Sunday of Last Judgment

November 8, 2020

 

SERVICE OF THE WORD

This service offers the congregation a form of worship that focuses on the proclamation of God’s Word.  Believers respond to this divine gift with prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.  The service begins on page 38 in the front of the hymnal.

M:       We worship today in the name of our Triune God— God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

C:        Amen

Confession of Sins

M:       We have come into the presence of God, who created us to love and serve Him as His dear children.  But we have disobeyed Him and deserve only His wrath and punishment.  Therefore, let us confess our sins to Him and plead for His mercy.

C:        Merciful Father in heaven, I am altogether sinful from birth.  In countless ways I have sinned against you and do not deserve to be called your child.  But trusting in Jesus, my Savior, I pray:  Have mercy on me according to your unfailing love.  Cleanse me from my sin, and take away my guilt.

M:       God, our heavenly Father has forgiven all your sins.  By the perfect life and innocent death of our Lord Jesus Christ, He has removed your guilt forever.  You are His own dear child.  May God give you strength to live according to His will.

C:        Amen.

Prayer and Praise

M:       In the peace of forgiveness, let us praise the Lord.

C:        Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.  Your Word, O Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.  Your faithfulness continues forever.  Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.  Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.

PRAYER OF THE DAY

M:       Let us pray.

Lord God Almighty, so rule and govern our hearts and minds by your Holy Spirit that we may always look forward to the end of this present evil age and to the day of your righteous judgment.  Keep us steadfast in true and living faith and present us at last holy and blameless before you; we ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C:     Amen

The Word

FIRST LESSON – Daniel 7:9-10

The dramatic courtroom scene depicts the eternal, majestic God, awesome in power and appearance, taking the judge’s seat.

As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat.  His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool.  His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.  A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him.  Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.  The court was seated, and the books were opened.  (NIV1984)

PSALM OF THE DAY – Psalm 90

Lord, You have been our dwelling place

throughout all generations.

Before the mountains were born

or You brought forth the earth and the world,

from everlasting to everlasting You are God.

For a thousand years in Your sight are like a day

that has just gone by,

or like a watch in the night.

You have set our iniquities before You,

our secret sins in the light of Your presence.

You turn mortals back to dust,

You sweep them away in the sleep of death.

The length of our days is seventy years—

or eighty, if we have the strength;

yet their span is but trouble and sorrow.

Teach us to number our days aright,

that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Satisfy us in the morning with Your unfailing love,

that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son

and to the Holy Spirit,

            as it was in the beginning,

                        is now, and will be forever.  Amen

 

SECOND LESSON – 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (Sermon Text)

The day of the Lord will come suddenly.  This calls for watchfulness and self-control, the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet of salvation.

 Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.  But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.  You are all sons of the light and sons of the day.  We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.   So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.  For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.  But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.  For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.  He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.  Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.   (NIV1984)

 VERSE OF THE DAY

Alleluia.  Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.  Alleluia.

CAlleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  These words are written that we may believe that Jesus is

       the Christ, the Son of God.  Alleluia!  Alleluia!  Alleluia!

GOSPEL LESSON – Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus will separate believers from unbelievers when He returns on the Last Day.

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,  I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.  Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’  The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’  Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did  not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’  They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’  He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’  Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”  (NIV1984)

 C:        Praise be to you, O Christ!

 SERMON  Christians Encourage One Another!

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

What are some of the reasons why people need to be encouraged?  While that has always been a relatively easy question to answer, the year 2020 has made it even easier, hasn’t it!  The coronavirus pandemic has literally changed our world overnight.  Up until recently restaurants were not allowed to offer indoor dining.  Here in Sonoma County we still are not allowed to dine inside our favorite restaurants.  Schools have been closed since March 17 and now “distance learning” is the only option available to most students.  Churches were deemed “non-essential” by the State of California and were told that we are not allowed to conduct indoor worship services.  On top of all of that we had one of the most “contentious” election cycles that I have ever experienced.  It took days to find out who won the election.  Lawsuits are still making their way through the courts.  Do we need to be encouraged?  To me at least, the answer is obvious!

