The Lutheran Church of the Triune God

2nd Sunday in Advent December 8, 2013

 

Luke 21:25-36 The Last Word . . . A Saving Word

 

Dear fellow redeemed:

If you want the last word, it's crucial you keep people's attention.

* It's what advertisers have learned. You want an effective commercial?

It's all about capturing the attention of the consumer.

To say nothing about colors and graphics and lighting, consider the following:

1) State an amazing fact or statistic.

2) Have a celebrity promote your product.

3) Make an abrupt announcement.

4) Or if you're after the younger generation, have several short clips where the product is

being used by attractive youthful people, and show them having a great time.

* But here's a question: Commercials may get your attention. But how long do they keep it?

Will they keep your attention long enough so that you know what they're advertizing?

* You might call it a game. You can't be too serious in your approach.

But you've got to get the listener to take you seriously enough.

* Somehow you have get the public's attention without them realizing you've gained their

attention. You've got to get people to listen - just long enough to get that product name

engraved into their consciousness.

* It's all about manipulation and getting the last Word.

 

Well, this morning it's the world's Savior who wants the last word.

* In fact, he assures us he'll get the last word, and he won't rely on gimmicks to do so.

Christ's desire is to get the attention of the entire world, and to do so, he uses something

very real. He uses signs that the world will end.

* Our life, you see, is not a game. A life where we embrace sin will only lead to death.

That's why the Lord must receive our attention, in order to direct us on another path; in

order to lead us to repentance and faith.

* So what are the signs through which Christ gains our attention?

Earlier in the chapter Jesus speaks of wars and the disintegration of nature.

He speaks of persecution, betrayal and false doctrine.

* All of these serve as indicators or signs that the earth will not stand much longer.

You see, our God in heaven is holy and will not accept what is unholy; people who refuse

to live by his truth.

* And as time proceeds, this will become increasingly obvious.

In the last days and the last hours the signs will get more intense.

* Jesus says, "There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of

nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves."

* As the entire universe offers testimony that it's about to die an unseemly death, time on

earth will quickly expire. The chance to hear God Word and repent will finally run out.

 

Sadly, many in the world reject Christ's signs, believing they will receive the last word!

In fact, they believe they can divert the attention onto themselves.

* "God has no need to scare me with his attention-getters.

I'm okay just the way I am. Let me show you!"

* It may explain why people's attention span has diminished in recent years.

Sources, for some time now have stated that the average attention span of a child is

from 3 to five minutes, while for an adult it is 20 minutes at the most.

* But recent reports state that people's attention spans are decreasing as modern

technology, especially television, increases. And they say internet browsing may

have the same effect, as it lets you move frequently from one page to another.

* I'm sure studies will also reveal that it has to do with why we're paying attention.

More and more, it's not about learning.

It's about instant gratification; hearing what I want to hear. My life is about me. And if

I'm not feeling good about what you're telling me, I'll just move on to this other site.

1 For some it may come down to joining a different church; hearing a sermon with less law.

2 For others it may mean not taking the message we hear so seriously. Pastor may do his

thing, but it's up to me to decide how relevant his words happen to be for me today.

3 Or we may go through the motions on Sunday morning, confident that we'll receive a

much more encouraging message when we cozy up to our worldly friends and peers.

 

People have great difficulty today concentrating on God's Word.

* The problem simply that the message can't hold our attention.

It's that people don't want it to. They're not interested in hearing the message.

* They're convinced that God has nothing to say which could benefit them in any way.

Why? His message is undesirable because it's negative. It's all this doom and gloom,

painting such an ugly picture of mankind and his potential here on earth.

* The world today isn't interested in hearing about signs of the end.

In fact, the talk is not that the earth is showing signs of dying.

* Quite the opposite: the talk is that we can save it.

We simply have to cut down on the earth's pollution; how many man-made chemicals

we're permitting to get released into the stratosphere.

* Similarly, the talk is not about signs which indicate we're sinners and "every inclination

of (our) heart is evil from childhood" (Gen. 8:28). The talk is how we can still save

ourselves.

* "Our God is positive, upbeat! His purpose is not to warn or threaten, but to pay attention,

take note, and then commend us for our best efforts and our amazing progress!"

* It's really nothing new.

Those who want the attention, the last word for themselves, are what we call unbelievers.

They've existed from the beginning of time and they'll remain to the very end.

* Jesus speaks of "this generation" which "will not pass away until all has taken place."

He's referring to the continuing generation of unbelievers. Whether it's the Jews in

Jesus' day or the secular progressives in our day, they'll be around until the last day on earth.

 

And these unbelievers will continue their campaign against God's Word until the end.

* In fact, they'll go beyond their criticisms that this Word has nothing to offer but death and

judgment. They'll speak as though they can escape God's final judgment.

