When these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads; Luke 21,25-36

Data postării: 10.12.2019 17:08:40

Populus Zion Sunday - The Second Sunday in Advent, Rev. Sorin H. Trifa

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Today we are on the second Sunday of the Advent Season, a Sunday named in our Church calendar: "Populus Zion". The translation of this Latin name is "the people of Zion" and comes from Isaiah 62,11 where we read thus: "say to the daughter of Zion:“Behold, your salvation comes". Because I talked about the Advent season, I would like to take a look at this special season of the Church year. Advent season is a season of preparation for the Christmas day. So, the central point of the Advent season is the Feast of the birth of Jesus Christ. This Sermon is based on Luke 21,25-36.

25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26 people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” 29 And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. 34 “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

The Christmas day speaks of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ from the Virgin Mary in a stable in Bethlehem. About this, Scripture tells us our Savior came into this world in a humble way and grew as humble man in a city called Nazareth, being known as "the carpenter, the son of Mary" (Mk 6:6). As we go through the Gospel, we learn that Jesus continued his humble existence, as we read: "foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head" (Lk 9:58). The Prophet Isaiah gives us a detailed picture of this, saying: “he was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Is.53,3). During this time, Jesus preached the good news of the Gospel which says: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jo.3:16).

Paul tells us about the mission of the Son of God on this earth, saying: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree" (Gal.3:13). We read in the Gospel that for a time people followed Jesus Christ, but after a time he was rejected by them, crucified, and he died on the cross, as Paul tells us: "whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom.3: 25-26).

The story of Jesus first coming does not end at the cross or at grave. The Scripture tells us that the Son of God has risen from the dead, as he himself told to his disciples, saying: "[the Son of Man] will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise” (Lk.18:32-33). After Jesus resurrection on the first day of the week, Luke tells us: "he presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God" (Acts 1,3). Forty days after the resurrection, the Creed of our Church testifies that the Lord Jesus Christ ascended to heaven, to the right hand of God.

But the story of Jesus Christ does not end here, too. In the Gospel of John we read the following promise of our Lord Jesus Christ: “I will not leave you orphans. I will come to you” (Jo.14:18). Our Church testifies our Lord Jesus Christ will return to judge the living and the dead. But this second coming of Christ will not be like the first coming. If the first coming was an unknown or a mysterious one, the second coming of the Lord will be accompanied by special signs. Every man will be witness to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ about which the Scripture says: "he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him” (Rev.1:7).

The Gospel for today is a part of a larger chapter in which our Lord speaks about the end of time, which is the same with his returning in glory. About the signs that will accompany this event we read: “will be signs in sun and moon and stars and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves" (Lk.21, 25). These signs of the Kingdom of God coming will affect the entire planet because the Kingdom of God will extend not only to a city, a nation or a region but to the whole earth. About the day of Christ's return, Scripture is toking as a "day of judgment". About this day, Paul tells us: "in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2Thess.1: 8-9). Scripture tells us that this return of our Lord Jesus Christ will be received differently by people. About the unprepared one, Scripture tells us they will receive the day of the Lord with horror. We read about this aspect thus: "people fainting with fear and with foreboding" (Lk 21:26). About those who are ready for the return of Christ, the Lord says to them: “now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near" (Lk 21:28).

The question arises here is how can we be prepared to see Christ returning in glory? How can we be sure that all these events accompanying the Lord's return will cause me to raise my head because the release is near but they will not terrify me?. Regarding the answer to this question, people have tried to come up with many theories over time. The majorities of the sermons that debate this idea emphasize with the Law of God and have led the Gospel of Christ to the periphery. However, the reality of Scripture is a completely different one.

My brothers in Christ let me tell you that no man can be prepared to see Christ coming in glory as long as he does not see Christ in his glory hidden in the Word of Gospel and in the Sacraments. In other words, no one is prepared for the coming of the Kingdom of God as long as he does not see the Kingdom of God hidden in the Liturgy of the Church of Christ.

Before his ascension, Christ made a very important promise to us, saying: "I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Mt. 28:20). These words of our Lord Jesus Christ tell us that starting with Jesus ascension to heaven and until his return to glory, the Church did not worship to an absent God, a distant God, but to a God who was and is always present with his Church. In the Liturgy of the Church, our Lord Jesus Christ fulfills this promise and allows each of us to taste the Kingdom of God. Yes, the Kingdom of God is not something distant from us, but on the contrary, this Kingdom of God comes to us in every Church Liturgy because where Christ is, there always the kingdom of God is. Remember that Christ himself commanded to his disciples to preach to the Jews, saying: "The kingdom of God has come near to you" (Lk 10:9). Where Christ is, there always is the fullness of the Kingdom of God but not just parts of it. In the Church Liturgy we worship to God along with angels, archangels, and all those in the Kingdom of Heaven, among them being our dear ones who have gone to the Lord. Thus, my brothers, whenever we participate in the Liturgy of the Church of Christ we can say with great conviction that we are deeply involved in the Kingdom of God.

