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Sunday, November 23, 2014

11232014 Christ the King Sunday

Sermon Audio

November 23, 2014
Are you ready?
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer.  AMEN.
Today is a milestone event in the life of the Christian church.  Today we are not only one day closer to the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, but we celebrate the completion of another Church Year.  Throughout Christendom, today is known as Christ the King Sunday.  It is a day filled with triumph and jubilation, but also exuberance for today we look forward, not specifically to next week and the beginning of another Church Year with Advent, but to the triumphal return of Jesus Christ.
Holy Scripture is very clear in many places of where the disciples and others asked Jesus about His return.  And Jesus tells them clearly what will occur and what the signs are for His return.  On the opposite side of the insert are 18 different signs concerning Jesus return.  Some signs we can see from current events in the media and even technological innovations.  These signs also include clear and impending marks of doom, including, but not limited to war, hatred, disease and outbreaks of violence.  Clearly with the Ebola outbreak and even having some victims as near as Nebraska and the violence of Ferguson, Missouri, these signs may be an indication of Jesus return very soon.
There are even some cults that have chosen extreme measures because of the fear of the end of the world, but not Jesus return on the last day.  Recently there was the latest release of the Left Behind movie that refueled the anxiety of the rapture and the end times.  But today here at Emmanuel we celebrate in spite of what happens in our culture, the movies released and even fulfillment of biblical signs.  We celebrate for a simple fact, we look to and celebrate the return Jesus Christ.  Jesus is coming, triumphant as Christ the King of Glory and we who gather here today are ready for His return, especially when we pray, “Come Lord Jesus”!
Yet, there still is that nagging human side in all of us, including Pastors where we need to ask ourselves a simple yet profound question.  “Are you ready?”
As we get closer to Christmas, for Michele and I this question takes on a different meaning.  You see my parents will be coming to celebrate the Christmas holidays with us.  So we are trying to be prepared with all the things that children and daughter-in-laws worry about.  Is the house picked up?  Have all the floors been mopped or vacuumed?  Is Sarah’s room ready?  Is the guest room ready?  Will the house look neat and tidy for their arrival and stay during the Christmas season?  All of this though trivial for some, creates a clear sense of worry and anxiety that wears on both Michele and I.  So when the question arises, “Are you ready?”, right now we have to declare “no”, but we will be.
So to in the Christian life, as we get closer to Jesus return, our collective feelings and sense of worry rises, because this is Jesus Christ Who is returning.  He is Lord of heaven and earth.  Not only did He create the world we live and exist in, but He knows EVERYTHING we have done.  This is why the question, “Are you ready?” may worry us even more as His children, and we probably if we answer honestly, have to say, “no” we are not ready.
Paul in the Epistle lesson plucks this nerve of ‘worry’ more so for each of us, when he says, the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.  We don’t know when it is coming, but Paul clearly wants us to understand, we will not know when the time of Jesus return will be.  It is a time that we could be clearly unprepared for, but which God does not want us unprepared for, hence my question for each of us to ponder, “are you ready?”
Though our collective feelings create a clear bundle of nerves in each of us, Paul does remind us of an undeniable truth.  You are all sons of light and sons of day.   Let me say that again, You are all sons of light and sons of day.  Through our baptism with Water and the Word of God, we were made sons and daughters of the King Who comes.  When God made us in our mother’s wombs and then with Water and Word made us His in Holy Baptism and poured the gift of eternal life into our lives and made us heirs of the Kingdom of God, we were promised eternal life and salvation.  Though we still daily fall short of the glory of God and do sin in thought Word and deed as we confess before we take Holy Communion, God still wants us to be reminded, we are His.
So Paul not only reminds us that we are God’s, but also reminds us of another truth, an imperative.  “Let us be on alert and sober.”  In essence, We need to be ready.  Just like combat soldiers that are on the front lines always need to be ready for an attack from the enemy, we as Christians need to be ready for when Jesus Christ returns.  We need to be prepared like good soldiers of the cross ready for our Supreme Commanders return.
This Sunday we move another day closer to where we will move the Pascal Candle.  In the church there are many symbols that have clear meaning, from the altar which has the ihs, better known as the simplification of Jesus name, to the triangle signifying the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and even the Alpha and the Omega.  This symbol of the Alpha and Omega is extremely important not only because it is on our altar, but it signifies what we are celebrating today, the end of the Church Year.  Hence we return to the question, “Are you ready?”

