25th Sunday After Pentecost 2015 | This is the End

Bible Text: St. Mark 13:1-13

You’ve heard the rumors.

Friday the 13th, 2015 was the beginning of the end.

As shots rang out, bodies fell, and suicide vests exploded on the Rue de Charonne and the Boulevard Voltaire, streetcorner preachers the world over dusted off their soap boxes and practiced their lines

“The end, the great tribulation, and the rapture are near.” they will shout. “Repent!”

It’s easy enough to brush that sort of thing off, especially for people who know how to read the Bible and the newspapers, both of which assure us that wars and persecution for the Church are not new.

But before we do brush it off and dismiss the speculation as fanaticism, we could stomach a bit of honesty. The end fascinates us too.

We all know, I think, that the end IS coming. And we’re even curious as to what it’ll be like. But we know that it is going to be messy.

Scripture describes the end all sorts of ways: Wars and rumors of warss, A Darkened Sun, A Scorched earth, A World filled with desolation, And the whole of human pride melted down into a fiery puddle. Who wouldn’t want to know when that’s coming?!

We want to know about the end just as much as the people who try to predict it, and see it in every headline and arrangement of important numbers in the Bible. We want to know about the end, just as much as the disciples in today’s Gospel text. Of course, the “end” the Disciples are asking about today is the destruction of the temple. And not the world. But since the Temple was the center of their world, the point remains. They want to know the signs of the end, so that they can prepare.

They want to be ready. So do you, and so do I. And that’s ok. There’s nothing wrong with being prepared, especially when Jesus tells us to do so. Jesus said: “Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.” That’s what Jesus is saying to the disciples today.

But while telling them of the persecutions they will endure, He also tells them not to be anxious. Jesus tells them not to worry about what they will do when that hour comes. He tells them that God the Holy Spirit will give them exactly what you need.

That’s faith! And that faith, which is a gift from the Holy Spirit, is how you live. It is how you stay awake and on guard. But most of the time it doesn’t seem that way. Because you DO worry. You worry that when tomorrow comes, it will bring something terrible.Or maybe you worry that tomorrow won’t come at all.

You worry that He who created you and loved you before you were born, will abandon you, and leave you alone, unwanted and unloved. You worry that the Lord who has provided for you your whole life, will stop doing what he promises. That he will no longer provide. That he will leave you hungry and hopeless

You worry that the Lord who joined you and your spouse together, cannot bless you and heal you, and keep you together. Maybe you worry that Christ’s Church, which has been persecuted since the beginning, somehow won’t survive in a turbulent and changing world unless it, the church, changes too, not to mention the threat of radical Islam, of which we need no reminder.

Scripture has a word for this lack of faith. It’s sin. Nothing fancy; plain and simple, Adam in the garden-style sin. And for that sin and all other sin, you have every reason to fear God’s wrath; every good reason to fear the end. But I’d encourage you not to fear the end.

Instead, I’d ask you to pray for the end.And pray without worry; because for you the end has already come. Rather than arriving at the hands of murderous idolaters last Friday afternoon, the end came on another Friday afternoon – nearly 2000 years ago – on a Friday the Church strangely calls “Good”.

When Christ took all of your sin upon himself. When the curtain in the temple was torn top to bottom. For you, the end came when you were drowned in the waters of Holy Baptism. And when you came out as a new creation, living a new life.For you, the end has already come. And so you have nothing to fear.

You don’t need to know the day or the hour. Because what would be different? When asked about what he would do if he knew that the Lord was coming tomorrow, Martin Luther replied, “I would plant an apple tree.” The point being, of course, that the end can come, as it will. For us, Christ’s return, that end, means eternal life; an eternal life that started at baptism. So knowing the time and date of that return wouldn’t change a thing.

You would wake up in the morning, and as Luther writes in the Small Catechism, you would make the sign of the cross and say “in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. You would pray your prayers and do your work. You would love your family, pray, eat, pray, work, pray, and wake up the next morning to do it again.

And so you can walk away today knowing this: The rumors are true. The end IS near. But the end is near because the end is Jesus Christ. He is the end of sin. He is the end of death, and of the power of the devil. And he is near. He has already come, in a manger and on a cross.

He will come again, on a cloud and in great glory. And He comes to you now. Here in His holy supper, Christ brings his very flesh, His very Body and Blood. He comes to forgive, and give life, and faith, and to love you with all He is, and all that He has. Here, you get what He has: life, and forgiveness, and faith. Because you are His. And you have nothing to fear.

So, yes, we repent! But we also rejoice. For now, in His Holy Supper, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

About Pastor Hopkins