In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
The storm of Judgment rages on the horizon. Its thunder peals in the distance. Open your eyes and ears. See and hear that the Day is quickly coming. You cannot avoid it by ignoring it. All these things around us shall pass away. Not a single gadget from Ronco under your Christmas tree will last into eternity. The tree, and even the nativity set! will burn. But one thing will not pass away – the Words of Jesus. And so, even now, already now, as you smell the rain in the air and hear the ozone crackling all around you, seeing signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars, know that the storm is coming. Look up. Lift up your heads. Rejoice. It is your Redemption that draws near!
We stand puny in any storm. We are weak against the winds of a hurricane or a tornado. For all of our technology, all of our cleverness, nature still overwhelms us. We cannot control it. We cannot harness the thunder nor ride the lightening. Rather, they would destroy us. Nor can we tolerate it too hot or too cold, too wet or too dry. We must be protected from the weather. Clothing and shelter are vital to our survival. We are the weakest of God’s creatures. No animal needs his food cooked or needs clothing. We survive only by the providence and constant care of God. So, likewise, we stand -weak and puny – against the Law. We must be sheltered. Our works, our deeds, our righteousness are blown away like dry leaves in the rushing wind before a thunderstorm. They are no match for the strictness and strength of the Law. They do not measure up. Against this mighty wind we are exposed and vulnerable. Our hearts are sleepy, our minds, dirty. All that we can call our own is shameful. We cannot stand.
We have nothing in which to boast or brag. Do not try to compare yourself to others. The seeming substantial difference between a dry, crackling leaf and a dry, crackling twig are unnoticed by the howling wind that sweeps both away. You may think yourself honorable, upright, and decent, behaving like John Wayne in your favorite film, but that is not how others see you. Repent. You stand in your self-righteousness and condemn those around you: “Oh, he thinks he is better than everybody else. He is a snob, a jerk. I’m glad I’m not like him.” But you are! You think you are better than others who think they are better than others! You are guilty of the very thing you hate about them. In your presumed wisdom you look into the hearts of others and discern their evil motives – as though you were God. Repent. You do not have an inside track to God. God does not love you because He knows that deep down you really are good. He knows just the opposite, that deep down, the real you, is petty and shallow, self-serving and ambitious, filthy and greedy. You are worse than those you condemn. The only proper emotion regarding your works is shame. Repent, for your sleepy heart and dirty mind, for being slow to love and quick to judge.
Turn from your evil ways and turn toward God. Don’t cry for justice. Don’t seek fairness. Cry, instead, to the God of patience and comfort, for mercy. Learn again to fear the Name of the Lord. Learn to admit that His ways are not your ways, or His thoughts your thoughts. Submit to the reality that He is God, that He is not impressed with you and owes you nothing. And in the submission, find peace. For the Sun of Righteousness has arisen in Bethlehem and has gone to Jerusalem to procure your salvation. He has come with healing in His wings. He has come in mercy. He does this not because of who you are, but because of who He is. He is love. He loves to love you. The tomb is open. Death has lost its sting. Rejoice, O Christian, it is your redemption that draws near! There in the manger, on the cross, find honor. In the objective, historical reality of God in the Flesh, laid in the manger, nailed to the cross, alive form the grave, find joy and peace that lasts. And soon that great and dreadful Day shall be upon us. And what a glorious day it will be! Finally, the Lord will relieve you not only from the chaos and suffering of this world, caused by the sin of others, but also from sins’s sharpest pain, your own selfish stupidity, your own vain posturing, and your own shameful, hurtful behavior. No longer will you hurt those you love and yourself with your sin. God has honored you by becoming one of us! He has not left you to your shame. He has rescued you. In Him you are free.
And so we shall stand, in the coming storm of Judgment, by Grace. Jesus Christ is our Shield, our Fortress. He makes us strong. In Him the storm is a gentle summer breeze, pleasant and refreshing. His blood has washed us clean, purified our hearts and minds, removed our past. There is no shame, no regret, no guilt, no sorrow. His works, His deeds, His perfection, and His honor stand in our stead, as our holy substitute. The requirements of the Law are fulfilled in and for you. You are forgiven. If you don’t get under this umbrella, if you try to weather the storm on your own, to tough it out, you will wind up destroyed. Be broken on the Stone the builders rejected and He will put you back together again.
The storm of Judgment rages on the horizon. Its thunder peals in the distance. Open your eyes and ears. See and hear that the Day is quickly coming. All these things around us shall pass away. But one thing will not pass away: the Words of Jesus. The Word of Baptism, of Absolution, of His last will and Testament in the Cup – these will not pass away. The Word that called you to life in the waters of Holy Baptism, that gave you God’s Name, will not pass away. You will be His forever. The Word of forgiveness that declares you righteous. This is not the pastor’s word. It is His Word. It will not pass away. You will be righteous forever. The Word that makes bread and wine into His Body and Blood and unites you with Him in Grace and love, that word, too, shall endure. You shall feast with Him forevermore in heaven, ever one Body, one holy Bride. And so, O Christian, even now, already now, as you smell the rain in the air and hear the ozone crackling all around you, seeing signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars, know that the storm is coming and rejoice in it. Find refuge in that which won’t pass away: His true and certain Word. Find shelter in the holiness bestowed in His Body and Blood. Find honor in His wounds and life in His death. Look up. Lift up your heads. Rejoice. It is your Redemption that draws near! You have nothing to fear.
In +Jesus Name. Amen.
Rev’d David H. Petersen
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Ft. Wayne, Indiana