As Christians baptized by the Blood of the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, we should clearly answer “Yes, I am ready”.  Yes, Jesus Christ could come any day and we would be ready for His return.  We can welcome Him and look forward to His return.  For some who not only gather with us this morning, but also we encounter daily whether at Rasure’s, Wal-Mart, the Mexican restaurant or wherever, their words may clearly indicate they are ready for Jesus return.  Others of us may not be, because we feel we either need to accomplish something more or we need to have one last chance to do something in order to be worthy of what Jesus Christ will bring us.  But God has provided us what we need to be ready.

Two weeks ago we were introduced to the armor of God.  In our lesson this morning, which in fact is a different book of the Bible, Paul returns to this concept and imagery not only to remind us, but embolden us to put on the full armor of God.  Paul says, “since we are of the day”, since we are children of the light, not to have any darkness in us and we being redeemed by the blood of the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, we are marked differently.  Not only with the sign of the Cross over our forehead and heart, but also with the redemption promised to us by Jesus Christ.  Paul further says, “let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love”.  This is the armor that not only will protect our vital organs, but inspire us to love mankind and one another in the Christian faith.  We are called to be the children of God that not only protect ourselves and our core, but live and love one another with an unmistakable love.  A love not only for community, but also for each other as Brothers and Sisters in Christ.
When we show this love towards one another our outlook not only changes, but we ourselves change.  If you were to read any self-help book, each and every one worth its weight clearly says if you want to make a change in your life, you need to make ‘new habits’.  By new habits it isn’t to be done once and then forgotten and then we claim we are changed.  New habits require us to daily change ourselves and daily establish the new norm in our lives.
So to in the Christian journey of life, if you want to be ready for Jesus Christ return, it isn’t supposed to be like the study habits of college kids, ‘cram for the test’ on the last night before the exam.  Or for farmers who plant one day and expect a growing season all overnight.  Instead, daily with your eyes looking to the coming Savior, Jesus Christ, daily we need to prepare ourselves.  We have the opportunity to create our new reality.  Last week I used a phrase that has clear traction for the opportunity we have as Christians, it is having an ‘attitude of gratitude’.  With our asking the question, “Are we ready?” do we have the right attitude?  Will we be prepared for Jesus return?  We need the new habits of the Christian life in order to be prepared for Jesus return.
Thus not only putting on the breastplate of faith and love, we also need to as Paul says, to put on the “helmet, the hope of salvation”.   It is clear from the media and what we hear from our society that We live in desperate and tenuous times.  Christians are being persecuted.  Lives of those who are willing to step up and spread the Gospel message of Jesus Christ are fewer on the mission field.  And sadly those who do decide to be missionaries, their lives are being snuffed out not only by a clear opposition to the message of the Gospel, but clearly this is evil in the world.  This is the opposition, or end times that Jesus warned us about when He spoke with His disciples.  Jesus was warning us then and today we are even closer to His coming.  But Paul wants us not to focus on what is around us, but put on the armor of God, the helmet that will not only protect us, but for all of us to focus on our mission and ministry given to us by Jesus Christ.
If you were to go to the race track where horses race, one of the items of the horse tack that is put on a horse is what is called ‘blinders’.  These blinders prevent the horse from being distracted.  It keeps the horse’s focus on what is in front.  So instead of looking back or to the side, the horse’s eyes are kept forward focused, where they are going, ultimately the finish line.
In the Christian life, we need blinders as well.  When we put on the helmet of the hope of salvation, God in one sense wants the helmet not only to protect us and our heads, but keep us focused on what matters, but more importantly our eternal destination, the finish line.  God wants us to focus on preparing for the coming of Jesus Christ.  When we focus on the coming of Jesus Christ we no longer remain focused on what we have done in the past, what is occurring around us in the present no matter how distracting or detracting, but God wants us to remain steadfast and immovable and focus on the future, the coming of Jesus Christ and our entrance into eternity in heaven with Him.
God wants us to keep Jesus Christ, His mission, ministry and message front and center in our daily lives.  God doesn’t want us to gossip with others about rumors whether about our friends or those we see on a daily basis, or about things that may have happened or may happen in our community and especially here in the church.  God doesn’t want us to break each other down every chance we have.  God wants us to do the polar opposite.  God expects us to build each other up.
Paul ends our epistle reading with another clear imperative.  “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another”.  Paul was being inspired by God to inspire us to be cheerleaders, but also empower us to empower each other for what we would encounter on our pilgrimage.  God wants us to help each other through our daily struggles, our daily attacks that we feel from Satan and clearly speak the Word of God and especially the Gospel of Jesus Christ into each other’s lives.
Some in our society look at churches and Christians in particular and say, hey that is your job.  Christians and the church should be the place where we come to be inspired.  Yes, that is one aspect of what the church should be doing, but it is not the only imperative of the church.  The church and the people of God who come to church and sit in the pews should encourage one another.  This is each and every one of our collective jobs as well.  If it were only the churches or the pastor’s job, then everybody should be at church daily without fail.  But in clear contrast, we are not here everyday, sometimes not every week or just sporadically or some as they are known as C&E’s, Christmas and Easter.
This is why daily we as Christians need to lift each other up on a daily basis.  Be the light of Christ in our daily lives so Christ can shine through us and we can inspire one another and share our burdens, offer comfort and pray for one another without ceasing.
One of the most iconic images of a place where people talked and shared their burdens was the kitchen table.  I remember as a child visiting both my Grandparents and seeing their kitchen tables.  My Dad’s parents didn’t have the ‘formal dining room’, but the simple kitchen table that all meals were prepared on and shared around.  As a family we would gather around and share our meal and the table was exactly at the center of the home where everyone would bear one another’s burdens.  Families would have meetings of the minds and hearts around the table, because it meant everybody was equal.  Just as in King Arthur’s day, the round table was meant to be the great equalizer, we too should be reminded of our not only being equal with one another, but being empowered and encouraged to share and bear our burdens with one another.  Whether around the kitchen table, the round tables in the fellowship hall or even in silence when we gather around the table of our Lord and Savior when we come for Holy Communion.  We can share one another’s burdens.
When we encourage one another, we change the landscape and reality of our interactions with each other and the ability we have to not only be an encouragement for one another, but support each other even during the darkest of days.  One way that our 21st Century culture has shared the ability to encourage each other is by Facebook.  Yes, I know some believe Facebook is a creation of evil.  A place where each of us reads into a post, what we believe, instead of what the person posting may be thinking, feeling or even desiring to be understood.  Others see Facebook as a means to either brag, complain or vent and are unafraid to not ‘put the best construction’ on what is put on Facebook, or unwilling to with care and compassion ask their friends directly what was meant by a post.  But even in these times, there is a group that uses Facebook in a God pleasing manner.

