Friday, May 30, 2014

Ascension has not changed the eternal nature of God.

HE IS STILL IMMANUEL

The end of all things is near, therefore keep a sound mind and pray soberly. 1 Peter 4:7

St. Peter wants us to remember that the end is near. Don’t ask when because no one knows, nor is it even important.  What we do know, however, is that our Lord’s incarnation marked the “beginning of the end” and that His Second Coming will be the   “end of the end.”  At that time He will appear with great power and glory to pronounce judgment in His church’s favor, and to establish a kingdom of rest and quietness for us.  So rather than waste our time playing theological guessing games, as so many radio preachers like to do, let us consider what is most important: that the end of all bad things, and the beginning of all good things is always near because Jesus is always here.

Jesus came and He’s coming again, but what we need to rivet our attention to above all is that He is with us now, not just in our pious imaginations but in the ways and means which He established, which are certain and reliable, so that no one ever need wonder where divine mercy is to be found.

First He is present with us in the Scriptures, not to state the obvious but when we hear the Word of God we are hearing the Word of God, the Word made flesh, even Jesus our Lord, who dwelt among us full of grace and truth.  The same Christ is still present with us today in the church’s teaching and preaching, still imparting grace and truth to sinners even as He did when He walked the earth.

Secondly He is present in holy baptism.  In this primary Sacrament He makes us one with the Triune God, delivers us from death and gives eternal life to all who believe.

Thirdly He is present in absolution.  Though the pastor says the words it is Jesus Himself granting the pardon, and imparting blood-bought remission so perfect that it can forgive any sin, acquit of any wrong, cleanse any conscience, change any life, expel any sorrow, dissolve any trauma, and banish the fear of death and judgment from every troubled heart.

Fourth in Holy Communion Jesus is also truly present, not only symbolically or in our imaginations, but factually and substantially present to feed us with the food of immortality. In the 81st Psalm Christ our Lord says: Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it, and in the 34th He says:  Taste and see that the Lord is good.  These promises are realized in the eucharist.  Here we possess Jesus as completely as He can be possessed in this life.  From this holy union and communion we obtain pardon for all our sins, comfort for all our troubles, strength for all our weakness and courage to live holy lives in expectation of His coming again in glory.

When Saint Peter writes that the end of all things is near, what is implied is the end of all bad things: the end of sin, because Jesus paid for it on the cross; the end of death, because Jesus won victory over it for us by His resurrection; the conclusion of riotous living, because God’s children are filled with God’s Spirit who gives us the gift of self-control; and the cessation of want and of fear, because if God is for us who can be against us?

Yes, the end of all things is at hand and there is nothing we can do to stop it. The vanity of man is happily driving the bus of history right off a cliff, and singing songs of progress all the way down.   Please don’t worship the false god of human progress.  Though it is preached from every school in the land, every media outlet and every government office this Yojo is a phony and misleading god.  Don’t worship at his altar or share in his unholy communion because there is no such thing as human progress.  Quite the contrary, because of sin all things are rapidly returning to their mean: order to chaos, ashes to ashes and dust to dust.

The city of Detroit which was once a barren wilderness went on to become the greatest manufacturing city the world has ever known.  For most of a hundred years it “renewed the face of the earth” with its products, produced the greatest fortunes that ever existed, and was the envy of the entire world.  Today, except for a few skeletal remains, it is once again a barren wilderness of empty lots and abandoned homes haunted by urban jackals.  Last year the once great city tried to auction nine thousand properties beginning at $500, but even at that price more than eighty percent of them never caught a bid.  Yet the end of one thing always means the beginning of another, even in Detroit.  When nothing else could be done barren lots were joined together, turned into small farms, placed under professional management, and their healthy products are sold on site in road side stores.

In the same way, when Jesus is near with His good gifts and Spirit all things are made new for us.  Our minds which were once scattered, unstable, ever-intoxicated and fixed on the desires of the flesh, now feast on the truth of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. Hearts which in the past worshiped at the altar of self-pity now pray to the Father in Jesus’ name asking everything they need for themselves, their beleaguered families, their crumbling churches and their failing nation.  Because Christ is near God’s people have fervent love for one another, practice hospitality and each uses the manifold gifts of God, and strength of God, to love and serve their neighbor. Though for now our successes are spotty we know God’s will, we have the power to do it, full remission of sins when we fail, and the promise of our Lord’s final return to encourage us. When He comes again all bad things will be brought to an end, and all good things will be perfected unto the ages of ages. Ponder anew what the Almighty can do, who with His love doth befriend thee.  Amen
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~ Rev. Dean Kavouras

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