Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sermon and Prayer of the Church for 22 November 2009

The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14

The Ancient of Days and the Son of Man

Proper [29] B, Last Sunday in the Church Year, 22 November 2009

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

For a Lay Reader

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

This morning we celebrate the end of the world. We’re not picking a date for when it will happen—only our Father in heaven knows that—the Church did pick this Last Sunday after Pentecost to celebrate it. In Confirmation Class, we have called Judgment Day and the Last Day and also the “Don’t Know Day,” thanks to the creativity of a young Lutheran girl.

The End of the World is something to celebrate for us Christians. In Christ, we have nothing to fear, for the Judge of Judgment Day is our Savior every day. We are judged by the righteousness & holiness He gives us as the ultimate Christmas Gift. That is why He was born, lived, died, and rose again on the third day.

As they were planning her funeral service, Pastor’s Aunt Vonnie told him, “I may fear dying, but I don’t have to be afraid of death.” In Christ Jesus, the end of our life and the end of the world is a good thing—the end of this vale of tears, sorrow, mourning, pain, and death.

It is appropriate this Last Sunday in the Church year to watch Daniel’s vision of the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man. Daniel says: 9As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. 10A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened.

The rich detail of the vision is evident. This is a courtroom and royal throne room setting. Court is in session. The Ancient of Days, our Father in heaven, is the king on the flaming throne with wheels. He is also the Royal Judge, Jury, and Executioner. The million and the hundred million are symbolic numbers of completeness, just like in Revelation. The stream of fire foreshadows the obvious: the court sits in judgment.

The books were opened. The Book of Revelation uses this phrase to talk about the books where all of humanity’s sins are recorded, yours, mine, and all who have lived and ever will live. The way the Lord has it set up, forgiven sins don’t count. And forgiven sinners, also known as saints, are listed in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Just one to list all the believers. Libraries are needed to record all the sins that need to be judged and punished. The books were opened.

Who is being judged? On the Last Day, everyone will be judged. That is the consequence of sin. God is loving and merciful. He is also just and holy. The sin of Adam and Eve alienated humanity from God. We are all conceived and born with that Original Sin. That predisposes each of us to sin ourselves—that’s Actual sin. Even one sin is enough to eternally separate a person from God. We have a loving and merciful God who wants to save the people He created from themselves. His plan is to send a Savior, one born from the family line of Adam and Eve. His name is Jesus. In order to satisfy God’s justice and holiness, Jesus was set apart as a substitute to suffer the consequences of your sin and die in your place. His resurrection shows that the sacrifice was accepted, and also gives you a preview of your Resurrection. That’s also a part of Judgment Day.

On the Last Day, everyone will be judged, but the Lord revealed more about this judgment and human history to Daniel. The context of Daniel 7:1-9 (ESV) reveals the following: In the first year of Belshazzar [Bell Sha (like the a in Cabin) Zar] king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter. 2Daniel declared, "I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. 3And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. 4The first was like a lion and had eagles' wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it. 5And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, 'Arise, devour much flesh.' 6After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. 7After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 8I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things. 9As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire.

You’ve heard the rest through verse 10. What does this mean? To put is simply, Daniel is given a vision of the future from his perspective, leading up to Judgment Day. The animals stand for kingdoms that rule and will rule on earth. The first, the lion with eagle’s wings, is King Nebuchadnezzar’s [Neh Buh Kuh Nezar’s] dynasty. The second, a bear, represents the Medes [Meeds] & Persians. Alexander the Great of Macedonia [c has an seh sound] and Greece is the leopard with four wings. Finally, the fourth beast with iron teeth is the Roman Empire. During its time of rule an eternal kingdom, that of Christ, will be set up, one in the world, but not of this world. Daniel lived in an interesting time.

Exiled to Babylon in 605 B.C., Daniel was one of several young men chosen to serve in [King] Nebuchadnezzar’s court. When the Persians conquered Babylon in 539, Daniel was again given a position of power. He remained faithful to God in both of these hostile environments. From the interpretation of dreams, to the familiar stories of the fiery furnace, the lions’ den, and the handwriting on the wall, to the apocalyptic visions, the recurrent theme of the book is God’s [rule] over human affairs. In the historical sections (chapters 1–6) God supernaturally rescued Daniel and his friends. The rest of the book consists of visions of future judgment and deliverance by the Messiah. Some of Daniel’s prophetic themes are echoed in the book of Revelation.

