Summary: A sermon for the 2nd last Sunday of the Church Year-B preached 11/16/2003 @ Forest City LCMS Mission, Forest City, Iowa
2nd Last Sunday of the Church Year, Series B. Mark 13:24-31 “God’s Word Never Passes Away” Forest City Mission 1st Service, Nov. 16, 2003.
A little over a month ago when I was talking with a friend of mine from college that’s also studying to be a pastor, I was telling him about the plans we had to begin to hold worship services here in Forest City and that I was planning for services to begin this morning. When my friend looked on his calendar and saw what day on the church year it fell on, he looked rather puzzled and asked “Why are you starting a new congregation and having opening services at a time when the readings point toward the end times?” I have to agree, at first, it seems like an interesting question to ask, and I didn’t have an answer for him. However, as I looked at the readings for this morning and thought about possible sermon themes and as I studied this text, I realized that perhaps this is a good text to preach on for my first sermon with you. And I hope that once I am finished, perhaps you will agree with me.
Traditionally, the last three Sundays of the church year feature readings that deal with the end times and Jesus’ second coming. Next Sunday, we will celebrate Christ the King Sunday, focusing on his return, and then begin a new church year with one of my favorite times of the year, Advent. Now the end times are a very popular topic for Christians and non-Christians alike. If you’ve ever been in a Christian book store and paid attention to the sections of books they have, it’s not uncommon to find a whole section of books devoted to the end times, the Left Behind series is a perfect example. A few years ago, especially, this was a very popular topic, with all the talk about Y2K. Do you remember that? Some people expected the end of the world to occur with the coming of the year 2000; others expected the end of civilization as we knew it. If you asked a so called “expert” back then on what to expect and what you would need to survive “Y2K”, you would get an answer that indeed revolved around survival. Things like dried foods, bottled water, large supplies of fuel, your own personal generator, some even went so far as to say you needed a gun and ammo to protect yourself and your family. And we heard many a false prophet, whether it was on TV, or in a magazine, or on the internet, focusing on certain portions of God’s Word that deal with the end times, and twist it to say something it didn’t to scare the daylights out of you and get you to buy their products, donate money, or in some cases, have you sell everything you had and go sit with them somewhere and wait for Jesus to return because somehow they claimed they knew the hour Jesus was to return. You know, it’s very easy to look back on the events that surrounded the whole Y2K time in our history, and laugh. As we all know, the world didn’t end, things went on as usual, and I doubt those people who sold everything they had to go sit on a mountain top are still sitting there waiting almost 4 years later. Hopefully, we can learn from seeing this craziness that there are benefits to preparing for what might happen, but there is a limit on how much we can accomplish on our own.
As we read our gospel lesson for this morning, we’re warned of many things that must happen before Jesus returns. And some of them are, well, rather frightening when we think about them. It’s safe to say that we live in a very uncertain world, a world where change is inevitable. We’re bombarded with messages that there are no absolutes. From these messages, there are people out in the secular world and also within the church that will want you to believe that God’s Word is one of those things that is outdated. They try to teach us that the Bible isn’t want it appears to be, that it contains errors, or some of it wasn’t meant to apply for all of time and what was not permissible then is okay in our society now. Our fallen world wants us to believe that we come first, do what makes you feel good, or that Jesus is just someone who taught tolerance and we should love other people, and leave the story at that. They conveniently leave out Jesus’ words to sinners who came to be healed as he tells them “go and sin no more.” This idea of putting ourselves before God isn’t new. In fact, all you have to do is go back to the garden of Eden, when Satan temps Eve and asks “Did God really say ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” and upon Eve’s reply Satan says “You will not surely die, For God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Ever since then, that same lie has been repeated over, and over, and over again, maybe presented in a different package, but it’s the same thing today as it was at the time of the fall. Our sinful natures want us to do what’s right for ourselves, and just get along, and question God, the Creator, and prepare for Christ’s second coming on our own.