My Lord, What a Morning!

SNOW CANCELLED DIVINE SERVICE TODAY

Text: Mark 13:24-37
Date: Last Sunday + Proper 29B + 11/22/15

It was after He entered Jerusalem for the final time, Jesus was sitting with His disciples on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, the bright massive stones gleaming in the sunlight. Then He said, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down” (Mk 13:2). Jesus predicted the coming destruction of the temple. Such a shocking prediction had to seem to the disciples almost unbelievable. But how many things, issues, happenings in our time once beyond belief to us have come and are coming to pass? It is here, just days before that final Passover, before our Lord’s death by crucifixion that Jesus not only foretold the destruction of the temple but also spoke of the Last Day and the coming Judgment and Deliverance of all the saints.

Some of these words we more easily understand. Of signs of the end there have been, are and will continue to be some leading people away from the true faith. There are wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes and famines. There have been martyrs, Christian witnesses proclaiming the gospel to all nations, many paying with their very lives. Indeed it is a matter of historical record that the Jerusalem temple was destroyed by the Romans in ad 70.

But many other of His words seem more mysterious. What does He mean that no one knows the day or hour of the final judgment, not even the Son, “but only the Father”? What does He mean when He says, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place”? How many generations have come and gone since those first disciples? And how are we then not tempted to be like the scoffers St. Peter writes about who say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Pet 3:4)?

The key, the blessed Gospel key to these questions is precisely in that promise, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.”

First, “this generation” means just what it says, namely, those disciples standing right in front of Him then and there on the Mount of Olives.

More importantly, then, we must ask what are “all these things” that are to take place? They are everything He has just said. As we said the destruction of the temple did indeed happen within “this generation” in the year ad 70. But what about the Lord’s final coming “with great power and glory,” the darkening of the sun and moon and falling stars and the day of judgment?

In answer we must remember that among “all these things” is also and especially Jesus’ foretelling of His coming death and resurrection (Mark 10:33-34). “This generation” would indeed witness the cross and the empty tomb in just a matter of days. On that first Good Friday the sun indeed darkened and there was an earthquake. The point is that, in the crucifixion of Jesus, in His suffering, pain and death, in His burial in a tomb, and, finally, in His resurrection from the grave “all these things” are already accomplished including His ascension and enthronement at the right hand of the Father, His sending of the holy and life-giving Spirit, His faithful shepherding of all who are baptized into His name. Indeed, already, everything related to His passion, His cross and resurrection, His salvation, is already set in motion. The final judgment will be but the final pronouncement of salvation for those who believe and are baptized and the final pronouncement of hell for all who reject Christ now. Today is the Last Day as the Scripture says, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2).

Last Sunday and again today we contemplate the Last Day, our Last Day. Oh certainly after this tribulation we are now living in, the sun and moon will be darkened, stars falling from heaven and powers shaken. Will we actually see all those horrifying things? He says we will see Him “coming in clouds with great power and glory.” For we will be gathered as His elect to see Him face to face. In other words, so it is that as when we fall asleep at night the next thing we know it’s morning, so when our loved ones die, when the Christian dies, when we shall die, the next thing we know we will awake with the words of the old Negro spiritual:

My Lord, what a morning!
My Lord, what a morning!
O my Lord, what a morning!
When the stars begin to fall.

For now is not a time to fear, but to have a joyful anticipation of our promised end which will be but the promised continuation of our life, redeemed, restored, forgiven now already by holy baptism, by faith in Christ, by His daily forgiveness, by the strengthening of His very body and blood, and then forever and ever. So what are we to do as we wait?

Our Lord says, “Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come…. Therefore stay awake…. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” We remain awake, ready, on guard whenever we remain in the Word of God because God gives the gift of faith which is always believing whether we are awake or asleep, whether we live or die. As the old antiphon of Compline prays:

Guide us waking, O Lord,
and guard us sleeping
that awake we may watch with Christ
and asleep we may rest in peace.

At the end of another Church Year, at the end of another day, and at the end of our lives we pray:

Abide with us, Lord, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.
Abide with us and with Your whole Church.
Abide with us at the end of the day, at the end of our life, at the end of the world.
Abide with us with Your grace and goodness, with Your holy Word and Sacrament, with Your strength and blessing.
Abide with us when the night of affliction and temptation comes upon us, the night of fear and despair, the night when death draws near.
Abide with us and with all the faithful, now and forever. Amen (421)