Signs Of Hope And Comfort, Not Despair

Text: Luke 21:25-33

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

We are told that climate change is the biggest global threat in the twenty-first century.  Apparently, this will result in drought conditions in some areas of the world, resulting in a decline of clean drinking water, whereas in other parts of the world, there will be the exact opposite - heavier rain. 

If climate change does not destroy us, then there is always a chance that overpopulation will get us first.  We are told that the earth is heading towards a global suicide in the next 30-40 years – that the current rate of population will outgrow our food supply. 

Besides the weather and food, even though our economy has seemed to recover a bit, there is no doubt about it that our national debt and the devaluing of the US Dollar are things to be concerned with as well. 

Then there is oil.  We are told that we will eventually reach a point where we will no longer have any oil which will result in massive shortages, leading to a loss of fuel for heat, a loss of fuel for transporting goods and services, and so forth. 

And we cannot forget that there seems to be a battle brewing in every corner of the earth as if things are not bad enough!  There is constant news of radical Islamic terrorist attacks on virtually every continent and even here in America.  In fact, an attack recently occurred, right next door in a shopping mall in St. Cloud, Minnesota. 

In addition to everything mentioned thus far, new perversions are invented, and novel ways of sinning never before imagined are being redefined to be more socially acceptable to make perversion palatable.

Dear friends, these things are evidence that humanity seems to be devolving to the worse, not evolving to the better.  Earthquakes, hurricanes, famine, military mayhem, economic struggles, terrorist attacks, and social unrest all around us show us that things are not good on earth.

Keep in mind though that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth to sustain mankind by giving us our daily bread through it.  It was lovingly created by God’s powerful Word with an abundance to last beyond imagination.  But the sin of our first parents plunged both them, and us, into sin, decay, and death. And together with Adam and Eve, humanity has also taken creation down with us. 

And though God graciously continues to keep the stars in the heavens and the seas at the shores by His mighty Word.  The fact remains that this creation is broken and afflicted by our sin. 

We see the truth of this all around, and we feel it in our bones.  Things seem bad because they actually are bad.  Our world is tarnished by sin.    

In our Gospel reading, we hear more about this from Jesus.  We hear that when the heavenly bodies give signs when the nations are in chaos when the seas are roaring when the hearts of men fail that these things all point to the end of all things.  They point to the fact that there will be an end and that Jesus is coming back with power and great glory.  These events – these signs – should cause us to be aware that there is an end. 

Considering all of this, as Christians what are we to think and what do we do about this world that is broken and afflicted by sin, decay, and death? Different people have different ideas.

Right now, like false messiahs, politicians and Hollywood movie actors are on crusades to save the world if only you vote for them and follow their movement. 

On the other side of the spectrum, there are misinformed pastors who entice people to take their mind off everything negative in the world and believe in their happy-positive-good-feeling-sermons – to subscribe to what I call unicorn and rainbow theology.

And there are other people, who when faced with the realities of sin in this world, avoid and ignore the decay around them by medicating themselves with costly distractions.  They run to the bottle to drown out the sorrows of life – they attempt to hide from reality by drowning themselves in drunkenness. 

Still others, especially unbelievers, run around in fearful desperation against their own death and the realities of sin around us.  They scramble to try and offset the realities of death, and they scramble to blame everyone else for the sins of the world, while they pretend that they will live forever.  They deny the power of sin while clinging to sin at the same time, unto their na├»ve deaths. 

Regardless of our attempts to save the world with politicians and movie stars or our attempts to put our heads in the sand with positive-good-feeling-sermons or our attempts to hide within a bottle of whisky or our attempts to scramble around trying to offset the realities of life, creation has a way of sneaking up on us time and time again to show us that this world is stuck in sin.  The world is passing away.  The end is coming. 

Dear friends, there is no denying that this creation is broken due to sin; the signs are around us all the time.  Furthermore, this should not surprise us as Christians.  The reason why? We know from God’s Word that the wages of sin are death and that means death for us and creation as well.

But even as this wildly wobbling world tilts toward the end of all things, the frightening and frustrating things around us are not without divine purpose. 

Our merciful God uses the things in this world that cause us uneasiness as signs that point us forward to the Last Day, the end of time.  But unlike the world, these signs are hopeful comforting reminders for us Christians. 

Consider a moment the parable of the fig tree from our Gospel reading.  As soon as a person sees leaves on the fig tree, a person can understand these leaves as signs that summer is coming!  In other words, when we see these signs of destruction and calamity, we do not see them as if winter and destruction and death are drawing near, but rather we understand them as meaning that summer, life, and redemption are approaching. Whereas these uneasy events cause the world distress, they are there so that we might be filled with hope and peace that the Lord draws near for us.  They are to prepare us to meet our Lord Jesus. 

It is true that the world fears the day of the Lord and the end of the world.  They are filled with dread and despair, for the troubling events of the world function as signs announcing that Judgement Day is approaching and that there will be an end where the living and dead will have to give an account.  However, that is not true for you, Baptized Saints! 

You are Baptized Saints; you are baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection, which means that the signs and events around us point not to the stuff of dread and despair, but of joyful expectation.  Each sign is a blessed reminder filled with the hope that Christ our Lord is coming again. These signs and events of the world are like contractions of a mother giving birth – with each painful contraction the mother knows that the blessed child and precious life is drawing near. 

So, when we, the children of God, see the universe falling apart around us, little bits at a time.  We can know that the creation is grinding towards its final halt.  However, this is not a time for us as God’s people to cower in fear and despair.  Oh, no!  We do not shrink.  The reason why?   We know that it is not our Judge who comes to condemn, but our Redeemer coming to save us.  He comes to answer what we pray in the Lord’s Prayer: “Deliver us from evil.”  Indeed, He comes to rescue us from every evil of body and soul and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.

Is it frightening right now to see the decay of sin around us, the signs that point to the end?  Yes.  Will it be frightening on the Last Day?  I suppose.  But not fearful. 

Jesus Christ is our Redeemer because we are His.  He marked each one of you as His own in Holy Baptism.  He has clothed you in His righteousness, washed away your sins in His Word of Absolution.  And very shortly He will nourish your faith by feeding you His crucified and risen for you Body and Blood, for the forgiveness of all your sins. 

You are a forgiven child of an eternal kingdom, so you have no need to fear as the world wears out around you.  Those signs do not lead you to despair but to hope, because they point to the day that you long for, the appearing of your Lord Jesus Christ, your savior who comes to rescue you.  That is what the Last Day is to you and me who are in Christ – rescue and final redemption… rescue that came to us that Christmas long ago and final redemption that will come to us at the last day. 

Come Lord Jesus, Come.  Amen. 

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