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. And all these things around us shall pass away, the earth, the moon, the sun! Not a single gadget from Ronco under your Christmas tree will last into eternity. The tree, and even the nativity set, will burn. Likewise, all of our excuses, all of our shallow, self-serving pretended complicated ethical reasoning and justifications, all of our imagined “gray” areas and “open questions,” all of our posturing, bravado, and vain political spin shall pass away! It will be stripped by the mighty winds of judgment. And standing there undeniable will not be some mewling, milk-toast, multi-faced god, no Allah, no Great Spirit of the American Plains, no gray-bearded kindly old man, but just Jesus. He, and His Words, will not pass away. He, His Father, and the Holy Spirit are one. He is the God of Abraham and there is none other.
And so, even now, already now, especially 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. Be warned. Be ready. And look up. Lift up your heads. Rejoice. It is your Redemption that draws near! It is glorious day for those in Christ their Savior.
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 must be protected from the weather. Clothing and shelter are vital to our survival. Can you imagine a pride of lions gathering around to roast the gazelle for fear of getting sick if they eat it raw? Or the cows making oatmeal of the grass to help them digest it? No animal needs his food cooked. No animal needs clothing. We are the weakest of God’s creatures. 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 are dirty. All that we can call our own is shameful. We have nothing in which to boast or brag. On our own, we cannot stand.
Now some would offer here slight comfort, shallow words to deny the storm. They would remove the teeth from the Law. They would tell you, “Peace, peace” when there is no peace. They would tell you what you want to hear: “Don’t worry. God can’t be like that. He is much more like a kindly, if slightly senile, old uncle. He just wants everyone to be nice and to get along.” Well, that sounds an awful lot like what they thought of Noah’s God before it starting raining. It sounds an awful lot like what Lot’s sons-in-law thought before Sodom was consumed. And why shouldn’t it? All of it is echoes of the serpent in the garden: “Surely, you will not die! That is just an old wife’s tale for foolish women and small children. You’re much too sophisticated to believe the Word of God!”
Repent. God’s Word, that which lasts and contains wisdom beyond the ken of man, is what tells us who God is and what He is like, not Oprah Winfrey or the Koran, or what it seems to me or to you that He should be like. And the Bible tells us that judgment is coming, that there is no other Name under heaven by which men are saved, that there is no other way to the Father than by the Son, and that the way to Destruction is broad and easy and obvious, while the way to Salvation is narrow and difficult and often at odds with the world. Repent.
But do not despair. Lift up your heads. 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 and what He has done. He has conquered death by submitting to it. He has given Himself as a ransom for the guilty. He has been lifted up in the Sacrifice that reconciles men to His Father. The tomb is open! The grave has lost its sting. Rejoice, O Christian, it is your redemption that draws near! There in the manger, on the cross, find honor and comfort that lasts beyond the morrow. In the objective, historical reality of God in the Flesh, laid in the manger, nailed to the cross, alive from the grave, find joy and peace which 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 sins of others. But He will also relieve you from sin’s sharpest pain: your own selfish stupidity, your own shameful, hurtful behavior. No longer will you hurt those you love and yourself with your sin. God, who does all things well, will make all things right. He will not abandon you. This world is not all there is. Judgment is coming.
And you shall stand and not be broken. You will not be tossed about. You shall stand in the coming Storm by Grace. Jesus Christ, Himself, is your Shield, your Fortress, your Protector and Defender. He makes you strong. In Him the storm is a gentle summer breeze, pleasant and refreshing. His blood has washed you clean, purified your heart and mind, removed your past. There is no shame, no regret, no guilt, no sorrow. His works, His deeds, His perfection, His life and His death stand in your stead, as your holy substitute. The requirements of the Law are fulfilled in, and for, you. You are forgiven. Get under this umbrella. For if you try to weather the storm on your own, to tough it out, or if you seek shelter anywhere else, you will wind up destroyed. Now is the hour of salvation.
The coming storm 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 will not pass away. For this is not the pastor’s word, it is Jesus’ Word. You will be righteous, innocent, pure 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 forever! You shall ever be one Body, one holy Bride, united not by men, but by God with, by, and in, His Word.
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! He loves you.
In +Jesus Name. Amen.
Rev’d David H. Petersen
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Ft. Wayne, Indiana