Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sermon -- 12th Sunday after Pentecost (August 11, 2013)

LUKE 12:32-40

In the name + of Jesus.

     Jesus spoke of servants who were waiting for their master to return from a banquet.  They were to be dressed for service.  They were to keep their lamps burning, expecting their master’s return at any hour, even a late hour.  The Lord Jesus has gone away, ascending to the banquet in heaven.  And the Lord Jesus will return for his people.  The Church confesses it every day: He ascended into heaven...  From there he will come to judge the living and the dead. (Apostles’ Creed)
     Jesus declared, Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes.” (Luke 12:37)  There is a great blessing upon those who are ready for their Lord’s return.  If you are eager for Jesus’ return, it is because you know that you have been cleared on all charges of sin and that you will be forever free from sorrow, grief, and sadness.  It is terrifying, however, when doubts creep into your mind and you wonder, “Am I ready?  Am I worthy?”  There are many people who are convinced they are going to heaven, but their hopes are based on their high opinion of themselves.  They have judged themselves worthy.  But they are not the judge.  Jesus is.  Only his judgment matters.  Only his judgment stands.
     So we are back to the terrifying thought, “Am I ready?  Am I worthy?”  If you have such fears, do not feel that something is wrong with you.  Every Christians feels such fears as we become aware of our iniquity.  We know that we have not been blameless.  We regret our snippy remarks, our petty competitions, and our spiteful and jealous thoughts.
     Even when we feel good about ourselves, it is usually a false pride.  It is because we have measured ourselves against our coworkers, our friends, and our own imagination.  We see the worst in them and compare it to our best moments.  We commend ourselves for being better, and we assume that we should be rewarded for it.  But we are not as good as we like to think.  Try as hard as we may to be the kind of servant that God demands, and we find ourselves growing more frustrated, more tired, and more terrified.  We know what we should be and should do, but we have not done it or been it.  We are all frauds.  And we are terrified that God has been watching, that God knows, and that God will judge us as we deserve. 
     Such fears are valid.  In fact, such fears are good.  If you are terrified that you have not done enough or been good enough to enter the kingdom of God, then you have recognized your sin.  And if you recognize your sin, then you will appeal to a hope other than yourself.  Your hope is Jesus.  He responds to your fears.  Listen to him again: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)  You do not have to fret whether or not you have done enough to gain the kingdom of God.  For, it is never earned.  It is only given.  And the Father is pleased to give it to you.  Blessed are the servants who are waiting for their master to bring them there.
     Now, perhaps that does not alleviate your fears entirely.  Your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom of God.  But it can be lost.  You can forfeit what God has given you.  So, how do you avoid this?  How can you be sure that you will not lose what God has given you?  How do you know that you will be found a faithful servant when the Lord comes again?
     Jesus again answers your question and alleviates your fears.  “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks.  Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes.” (Luke 12:35-37)  
     Blessed are the servants who are waiting for their master.  They are dressed for action, poised to serve.  So what is the proper dress?  It is what Jesus Christ has already given you.  If you take a peek into heaven with St. John, you will notice that the saints who gather around the throne are all dressed in white robes.  When St. John asks about them, the angel replies, “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:15)  The Lamb of God was slain for you.  Jesus became a bloody sin offering to atone for all of your guilt.  And having been baptized, you have been washed in his blood.  You have been clothed in Jesus’ righteousness.  God was pleased to do this for you so that, when he comes again, you will not appear before him in the filth of your sin.  You are now dressed in garments of salvation, ready for Jesus’ return.  Blessed are the servants who are waiting for their master.
     Jesus also urged you, “…Keep your lamps burning.” (Luke 12:35)  Jesus Christ is the Light of the world, and he has enlightened you to know and to do his will.  Jesus himself is the one who keeps that light burning within you.  That is why your life is to revolve around the Divine Service.  Here, Jesus is at work to sustain your faith.  He instructs you in the truth so that you will not be deceived.  He admonishes you so that you will continue to put your sin to death and repent.  He encourages you so that you do not grow weary in doing good and in hating sin.  He comforts you so that you do not lose heart in a world that loves inanimate goods and possessions but hates the living God. 
     Jesus said, “Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes.  Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them.” (Luke 12:37)  It is not normal that the master serves the servants.  But that will certainly take place in the heavenly kingdom.  You will rest from your labors, and the Lord will serve you.  Dear Christians, you already get to partake in that feast.  Isn’t that exactly what happens here in our Divine Service?  You kneel at the railing, and the master, Jesus Christ, serves you his body and blood to strengthen and keep you in the one true faith until life everlasting!  Here is the feast of heaven.  Here, he keeps your lamp burning.  Here, he makes sure your garments remain pure.  This is why your life is to revolve around the Divine Service.  This is where Light and Life are given and sustained.  This is where Jesus alleviates your fears; for this is where you hear his voice and receive his blessing. 
     Blessed are the servants who are waiting for their master.  While you are waiting, you get to serve the Lord in your various vocations.  You are dressed in Jesus’ righteousness.  You let your light shine in this sin-darkened world as you serve God and your neighbor.  You get to do good to your clients and customers, to your spouse and your children, to your neighbors, friends, and relatives, and even to strangers.  Even your possessions are to be employed for the good of others.  But your treasure is in heaven.  That is where your Lord has ascended.  It is from there that your master will return.  And that is where your Lord and Savior will bring you soon.  For it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32)  Blessed are you, the servants who are waiting for your master.  For, you will soon rest from your labors, and you will forever feast at the banquet your master serves you.

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