Nov. 30, 2014 Text: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Dear Friends in Christ,
Can you think of times in our world when people were not prepared? How about these: The German invasion of Poland in 1939. The Japanese attacking Pearl Harbor in 1941. The Islamic terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001. The tsunami that roared across the Indian Ocean in December 2004. Hurricane Katrina that devastated the Gulf Coast back in 2005. Tornadoes that come without warning. The recent snowstorm in New York State.
Waiting is one thing when we’re prepared. Waiting is quite another when we’re unprepared. And how can we possibly be prepared when we don’t know what’s going to happen and when it’s going to happen?
Today begins the new church year and the season of Advent. This liturgical season is all about preparation and . . . waiting. I’ve titled the sermon after a Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers song from the 1980’s. Even though it was probably not meant to be theological this is the line in the song right before the title. “You take it on faith, you take it to the heart . . .
“THE WAITING IS THE HARDEST PART”
Paul as he writes to the Corinthians acknowledges that they lack nothing. They were enriched in speech and knowledge. They have been given grace through Jesus Christ. The testimony of Christ was confirmed among them.
We also lack nothing. We have been enriched through God’s good gifts. Christ revealed, salvation completed, surrounded by the grace and mercy of the Savior.
Yet we are waiting. We are waiting for “the day.” (v. 8) When I say that, what do many of you immediately think of? You think of the day that is still twenty-five days away. You think of the preparations that still have to be made. You will not be caught unprepared. You know it’s coming so why worry.
It is true that many of us are waiting for Christmas and the blessing of celebrating and worshipping Jesus Christ, the revealed Son of God the Father, born in Bethlehem. But Paul is not writing about Christmas. He is writing about the Greater Day. The return of Jesus Christ. And so we wait. Strangers in a strange land.
While many may agree that “waiting is the hardest part” when it comes to Christmas, do you feel the same way about the return of Christ? Is waiting the hardest part? Or is it not knowing when this will occur the hardest part? Do you take it on faith? Do you take it to the heart? Is the waiting the hardest part?
With Christmas we have a fixed date. Even though we may flitter around wondering how we will accomplish all that needs to get done, we can look back on a record number of years where we accomplished what we wanted. The worry melts away like the spring snows because we have been through it before. The rhythm of life helps us to be prepared.
The opposite can happen with the return of Jesus. Since we do not know the date, we can worry about whether our faith life is in the right place. Do I fully trust Christ as Savior? Has my heart been prepared for His salvation? We may even begin to join the scoffers of the day who insist that Jesus isn’t ever going to return, because after all, where has He been as the world falls apart?
And still, we are ready. We are prepared. This is not we scurrying to the mall to get eternal clothes for Jesus’ arrival. We are not the ones hanging the stockings by the chimney in hopes that Christ would soon be here. Paul writes, “as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (vs. 7b-9)
We are not sustaining ourselves to the end. God is. He is preparing our hearts and our minds for the expected arrival back to earth of our Savior. We are not always faithful. God is always faithful. We are no longer guilty of our offenses but through the death and resurrection of Christ we are guiltless. “Jesus has cleansed His church by removing the sins of believers through His own blood on the cross. This cleansing has been applied to Christians through Holy Baptism.” (Eph. 5:26) When Jesus returns the church will be blameless because God who is faithful keeps it in the cleansing flow of His grace. It all God’s doing through the Word and the Sacraments. He has prepared us. Yes, the waiting is the hardest part because we cannot wait to experience the joy of being with the Lord forever.
Take it on faith. Take it to the heart. The return of Christ our Savior is the blessed part.