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When the Lord Comes Near -- He Humbles Himself

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That the believers would be found blameless and holy when Jesus comes again in glory.

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So how was your week last week? I have to say that I had great week taking off for some needed R & R, and Tanya joined me. We enjoyed spending some time driving over to Stockholm for a peanut butter sandwich and pie at the pie shop. Another day, we drove over to Minneapolis to visit Tanya’s mother, did some shopping, and had lunch a Chick-fa-A. We even spent a day hitting a few Wisconsin cheese shops. By the way, the shop in Thorp, right on Hwy 29, has an amazing Hatch Chili Cheese. I highly recommend it. Yet all the while I was away, my thoughts and prayers were directed to you all.
I can tell you that I have the best job in the world. You, the people of God, have called me to this work. Yes, there have been weeks in my ministry which have not always been that good. Tough weeks. Too many funerals. Too many things to do and not enough time. But this is the Vocation to which I’ve been called; and please know that I “count it all joy” friends, that I have the privilege of serving in this station the Lord has called me to do.
And I know that you stations in life are very similar: Husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, neighbors, citizen, and on and on I could go. They are full of good times and not-so-good times.
Of course, it’s been that way from the beginning.
Take our first parents, Adam and Eve.
Their stations in life were fantastic — take care of the creation God had given them. “Be fruitful and multiply” Eat anything you want out of the Garden except for the fruit of the tree in the center. That was their responsibility in their vocation.
And you know the rest of the story.
They disobeyed. And the resulting curse changed the concept of vocation and responsibility all together.
The creation they were to take care of was radically altered from sin’s entry into the world. Doing the work God has assigned is going to fight back with “thorns and thistles,” not to mention the labor of child birth.
They were going to need a Savior (Gen 3:15)
And this Savior would redeem all things, and promise to restore and make all things new again.
God had promised them, and all of God’s people something new — the restoration of all that sin has corrupted. Yet, as we wait for this final promise to be fulfilled, God in His grace and mercy gives us the ability to do what our message calls for today, “Watch and Keep on Watching.”
So, as we “Watch and Keep on Watching” our Lord is calling us to:
Be Vigilant
Focus on Your Responsibility
Await the Lord’s Return.

Be Vigilant

The admonition of today’s Gospel reading is: “Stay Alert” — “Watch Out” — “Be On Guard” — Latin New Testament “Vigilate” — Greek New Testament “Gregoreo” or Gregory. I sent a collogue in ministry an email the other day telling him I have come up with a great sermon title; I told him that I was leaning toward — “Be a Gregory!”
The reason for this watchful attitude, or vigilance is given. The specific time (ὀκαιρός), of the end time that Jesus has been talking about in this entire chapter of Mark 13, relating to his second coming is upon us, so we must be ready.
Wars and rumors of wars have happened.
Persecution of the faithful is still taking place, including Suffering and tribulation.
False prophets and messiahs have appeared.
Jesus said these are the beginning of birth pains.
Jesus’ words close this chapter with words of watchfulness— vigilance. And He illustrates this in verse 34:
Mark 13:34 NIV84
34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
The Man is absent from his home for a time (ἀπόδημος); perhaps away on business. At the time of his departure the Man gives instructions to his servants to take care of household matters, and manage his affairs while he is gone. Each of the servants has an assigned task — a vocation. Especially the doorkeeper is to keep watch, so that he can alert the others when the master makes his return and also admit the master when he arrives.
We know from Scripture that the Master of the house is Jesus. His servants are his followers. The Master who leaves refers to Jesus’ ascension into heaven. The task assigned to the servants refers to the many directives given by Jesus to his Church prior to his ascension—to use his means of grace wisely — that is, His Word and Sacrament — to live as children of a heavenly Father, to spread his gospel at every opportunity. Especially the watchmen of the church are to warn Christians to be ever on the alert and prayerful, ready to receive the Lord at his second coming, whenever that may be.
What’s interesting is the fact that each servant is given a special assignment (ἑκάστῳ τὸ ἔργον αὐτοῦ) while awaiting the Lord’s return. Friends, this means all of us. It also means that there is no such thing as an inactive follower of Christ, or a dead member of his body.
Christian duties and responsibilities vary. Gifts differ as well. But Scripture repeatedly points out that each member is to function according to his station in life to the glory of God and to the welfare of others—whether that be as a father, mother, son, daughter, child or senior citizen, executive or blue-collar worker, teacher or student. Luther’s Small Catechism outlines much of this in the Table of Duties.
This even includes those who are seemingly helpless and dependent on others. They can still set a powerful Christian example for others of faith and patience, while awaiting the Lord’s return. I am talking about our elder brothers and sisters who think they are too old, or too disabled to offer anything to the body of Christ. This is simple and straightforward. It offers comfort to believers who feel useless, unimportant, lost in the shuffle of humanity. If you still have breath in your lungs, God has you in this station of life to serve while you await Jesus’ return.
Our Lord and Master has ascended to the Father’s right hand, and He is ready to return at any time. The signs of the end have been fulfilled. Christ’s coming may be today or tomorrow, or it may be 100 years from now. The time is unknown. Therefore, our task is to watch for it, keeping it at the front of our minds — to be vigilant — letting it guide the way we use the time we’ve been given. Jesus will come again at the end of time in a revealed way with great power and glory.
Yet, the apparent delay in Jesus’ return causes some to be indifferent toward their Christian responsibilities. They know in their head that Jesus will come again as He promised, but this knowledge is not connected with faith. As a result, indifference rules the day in their Christian life.

