Last Sunday of the Church Year (Prop 29 – B)
November 22, 2015
“Hang in There”
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Epistle reading from Saint Jude, which was read a few minutes ago.
I have never been a big fan of the news. For a variety of reasons I don’t watch it on TV. I tend to read only the comics and the sports in the paper. I check Fox News on the internet a couple of times a day, but I usually only the headlines because they say all that needs to be said. You might be thinking that I have my head in the sand, but that’s not true. I’m very concerned about everything going on in the world. The truth is though that I’m sick and tired of bad news. I’m sick of war, violence and terror. I’m tired of crime, suicide and murder. I’m depressed by our leaders who lie and cheat and who don’t consider the best interests of their citizens. The world is going to hell and we’re just stuck watching it swirl down the drain. I suppose this isn’t what you want to hear today. I’m being a “Debby Downer”, or I guess a “Donnie Downer” and I know that. Usually, I’m a lot more upbeat, and I really should be, because every day we draw closer to the day that Jesus returns to take us all home. Our text today, written by Jude, a brother of Jesus, reminds us that these Last Days in which we live are evil days. And yet, we don’t wring our hands in despair rather Jude encourages us to hang in there because Jesus keeps us in the faith.
Hang in there. Boy that’s easier said than done isn’t it? Hang in there is what someone says when they’re trying to be encouraging when things aren’t going well for us. Hang in there and things will get better, right? I know I’m guilty of using this cliché, and I’m sure it’s not as appreciated as I would like it to be. And yet, where we tend to say it and it’s not always believed, when God says it we can trust Him with our whole heart.
Now, depending on who you are, you might not always believe it. We look at this world and we can see that it’s corrupt and godless. We’re surrounded by a culture of death. Abortion, suicide, murder and terror, and euthanasia (which is just a fancy word for assisted or encouraged suicide) show that life isn’t valued. We’ve lost sight of the powerful truth that human beings are created in God’s image and so we’re all precious to Him. He created us to be in a relationship with Him which was wholly different than the relationship He has with monkeys or dogs or cats. He created us to walk and talk with Him.
But this world has walked away from God. We now live in a culture of selfish self-indulgence. Whatever makes a person happy is all that matters. There is no right or wrong for society only for individuals, which means that everyone does as they see fit. We seek to please only ourselves, and not God. As a result we’ve lost track of what is God pleasing and that it’s far more important than what pleases us. As a result, there’s hostility towards God because His desires don’t match up to what we want. People don’t want to hear what He has to say because it doesn’t fit with what they want. As a result, Paul tells us in Romans that God is just letting people have what they want, and all the problems that come with choosing Sin over God.
The letter of Jude though isn’t just about what is happening in the world, it’s also about what is happening in the Church. What Jude saw in the Church is what is happening today – the Church is being infiltrated by those who would compromise the faith. Earlier in his letter Jude says, “Certain people have crept in unnoticed…ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” These so-called Christians were acting and teaching as if Jesus didn’t matter. By denying what Jesus taught, they were giving people to permission to do whatever they wanted because they were forgiven. They were saying, in essence, “God will forgive you, because that’s what He does.” But is that what God says? Or is what He says in Isaiah really what He says? “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good.” (Isaiah 1:16-17) The message of forgiveness is not a license to do whatever you want. We’re forgiven so with God’s help we seek to turn from our sins instead of just saying it’s okay God forgives.
Lies and false teachings have permeated the Church. If you have any doubt that it’s happening, just look around. In Ohio a group of Methodist, UCC, Baptists, and Episcopalian clergy, men and women, gathered around an abortion clinic to bless it. They prayed that God would bless them because they were doing God’s work. This isn’t anywhere near what God teaches. Instead He says, “There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to Him [including] haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood.” (Proverbs 6:16-17) Other churches teach that Jesus didn’t do any miracles, that God didn’t the world in six days, and that Jesus really didn’t die and go to Heaven. These are Christian Churches who have completely rejected God and His Word.
