, He will ascend into heaven and sit at the right hand of the Father.  But He is coming back.  From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.  Jesus is coming back, and you don’t know when.  Jesus is coming back for judgment.  This is a sobering thought.  Jesus is coming back any day now.  You need to be ready for Jesus to return.  As a baptized child of God you have been declared perfect and holy by Jesus.  You have been washed clean in the blood of the Lamb.  You are ready for Jesus to return.  But it is taking so long.

            You want to be ready, you want to stay ready, but it has been so long.  It has been 1,993 years, 728,000 some days.  It has been so long and yet “post and orders remain as directed”.  Jesus’ instructions to His disciples are still in force.  “Be on guard, keep awake.”

            As you wait for Jesus’ return — as the Church waits for Jesus’ return, it is far too easy to let down your guard, forget about the ways of God, and give in to the ways of the world.  As an individual saint of God, and as the Church on earth, you are given your work to do — to love God and love your neighbor in all that you do. And so you do what you have been given to do.  You do what God has given you to do, not in order to make yourself good enough for Jesus, but because Jesus has already made you a saint. 

            You are a saint of God, holy and blameless, covered by the righteousness of Jesus, and, at the same time, you are a sinner.  You are a sinner who struggles mightily with temptations and evil desires.  You are, at the same time, saint and sinner.  So stay awake.  It is possible to lose your faith.  It is far too easy to fall away because it is the path of least resistance.  It is so very tempting to just give in and instead of staying awake, to fall asleep spiritually, and just go with the flow and become a part of the multitudes living according to the ways of the devil, the world and their own sinful desires.  So be on guard.  Know you are a sinner.  Know the devil’s favorite bait to try to trap you.  Fight sin and temptation in your thoughts before they become sinful words and deeds.  Because, as we read in James 1:15 (ESV) 15 …desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. 

            So, as a saint who is also a sinner, “Be on guard, keep awake.”  Stay ready for Jesus to return.  Live each day knowing today could be the day. Knowing that today could be the last day, stay alert.  Do what you have been given to do.  Avoid doing things you would be ashamed of if Jesus returned.  Live out each day, not in terror, but in reverent awe and anticipation, motivated to bring the Good News of salvation in Jesus to a world that is asleep in sin. 

            As an individual saint, and as the Church on earth, you must stay awake and remain on guard.  Being on guard does not mean that you retreat from the world and hide.  As the Church we remain open and welcoming to sinners needing forgiveness.  We welcome sinners, but we do not welcome new teachings that contradict Holy Scripture. And so we read and study the scriptures in order to know what is genuine.

            The Christian church is 1,993 years old. There have been saints on guard duty that whole time welcoming sinners to the font of forgiveness and keeping out false teachings.  It has been a long and arduous journey, and the journey continues. 

            Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church and School of Hamilton, Ohio, has been in existence for 125 years with saints on guard duty, staying awake and watching for Jesus to return.  The guard has changed over the years, a number of times.  For now, you and I are on guard duty.  We are the ones to stay awake and remain on guard.  If Jesus does not return soon, there will be another changing of the guard.  We will pass the orders to the next generation, “Post and orders remain as directed.”

            Be on guard against sin and evil and falsehood.  1 John 4:1 (ESV)  1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 

            The world around you is full of evil and confusion. The devil, the world and your own sinful nature want to pull you down into the selfish darkness so you forget who you are in Jesus.  The world wants you to look inside of yourself for identity and meaning, but inside of you is empty.  Your identity comes from outside.  Your identity comes from the Creator of the Universe who has marked you as His own child in the waters of baptism and declared you to be His own.  Because you have been marked as a child of God, the world hates you and wants to pressure you to conform.  If they cannot pressure you they will try to force you to conform. 

            In the time of the early church, as detailed in the Martyrdom of Polycarp, the Roman authorities would go to people and make them burn a pinch of incense to a small bust of Caesar and say, “Caesar is lord.” People had to do this in order to get their necessary documents to work or go to school, and to avoid punishment.  Faithful Christians would refuse.  Sometimes the Romans would just let the stubborn Christians languish without jobs or schooling.  Other times they would make examples of the Christians.  The faithful would be arrested and fed to the lions in the arena to entertain the people. 

            As an individual saint of God, and as the Church on earth, you must reject the world’s pressure, reject the world’s demands and live in the love of Jesus.  Romans 12:2 (ESV) 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 

            Nowadays, companies and schools and government officials are not looking for you to burn incense and say, “Caesar is lord.”  Now, one of the ways they try to force you to conform is by demanding that you wear a rainbow flag sticker on your badge and say, “marriage is the union of any two people,” and “a man is a woman and a woman is a man.” And if you refuse to comply, if you dare say marriage is the lifelong union of a man and a woman; if you dare say men are men and women are women, you can lose your job, be kicked out of school, or be punished some other way.  In some countries you can be arrested.  If you dare say that Jesus is the only way to salvation you can be banned from polite society.  The goal is to force you to conform to the world.

            As an individual saint of God, and as the Church on earth, you must reject the world’s pressure, reject the world’s demands and live in the love of Jesus.  Romans 12:2 (ESV) 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 

            The guards at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier do the same thing over and over and over again, and no one says, “That’s boring, they should do something different.”  As saints of God, as the Church on earth, you do the same things over and over and over.  You confess your sins and receive forgiveness.  You take into your body the Body and Blood of Jesus given and shed for you.  You will do this over and over and over, until the Master returns or the changing of the guard. 

            The pressure to give up on Jesus and and give in to the world is as intense as ever. Many have fallen away; many will fall away, believing they are the wise ones.  Be on guard.  Keep awake. Abide in Christ.  You do not know when the master is returning.  Stay awake.  “Post and orders, remain as directed.  Orders acknowledged.” Amen. 

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