READINGS FROM HOLY SCRIPTURE:
2 Peter 3:3-14
St. Matthew 25:31-46
Grace to you and peace from Him Who is and Who was and Who is to come; from Jesus Christ the faithful Witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.
Who speaks to you this Penultimate Sunday saying,
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.”
Along with these Gospel words, the Lord also speaks through St. Peter in the Epistle reading saying, “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.” This Word of God directly connects to today’s Collect of the day where we prayed for mindfulness and holiness of living, from the Lord.
This is as it should be. This is God’s Will for Holy Scripture in our lives. That it is connected and connective. The whole of the Bible is all connected in the story of salvation through Jesus Christ and it connects you to it by Word and Sacrament. Therefore, for today we are pointed to how we await the Final Day of Judgment, that is “without spot or blemish and at peace”, in His Divine Service and in His Nunc Dimittis, where He tells us to depart in peace.
One of the things we are confronted with today, by God, is mindfulness.
When you eventually turn to God in prayer in your life, what is it that you usually ask for? “What do you want me to do, Lord?”, right? Well, dear Christians, the Lord has answered your prayers today, for you have been given a glimpse, a first-showing preview of what God will be looking for on the Last Day of Judgment.
That is, feeding the hungry, un-thirsting the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, and being present for the prisoners. There you have it. The laundry list you have all been praying for in order to be doing God’s will and gaining your proper position as a blessed one on the Last Day, is in your hands.
So, what more is there? Go. Do likewise, Jesus said, right (Lk 10:37)? Go and show mercy to your family, to your neighbor, to your enemies. Maybe you might have a little left-over mercy for Jesus, too, and allow Him an hour or so of your precious time, each week.
Is there something else? Oh. You are afraid because of the goats? You are afraid because they also performed acts of mercy, the same acts of mercy you are commanded to do, and yet they received punishment, instead of blessing, and you want to know why and what’s the difference?
Maybe that list of holy works isn’t what you thought it was.
Maybe there is something else that glorious and righteous Judge is looking for.
Maybe you need to be mindful, that is to remember what it is that brought you before God in the first place.
Repent. Yes, be mindful of your acts. Your words, thoughts, and deeds all need to be taken captive to Christ (2 Cor 10:5) in order that, having been made a new creation in Christ, you begin to see it as well. But being captive to Christ means more than just you working hard. It means being a servant of Christ, that is doing what He wants to do, not just what you want, and as we have hopefully proven, works are not enough.
Jesus commanded at the Last Supper, “But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember” (Jn 16:4). And what was the Resurrection proclamation? “But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb…two men stood by them in dazzling apparel…said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you’…And they remembered his words” (St. Luke 24:1-8).
Immediately, they remembered His words about His Resurrection. That though this Temple be destroyed, in three days, the Son of Man shall rise again (Jn 2:19). Once the fact of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead had begun to cement into their sin-filled brains, they began to remember other things.
They remembered the Palm Sunday crowd, which had witnessed Lazarus come out of the tomb, crying out for salvation (Jn 12:16). They remembered the hillsides where Jesus had fed multiple multitudes (Mk 8:18-19). They remembered how He walked on water, healed the sick, gave peace, and sat on the throne of the Ancient of Days.
They remembered that He remembers.
Even the thief on the cross knew that God remembers. He had faith in God’s remembrance and his faith saved him. He had heard the Lord’s Word say, “God has remembered his covenant forever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations” (Psalm 105:8).
And the most wonderful thing they remembered? That God is a God Who forgets. This is the most important, because this is what the Apostles trusted in; this is what the thief trusted in, and this is what we trust in. From Jeremiah 31, “And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and teach his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (v.34).
The sheep had no faith in their works, or even their own ability to remember. Instead they trusted in the memory of Jesus and in the forgetfulness of Jesus. The memory of Jesus to step down from heaven, in the flesh, and save His people from their sins with His Body and Blood. And the forgetfulness of Jesus to cast those sins as far as the east is from the west, such that only holiness, righteousness, and blessedness remain (Ps 103:12).
You prayed that God grant you mindfulness of the Last Day. This mindfulness, you have now seen, will not only remind you that the Last Day is coming, but will also urge you to commune more often with the great and glorious Judge, Jesus Christ. You will be made mindful that the Church is His very Body, so being with that Body, you are already prepared for the Last Day.
And finally, in this rescued and forgiven Church, the Holy Ghost stirs you up to Holy Living. To loving God, loving your neighbor, and continuing to immerse yourself in the holy things Jesus presents to you in Word and Sacrament. Communing with these gifts, you find that faith has you waiting, without spot or blemish in Christ, and at peace in His Divine Service.
Thus is our proof of the Holy Spirit being among us today. First, that we are remembering Christ as He said, “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (Jn 14:26).
Second, we believe and confess with Daniel, that the Son of Man is seated in Communion, preaching the separation of saint and sins, the blessedness of being baptized into the Father’s kingdom, and the entrance into the righteousness and eternal life of the Lamb of God through His Body and Blood.