* Jesus actually foresees this. He tells his believers, "Watch yourselves lest your hearts be

weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life."

* We may call such activity distractions.

People convince themselves they can escape a bad end by simply changing the subject.

They attempt to get the last word by hiding themselves from God's Word.

* Sometimes distractions are a good thing. Certain professionals may in fact call it healthy.

It's why you take the weekend off from work, why you go on vacation, why you get

babysitters and have a night out away from the stresses of parenthood.

 

That may be, so long as you're not taking time off from God's Word and losing sight of his truth.

* As we live among today's unbelievers we often find that tempting.

We Christians might not accuse God of going negative.

But we sometimes struggle to find anything encouraging in God's Word.

* We connect his words to our life as we're supposed to, and all we see is failure.

We start wishing for time off as a mom or dad, husband or wife, or brother or sister or friend.

* Our efforts to serve in our different callings simply convince us that we're not qualified.

Or we're not receiving any satisfaction or enjoyment from it.

* We're simply going to live and die and someone's going to take over where we left off.

And the cycle will continue.

* So life's distractions seem to be healthy and in fact productive in the end.

They keep us from becoming overwhelmed with life or getting disillusioned with it all.

 

But distractions work only for so long.

* When the last day arrives it will emerge like a trap that's rigged for the unsuspecting.

People will see the powers of the heavens coming apart at the seams and they'll faint

out of fear over what is happening to the earth and what is about to happen.

* And of course, that will be just the beginning.

"Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory."

* It's interesting that Jesus refers to himself here not as the Son of God, but the Son of Man.

It's a term that describes Jesus' first advent, when he came in humility as a servant.

Why refer to himself as the "Son of Man" at this time when he'll come in all his glory?

* The point is, everyone in the world will immediately identify who this is in the sky.

It will be the attention getter to end all attention getters.

* Here, for all the world to see, the man, Jesus Christ, who was humiliated to the point

of dying on a cross, is none other than our God Almighty who has absolute

authority over life and death.

* Will anyone still believe they're going to get the last word? I don't think so.

 

But what if that's not the last Word as far as we're concerned?

What if there's a better Word with which we might end our story?

* It's a question we may ask our worldly friends.

What if the final word is not about keeping up our happy front; trying to find some

purpose in a world that's eventually going to be destroyed ?

* What if the last day is anything but doom and gloom; a day, rather, which gives us a

reason to hope and place our faith in Christ's mercy and forgiveness?

* I'm talking about what truly constitutes the last word for those listening to our Lord.

It's not a word about death and judgment and everlasting distress. It's a word

about our Lord demonstrating compassion for sinners. Yes. Christ's final Word is a

saving Word.

* "Heaven and earth will pass away" he says, "but my words will not pass away."

 

It's a simple Word to understand.

Christ's signs are given not to predict our downfall, but to prepare us.

* It's like the first day we see the buds on the trees. We take it as a sign that sure enough,

summer is coming and it's not far away! And so the words of Jesus. "So also, when you

see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near."

* Notice, Jesus speaks not about our leaving and going to heaven, but about our Lord

coming to us.

* Three Sundays ago our Gospel reading included some of the same verses as today.

The emphasis, you may remember, was on the earth's destruction and the believer being

delivered from this doomed earth.

* But the emphasis of Advent, is not on our getting away but on the Lord coming.

He's our Immanuel, our God with us who's going to spend eternity with us in the flesh!

* It's what we get to hear every year. The message of Advent, in a sense, is what teaches us

why it's good to observe the signs, which always direct us to God's Word.

Because the signs prepare us for the last Word, which is good Word.

* The Word of God was not written for the purpose of scaring us, condemning us, or

leaving us to fend for ourselves. It was written to assure us that a better day is

coming, the day of salvation with Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord!

 

Christ's signs are a good thing. We may only wonder why people are so quick to reject his

signs, when they're more than willing to observe man's signs. Surely they're beneficial.

* Sometimes our life depends upon the right sign getting our attention.

Would you ignore the flashing signal: "Caution. Road work ahead?"

How about the sign: "Road Narrows" or "Dead End?"

* Signs are posted not to predict when we'll break the law or cause bodily injury to someone.

Signs have the purpose of protecting us from breaking the law or causing bodily harm.

* The same is true with the signs God provides.

He wants our attention because he cares for us. "Be still, and know that I am God" he says.

"I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth!" (Psalm 46:10).

* It's what our Savior's signs are communicating with respect to his Kingdom, which is

near. Christ will be exalted, not simply when he exercises his godly powers on the last

day.

He will be exalted by coming to live with his people and ruling with his mercy and grace.

* And it's no game, because the competition has already been given notice.

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away."

* "I've got something better in store for you than a sick and dying earth. I've got

everlasting life to give you! So raise your heads!" "Your redemption is drawing near!"

Amen.

 

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Amen.