Since I moved to Wisconsin from New York 3 years ago, I have served at a church as one of two pastors. This means I don’t preach every week. Because of this, every once in a while I have to preach on a topic that hasn’t come up on “my week” in quite a while. This weekend is one of those.
This coming Sunday we’ll be focusing on Judgment Day. I haven’t had to preach directly on this topic since 2010, which feels like a long time ago at this point.
It strikes me how harsh these appointed readings for this day are. They’re the kind of Bible readings that make you squirm a bit. There’s no wiggle room; no politically correct, everything’s-ok-for-everyone vibe here. <!–more–>
Take the first reading, Daniel 7:9-10. It’s short, but it packs a punch.
9 “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.
10 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.
Nothing cuddly or warm-and-fuzzy to grab on to here. The end is coming. There will be flames and fire. There will be a judge, *the* Judge, in fact. The books will be opened and the judgment will be made. This is the text I’ll be preaching on.
The second lesson, 1 Thessalonians:5:1-11, has a different emphasis, but it also paints our lives now into a bit of a corner.
4 But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled.
1 Thessalonians 5:4-6
It’s easy to think of ways that we haven’t lived like a “son of the light,” but instead like someone who “belongs to the night.” Definitely gives us pause when we realize that the end will come “like a thief.”
Thankfully, though, this lesson also brings the fantastic *gospel* application of Judgment Day in full force.
9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.
1 Thessalonians 5:9-10
The end of the world is scary, but Jesus has already won! This is a reminder I need every day.
Finally, the Gospel for this Sunday is Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus’ famous parable of the sheep and the goats. In some ways, this reading can be the harshest of all. It *could* lead someone to the conclusion that it is our *good works* that get us into heaven. But the reaction of those who did good works shows otherwise:
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “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.’
Believers don’t do works to save themselves. They do good works because God has given them faith in Christ. This faith leads us to want to do good works, to produce those works whether we realize we’re doing it or not. We do works because we’re saved, not in order to get saved.
All in all, I look forward to preaching this Sunday. I’m praying I can put Jesus and the comfort of what he’s accomplished for us front and center for this service.
Now back to my sermon work!