How can we be saved?
Monday, December 3, 2012
First Sunday in Advent
Sunday was the first Sunday in Advent, I was privledged to be able to give this sermon.
How can we be saved?
+ Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be alway acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.In the Eucharist when the Priest is standing before the altar he has the Bread and Wine and the cup. He says the Prayer of Consecration which begins:
“ALL glory be to thee, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for that thou, of thy tender mercy, didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption; who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world; and did institute, and in his holy Gospel command us to continue, a perpetual memory of that his precious death and sacrifice, until his coming again…”Today is the First Sunday in Advent. The Christ will soon be here. The Messiah is coming; again. He will come with glory to judge both the quick and the dead. There will be signs and wonders before he arrives. We have to prepare; we have to be ready for that Second Coming.
Most of us think that Advent means Christmas is near. And it is, but Advent means the celebration of the First Coming and the warning of the Second Coming.The Son of Man will come in a cloud, with power and great glory. We prepare for that by being alert and praying that we have strength to stand before Jesus when he returns.
What are we to do?How can we prepare?
How can we be saved?
St. Paul tells us today in his letter to the Thessalonians “…may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” God is perfect and we are made perfect by our faith in Jesus. We are made clean by the consuming of the bread and wine, His body and His blood.
St. Luke told us this morning in his Gospel that “Jesus said, there will be signs in the sun, the moon and the stars…” The return of the Messiah is a tremendous event in heaven and in earth. “People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world…”
As Christians we should not be afraid. We should worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. We should have confidence that our redemption is nearer as Jesus approaches.
Jesus has come to judge the world, but we have been washed by the blood of the Lamb. Judgment comes but also salvation comes too. When we see these signs and wonders we will know the time is near that Jesus will return.
Jesus tells the disciples the parable of the fig tree. When trees begin to sprout new leaves it is a sure sign that summer is near. It is a sure sign that it is springtime.
Springtime is a time of new birth and new growth and new life. We have been born again in Jesus. We grow together as we worship together in the church. We have a new life as told to us in the New Testament.
Jesus tells us “…this generation shall not pass away until all things have taken place.” Some scoff at these words and say that the return of Jesus should have happened soon after he left; during the lifetime of the Apostles. That generation has not passed away. They are still alive, in their writings, in our worship of Jesus and in our hearts for the words of comfort they have given us down to this day.
Jesus goes on to explain to us that we must be vigilant. We must not weigh down our hearts with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life. Dissipation is wasting our lives with drink, or unrestrained physical pleasures. Too many people today are brought low by the evil of drugs and intoxication.
Their lives ruined and they are unwilling to turn to Christ. The world tells us to go to Christmas parties and get drunk. Buy presents for people who don’t need them, with money we don’t have. To eat, drink and be merry. The world is celebrating the birth of a Savior they don’t believe in and don’t acknowledge as their Lord.
Jesus also warns us of …”the worries of this life...” I can’t go to church because I have to, well fill in the blank. Work, go shopping, have friends over, am going out of town, am too tired, or any other reason.
In the Gospel according to St. Luke, Chapter 14: verses 16-23 Jesus says: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
“Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
“Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”
Have you bought a piece of land you need to survey? Did you just get married? Did you buy a new car and you want to take it for a spin? We don’t use oxen that much here in Southern California. These excuses were of no avail the first time they were used 2,000 years ago, they will not likely be of much use when Jesus returns either.
Jesus invited people to his Eucharistic banquet and the beautiful people refused to come. They were too involved in the worries and pleasures of this world. So Jesus sent his Disciples out into the world to bring in sinners, the unworthy to fill his church.
Now Jesus is coming again, and again there will be people with excuses as to why they could not be here. Why they could not fulfill their side of the New Covenant.
Jesus warns us to be on guard. He tells us to be prepared. The Second Coming may come like a thief in the night. Like a bridegroom to a young virgin. Time and time again in the New Testament Jesus warns us to be ready for Him to return.
As Christians we don’t need to be afraid that Jesus is coming again, we need to be ready. Martin Luther was once asked what he would do if he was told that Jesus was going to return tomorrow. His reply was that he would plant a tree.
At first that seems an odd response. A tree will not bear fruit or wood for years, maybe decades. If we look more closely it is the ideal answer. Often we have been told that the end of the world is nigh, and it failed to happen as predicted by some false prophet.
We do know that one day it will come and that we need to be ready, but in the meantime we need to continue to live and work and to do Gods’ business here on earth. Planting trees shows that we are not wasting our time listening to false prophets but that we are living our lives. By planting a tree we are showing we are taking care of God’s creation; the world that He left in our care.
We should not trust in the word of men to tell us when Jesus will return. We need to trust Jesus. He only told us that these signs will indicate that the coming of the Messiah is near. How close is near? How many years is soon? How quickly will the springtime of signs pass into the season of summer? No man knows the day or the time.
As we wait this Advent season, we should pray. We should pray that we are ready when the Messiah comes. Pray that we are strong enough to resist the temptation of the world and strong enough to keep our covenant with the Lord.
Some cosmic thing is happening someday. Maybe that day will be today and Jesus will find you here in church worshiping Him. Maybe it will be next week. Perhaps, not in our lifetimes, but it will happen.
When Jesus comes it will be a time of great fear and foreboding, but also a time of great joy and thankfulness for a promise fulfilled to God’s people.
I asked before: What are we to do? How can we prepare? How can we be saved?
We only have to listen to and heed the words of Jesus Christ our Lord. If you love him, keep his commandments and his sayings that we love God and love our neighbor, because as He Himself said “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”