Sermon - Sunday after Ascension
Now that we have celebrated the ascension of our Lord this past Thursday, we turn our attention to the second coming of Jesus. In today’s Epistle from Peter, we hear him say, “THE end of all things is at hand”. Jesus is coming in the clouds to judge the living and the dead. Those who have been saved through the blood of the Lamb, to a judgement of reward for we are already forgiven and our sins are blotted out (Acts 3:19). Here the saints will be given their reward according to their works in this life. (So it does matter how long you have been a Christian, and what you have done with so great a gift.) And those who have unfortunately rejected the Son of God will be judged, sentenced, and condemned.
As we draw closer and closer to the day of Christ’s return, we as Christians must truly live the Gospel of Christ so as to lead as many as possible to salvation while there is still time. St. Peter tells us to be watchful, sober, and in fervent prayer. Today we watch and see the decline in true belief in the Jesus as the Savior of the world. Instead, we see the rise of “universalism” where God will save everyone regardless of what they do or how they live because God is love and thus could not condemn anyone. There is also “relativism”. We are told that there are many ways to God, if He exists at all, and thus we can come to God through Buddha, Hinduism, Islam, or no faith at all. And yet, no one realizes that the day of reckoning is drawing near as we text on our phones blissfully through life. Christianity is under attack, the Church is being persecuted, and our religious freedoms are being taken away. To many people go through life on autopilot, not giving anything of importance a thought. Our children are being raised in ignorance. Paul wrote, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (1 Tim. 4:1-3). There will come, it is prophesied, a great falling away. I fear that we are witnessing the “falling away” everyday.
St. Peter goes on to say in today’s reading, “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” Charity and love of neighbor is in short supply today. No one cares for even their own family much less their neighbor. 1 Timothy 5:8 says, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” It is our call to be charitable and loving in all things. We are to forgive everyone because God has forgiven us. Many will come to Christ through the charity that is shown them. You may be the only Jesus some will ever see. The loving touch that is given to someone in need is our calling. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 12: 7, “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.” And as we look to next Sunday’s celebration of Pentecost marking the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church, we pray for the wisdom and direction of the Holy Spirit, who lives inside each one of us who have been Baptized and sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit, to strengthen and guide us in our interactions with those in the world around us. Do not fear the end of days, but look to the heavens each day with rejoicing as we look forward to the “New heaven and new Earth” that Christ will bring at His second Advent. God is in control and has foreordained everything that happens. He knew, before the world began, that Adam and Eve would fall from grace and that only by the salvific work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary would He heal our wounded souls.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Bishop Richard Kalbfleisch
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