We begin today the Last Sundays of the Church Year. With our Scripture Readings, we turn our eyes upon those things that have to do with the End Times. In the Holy Gospel we hear Jesus preaching to His Disciples on the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem.
"If anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There!' do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect."
It is easy to see how busy the devil has been in the world. He has been multiplying all kinds of false religions and denominations and false prophets and false teachers throughout the world. All around us are many voices claiming to speak for Christ.
How confusing it is for a poor, bewildered soul! How can you know which voice is the right one? They are so deceptive, these false voices. They use the name of Christ. They teach from the Bible, or at least from parts of it. They seem like good, loving men. It seems so difficult to tell the true voices from the false.
But Christ has warned you in advance. There is no room for excuses. Those who are wise by learning from the Scriptures should be able to discern where the true Christ is.
So I tell you: Do not look for signs and miracles. There are many counterfeit miracles to dazzle your eyes. Do not look for visions and angels, for angels of light may actually be satan in disguise. Do not look for those who seem most pious and godly. It is easy to make a show of righteousness by the flesh. Remember that good works in the eyes of the world, no matter how spectacular and amazing they seem, are nothing in the eyes of God.
Where is Christ? Where is He to be found?
On a Sunday morning, many people go looking for Christ, here, there, and everywhere. Some say, "He's in my heart, so I can worship God in my pajamas at home." Some say, "He's in nature, so I can worship God by going hunting." Some say, "I can watch the man on television, or read my favorite book." And so forth.
The one place people do not seem to find Christ is in a right-teaching church. Such churches seem boring, cold, and lacking in good works. "Surely God is not there," they say. But you - seek out Christ where He has promised to be.
If the deceptions in the world were to continue forever, then even the elect of God would eventually be deceived and led astray. Therefore God will cut this time of deception short.
For now, we must be discerning. We must avoid the smooth talk of deceivers. We must avoid the easy paths of false shepherds. We must see Christ where He truly is.
For He is here today. He is speaking now. He is wherever His Gospel is spoken in purity and truth.
This is why the devil tries to tempt you away by saying, "He is here! He is there! Go, run and find Christ!" The only thing the devil cares about is to get you away from this House and this Word. If he tempts you away, then you have not found Christ, but lost Him. Mind you, the devil is a master at his job. He blinds the eyes and dazzles the senses. He knows a thousand tricks to harden men's hearts. His illusions and false signs do not feel evil, but they feel good and wholesome and godly.
Many have been deceived, and led astray. Many are not following the Word of God, but their own hearts. They place their own emotions upon the throne of authority, where Christ and His Word should be.
But flee to the mountains. Go to the one Rock of salvation that can save your souls. Build your house upon the one solid foundation that can never collapse.
Dear brothers and sisters, blind yourselves to all things in heaven and on earth except this one thing: The Gospel of Christ. See and hear only that, and the devil will not be able to lead you away.
This is the real, pure doctrine, that we are redeemed by Christ from our sins, from death, and from satan. We are planted in the kingdom of God through the Word and faith and made free from all law. No man, whoever he might be, can enter into the Kingdom of God through the works of the law nor be made free from sin, but only through Christ. Where this Gospel is preached, there is Christ.
May you be found where Christ gives His Body and Blood. In this one place on earth, more than any other, Christ dwells. In no other place does He bring His presence here in this way, in bread and wine. Only on the last day will He manifest Himself in a greater way. So today we say in our liturgy that as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we show the Lord's death until He comes.
Here is the proclamation of His death! Here is the corpse of God, displayed upon the Cross as the price for our salvation! But more than just a depiction, He also comes to speak to you. Here is Christ!
So make no mistake. To reject the religion of this House is to reject Christ. To reject this preaching of the Word is to reject Christ. To reject the Meal on this Altar is to reject Christ.
We're not playing around here. This is not a game or a hobby. This is most serious. Nothing in your life will ever be as important as what happens in this House.
Do you hunger for Christ's voice that speaks forgiveness? Do you seek out His Absolution? For Christ is also found here on Saturdays in Private Absolution, or any time you request it. Do you seek Him there?
No one seeks Him as they should. That's why our religion is not based on us seeking Him. Yet if we avoid His voice forever, how can we claim to love His voice?
Here we should all hang our heads in shame. Our observance of His Divine Service has never been quite what it out to be. We have too often been absent, and too often been half-hearted or distracted. Although we know that this is where Christ is, we have let other things be more important than He. We have let other priorities and other desires cloud our judgment. Even sitting in the pews, we have not listened to His voice as we should.
Yet for all our disobedience, He is always gracious to forgive us our sins. No matter how rebellious we have been, or how many false christs we have chased after, He is ready to forgive all things. His Word of Absolution is always ready to erase our sins from His record.
His dead body, hung in shame on Calvary, is always greater than all our sins, no matter how great or how many. For there was Christ, in the one place He should not be, dying the death of a transgressor. He was executed as the worst criminal in the worst way. There was Christ, dying for your sins, although He should have been sitting in glory.
So He also lay in the Tomb for three days, although death was not where the Son of God should be. Yet He willingly laid down in death for you. Then He was raised to the right hand of glory, to await the day when He could take you home.
Yet He does not only remain in heaven. He fills all things. So He is able to be even more places that we would not expect. He is in the spoken words of a sinner, who is so unworthy of speaking in Christ's name. How could Christ be found on the lips of a man such as I? Yet He is.
So Christ is also found in bread and wine, and in water. Such lowly places for the Son of God! How humble He has become, so that He can lift you up from your sins to life everlasting. What would He not do for you? If He has suffered so much and humbled Himself in these ways, how could we say that He would hold back anything from you?
When He returns, with the glory of God and the flash of lightning and the thunderous voice of the Archangel, then you will be found where Christ is. If you are gathered with Him in this life, then you will be with Him forever and ever. In death, in life, in eternity, He is your forever. He has marked you as His own possession, and He will never let you go.
In His Name, the One Eternal God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
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