In Nomine Iesu
Pastor Thomas L. Rank
Text: Luke 12:35-40
THESE ARE YOUR WORDS, HEAVENLY FATHER; SANCTIFY US BY YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,
There is much that weighs us down and entangles us these days. The cares and anxieties of life burden us. The possessions of this life entangle us. The result is that the watchfulness to which the Lord calls us is diminished.
Our Lord begins by telling us to have our waists girded. What we should have in mind with these words is the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt under the leadership of Moses. As the children of Israel prepared to eat the Passover meal of the lamb whose blood marked their door to keep the angel of death away, they were told: "And thus you shall eat it: with a belt on your waist, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. So you shall eat it in haste." They were to be ready to leave the land of slavery at a moment’s notice, and to be ready for the journey to the Promised Land. This was not a time for relaxing and being nonchalant. Rather, these were days of readiness, of watching for the Lord to keep His promise of coming to set them free from their centuries of bondage.
To have your waist girded is to be ready to move without tripping over your robes. It means you are prepared. But what does this mean for us spiritually? It means first that we mark and avoid those things which we know hinder us or which entangle us. In the Gospel for today we heard: "But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life." These are things that prevent us from being ready and waiting for the return of the Lord. They do so by numbing our hearts and minds. Like a shot of Novocaine from the dentist, these activities serve to dull our senses so that we do not pay attention to the times, so that we lose awareness of the condition of our souls, leaving us open to the temptations and lusts of the world.
Remember, repentance and faith are not one time happenings in our lives. But they are the on-going life of the Christian. Each and every day we return to our Baptism by drowning the old man with all his sin and evil lusts, and a new man daily comes forth and arises. This cycle of drowning and rising is the way sin is kept in check and we ourselves grow in readiness and watchfulness. This watchful condition is one that understands sin to be the great obstacle to salvation that it truly is. It is not a matter of making excuses our for sin, but it is a matter of confessing it. Martin Luther emphasized this in the Large Catechism:
Forgiveness is constantly needed, for although God’s grace has been acquired by Christ, and holiness has been wrought by the Holy Spirit through God's Word in the unity of the Christian Church, yet we are never without sin because we carry our flesh around our necks (LC II, 54).
When we make excuses for our sins we are really saying we don’t need forgiveness for them because they're not our fault. Then carousing, drunkenness, and the cares of this life have their way with us. Then such things lead us to spiritual apathy – the uncaring life that finally results in not being ready for the Lord's coming on the Last Day, Judgment Day.
And it is that Day, the Last Day, that the Lord wants us ready for. The first time Jesus came to this world, that first Christmas 2,000 years ago, He came in humility, born of the Virgin Mary, in the little town of Bethlehem. His Second Coming will not be in humility, but in all the glory and power rightfully His as the One who has all authority in heaven and earth. Then He will judge the living and the dead. This is what we watch for. And this is what our Lord is telling us about right now, so that we can be ready and waiting when our Lord comes and knocks at the door. We will be ready to open the door immediately.
There is a great difference between being ready for something about which we know the exact time, and being ready for something that has no specific time frame. Right now most of you have a pretty exact time for your Christmas celebrations. You know that you will meet at a certain time and place. Or you know that your guests will arrive at your house at 1 o'clock on Christmas Day. This allows you to have a definite goal in sight. And you will be sure to have everything ready and waiting for the guests. I doubt that those of us expecting guests at Christmas time wait until they show up and then start cleaning and defrosting some food from the freezer for them. No, we've been getting ready for days in advance.
Compare that to being ready for something that doesn't have a definite time. Perhaps our own death is the ultimate example of that. We know that we all have a 100% chance of dying. That's just the way it is. But we don't know the time. The Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ is just as certain. Yet, without that definite time we are told and encouraged to be ready always.
It is just at that point that trouble arises for us. It is hard to be ready always. Our Lord knows that about you and me. That is why He made sure to warn us, not just once, but many times throughout Holy Scripture. He made sure that there would be pastors to preach that Word, to baptize, to administer Holy Communion, to absolve, all so that people would be ready for His Second Coming, His Second Advent. The forgiveness of sins makes you ready for the coming of Christ, for Judgment Day. That great work of God for you, the granting of forgiveness for Jesus' sake, is what prepares your hearts and minds so that you may stand with confidence on the Last Day, knowing that in Christ you are holy and pure, by God's grace alone.So we continue to gather, to hear the preaching of God's Word. God works among us even today, readying us for the Second Advent so that we will not be overtaken, so that day will not take us by surprise. "Blessed are those servants whom the Lord, when He comes, will find watching." Amen.