On this 3rd last Sunday of the Church year, we hear our Lord speak directly to us saying,
“For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”
No man has greater faith than the congregation here at St. Luke. False christs and false prophets will not find a welcome here, because St. Luke Evangelical Lutheran Church knows that the only great sign and wonder to be worked in our time is the Word and Sacrament received by the Baptized.
The Word of God is kept here and the sacraments of God are freely given according to it. There is no holier place on earth than this spot.
Yet, there are those who believe that the Church on earth is simply a vaccination. A “get well” pavilion. Where we can come in for our once a week, mandatory appointment, shoot up, and be on our merry way for the rest of the week, month, year, lifetime…
Some would even have it be a hospital where cures are administered and the sick are cared for and nursed to better health. Thus, when we feel down or grumpy, we can come in, have our mood turned around, and skip down the road.
Rather, it is neither of those things, but it is a hospice center, plain and simple. Truly, you could say the whole world is on hospice and all headed in the same direction.
Let’s set the record straight, first. The Abomination of Desolation, in part, has already come to pass in humanity offering up God on the cross. At this horrific act of complete and utter rebellion against the Creator, the whole world shakes and fear spreads like wildfire. Truly there is nothing worse that can be done on this earth than killing God.
Thus we flee to the mountains of the Lord which are His Chancel and Pulpit. We run to the consolation of
Israel in baptism and the Lord’s
Supper. We flee because we know death follows all these happenings. We flee
because we also know that death has already grabbed hold of us and we have
nowhere else to turn.
Thus, we can put to rest any thought we may have of the Church being a booster shot center. The problem with this is that there is no vaccine against death and fear.
We may also nix the hospital idea. Not only are there no cures to be had in church, but when we join, things only seem to go downhill, instead of up. We get worse, not better. We pick up others’ diseases, we despair of treatment, and we question competence of staff and attendees.
What do we think? That we are the nurses and the attendants who are healthy and administering to the sick? There aren’t any upright people in the whole world to administer any kind of treatment, much less a correct one.
The world is very evil. So much so that no one is left to care for the wounded and dying, except for the wounded and dying. In fact, if you read the pericope from the Gospel again, you will not find the faithful standing up to any of this. If we assume these running away are faithful, then they are simply told to run, not stay and fight.
Why do you suppose that is? Was everyone on vacation that weekend or had something better to do than to watch for the Coming of Christ or this abomination? Truly we are in the midst of this great tribulation Jesus speaks of.
You do not see the faithful because they are sin-sick and dying. No one is standing up to the Abomination because they lack the strength, not to mention it is God’s doing so who could stop it? All believers are not fighting, but wrapped comfortably in their death beds and waiting.
But Hospice provides comfort, at least. So what comfort is there in Church?
Well, what if you were on hospice and the doctor came in to tell you that there was a way to get well. You just had to eat this one piece of broccoli each week and you would be out of hospice that day. Would you do it?
If you had chronic heart failure, but your cardiologist says that if you do this one pushup, just once a week in order to stave it off, would you do that?
Even simpler, does putting gas in your car once a week make the gas any less valuable or necessary?
No, it doesn’t. It does the opposite. Having gas in your car increases its value for you, for then it is able to work. Push-ups? Broccoli? Heck yes we would do those things. If something so simple could accomplish so much, why would we shun it?
Jesus says, “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” (1 Cor.11:26). Does that not sound like the piece of broccoli or the pushup or the gas to you? Jesus is saying that until the Son of Man returns like lightning, you will find Him doing His Will and making His Kingdom come through the sacrament.
Which, if you take it often, you will be a part of His work. The care and cure at the hospice of the Church is not administered by a man, but the God-man, Jesus Christ. Who walks among His baptized believers, washing their wounds that make them weak in battle, speaking words of encouragement as they face their own sin and death, and spoon feeding life and salvation to each and every patient.
This is the power of the Lord’s Supper. Even though the flesh is weak, the Spirit is willing and moves us towards the Body and Blood of Jesus, which is the one and only true medicine on earth.
Just one shot is not enough. It is not that the Lord’s Supper is so weak that it needs multiple installments, just one is enough for the Supper. It is you who are too weak for only one dose, for in sin you are hemorrhaging. Hemorrhaging blood, hemorrhaging life, and hemorrhaging faith.
The cure that Jesus gives is a steady IV drip of Communion. It is there that we find Jesus. It is there that we find the forgiveness of sins. It is there that we find true strength and true healing.
It is in the Lord’s Supper that the abomination of desolation will have no rebut or defense against. It is in our communion with Almighty God that all the false christs, all the false prophets, and all the false signs and wonders will give way to. No lie of the devil can stand up to the true Body and Blood given and eaten.
This is because it is a rock solid promise and sign. Jesus promises forgiveness and delivers in His Supper. Jesus promises healing and salvation and He delivers in the physical, concrete bread and wine of communion.
The Christian’s solace is only in Jesus Christ and His righteousness. But it is not ours until He gives it to us to take and eat and take and drink. You can sing about salvation and argue about theology all you want, but until you give someone physical proof of your truthfulness, they will never believe you.
The pure Gospel and the true sacraments are what make the Church a mighty fortress against the great tribulation and a comfort against our own sickness and death. Through our own might, nothing can be done, no matter how sincerely we try. Through Jesus’ promises, nothing will get through to us no matter how sincerely He tries.
But something we can lay hold of; something concrete that appeals to our sin-dulled senses does. Especially something that’s available as often and as much as we desire it to be.