What We Are Moving Toward

Third-Last Sunday of the Church Year 

Commemoration of Martin of Tours, Pastor

November 11, 2018

Matthew 24:15–28

We hope we are moving toward something better. There is enough pain and sorrow in this life that we hope there is something better. We hope our life will get better or there will be something better beyond it. Hoping for something better beyond this life seems like a fairy tale to the world. Even for us it can seem a distant hope. Being a Christian, a child of God, you hope your life is filled with blessings here and now and not just off in the distant future. 

So what are we moving toward? In the Gospel reading Jesus describes what we’re moving toward as destruction. It’s not a pleasant thought. Like most people, we prefer the teachings of Jesus that give comfort and make us feel better. The words He speaks seem to us bring us to despair. What we are moving toward is the end of all this. All that we see, all that we know of this life, will be gone. On the Last Day it will be destroyed. Up to that is the time before the end. We often call it the End Times.

People often wonder when the End Times will come. They are not yet to come, we are already in them. The Gospel reading for today takes a portion of Jesus’ End Times discourse from Matthew 24. If you read the rest of it you will see that much of what He describes has already occurred and continues to occur. We see no shortage of natural disasters and of mass killings like what recently occurred in Thousand Oaks. We never have to wonder if we are in the End Times.

Jesus has warned us. But in His warning there is comfort. We like to think of comfort as being told that everything will be okay. We know it’s not true and there’s no sense in pretending it is. But it is true that God works good out of evil. He accomplishes good things out of the bad things that happen in life. It’s even a comfort to know that all of this is coming to an ending at some point. This is a fallen world that is filled with sin and death. God is going to restore His creation to its original purity and goodness. That is what we are moving toward ultimately. 

But we need to understand this correctly; the way Jesus is teaching it. It’s not, I know things are bad now, but just hang tough, they will be great in heaven. He is teaching you and me that we have an existence in this life that is filled with hope and joy. We can see this by some examples. This day, November 11, happens to be the observance of a number of important days in our life together, as both Americans and as Christians. 

One of the days on the Church calendar is the commemoration of a man named Martin of Tours. Martin was a pastor and had an interesting story. He was born into a pagan family in what is now Hungary early in the fourth century. He became a Christian when he was young and began serving in the army. He began to sense God calling him to a church vocation, so he left the military and became a monk. He now thought of himself as a soldier of Christ. Eventually he was named bishop of Tours. This becomes really interesting in that, on St. Martin’s Day in 1483, Hans and Margarette Luther brought their son one day after he was born to the Baptismal font and named him after Martin of Tours. And so he became Martin Luther.

There is also a connection here for us today as citizens of the United States as we observe Veterans Day on this date. As with Martin of Tours who served in the army, we give thanks for all who have served our country in the Armed Forces. Many of us take for granted the freedom we enjoy in this country, but it comes at the price of the many who serve faithfully to defend our nation. Not all their duty belongs to the horrors of the battlefield. Much of the time, in fact, it is monotonous. There is a brief picture of this in the Old Testament reading today with the faithful servant of Moses Joshua, as he stood guard at the foot of the mountain while Moses went up to commune with God and receive from Him the two tablets of stone on which was God’s writing. 

When you serve in the Armed Forces and you go through pain and monotony and loss you see that you have to look beyond the present circumstances to the greater good. Your country and those you serve with. Sacrifice is at the heart of service to your country. It is what enables our nation to live in freedom. It is also a picture of what Jesus Himself embodies. He came not to be served but to serve. And He came to sacrifice, to give even His own life. He served us for the greater good, our salvation. 

The third observance of today is the Third-Last Sunday of the Church Year. Here we are around the middle of November and we are counting down the Sundays in the Church Year. As we near the end of the Church Year we naturally focus on the end. The end is coming and we don’t know when. It is coming and we need to be prepared for it. We need to be ready. We already know that life in this world is not easy and sometimes tragic. Jesus says that it’s even harder because many people will attempt to lead us astray. They will claim things that are not taught in Scripture but they will sound true. 

Jesus says that when He comes again on the Last Day all will know. There will be no doubt. People will not wonder. It will be clearer than anything could be. Until then we go on faith. And our lives as Christians can be a lot like those who serve our country where is a lot of monotony, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of loss. But we see beyond it. We see what we are moving toward. We are moving toward the end of all this to the restoration of what God originally intended. And we’re not just waiting around for it to happen. We are using what God has given us to help others see what God has for them as well. 

Think about all those people in the world who do not know Christ as Lord and Savior. They live in the same fallen world we do and struggle with sin as we do but without true hope. God places them in our lives so that we can show them the true hope that is in Jesus. We can show them that though this world is not as it ought to be, Jesus came right into it to rescue it. He made the supreme sacrifice, taking the sin of the world on Himself, so that we may be in the sight of God without sin. He suffered in a way we cannot comprehend, even though there is suffering in this life that is deep and intense. Jesus has endured what we could never imagine. 

The restoration of fallen creation will be without sorrow or pain. There will be no more hope because the reality is that we will be in the very presence of God Himself and experience His glory in all its fullness. 

You are not just moving toward this. You are moving toward the gifts and blessings your Lord gives you even now, here in this life, often. No matter how you may suffer or what turns life brings you, no one can take away your Baptism. You are a child of God, and that is forever. He loves you and will never forsake you. He has staked His name on it, placing His name upon you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 

No matter what you suffer or endure, you are given the very Son of God Himself for your strength and for the forgiveness of your sins. He gives you His body and He gives you His blood. He gives you Himself so that no matter what, you face everything with this greatest of all gifts and are moving toward the day you will see Him face to face. Amen.