Monday, November 19, 2018

Sermon November 17-18, 2018

Title: Be strong in the Lord!
Text: Mark 13:1-13

5 And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. 7 And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet.

During these final weeks in the church year at the end of the Pentecost season – the season of the church - speaks of the end times and the second coming of Christ. It is a time, where sinful eyes only see destruction, deception, and death. But for we who have been redeemed and made new in Baptism, we see through the eyes of faith … hope and delivery in our loving savior Jesus.

13 And as [Jesus] came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!”2 And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

The Temple mount in Jerusalem has not been rebuilt since it was destroyed by the Roman army in 70 AD.

The Jewish historian Josephus writes in the War of the Jews:

"...the rebels shortly after attacked the Romans again, and a clash followed between the guards of the sanctuary and the troops who were putting out the fire inside the inner court; the latter routed the Jews and followed in hot pursuit right up to the Temple itself. Then one of the soldiers, without awaiting any orders and with no dread of so momentous a deed, but urged on by some supernatural force, snatched a blazing piece of wood and, climbing on another soldier's back, hurled the flaming brand through a low golden window that gave access, on the north side, to the rooms that surrounded the sanctuary. As the flames shot up, the Jews let out a shout of dismay that matched the tragedy; they flocked to the rescue, with no thought of sparing their lives or husbanding their strength; for the sacred structure that they had constantly guarded with such devotion was vanishing before their very eyes.

From the time of Christ until this very day we are in the End Times. This life and our world are vanishing, as it were, before our very eyes. Wars and rumors of war have come and gone and remain on the horizon, and having just observed Veterans Day, we too are reminded of the unrest and turmoil that has been and continues to be part of our lives.

8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.

It hurts to see this. Intercity churches torn down, closed, or repurposed. Rural and suburban churches declining or struggling and Christians around the world persecuted for their faith and the aftermath of hurricanes and fires leave a path or destruction leaving us numb, hurting and questioning.

5 And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.

Leaders step up with the promise of hope - at times using fear to marbleize their base and to overcome their foes. Enemies are defined and labeled and some who speak up are shouted down or hunted and hounded out of the public eye.

Wars and earthquakes are but signs … the destruction of a way of life are justified some would say as and with the promise of a better life in a new world to come. The social divide in our country … continues.

Jesus says it will get worse … and personal:

12 And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death.

A bleak world awaits us all. But there is a greater concern, as Jesus says:

5 … “See that no one leads you astray. 6 Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.

The life of the church has been falling away for generations.

Nations and Kingdoms continue to rise against each other and this is only the birth pains we’re told. We’re not there yet. So, keep watch and be on your guard.

The disciples expected Jesus to make things alright in the world – to restore the Kingdom as they understood it - to Make Jerusalem great again - and we do too.


Our church sees the signs too.

Average attendance in 2005 was at 160. Today it’s 73 for both services.

At our pastors meeting we are going through the Pastoral epistles of Paul to St. Timothy.

Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:8-13

8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, 9
for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11 The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.

I would love nothing better than to see our church vibrant and return to how it was when I first attended … where the church had overflow seating for Christmas and Easter and we seemed to be on an upward trend. But many of our once active members who had built this church and sustained it through the years have been called home, some have moved away or are unable to come, and others who once came … have fallen away.

These are but the beginning of the birth pains.

This is a harsh reality. It is a hard pill to swallow. It tears at the very fiber of every pastor, called worker, and lay servant of Christ who desires to see the church grow and prosper under their watch.

Jesus says to his disciples:

9 “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them.

It is the witness … not the building;
It is the witness … not the numbers;
It is the Gospel … of Jesus Christ that changes the heart and brings to faith by the power of the Holy Spirit those called to believe.

10 And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.

This has been going on since the church was founded on the day of Pentecost and will continue until the Lord returns. We must continue to proclaim the Good News and the truth of Christ Jesus in a world of sin and doubt to family, friends, and strangers. It has been going on for over 2000 years and will continue by the word of the gospel to call those who have fallen away back to faith and the arms of a loving savior.

And while buildings may fall and the stones may be torn down with nothing left standing; while some members may become apathetic and listen to the world, their own sinful flesh, and a devil that calls them away from the truth, God will continue to call them back by his word, through his Spirit, to an eternity that he has won for you and me at his cross.

Luther said in a sermon for the advent season:

The rejection of Christ does not happen only with [others] but also among us, for the high and mighty scorn us because of our gospel and sacraments. What folly [foolishness], they say, that I should let myself be baptized with water poured on my head, supposedly to be saved thereby; or that some poor parish preacher, barely able to put a coat on his back, should pronounce forgiveness and absolve me from my sins; or that by receiving bread and wine in the Sacrament I should be saved. On that basis they despise a Christ-preacher.

And he concludes:

But no one ought to despise Christ in that way, for he is our Saviour and seeks to give us everlasting life. It ought not faze us that he comes in poverty. He requires neither armor, nor mounted cavalry for his message; but simply proclaimed: "Whoever believes in me shall have everlasting life."

Luther, Sermons of Martin Luther, House Postils I.35-36. Sermon for Advent I, 1534

It is the strength of the Lord that will sustain you and me and this church until the end. By God’s word and Spirit we who hear and follow will be saved because he promises that:

… the one who endures to the end will be saved.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.


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