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Waiting in Faith November 22, 2015

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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Jude 20-25

Proper 29

November 22, 2015

 

Focus:  God will send His Son again.

Function:  That the hearers build up their faith as they wait.

Structure:  Walking through the Text.

 

Waiting in Faith

 

The nine months of waiting from conception to birth can be overwhelming, the emotions, the excitement.  Children waiting for Christmas morning, for the fun of shredding through the pile of wrapping paper.  Counting down the days to a retirement celebration.  Waiting in line for that big screen TV in the cold on Thanksgiving evening, or standing in the line at Fareway behind the customer that insists on digging through their bag to find exact change.

It’s the waiting game.  Sometimes the wait is worth every moment, like the look on your grandchild’s face after a long car trip to come see grandma and grandpa.  And other times it only brings suffering, like the test results from a recent doctor visit.

Waiting is something we’re very familiar with.  We know it, we expect it, and sometimes we’re even patient enough for it.  And as we’ve come to the end of the church year this weekend, we recognize the annual tradition.  Today we focus on the second coming of Jesus Christ as we wait for His return.

I suppose in the grand scheme of things that it makes sense.  It’s the end of the year, it’s the end of the calendar.  Christ’s return is the end of the world as we know it.  So I suppose it’s fitting.

And yet, are we really still waiting?  The Jews waited for nearly 4000 years for their Messiah.  And for those who recognized the Christ, we now call them Christians.  But there are Jews still today who deny that Jesus is the Christ.  Some of these Jews are still waiting, still waiting for their xysm, their Messiah, the Cristoj, the Christ.  They still celebrate the Passover, leaving an empty chair in case he comes to fill it.  Other Jews however, have turned the whole thing into a metaphor.  They no longer expect one to come to deliver them.  They’ve given up on waiting.

Paul wrestled with this in his ministry.  He had the privilege of announcing to many different cultures that Christ our King is indeed coming back for us again.  And He’s coming soon!  Some people heard this and gave up working.  Christ is coming soon, we don’t have to work anymore or prepare for tomorrow.  He’ll come back.

Some Christians have reacted like the Jews.  It’s been so long.  It’s been two thousand years…is He really coming back?  Maybe it’s just a metaphor for when we die, then He’ll take us to be with Him.  The 6th graders asked me this.  They didn’t know.  He’s really coming back?  Yeah, yeah, He is!  He promised.

Christ died on the cross and rose again from the tomb for a reason, for a purpose.  He lived that we might live.  He rose, that we might be with Him.  And He has promised, He has given His word that He will return, and that when He does, He will take us to Paradise, where we will live with Him forevermore.

Christ Himself gave us many of the texts that we use this day.  We could look to any of the gospels, we could hear Christ compare the last day to a thief in the night, or a master returning from a journey.  He gives numerous examples.  And we’ve talked about them before, and unless He returns first, we will talk about them again.

So instead today, I wanted to look at a book we often forget.  It’s only one chapter, the little epistle of Jude.  While we aren’t positive, many believe that Jude, like James, is a half-brother of Jesus.  And his short, little letter is pretty straightforward.  He’s warning us to watch out for false teachers and he’s giving us encouragement in our faith.

Our selection for today is short, but deep.  There’s so much that can be said, so much we could learn from just this paragraph:

20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.

 

It’s entirely about this time of waiting.  What do we do while we wait?  And it’s not to behave like the Thessalonians thinking we can just stop working and kick up our feet.  But it’s also not like the Jews, thinking He’s never coming at all.

Christ will return, of that we can rest assured.  So what are we to do while we wait?  And the answer from Jude is threefold: build up your faith, remain in God’s love, and snatch others from the fire.

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit.”  This is the lost art of discipleship.  I’m not sure we really know what it looks like anymore.  If we watch Jesus disciple the twelve, discipleship is sitting at someone’s feet and learning from them.  It’s taking the time to listen, to learn, to grow.  To take in, to ask difficult questions, to serve together, to see the life lived out.

Each and every one of us should have someone under whom we’re learning and growing in our faith.  That’s good and needed.  But we also should be sitting at the same feet the twelve did.  Taking the time to listen and to learn from Christ Himself in prayer and through the Word.

We recently had a comment on our website about how helpful the Faith at Home Corner is, that there are ideas for sitting at God’s feet, learning from Him, growing in your relationship with Him.  But they also remarked about the devotion and activity and how even though they don’t have any little kids, it was still a great lesson for them.  A chance to gather with other family, friends, or neighbors, to talk about God, and to put faith into action.

This week’s activity has two ideas.  Do a prayer walk in your neighborhood, simply ask your neighbors what you can pray about for them.  It builds relationships, and prayer works!  The second idea is that when you think of giving Christmas cards or gifts to neighbors this year, just slip in a little piece of paper that has our church’s Christmas worship times on it, inviting them to come along.

This all gets into the second point, “Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to everlasting life.”  Again, Jude’s letter warns about false teachers, that we need to avoid them.  See the first step, of growing in our faith and being discipled, helps us to recognize false teachers and to call them out on it.

But false teachers aren’t just people, they’re also things, they’re our hearts, our old sinful self, our busyness that gets in the way of us being discipled.  All too often we worship stuff and things.  The need to play every sport or instrument under the sun is a false god.  The need to say yes to every little thing asked of you is a false god.  The need to live beyond your means or to have just a little more is a false god.  These things prevent us from sitting at His feet, from listening, from learning.

And then lastly, Jude instructs us to “have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.”  To our brothers and sisters who are struggling, we are to have mercy.  That means taking the time to spend with them, to listen to their hurts, their doubts, and to walk together with them, pointing them again to the cross.  Taking the time to disciple them.

To those who are under the influence of false teachers, snatch them out of the fire.  When Christ returns, that’s that.  That’s the end.  It’s like “game over.”  There are no more chances.  When we recognize this, that those who have no relationship with Jesus Christ will be going to hell, having mercy on them changes everything.  It changes the way we look at life.  If Christ is going to come back this evening, what am I going to do with my afternoon?  If He’s coming back on Thanksgiving, what am I going to do with my week?  It gives us urgency to share the good news, to indeed snatch others from the fires of hell.

And then Jude concludes, “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”

That’s what we’re waiting for.  For the Lord of the universe, Jesus Christ, who alone is capable of washing away our sins and presenting us before the Holy Judge as perfect and blameless, we’re waiting for Him to return in all of His glory.  We’re waiting for Him to come back for us and to take us to be with Him in the Paradise He is preparing for us.  It will be beautiful beyond description.

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