The reason I bring up the subject of encouragement today is because it dovetails perfectly with our sermon text for this morning.  Today is the third last Sunday in the Christian church year.  Today is commonly known as the Sunday of Last Judgment.  While some people deny that Judgment Day will ever happen and while some people dread even the thought of standing before the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth on Judgment Day, as Christians Judgment Day is a day that we eagerly look forward to!  For that reason the Holy Spirit had the apostle Paul conclude our text for today by reminding us of this truth:  Christians Encourage One Another!  There are three things we want to remember this morning.  First, remember that as Christians we encourage one another to be ready.  Second, remember that as Christians we encourage one another to be different.  Third, remember that as Christians we encourage one another to be confident.

Paul sets the stage for us when he says in the opening verses of our text, “Now brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”

To this day there are people who have questions about Jesus’ return to this earth.  To this day there are people who claim that they have discovered and/or deciphered a “code” in the Bible that reveals to them when Jesus is going to return to this earth as the Judge of the living and the dead.  Paul puts any and all such speculation to rest when he says to God’s people, “about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”  This, of course, is the very same picture that Jesus used to teach us that instead of getting all wrapped up in when He is going to return to this earth— the “times and dates”— we need to concentrate on the fact that He is most certainly coming back so that we can encourage one another to always be prepared for His return!

Paul then uses the picture of a pregnant woman to help us understand how suddenly Jesus’ return will be.  As soon as a woman finds out that she is pregnant she begins preparing for the day that her baby will be born.  She understands that every single day brings her closer and closer to her “due date” and so she prepares accordingly.  Then one day the contractions begin and there is no turning back.  In a similar way the “day of the Lord” will take place suddenly and when it does there is no turning back.  There are no second chances.  Every single person will be summoned before the Lord Jesus Christ to be judged by the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

The uncertainty about when the “day of the Lord” will arrive is both a comfort and a warning.  As Christians we encourage one another to be prepared for Judgment Day by assuring each other that when our Savior returns He will speak to us those comforting words, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).  At the very same time, the uncertainty about when the “day of the Lord” will arrive serves as a warning.  It warns us not to become complacent.  We can’t put our faith and our relationship with Jesus on a “back burner” in our life thinking that we have “plenty of time” to get serious about our faith— later.  It also serves as a warning when it comes to sharing our faith with others.  If we know someone— perhaps even a brother or sister in the faith— who is living their life under the mistaken assumption of “Peace and safety,” if we know some who is living under a false sense of security when it comes to their eternity, if we know someone who feels very comfortable here in this world— everything is fine, everything is stable— we need to encourage them to be prepared for “the day of the Lord” by sharing with them God’s message of both Law and Gospel.

That thought leads us into the second point we want to emphasize from this text.  As Christians we encourage one another to be different!  Paul pictures that truth for us when he says in our text, “But you, Brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.  You are all sons of the light and sons of the day.  We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.  So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.  For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night.  But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.”

The picture of “light” and “darkness” is used by the Holy Spirit to emphasize the difference between those who believe and trust in Jesus as their Savior and those who do not.  (See 1 Peter 2:8, 9)  Here the Holy Spirit uses that picture to remind us that as Christians we are to be different from the unbelievers.  The way that we think, the way that we talk, and the way that we live our lives is to be as different as “light” and “darkness.”  The goals and the priorities that we have in our life are to be different.  The way that we view this world, the way that we treat this world, and the way that we enjoy this world is to be different.  As we strive to be prepared for Judgment Day— knowing that it is most certainly coming while not knowing exactly when it will arrive— leads us to live each and every day as though it were our very last day.

How will that perspective on life be revealed in our life?  Like Paul, we encourage one another to be, “self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.”  Think back over the course of your life.  Think back over the course of the past week.  Were there times when you needed to be encouraged to be more “self-controlled”?  Were there times when you allowed your anger to get “out of control”?  Were there times when it might have been difficult for other people to see the “faith and love” that distinguishes you as a dearly beloved adopted child of the heavenly Father?  Were there times when it might have been difficult for other people to hear the “hope of salvation” that is yours purely by grace through faith in Him?  (Pointing to the cross)  If so, my friends, then we need to be encouraged and we need to encourage one another to be different from the unbelieving world around us, to live our life in such a way that it is obvious to others that we are “sons (children) of the light and sons (children) of the day.”