Of course, in the Church of Christ the Kingdom of God does not come to us in a plenary way, as it will come at the end of time. In the Church of Christ we see the Kingdom of God not through our biological eyes but by the eyes of faith. We do not see the Lord face to face as we shall see him when he returns as Isaiah says: "your eyes will behold the king in his beauty" (Isa.33:17). In the Church of Christ, the Lord is always real and full present with us, but this presence is hidden in the Word of the Gospel and in the Sacraments. Regarding our Baptism, Paul tells us this: "as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Gal.3:27). This is because in our Baptism, Scripture says, each of us: "were baptized into the death of [Christ]" (Rom.6,3) and also Scripture says: "if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him” (Rom.6,8). In our Baptism we were put into a new life with Christ. So, we belong to Christ; we are united with Christ and live through Christ. The name of God is over each of us because of our Baptism and each of us in this way has God as the Father but not as a judge.

In our Baptism, God places us in his family with all those who have God as Father, all of them becoming: "our brothers in the body of Christ" who is His Holy Church. In his Church, God feeds our spiritual life through the Word of Gospel, read and preached, about which Paul says: "the Gospel, it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom.1:16). The Gospel tells us all God has done for us in and through Christ. The Gospel connects us, by faith, with the incarnation of Christ, with the life of Christ, with the teaching of Christ with the wonders of Christ, with the sacrifice of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins, with the resurrection and the exaltation of Christ. The Gospel works faith in us, as Paul says: "the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith" (Rom.1:17).

Also, my brothers, in the Church of Christ, God nourishes us continuously with the very true body and blood of Christ. Christ himself comes with His body and his blood hidden in the bread and wine of Lord’s Supper to bring us the forgiveness of sins and the eternal life, as the Lord Himself says: “whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him" (Jo.6:54-56). Christ gives himself to us as food and drink and this is what Paul calls: "the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints [...] which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col.1,26-27).

My sisters and brothers in Christ, in the Church of Christ we are already experiencing the real presence of our Savior and of his Kingdom. But we experience the real presence of Christ hidden in the Word of Gospel, in the water of Baptism and in the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. Millions of Christians are looking today to our faith and laughing. They believe the faith we confess is a primitive one and no longer responds to the post-modern standards of Christianity, a Christianity that is no longer guided by an old book as it is the Bible, but has developed its own tools of knowing God, the human emotions and reason. By filtering the Word of God in emotions and reason, the post-modern Christianity failed to see God. Even the first coming of Christ became for most Christians today only an emotional story and nothing more, like his entire life, his death as a sacrifice for sin, his resurrection and exaltation. When they read the Word of God, most Christians see only a story about God, but not the living Word of God that gives life according to Paul, who says: “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2Tim.3,16). Starting from here, everything is held in chains. Because they do not believe Scripture as being the living Word of God, many Christians reduced Christmas to an emotional story in which Jesus is not anymore the main character. Looking at the Baptism, many Christians see only simple water and in the Lord’s Supper they see only simple bread and wine. They no longer see Christ present in the Word and in the Sacraments in His Holy Church. In fact, the Church has been reduced to a gathering of people who come and discuss about God having as foundation a so-called "personal relationship with Christ" but in which Christ is not really present.

My brothers and sisters, because we are taste the Kingdom of God here and now, our souls are waiting for the fulfillment of God's promise. Therefore, we receive the signs of Christ's return with joy and faith. This world still makes us to suffer, the devil is still attacking us, the false prophets are trying to destroy our faith by tempting us with all kinds of false teachings, but we know that our running in this sinful word is almost to the end, and there, at the end, awaits us "the crown of eternal life" promised to us in Christ. That is why we won't be scared when the signs announcing the coming of Christ will appear, because if for the unbelievers they announces the end, for us, those who are baptized in Christ and who believe the Gospel and eat and drink the body and the blood of our Lord, is the beginning of the eternity with Christ, as Paul says: "we will always be with the Lord" (1Thess.4:17). Therefore, my brothers in Christ, I will finish my sermon by reminding you the Paul’s words: “encourage one another with these words” (1Thess.4:18).