Nov 22nd - 10:30 Baptism
Friends, grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
I have to tell you that this is not really a sermon that a pastor ever really wants to have to preach. No pastor really wants to preach a farewell sermon. So, thinking about preaching this, then, and it being a farewell sermon, I was thinking about that word farewell and it kind of strikes me - I've never really given much thought to the word farewell, right - but it kind of strikes me, maybe it's obvious - but farewell is wishing to a person who is leaving, or to somebody who is leaving and somebody else is doing the staying, it's a wish to them to fare well.
Which makes me think that a Christian goodbye is something that should always, always, always draw our attention to the ultimate faring well.
See, the ultimate faring well is what we just heard in our Gospel reading. Jesus, on the last day, judging between the sheep and the goats. It's that parable that Jesus gives us of what that last day will be like, and it's a parable meant for comfort. It's a parable meant for excitement. It's a parable meant for joy. And it's a parable meant for expectation. Friends, the ultimate faring well is comfort. Comfort. Comfort that Jesus is the one who makes the sheep sheep.
You don't wait to find out if you're a sheep on Judgment Day as if you're wondering, "Alright, what side of the aisle am I going to land on? Which way is Jesus going to point for me?" You don't wait to find out if you're a sheep on Judgment Day because you know you're a sheep before Judgement Day. That's what Matthew 25 kind of gets at. Jesus says the King will say to those on his right, "Come you who are blessed by my Father" who are blessed, right? "Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For you gave food and drink and you welcomed Me and clothed Me and visited Me," right? Friends, inheritance is not earned.
Inheritance is not something you can earn. That's why they call it inheritance. See, works do not make the righteous righteous. Works give evidence that the people are already righteous. Works can only be done by people who are already sheep and how do you know you're a sheep? Well, that's an obvious answer, friends, because Jesus died for you to take all of your sins away, all of your sins on Himself and He rose again for you so that you might also rise again for eternal life. You were made righteous by Jesus's death and Resurrection. You are made a sheep by what He does for you and you know that what He does is for you because of baptism. What we got to witness today was the making of a sheep. It's what Jesus was doing for little Mack. Jesus has called Mack His own. He has told Matt His righteousness, the righteousness of Jesus belongs to him. Max is a sheep.
He has been made righteous and he will do works because he is a sheep. See, that's what baptism is. It's knowing that your judgment day has already been determined. That's why we said earlier that "Mack, you shall stand before the judgement seat of Christ without fear!" imagine that! Staring Jesus in the eyes while He's on his judgment seat and not trembling.
Friends, Jesus makes the sheep sheep. That's what Ezekiel 34:15 says. Jesus says "I, Myself will be the Shepherd of my sheep, and I Myself will make them lie down," declares the Lord God. Friends, Jesus takes responsibility for His sheep, and He does not wait until Judgment Day to do so.
Friends, that's comfort. It's the ultimate faring well. The comfort that we have as sheep. Friends, the ultimate faring well is excitement. Excitement that Jesus is working through His church. You heard it here again in Matthew 25. Jesus says "For I was hungry and you gave Me food. I was thirsty and you gave Me drink I was a stranger and you welcomed Me. I was naked and you clothed Me. I was sick and you visited Me. I was in prison you came to Me." And the righteous will answer him saying "Wait, Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You? Or thirsty and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger and welcome You or naked and clothe You? And when did we see You sick or prison and visit You?" And the King will answer them saying, "Truly, I say to you, as you did for the least of these my brothers you did it for Me." Friends, the sheep didn't even realize that they were serving Jesus all along. Which tells me that it was the Spirit working through them. They didn't even know what they were doing. But the Holy Spirit did and the Holy Spirit was working through His church. And that means that as Christians, we are people who want to serve like Jesus, and we are people who want to serve Jesus. And friends, that is exciting! It's exciting! That the Spirit is working through us, His church. We get to serve Jesus. Jesus is working through us! And you see that just here at Immanuel! Friends, this is exciting. I'm excited for Immanuel. There's a lot to be excited about at Immanuel! Do you know how much is going on? We run a school where every day, teachers and staff and students encounter the Gospel of Jesus together. That's awesome. Ruby's Pantry: did you know Ruby's Pantry broke another record yesterday? Over 355 shares that were given out to the community. That's the Lord working through this church. Friends, Stephen Ministry is working in people's lives and changing their lives and and helping them through grief and hardship. You've got other ministries: the Evening Guild, the Angel Tree - which I need to tell you about, by the way, Chris Volker is finally back. She's going to be at the bottom of the steps. She's going to be a Living Angel Tree herself. So, as you leave today, make sure you find her and she'll help hook you up with a kid to buy toys for. We've got Angel Tree. We've got the Quilters, the Altar Guild. We've got ushers. We saw Pat just help us with communion, right? We've got different boards who help lead our ministry. We've got our tech crew. We even have caroling. There's so many things that I can mention, but that is all the Lord working through this church.
I may not be here to see it next week, but you know what? Jesus is still around, and He's still going to be working. That's a lot to be excited for! There are good things happening here, because Jesus is working through His Spirit to work through you.
Friends, we serve out of excitement! Christ is coming for this world. Jesus is coming to renew all things, and guess what? We're not waiting for Him to renew all things. He's already started. And He's already started through you. That's exciting! Friends, that's the ultimate faring well. Jesus working through His church.
Friends, the ultimate faring well is joy. Joy. Joy because Jesus will gather His sheep.
You heard it once, hear it again. Matthew 25: "Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And He will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on his left." Friends, Jesus's sheep are scattered across time and space. There's many faithful who have come thousands of years before us, and there's many faithful who may come thousands of years after us. And there are faithful who are scattered all over the globe as we worship in Wisconsin this morning, there's Christians in Africa and China and South Korea, Australia. There are Christians scattered everywhere. When all the nations are before Him, something will happen that has never happened in the history of creation, the history of God's people. Because on that last day, gathered before the Judgment Seat of Christ will be all the faithful. Every single sheep of our Shepherd in the same place at the same time.
Never before has that happened where all the faithful are finally together with their Shepherd in the same time and place. For the first time in history, that will happen. And death - the great scatterer of the sheep that separates the sheep from sheep - death will be finally undone.
Jesus will overcome death because all the sheep will be together. Which tells me that no Christian goodbye is permanent. When a Christian tells another Christian goodbye, it is never ever permanent. Every single time a Christian says goodbye to another, it's only a "see you later." Because we know that that day is coming.
And friends, we see that even in communion. Where this supper that our Lord Jesus gave us of His body that nourishes us as His body: communion is this great pre-gathering of the sheep. That just like on that day, we today are going to partake of the same meal that connects us to all Christians who have come before us and all Christians will come after us. And when we take communion today, we are taking that same meal that Christians around the globe are taking: in Africa and Europe and China and Korea and Australia and all places. We are taking of the same body of Christ. We are gathered even before we're going to be gathered. Friends, that's joyful. Because we get to remember Ezekiel 34:15. Jesus says "I Myself will be the Shepherd of My sheep. And I Myself will make them lie down," declares the Lord. Friends, we will be raised in our bodies, reunited with families, reunited with friends, reunited with all the faithful, living together in the consummation of heaven and earth. Jesus will bring heaven and earth together, just like He gathers all the sheep together. We're going to be there for that. And friends, there's joy of knowing that we're going to know each other for eternity, and want to know the best version of each other for eternity. That's the joy that we have as Christians. It's the ultimate faring well.
Friends, the ultimate faring well is expectation. Expectation. That we expect that Jesus will give the inheritance.
Again, Jesus says the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Friends, you know what the Kingdom is. The Kingdom is the reign of Jesus over all things. Everything. Over all people, over all nations, over all our health, over all the things that we are provided by our Father. Jesus will reign over our relationships. He will reign over opportunities. He will reign over our entire lives. Jesus will reign. That is a Kingdom. And we look forward to the day where heaven and earth are one. Where Jesus reigns over this planet for eternity. Where everything is perfect. Everything is beautiful. Everything is sinless. There will be no sickness. Grief will be turned into bliss, and creation will be as it was meant to be. That's what we expect. We know it's going to happen. And that life will be like your life right now, except completely different. If you want to know what that life is going to be like, imagine your life, but everything goes right. And every way that your life is imperfect, where there is guilt, where there is failure, where there is pain, where there is sorrow, where there is regret, where there is shame, it will be the opposite. And it will be glorious. Because Jesus will reign over everything. Friends, the inheritance has been promised to you. Expect it. It's the ultimate faring well. It doesn't get any better than that. You don't just hope for it. It's not just a chance it'll happen. Expect it.
Friends, farewells are hard, because they feel like loss. It feels like you're losing something.
But know this, friends. Nothing good is ever lost in Christ. Nothing good is ever lost in Christ. And Christ who died for you and rose for you. You have everything.
Friends, I may be leaving. But Jesus is staying. He'll be here next week, folks. Come on back.
Friends, in Jesus, we have gained each other for eternity. And friends, we might see each other again this side of eternity, but the good news is that you and I will see each other for eternity.
That means that when Christians say farewell, we mean it. Because in Christ, we will fare well.
So, Immanuel, farewell.
I would like to ask you if you'd do me a favor and please stand, as I would like to give you the benediction:
Immanuel, may the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord look upon you with His favor and give to you His peace. Amen.