Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.
The text for our Gospel Proclamation comes from the Old Testament Prophecy of Isaiah and serves as the basis for our Last Sunday of the church year theme, Listen to Me!
Well it has already begun and I am already not ready for it.
No sooner did we arrive in the season of preparation for Thanksgiving and the stores, TV, and Radio, already have us looking to the end!
That’s right, The End or for the rest of you who may not have figured out what I am talking about yet: Christmas time!
Yup 107.7 is already playing nonstop Christmas Music. The Political Pundits are already arguing about Christmas Decorations, and the merchants are already getting out the Christmas decorations preparing to sell all they can before Christmas day comes…you know…THE END!
Ok, not technically, or spiritually the end, but the end of all the frivolity, and then of course there is nothing left but the doldrums of January or as I like to refer to it…HOCKEY SEASON WOO HOO!
Truly the end…the spiritual end is today! That’s right today is the last Sunday of the church year, and with it, this is the season where we focus on the end of all things.
Martin Luther was especially known to focus on the End of all Things.
The two chief Doctrines that Martin Luther is historically known for were Justification by Grace through Faith Alone and The End Times.
Interestingly enough in Martin Luther’s day, they struggled with many of the same issues we seem to be struggling with today.
Wide spread division amongst the people, revolutionary ideas undermining traditional values and expectations.
The threat of violence from a Muslim Empire that was threatening to take over Vienna in the very heart of Christendom!
For Luther, this appeared by all accounts to be the very end and he preached like it was for all to hear.
Jesus is coming, listen to Him!
No doubt you have heard my cries from this very pulpit, my suggestions that the end is at hand, my imploring voice…now is the time, Jesus is coming, Listen to Him!
Our prophecy from Isaiah today said the very same thing, but they were not experiencing the difficulties we are today or Luther was in his day.
Rather they were at the peak of their power and security and all looked well for the foreseeable future.
So Isaiah had to preach, to a people, who weren’t looking for anything to hope for at all, they were doing just fine, fine, fine, literally only King David and King Solomon’s days were better.
So when Isaiah’s tells them to listen, because they are gonna need saving…he really had to emphasize…LISTENING!
Luther said of the people of God during Isaiah’s Ministry, “They think they know everything and the prophet calls their wisdom and knowledge sheer stupidity and ignorance.” (AE 16:9)
They didn’t listen, they most likely because of their ignorance couldn’t listen, and they probably didn’t even want to listen, even if they could.
This was a period of false confidence in their selves because they were so certain nothing was wrong at all.
Prosperity covers a multitude of sins they say.
And that’s true…but only for a time and time is running out for sinners who don’t think they need a savior.
Part of the problem in Isaiah’s day was that they didn’t think time was running out, at all, and they certainly didn’t think they needed saving at all!
Whatta ya mean we will be released from captivity? We aren’t slaves to anyone!
Little did they know that Sennacherib of the Assyrians was on his way and in 18 short years the Northern Kingdom would fall (2 Kings 18:13); he would not be resisted successfully by this lesser kingdom, and he would take the spoils of war home with him, including the people he conquered.
Then and only then would it feel like the end of days and then they would be ready to listen.
In Luther’s day it was not much better, and although the threat was real, likewise the people of Europe put too much faith in their government to protect them against the hoard of Mohommedans at the gates of Vienna.
And likewise they felt little need for a savior, because they believed they could save themselves from their sins by simply doing good works.
Luther could not say loud enough…Listen to Him.
Well here we are at the end of the church year and so much is the same and so much is different.
We too reach out to a people desperately in need of a savior and not many think they need saving.
After all, they have their homes, our community is relatively peaceful, sure the threat of Muslim Extremism is out there, but it is a statistical rarity, that will not likely impact them personally, or even someone they know…and captive? Really?
We vacation where we want, we have all the entertainment we need, we can even stay socially connected with our phones no matter where we are, were never out of touch, never out of time, or ever out of anything we need. What could we possibly need saving from?
At that point, the Devil has us right where he wants us, comfortably coasting right into his deceptive dungeon.
God tells us today “listen.”
When you wake up and realize that you are in the sinful prison of your own making there is a savior from that cell.
When you recognize that you are far from God because you are enslaved by your entertainment, vanquished by your vacations, and fickle because of your Phone, there is our God who sends a piece of himself to save you from yourself.
God’s just and loving way lights up the inadequacy of our comfortable life, and gives us true life worth living that gives true meaning to what life is really about.
God’s salvation came into the world through the seed of the first mother Eve, and her descendant will be a savior for even the most pagan of people.
Jesus is the only savior ever to come in all of history that fulfills the promise that Isaiah made over 2300 hundred years before Luther would preach it to his people and over 700 years before Jesus would come in the flesh.
And it is only Jesus that can make sure we listen and hear what everyone needs to hear to be saved on that final day.
For when Isaiah says “look up to the heavens and look at the earth beneath…” we look up to the one from Heaven and to his place on earth where He was sacrificed for our sins on the cross on Golgotha.
He is the one that will open our eyes to the transient nature of the lives we falsely put our hope in and He is the one that will show us the eternal life He has prepared for us to live in.
As the Introit said so wonderfully today, “We are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.”
And not a home for the righteous, for a we are far from righteous in and of ourselves, but a home prepared by the righteous one Jesus who made us righteous by trading His life for our lives, and His death for our deaths.
He is calling to us, “Listen to me”, and I will save you. AMEN.