17 November 2013

Pastor Ball's Comforting Homily

[the week after the fire in the church]

Saint Paul Lutheran Church
The 26th Sunday After Trinity
November 16/17, 2013+
2 Peter 3:3-14
The Rev. BT Ball

“But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the Day of Judgment and destruction of the ungodly. 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.”

The Lord is patient toward you; he does not wish that you or anyone should perish.  The Lord is patient with us all.  We are the sheep of his fold, the righteous ones who will be on the right hand of the Son of man when he comes in His glory.  So then, he wants you and everyone to reach repentance.  Repent.  The fire last Sunday is but a reminder of this.   Everything will burn, flames upon flames. St. Peter wrote it by the Holy Spirit; it was by the Word of God that the earth was formed, and it was by the Word of God that the flood came on the earth as the Lord started again with water, because of the wickedness of men’s hearts, and it will be with fire that things will be made anew again.  By the same Word the heavens and the earth that now exists are stored up for fire until the Day of Judgment and the destruction of the ungodly.  The fire that has displaced us from our Church is to be a remembrance of what is already plain as day in the Word of God, all should reach repentance.”

Repentance for what?  Well not loving God of course, neglecting his Word, and neglecting His house and what happens there.  You can see how suddenly something can be taken away from you, something that is loved and hold memories of generations.  But the building is only as good as what happens inside of it and what comes out of it.  The Gospel is preached, the Body and Blood of Christ are administered,  what happens, hearts still are hard and cold, and have we not all taken the gifts of God for granted, that they will always be there?  They won’t, Christ is coming.  Repentance for what?  Cold and hard hearts do not love neighbor, there are those we have hurt and those we have failed to help, our thoughts and desires have been soiled with sin.  Who by honest examination, we have not let God’s love have its way through His Word and so our love for others has failed.  There has not been enough feeding those who are hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming of the stranger, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, at least by us anyway.  But there is plenty of that done by Jesus, more than enough and much more to come.  

Seeing the smoke and ashes flying from out of the church brings to mind, sin, mortality, of our need to repent, of the looming judgment of this world, the day that will come like a thief.   What remains is Jesus, His Word, His Baptism, His Supper.  His patience. He wants you to repent, and see how when everything else can be taken away, even a church building, he remains.  And how does he want you to see him?  In the heat of His Father’s wrath against your sin being taken out on Him in His cross.  The love he has for you, for he calls you his blessed by His Father.  Jesus Father blesses you by giving you His Son, and for as much as our hearts were cold and hard to Him and His Word and to those around, even more so is the heart of Jesus warm and full of love and forgiveness for you.  He seeks to restore and rebuild, not a building, they can be torn down, burned to the ground and they all will on His day, but what cannot be torn down or burned are the righteous sheep of Jesus’ right hand.  This is what you are, sheep of Christ’s fold.  

The Father turns your heart over and restores you by the blood of His Son, that He may have you as His own.  Jesus is here even in this gym, doing what we have not done, could not do.  He feeds the hungry with good things, he gives drink to the thirsty, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, He gives His Body to eat, His Blood to drink.  He welcomes you, a stranger to His Father’s House.  You are estranged no more from your Father, for Jesus has reconciled you to the Father.  He clothes you, once naked, with His own righteousness through faith alone.  How, you know. By Holy Baptism of course.   Do you want to see renewal and restoration of the Church?  Look no farther than to two little ones.  Lydia and Kylee, baptized, in a gym, but baptized all the same.  Water was used once to destroy the earth, now water is used to create life, water joined to the word of Jesus and filled with his death and resurrection.    And look again, through all these promises how Jesus comes to visit you in your own sickness and imprisonment to sin and death.  And the Son of God died and rose, visiting you not in judgment, but taking the judgment and setting you free from it.  Because as the Apostle wrote, He, “is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

Let us joyfully repent then.  The patience of God in Christ Jesus is yours.   Let us even joyfully give thanks for a fire that He sent, so that He might draw us ever nearer to Himself, by having us live only by the forgiveness of sins in the death of Jesus Christ, by teaching us to live only by His promises.  Let us joyfully give thanks for a fire that draws us ever nearer to each other that we might love one another – the sheep of Christ’s right hand.  The sheep of Christ’s fold cannot perish, fire is not their destination, it is not their end.  And you are a sheep of Christ’s fold.  He is always patient with you, His righteous ones.  He will always restore, always renew, always forgive until the day when all will be made new.  That day is coming where you will stand at His right hand.  So the most important question for us now is not, “When will we get back in the church?”  But rather, “O Lord Jesus, when will you return to make all things new?”  For “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.”  2 Peter 3:13-14    So here there is no spot, no blemish, no soot, no smoke, no ash no fire, but peace.  And we are at peace in the patience of Jesus.  Come quickly, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

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