3rd to Last Sunday of the Church Year
In Nomine Iesu
Pastor Thomas L. Rank
Text: Matthew 24:23-27
THESE ARE YOUR WORDS, HEAVENLY FATHER, SANCTIFY US BY YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,
No Christian should be surprised by the Second Coming of Christ,even if our Lord should come today or tomorrow. We have been given ample evidence that we are living in the Last Days. All that’s left to happen is for us to see the lightning flashing from east to west.
Ever since our Lord ascended to His rightful office at the right hand of God the Father, God’s people have looked to the sky expecting to see the return of Christ just as He left: attended by the angels and announcing His return to all. God’s people have looked for Christ’s return because they always live in times that remind them of the Second Coming of Jesus. Early Christians lived through tumultuous times of persecution and the rise of many false teachers trying to twist and turn the teaching of Jesus. They had to live with many divisive debates about just what the Bible is, what it teaches, how much of it is true.
Through the centuries that followed those early years Christians had to contend with many troubles. There were the many doctrinal controversies about who Jesus Christ is. Some focused too much on the divinity of Christ. Some focused too much on the humanity of Christ. Both errors eroded the saving work of Christ and left souls with little to hold on to for the assurance of their salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.
Along with this doctrinal strife, those Christians had to watch as most of the centers of early Christianity were overrun by a new religion who zealously followed a new creed: "there is no god but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet." The Muslims conquered many countries where Christianity had flourished: Antioch in Syria, Jerusalem in Palestine, Alexandria in Egypt. Wouldn’t that be a sign that would encourage Christians to look to the skies in hopes of seeing the lightning flashes of Christ’s return? Certainly the signs were there.
And so it goes even to our own day. Today we see not only the tragic wars of the past sixty years, we see the persecution of Christians. This happens not only in places like Nazi Germany or the communist Soviet Union with its gulags. It happens in China, in India, in Pakistan, in any number of countries in Africa, where the people of God are subjected to humiliation and physical danger of a kind about which we American Christians know little.
The signs are here for us to see and to be ready for the Second Coming of Christ. But instead of American Christianity focusing on these real dangers to the Christian faith, instead of us drawing closer to the truths of Holy Scripture, instead of a re-commitment to a life of repentance, faith, and holy living, what do we find? We find across our land a great falling away from the faith. We see church after church trading in the truth of the Gospel for the falsehoods of modern feminism, of a homosexual agenda that has put even God’s institution of marriage in danger, of a perverted sense of Christian unity that is willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of saying: "we are united." But united in what? Only in the willingness to compromise so much of God’s Word that there’s nothing left. While our persecuted brothers and sisters in other parts of the world look longingly and hopefully for the glorious coming of Christ we Americans think that such things as clown ministries or a fast food approach to the Divine Service are worthy of our time, talents, and treasure. One can only look in dismay at the state of churches across our country. We are not focusing on the eternal, on the depths of the riches of God, on the wonders of the majesty of the God who died for us on the cross of shame and humiliation; no, we instead are lured by the lusts and the pleasures of our depraved society.
"Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect." False christs and false prophets are a dime a dozen today. They’re all over. And well-meaning people are finding them, following them, giving up truth for lies.
Yet, in spite of all the bad news around us, we remain hopeful, confident. Yes, these are times that cause us to be challenged in our faith. But that is the life of Christians of all times. Our hope is in the One who has already overcome the threats to us. On the night He was betrayed our Lord Jesus Christ told His disciples: "I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world." Jesus has not called us into His church in order to lead us into despair or to be defeated by our enemies. It is true that we are in the church militant, the church at war. That is the status here on earth. But it is a church that finally understands where ultimate victory is found: in Jesus alone. Our Savior has carried our sorrows, our trespasses and iniquities wounded and bruised Him, but He arose victorious on the third day from the grave of death.
Our Lord remains to this day as our Savior, as the One who is able and willing to carry us through all sorrows, all troubles, even death. He does not abandon us to the enemies we face in this world. Rather, He continues to spread His grace, His charity, His great love for all. His Word of forgiveness continues despite the vicious attacks of those who cannot bear to consider and believe in Christ as the Son of God and Son of Mary. Holy Baptism remains a washing of regeneration, an enduring comfort for us as we recall with relief that powerful promise of God, we are indeed the adopted children of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And even though it seems as if a famine of the Word of God is upon us, yet our Lord feeds us with His Body and Blood, giving us that food of immortality, a precious food that strengthens us as we journey through this wilderness on our way to the promised land.
Jesus has told you beforehand what to expect. Do not be downhearted as you view the world. Rather, see that despite the best efforts of the enemies of the Christian Church, not even the gates of hell can prevail against it.
Laugh to scorn the gloomy grave
O that ye would set your hearts