Take Care of Your Responsibility

We, along with our Christian brothers and sisters, have been patiently waiting nearly 2,000 years for Jesus’ promised return. Though Jude from our Epistle urges us to even clothing stained by sinful flesh (Jude 23); yet for some, they become indifferent due to the apparent delay in our Lord’s return, and this indifference is fueled by their sinful flesh, the very thing we are supposed to hate. They think they have time; or that there are more important matters on their plate at the time. But, the Christian life is very different from the life of people in the world. Some even hear the words from the Prophet Isaiah, but don’t really take them to heart. Let me remind you what Lord said through him. It speaks of the end of this world as we know it:
Isaiah 51:6 (NIV84)
6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
look at the earth beneath;
the heavens will vanish like smoke,
the earth will wear out like a garment
and its inhabitants die like flies.
So, what are we to do? Our first responsibility is to be faithful Christians in the stations of life God has placed us. St. Paul outlines some of this in Colossians 3: (NOTE the imperatives!)
English Standard Version (Chapter 3)
8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
English Standard Version (Chapter 3)
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
English Standard Version (Chapter 3)
18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.
20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
21 Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
22 Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.
Yet, the trials some face in this life makes all of this so much more difficult.
I try to do a good job at work, but I’m not appreciated.
My husband is always harsh with me and he’s never around, and so why submit to that?
My parents just don’t understand me.
I’m not sleeping well, and I just don’t have leisurely time to read the Bible.
It is so hard to be loving when people are so hateful and manipulative.
I know God has called me to enter into His presence — urging that I not give up “meeting together as is the habit of some...” (Heb 10:25) — that the Means He has provided is the Divine Service so He can give me His gifts, but the world and my family urge me to stay away, for fear that I may get sick. I’ll be fine; I’ll just watch church on my computer or TV.
For some, we know that living the Christian life is the ideal. We know there is a Jesus. We know that He is coming back sometime, and this world will be destroyed. And because life can be overwhelming some say to themselves: I believe and I’m baptized, isn’t that good enough? I’m just going to try to live the best life that I can and hope for the best.

Await Your Lord’s Return

Nevertheless, Holy Scripture tells us, “And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven” Mark 13:26-27. The standard for Christ’s return is the Word of God.
And He invites us to confess — that is repent — that we know
We have ignored His admonishment of being vigilant.
We have let things of this life get between us and His Word
But know this dear friends: God, our Heavenly Father, has sent Jesus our Great High Priest to pray for us on our behalf; that His shed blood is the remedy for our sin, and it is also the power for us to remain vigilant, watchful for the Lord’s return, while we take care of our responsibilities He has given us to do. What are they?
To be vigilant Physically
To be vigilant Spiritually
He says, “Come you labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt 10:28-30).
He also says, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy...” Jude 24.
But there is more. Remaining vigilant / watchful, the Holy Spirit gives us something more:
Boldness to “approach the throne of grace so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb 4:16).
Boldness to receive grace
Boldness to receive mercy
Boldness to be forgiven
Boldness to receive His gifts
Boldness to remain watchful as we await the Lord’s return, not because I say
God has to forgive you, given you grace, or gives you mercy take you into His eternal home when He comes again with great power and glory.
But because He says so. And He is always faithful to His Word. He has kept every one of His promises in the past, and He will keep this last one too — that He will keep this one too:
“And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven” Mark 13:26-27.
That, dear friends, is the eternal promise that God has for His people. The trials and tribulations we face in this life will finally be over; as the Apostle John reveals in his revelation:
Revelation 7:13–17 ESV
13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. 16 They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, God is redeeming all things and restoring all things as He promised. You don’t need to worry or fear life today, nor do you need to worry or fear the end of this world, even death. The world worries and fears these things, but the Christian does not. We simply cling to the Word of our Lord.
So, “Be Vigilant” as you await His return by receiving His gifts today. He gave his promises, bought by his blood, to keep you, and sustain you in the faith and make you fruitful, as you “Take Care of Your Responsibilities”, while you “Await the Lord’s Return.”
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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