A Final Judgment is one of those themes. The next verses show the judgment of the beast (#4). Dominion, that is, authority, is taken away from him and given to One like a Son of Man: 11I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. 12As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.

13I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

The Ancient of Days, our Father in Heaven, gives His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, all authority in heaven and on earth. Kingdoms and nations have ruled and will rule through all human history, but the kingdom of Christ is one that shall never pass away. It will never be destroyed. The gates of hell itself will never prevail against the kingdom of Christ.

At the end of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, [28:18-20 (ESV) ] Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Our Lord wants all peoples, nations, and languages to serve him. His Word, the Bible, and Holy Baptism are for them, that they would be made disciples. All will be judged, this is true, but those in Christ will not be condemned. The Lord desires that all nations, tribes, peoples, and languages, would receive the new birth of the Holy Spirit and be saved. He desires not the death of a sinner, but that they would turn from sinful thoughts, words, and deeds.

Repent. Watch. Pray. Serve your neighbor in every circumstance you have opportunity.

The Lord forgives repentant sinners. If you are a repentant sinner, then the Lord forgives you. You are part of a kingdom that will not be destroyed. Therefore, you will not be destroyed. You are part of a kingdom that endures forever. Therefore, you will endure forever.

Visions like this from Daniel are amazing, overpowering, even frightening. You have nothing to fear in Christ. For the Ancient of Days so loved the world that He sent the One like a Son of Man so that you would not face the fiery flames but dwell in His kingdom, one that shall never be destroyed. Amen.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Prayer of the Church

Last Sunday of the Church Year (Proper 29B)

November 22, 2009

P Jesus, until Your glorious return on the Last Day, bless Your Word wherever it is proclaimed. Make it a word of power and peace to convert those not yet Your own and to confirm those who have come to saving faith. May your Word pass from the ear to the heart, from the heart to the lip, and from the lip to the life, that, as You have promised, Your Word may achieve the purpose for which You sent it; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

C Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

P Almighty and most gracious God and Father, we implore You to turn the hearts of all who have forsaken the faith once delivered to Your Church, especially those who have wandered from it or are in doubt through the corruption of Your truth. Mercifully visit them and restore them that in gladness of heart they may take pleasure in Your Word and be made wise to salvation; through faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

C Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

P Almighty and gracious God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, You have commanded us to pray that You would send forth laborers into Your harvest. Of Your infinite mercy give us true teachers and ministers of Your Word who truly fulfill Your command and preach nothing contrary to Your holy Word. May we, being warned, instructed, nurtured, comforted, and strengthened by Your holy Word, do those things which are well-pleasing to You and profitable for our salvation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

C Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

P Eternal Lord, ruler of all, graciously regard those who have been set in positions of authority among us that, guided by Your Spirit, they may be high in purpose, wise in counsel, firm in good resolution, and unwavering in duty, that under them we may be governed quietly and peaceably; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

C Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

P Lord of heaven and earth, as we know both from history and current events, there are and have been wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes, droughts, and famines in various places. Grant us peaceful hearts in the midst of uncertain times knowing that these are but the beginning of birth pangs. Protect us from the teachings of those who would announce a date for the end of all things, comforted by Your Word that assures us that no one knows the day or the hour but only You, the Father; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

C Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

P O Lord God, You create and sustain life as a good and precious gift from Your gracious hand. Provide clean water and nourishing food through relief and human care agencies around the world. Enable and embolden us to speak up to defend life from the womb to natural death. By the example of Your blessed Son, grant the sick (especially _______) grace to accept patiently the sufferings of the present time in full assurance of the glory that shall be revealed to us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

C Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

P Lord Jesus, You invite all who are burdened with sin to come to You for rest. We now come at Your invitation to the heavenly feast which You have provided for Your children on earth. Preserve us from impenitence and unbelief, cleanse us from our unrighteousness, and clothe us with the righteousness purchased with Your blood. Strengthen our faith, increase our love and hope, and assure us a place at Your heavenly table, where we will eat eternal manna and drink of the river of Your pleasure forever and ever; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord.

C Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

P All these things and whatever else You know that we need, grant us, Father, for the sake of Him who died and rose again and now lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God forever.

C Amen.