What is our motivation for encouraging one another to always be prepared for the arrival of Judgment Day?  What is our motivation for encouraging one another to be different from the unbelieving world around us?  Our motivation comes from the confidence that our Savior God gives to us!  Paul highlights that confidence when he says to us this morning, “For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.  He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.  Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

In light of passages such as John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” and John 5:24, “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life,”  in light of passages such as these we have the confidence of knowing that we are in possession of “salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  This is a gift that God Himself has already given to us!  Why does that truth give us confidence?  Because the gift of saving faith which God the Holy Spirit has created in our hearts enables us to lift up our eyes to the cross (Pointing to the cross) with the confidence of knowing exactly what Paul means when he says to us, “He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.”

 “He died for us.”  Very literally what the Holy Spirit had Paul write was, “He died in behalf of us,” or “He died for the sake of us.”  The death of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary’s hill accomplished everything that was necessary for our eternal salvation.  Jesus’ death has reconciled us to the one and only living God.  It has completely satisfied the demands of God’s divine justice.  It is the perfect ransom payment  to buy us back from the power of sin, death and the devil.  The fact that Jesus “died for us,” the fact that Jesus “died in behalf of us,” the fact that Jesus “died for the sake of us” gives us the unshakeable confidence of knowing that we will “live together with him.”  (Pointing to the cross)  We “live together with him” now as we journey through this world with our Brother Jesus by our side.  We will most certainly “live together with him” forever in His eternal heavenly home.  That, my friends, is the confidence that we have as Christians.  That, my friends, is the confidence that we as Christians are encouraged to share with one another.

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”  While there are many reasons for us to take these words to heart— especially in light of everything that is going on in our world today— my prayer this morning is that in light of the fact that each and every day brings each and every one of us closer and closer to Judgment Day, that we will remember.  Remember that as Christians we are to encourage one another to always be prepared for Judgment Day.  Remember that as Christians we are to encourage each other to live and speak and act differently from the unbelieving world around us.  Remember that as Christians we are to encourage one another to have the confidence of knowing that through faith in Him (Pointing to the cross) we can and we do have the confidence that enables us to look forward to Judgement Day!

To God be the glory!

Amen
APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into hell.  The third day He rose again from the dead.  He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.  From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.  Amen.

 OFFERING

During this time of uncertainty we still want to bring our thank offerings to our dear Lord and Savior.  We ask that you continue to set your offerings aside so that when we are able to come together again in God’s House we will be able to place our offerings on His altar.

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH

Dear Lord God Almighty,

As we come before your throne of grace today we thank you for creating in our hearts the precious gift of faith.  Because of that glorious gift we know that we never need to fear the day of Last Judgment.  Trusting in you and trusting in what you have accomplished for us through Jesus your Son, we have the comfort and the confidence of knowing that when we stand before you we will indeed stand unafraid and uncondemned.  Help us to always stay close to you through your holy Word and Sacrament so that our faith and our trust will only grow stronger as time passes by.

As our nation pauses to celebrate Veteran’s Day we thank you dear Lord for the many men and women who have served and who are now willingly serving in the military forces of our country.  Protect them, O Lord, from all the dangers that threaten them.  May we always remember the example of sacrifice and courage, dedication and duty that our veterans give to us and may we all strive to do whatever we can to keep our country strong and free so that our nation will always be a nation where your people can openly proclaim the greatest freedom of all— the freedom won for us on the cross of Calvary’s hill.

And finally dear Lord, as the Ruler of us all, we give you thanks for the many blessings you have so richly given our nation for so many years.  We are especially grateful for living in a nation where we can worship you as we please.  In this time of bitter partisan politics, heal our nation by causing us to focus on the things that unite us instead of the things that divide us.  Enable us, your people, to grow even more mature through study of your Word so that we realize that others who hold different political views from ours are not automatically wrong or evil.  And regardless of the outcome of the elections, we praise your name, O Lord, for the fact that we do not have to be fearful of our government, because we, the people, are the government.  Bless all those who have been elected to office with the insight and the wisdom to rule over us in a way that is pleasing and acceptable to you.

C:        Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever.  Amen.

M:       O Lord God, our heavenly Father, pour out the Holy Spirit on your faithful people.  Keep us strong in your grace and truth, protect and comfort us in all temptation, and bestow on us your saving peace, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

C:        Amen.

M:       Brothers and sisters, go in peace.  Live in harmony with one another.  Serve the Lord with gladness.

The Lord bless you and keep you.  The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you.  The Lord look on you with favor and give you peace.

C:        Amen.