Sermon for December 4, 2011

2 Peter 3:8-14 (Second Sunday in Advent—Series B)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

December 4, 2011

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our text is the Epistle Reading, 2 Peter 3:8-14:

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.

Medicines have them.  Cereals have them.  Batteries have them.  Coupons have them.  Warranties have them.  Even car seats have an expiration date!  So does the world.  And so does every person living in this world.  But the date isn’t printed or posted for Christians or for unbelievers to see.  Peter writes to the Church: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”  The Advent reality is that the world’s days are numbered.  Its expiration is part of the salvation story.  We have God’s Word on it.  The return of Christ is both promised and certain.  That expiration date of this world is already set.  When it comes, when Jesus comes again, the waiting will be over and the redeemed will rejoice in the “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”

But what is taking Christ so long?  What’s holding Him back?  Peter answers: God’s patience.  God doesn’t want anyone to perish, but that everyone should be brought to repentance and faith in Jesus.

But we get rather impatient with God’s patience.  “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness.”  Really?  Sure seems like God is being slow.  Some in Peter’s day were becoming impatient with God’s patience.  As they faced scoffers and persecution, it seemed Christ was never coming back.  Why was He dragging        His feet?

Well, here we are 2000 years later.  Are we some of those who accuse God of slowness today?  When we face pain and sadness and rejection, don’t we wonder where God is too?  Maybe we’re not looking for Christ to come and end the world, but at least to use His power—now!—to end our problems.  Just a few days before the Lord called Diane Reddin to Himself in glory, I stood at her bedside with her husband, Tom.  As we looked at this wonderful woman dying of cancer, Tom remarked how horrible it is that people die every day from that disease.  “Why does God allow such things to happen?”  How many times have we said similar things in our life situations?  We ask, in one way or another, “Why doesn’t Jesus just come and heal and make this world right again?”  We say, “It would be so much better if the Lord just returned.”

For 2000 years the Church has been praying, “Come, Lord Jesus, come.”  The world seems to be getting worse and worse.  At the very least we hear more and more of what is upsetting and distressing—murders and suicides, diseases, domestic abuse, and child abuse.  You name it, it happens, and sometimes life’s horrible things effect us and those we love.   Besides all that, what did our Lord Himself say were signs of the close of the age?  Wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, and famines.  We’ve certainly had our share of those over the years.  Then we have those not-so-comforting words, “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.” (Matthew 24:21)

Don’t you think it would be a good idea for the Lord just to take care of business sooner rather than later?  Wouldn’t the best thing for Him to do be to come back, destroy this world messed up by sin, and create a new heaven and earth?  Then our problems would be solved.  We know that when Jesus comes again we will be forever with Him in the resurrection.  We know that the new heaven and earth will be a place where there will no longer be sin, death, crying, mourning, pain, or suffering.  Why doesn’t God get this show on the road?

Because He’s patient.  He doesn’t want anyone to perish.  You see, God isn’t slow.  He isn’t dragging His feet nor is He taking His sweet old time.  His patience is for a gracious and glorious purpose, so that more people might come to know Jesus as their Savior, repent of their sins, and receive the forgiveness of sins so that they might enter into eternal life with Christ at His coming again.  Think about this.  If Jesus returned at our convenience, when we want Him to come, how many souls would be lost?  It is terribly selfish of me to seek the Lord’s return only for my sake and not consider those who are lost, those currently without saving faith in Jesus.  But God is not selfish.  He is not slow in keeping His promise either.  He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, especially for the lost who don’t know Jesus Christ.

Why did God send John the Baptist to proclaim a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins?  Because God loves sinners.  He wanted to rescue their souls in His Son Jesus by preparing them with repentance.  And the God who does not change desires the very same thing before His Son comes again in glory.  He doesn’t want any one of us to perish in our sins and so Christ delays His coming for the sake of those who don’t yet know Him.  Truly this is the time of God’s grace, not only to us, but to all people.

Imagine what God could do.  He could send His Son in glory to come and judge and destroy all sin and sinners.  What if you are someone who doesn’t yet confess Christ?  Some of you came to faith in Jesus later in life.  What if Christ had come back before you were saved by faith in Him?  You would have perished in your sins.  But that’s not how God worked things out.  He sent His Son to become a man in order that He might not condemn the world, but to save the world.  God kept His promise to save us from sin and death as Jesus died on the cross for us and for our salvation.  Because of Jesus, our iniquity is pardoned and “comfort, comfort” is announced to us!

Having won forgiveness and eternal life for you and me and for all people, Christ ascended into heaven.  “From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.”  Why has He not returned yet?  Because Christ would rather wait for you and me then punish us in our sin.  Jesus would rather wait until we have been received into His kingdom as His sons and daughters through the saving waters of Holy Baptism (as Mason was this morning).  Christ would rather wait for us to hear the Good News of Jesus, be led into repentance and faith by the working of the Holy Spirit, and so confess Him to be our Lord and Savior.

And the same holds true for all people.  Christ doesn’t return at your convenience or mine.  He doesn’t come back according to your need or mine.  He waits, patiently, so that others just like us would receive the gift of forgiveness and eternal life through faith in Jesus.

Once when Alexander the Great laid siege to a city, he had a great lamp set up, and he kept burning night and day as a signal to the besieged.  He sent word to the people in the city that while the lamp was burning, they had time to save themselves and to surrender.  But when the lamp was put out, the city and all that were in it would be destroyed without mercy.  So God has set up His light, the cross of our Lord Jesus, and He waits.  Year after year, He waits, inviting people to come to Him that they might have life and salvation.  And that’s where you and I enter into the picture.

People will only know about Jesus and His cross if we tell them.  People will only be led into repentance for the forgiveness of sins if we share the message of Christ crucified and risen for them.  In a way, you and I become “John the Baptists,” preparing people for the Second Coming of Jesus.  We do it as we live Christian lives in what we say and do.  We do it by sharing what Jesus did for us.  We get people ready for Jesus as we tell them about His great love and patience and His desire that everyone should be saved.  As we share the message about Jesus, we trust that the Holy Spirit will do the work of changing people’s hearts and bring faith to them through the hearing of this Good News.

God is so gracious in allowing the Church the time to share the message of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  God is so patient in allowing you and me the time for us to know Jesus by faith and also the time to share this gift of God with others that is ours in Jesus Christ.  Yet, always keep in mind that the day of the Lord will come like a thief.  It could be any minute or any second.  Let’s get the joyful task of sharing Jesus done quickly and efficiently.  When Jesus does come, we want many, many more people, along with us, to receive the new heavens and new earth where we who are righteous by faith will be with Jesus, the Righteous One, forevermore. Amen.

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