One Spark Foundation clearly uses the technology and instant communication of Facebook for a Godly purpose.  They call the stories that are shared sparks.  It is the hope and desire that one little spark done by one person and shared across Facebook will not only affect the person for or to whom the action is done, but will be an inspiration for others.  Just like the song, “It only takes a Spark”, by sharing a spark, it is clear people can make a difference, even if it is only one life at a time.
There are so many sparks I could share, but instead, I want to share what David Hill said.  David is the founder of the One Spark Foundation.  He says:
“Each one of us has been given a gift to make the world a better place.  It may be a song, leadership, organization, love, laughter, a builder, a mason or many other things.  We need to search our hearts until we find the gift that we have been blessed with and then use it to make the world a better place for everyone to live.  We must remember that if we fail to use the gift that we have been blessed with we stand a chance of losing it.”  David’s words are very true.
And today we gather here with so many gifts given each of us by God to remember that there is a gift that will not pass away and this is what Jesus Christ did on the Cross of Calvary.  As we answer the question, “Are you ready?” and share with one another the news of the greatest gift of what Jesus Christ has done for us on the Cross of Calvary, God is calling us to be a spark in our daily lives.  May we as we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, not only share in the turkey and all the trimmings, but be inspired to use our God given gifts to not only point to Jesus Christ, but also be a spark for all of mankind our community of Goodland and especially including each of the saints gathered here at Emmanuel this morning.  AMEN.

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