Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sermon -- 1st Sunday in Advent (November 27, 2016)

ROMANS 13:11-14


In the name + of Jesus.

      St. Paul has good news for you: Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. (Romans 13:11)  Though the Church has been waiting eagerly for centuries, the Lord's return is closer than it has ever been.  Perhaps the Lord's patience is making us impatient.  Perhaps the Lord's patience even has us questioning his faithfulness.  We do not know the day of his return, but we live in the faith which insists that he will return.  The Groom will not forget or forsake his Bride.  Christ will come for his Church.  And that day is nearer now than when we first believed.
     But Jesus' return demands our vigilance.  It means not only praying for Jesus to hasten on his return.  It also means that we persist in faithful service to the Lord until he does return.  Keep watch!  Your salvation draws near.  St. Paul spells what that means in very practical terms.  The night is far gone; the day is at hand.  So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.  Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13:12-14)  
     Keep watch.  Your salvation draws near.  It should not be a surprise to you.  Nor should it be a surprise to you will be enticed to forget about the world to come and to embrace the world which is here and now.  And it should not surprise you that you will struggle with your own sinful desires.  Perhaps you are drawn to sexual sins and seek entertainment to gratify those urges.  But those urges never are satisfied; the more they are fed, the hungrier they get.  Perhaps you are drawn to intoxication, preferring to alter your senses with drugs and alcohol than deal with your responsibilities and realities.  Those are sins which people take upon themselves.  While you may be prone to sexual immorality and drunkenness, no one makes you do them.  Those are sins you take into yourself.
     But other sins fester within us.  St. Paul said, “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, … not in quarreling and jealousy.” (Romans 13:13)  Bitter feelings arise within us, but we let them take root there.  They only reveal themselves when we tell our friends how we feel, expecting them to support us in our hatred and envy.  And because friends are interested in our happiness rather than our salvation, they assure us that we are right in souring a sibling's happiness, in destroying a co-worker's rapport with fellow workers, or in divorcing a spouse who is never good enough.  St. Paul warns: “Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13:14)  It is not that sins catch us by surprise; it is that we make plans to do them and we are comfortable in continuing in them.  Repent.
     Keep watch!  Your salvation draws near.  We pray fervently for our Lord to return in order to deliver us from temptations, from sins, from weaknesses, and from the frustration of dealing with friends who encourage us to neglect the faith, but we should not get the idea that salvation will only be achieved when the Lord returns.  Your Lord comes to you now to deliver salvation to you.
     If you long to be delivered from sin and guilt, then flee to this altar where the body and blood of the Lord are given to penitent sinners.  That body and blood were first given for your sin and guilt at the cross.  Jesus bore your sin in his body, and he gave his body to be wracked with the torment of crucifixion and with the anguish of God’s wrath in order to atone for all your sins.  Jesus shed his blood as the perfect sin offering which covers over your sins.  Salvation has been won by Jesus’ body and blood which were given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.  Salvation is delivered to you by Jesus' body and blood which are eaten and drunk by you for the forgiveness of sins.  Salvation is also delivered by the words and promises of God which are proclaimed to you, declaring not only that God is merciful, but especially declaring that God is merciful to you.  And if guilt still plagues you, then come to Private Absolution where you are the only you to whom forgiveness is given.  It is not that God will save you someday down the road when he returns.  Jesus saves you now.  Forgiveness is yours now.  His judgment is rendered to you now: You are delivered from sin and death.  You have everlasting life.
     Nevertheless, we pray fervently for Jesus’ return.  For, when he comes, we will be taken to the glories, the peace, and the joys of heaven.  Never again will we worry about struggles against our flesh.  Never again will we have friends who entice us to sin against God with acts revenge inspired by jealousy or with plans which sound brilliant only because they are fueled by alcohol.  Your friends may congratulate you for your sins, but your conscience will condemn you and you will have the bear the guilt for it.
     Keep watch!  Your salvation draws near.  There is no doubt about what Jesus has done to win our salvation.  His sufferings, death, and resurrection have achieved everything for us.  There is no doubt about the salvation Jesus delivers to us.  His forgiveness does not come with strings attached or conditions which have to be met.  The only thing that makes us tremble in regard to our salvation is ourselves.  That is why St. Paul warns: Let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.  Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13:12-14)  We can sabotage our own salvation by taking our sins lightly, by giving into them, by using the Lord’s forgiveness as an excuse to sin all the more, or even by neglecting the word and sacraments which provide our forgiveness.  If you should lose your salvation, it is not because Jesus failed you.  It is because you proved yourself to be faithless with a life that either was given into sin or a life that did not care for the good gifts Jesus gives.
     Therefore, keep watch!  The temptations which come to you are common, and the desire to continue in faithful obedience often grows weak.  In other words, you and I are still sinners.  That is why we continue to flee to Jesus.  Jesus continues to be merciful to us.  He forgives our sins.  He strengthens our faith.  He fills us with the spirit to do what is good and to recognize that sins are not only destructive to our lives, but even to our souls.  So, while doing good works will not save you, refusing to do them will condemn you.
     Keep watch!  Your salvation draws near.  The day is soon coming when these struggles will come to an end.  Now, our lives are lived in humility, in patience, in struggles against temptation, and prayers for mercy and strength.  Advent remains a time of repentance, prayer, and keeping watch.  We strive for godliness, fighting off the lusts of our selfish flesh and rejecting the enticement of worldly immorality.  Now is our time of fasting and keeping watch.  But your salvation draws near.  And when Jesus comes again, we will rejoice and feast and sing.  For, he is the source of our joy and peace.  And he comes soon to bring joy and peace that will not be bothered with struggles, sins, or sorrows.  That deliverance is what we long for and pray for.
     Good news: Your salvation is drawing near.  Therefore, we will keep watch.  We give our attention to Jesus’ words, and we pray for Jesus appearing.  He has saved us, and he will bring his everlasting salvation.

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

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