So we hang on right? We hang on to God in a world gone off the rails. But that’s not easy when our lives are also going out of control. Physical battles engulf us as we deal with finances, sickness and disease, family issues, and work woes. And on top of physical concerns many of you are struggling with spiritual issues like a faith that questions what God is doing, rejection by others because of your beliefs, and doubts about the forgiveness of your sins.
In the middle of all this, I can say “hang in there”, because today I share with you the strength to truly hang on, the strength that can only come from God. So listen to Jude and hear God say to you “hang in there”. Hang in there by fighting the good fight. Jude says, “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude is saying that we hang in there by fighting. Fight against those who pervert the Church for their own gain. Fight against those who twist God’s Word so it says what they want to hear. Fight for the Gospel. If we’re to remain in the faith we must preserve the faith. Don’t listen to the lies, listen to God’s Word. God’s Word has been handed down to you. From Moses to David to Jesus to Peter to Paul to Jude to you. His Word is faithful, His Word never lies, His Word was written for you.
So to persevere in these last days, to hang on knowing that Christ is coming soon, God tells us to build ourselves up in the holy faith. We do this by praying in the Holy Spirit, keeping ourselves in the love of God, and waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. It is impossible to hang on by ourselves, so God came to help us hold on. Paul tells us that our Lord is the God of endurance and encouragement, and He is with you. He will always be with you. He is the one who gives you faith, and He will sustain you in the faith. Even when things look awful, God is there encouraging you to trust Him and to endure until He calls you home.
Until we’re called home, or until Jesus returns in glory, Jude reminds us that it is our duty to help those who are struggling. He says, “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.” Be merciful and encouraging for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are weak in the faith, or who are struggling. Show mercy and love to those who don’t believe that through your love and witness they may come to know Jesus as their Savior. Be merciful, but be cautious, that the sin of the unbelievers doesn’t be your Sin, that their unbelief becomes yours.
And through this all, hang in there because Jesus is coming, and He’s coming soon. He is coming again, because He has already come to you. He came to you and brought you to faith. He gave you faith, forgiveness, and an untold number of blessings by His endurance in the face of temptation and the expected pain of the cross. He blessed you through His sacrifice on the cross, as He just hung there bearing God’s wrath for our sins. By His resurrection from the dead, He has given you hope. You will not die and stay dead, but you will live forever with Him because He has conquered death for you.
Hang in there because the Holy Spirit is working through the Bible for you. He is coming to you to strengthen you and to keep you in the faith. He comes to you in your Baptism, and He’ll continue to come to you all the days of your life. Jude says, “But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” He builds you up when you hear His Word, He strengthens you that you would persevere in the midst of whatever it is your suffering or dealing with. God hasn’t left you alone in the world to hang on by your fingertips. He is right there, helping you hang in there, do the work you can’t do, give you the help that you so desperately need.
Jude says it best in the last few verses of his short book, “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, 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.” He will present you blameless, holy, and forgiven to His Father, because He is coming back one day. He is coming back to end the violence, suffering, hatred, and Sin that has filled our world. He is coming back to bring you to Himself, to take you from this fallen world into His incredible glory and majesty. When things get hard, this is what we hang on to. That He is our Savior, He is our God, and He will one day deliver us from this world and take us into His Kingdom. As Jesus says in the next to last verse in the Bible, “Surely I am coming soon.” To which we reply, “Come, Lord Jesus! Come!”
In the Collect for this Last Sunday of the Church Year, we prayed, “Lord Jesus Christ, so govern our hearts and minds by Your Holy Spirit that, ever mindful of Your glorious return, we may persevere in both faith and holiness of living; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.” This is our prayer, and it is a prayer that our Lord answers. So hang in there! Hang in there for in these times of evil we can trust that Jesus has conquered all and that there is definitely something better coming along.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen