This is the Sermon for the Second Wednesday in Advent in the 2014 Church Year -- December 11, 2013 at

Shaped by the Cross Lutheran Church
Laurie, Missouri



Luke 13:1-9

Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And He answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

And He began telling this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it, and did not find any. And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’”

Sermon for the Second Wednesday in Advent                                                                                                                                                                                          12/11/13

Repentance

“Repentance Is Urgent!”


My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

God is so good to us. Life on this planet is dependable and cyclic. We watch the seasons roll around, the years come and go, day and night are so regular. Rather than see these things as they are, as a marvelous gift of God which profits us so much in so many ways, we tend to take it for granted. But Philosophers who have meditated on the nature of reality concluded long ago that if there is no divine guiding force, we have no reason to expect this marvelous regularity. In fact, without someone being very good to us, they say, this stability is irrational and reality ought to be undependable.

We tend to take our good things for granted, as though they somehow belong to us, or that they are owed to us. But they are not our possessions or our rights; they are the gifts of God to us. Every moment of our life is a gift of God. And God does not do anything for no reason.

Last Wednesday we heard the proclamation of John the Baptist that repentance changes things. Tonight we are to hear that Jesus also called for repentance, and His proclamation was that repentance is urgent. God did not give us this time we enjoy simply to use for our own purposes, but specifically to use for His. He is giving us, and all of humanity, this time to repent. And, as Jesus showed in His examples, repentance is urgent.

Jesus gives us three examples. One example is the Galileans who were slaughtered by Pilate as they worshiped at the temple. The second example was eighteen people who were crushed in the collapse of a tower in the town of Siloam. The third example was a parable – the parable of the barren fig tree. Two of the examples were real events which happened to real people, the third was a parable to explain something about those events, and other events like them.

We witness plenty of situations like those first two examples. The tower of Siloam was a natural catastrophe. A building collapsed for no apparent reason. We have plenty of that sort of tragedy, and we usually don’t assign any particular theological meaning to them, we simply observe and mourn the human tragedy involved. Some people have the notion that those who suffer such troubles must somehow especially deserve them. In our text, Jesus dispels that notion. Such things sometimes just happen. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything about the quality or holiness of the particular people who suffer.

The deaths of those Galileans in the Temple was a man-made catastrophe. We see plenty of those, too. There are murders, serial killings, mass-murders, bombings, drive-by shootings, terrorist attacks, and wars. Many people harbor a secret feeling that those who suffer such misfortunes are deserving somehow, different from others, and not particularly beloved of God. Again, Jesus dispels this notion. He clearly denies that those who endure such troubles are necessarily any different that those who have not suffered in such a way yet.

What sense Jesus makes of these unfortunate events is to illustrate how urgent it is to repent. Something in what Jesus said suggests that those who died perished without the hope of everlasting life. “I tell you, no, [they were not more evil than others] but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” It is the expression “likewise perish,” connected to the idea of not repenting, that tells us that these unfortunate souls died without salvation.

Those who died had not died by accident. For each of them, the time of life had come to a close by God’s deliberate choice, and they each faced the judgment. It sounds quite like they were found wanting in that judgment. What Jesus was warning His listeners about was not that if they did not repent, then they would die in a tragedy or by some awful circumstance, but that their deaths would lead to eternal death in hell if they did not repent, just as had happened to those who had died in these unfortunate events.

One tendency in our age is to beatify anyone who dies in poverty or in unfortunate circumstances. Jesus shows us none of that. When someone dies in unfortunate circumstances, as in the recent train wreck in New York, or in a tragedy like the Newtown school shooting, they proceed to judgment just as they were at the moment their earthly life ended. They are not automatically promoted to heaven, no matter what happened or what age they were. Death at the hands of villains is unfortunate, but it is not salvific. A tragic death in a gigantic catastrophe does not save. It does not turn the victims into angels. The sorrow of those left behind is truly a human burden which we should seek to lighten, but we should not do it by pretending that those who did not know Jesus or trust in Him have gone somehow to live in the skies and look down on their loved ones in some sort of benign state. Either they go to heaven, by grace through faith, or they go to hell, for the lack of saving faith.

Then Jesus illustrated His point with the parable about the fig tree that did not bear fruit. The fruit sought at the fig tree symbolizes repentance and faith. Both are worked by the Holy Spirit and they necessarily go together in the sight of God. The number of years mentioned in the parable is insignificant, except that God gives us a definite and limited amount of timeand that time is always shorter than you think.

God is the owner of the vineyard. The vineyard is a frequent prophetic image for the people of God, Israel. What is striking is that this fig tree is growing inside the vineyard, which is where grapes are grown. Clearly, the fig tree is an individual within the visible church. Jesus was not talking about unbelievers in general, but us, nominally part of “God’s People”. It represents every individual in the Church, one at a time. The keeper of the vineyard who pleads for the life of the tree is Jesus. He pleads for more time, but also He acknowledges that the time for patience is finite and a day of reckoning must come. This call for repentance does not mean that you will likely die in a horrible tragedy, just that you will surely die and face judgement someday.

Behold, now is the time. Behold, today is the day of salvation! Repentance is urgent. Do you think that those who died in either event Jesus mentioned planned on being dead that day? Do you think anyone shot at that Naval Base in Washington this past year imagined that they would die that day? I don’t think so. Do you think that those who lived in ancient Israel (even at the time of Jesus) thought of themselves particularly as sinners, lost and without a hope in this world? Yes, some of them probably did, and others did not. It made no real difference to whether they lived or died in the end, did it? The judgment of Jesus is evident. The warning is that Repentance is urgent.

Advent is the call to repent. If you think you have nothing to repent, then the call is particularly clearly for you today. Some of you may have the attitude that you don’t need church or God’s Word particularly often. Some of you may feel secure in who and what you are, without ever bothering to hold yourself up to the light of Scripture. Perhaps some of you feel holier than those around you because you are older, or because you don’t get around much anymore, or because you hold an office or go to Bible Study. Some of you may feel quite self-righteous and have no real need to pray, no particular need to study, having no need to put to death the deeds of your flesh and live deliberately for God. Some of you might think that giving, and loving others, and being humble and repenting is a message meant for the other people.

IF YOU DO, YOU’RE WRONG!!

Everyone sins. We each and all need to repent. We need daily to rededicate ourselves to being deliberately the child of God which God has made us to be. Taking our standing before the Lord for granted is the first step on that wide and easy road that leads to hell – and the one who chooses it would have a lot of company on it. The road to life everlasting, however, is narrow, and difficult (that means it takes deliberate effort and attention ) and far-too-seldom used, even by those who call themselves “Christian”.

Repentance is urgent. You have life today for just one reason -- God wants you to be His, to repent and to serve Him. You need to daily put that old Adam to death by drowning him in the waters of your baptism. It was in your Baptism that God claimed you. There God said that you were not to live in sin, but live in Him. Daily that new man must arise and come forth from the waters of your baptism, by contrition and repentance, and it is that new man alone who will live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

I am going to guess that those people in Siloam figured they were God’s people. The Galileans were even offering sacrifices in church. Unless you repent, you will also, like them, perish. That’s not my word, but Jesus’.

But if you repent, your sins are forgiven, for the One who calls you to repent died for your sins so that you might live in Him. But if we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Here, in our text this evening, is the call of Advent to repent. Delay not, delay not, oh Sinner - but hear the call of Him whose coming Advent portends. Repentance is urgent. Repent, and believe, and you shall be saved.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

(Let the people say Amen)


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