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He Who Endures Shall Be Saved

St. Mark 13.1-13


Pentecost 25, Proper 28, series B
Lutheran Senior Services at Meramec Bluffs  
Ballwin, Missouri

Sun, Nov 18, 2012 

Soli Deo Gloria. Amen.

Invocation In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

1 In the gospel for today, Jesus describes what life on earth is like until he comes again in glory at the consummation of the age.  Regarding the state of the entire world he says:

[St. Mark 13.5b-8]

Take heed lest any man deceive you: For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.  And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, be ye not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet.  For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.

2 Jesus' words ring true.  Throughout the world, false prophets preach false gospels of money, material wealth, and earthly glory, and along with these false gospels, they proclaim a false Christ.  Right now, war rages in Isreal and Gaza, Syria, Afghanistan and countless other places around the globe.  Nations plot and scheme to gain advantage one over the other, while natural disasters—hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis—bring destruction, devastation, famine and want to the places they plague.  Trouble is everywhere.  But Jesus says: Be ye not troubled.  These are the beginnings of sorrows.  This is just the beginning, and only God knows the end.  And while the suffering has begun, on a worldwide scale, chaos and calamity rule the day.  So says our Lord, and with our own eyes and in our own lives we see his words come to pass.

3 For us—for the Church—things are also difficult, while we wait for the return of Christ.  Jesus says:

[St. Mark 13.9-11]

But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them.  And the gospel must first be published among all nations.  But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.

4 Again, Jesus' words ring true.  In various parts of Africa, Christians are arrested, tortured.  They are even killed because of their faith, oftentimes while they gather in church for worship.  In the Muslim world Christian worship and piety is altogether banned.  In China, the only legal church is the government sanctioned church which the government controls and limits and censors.  Here in our own country, the persecution is not so obvious.  We face the subtle, yet no less sinister persecution of a society and government that increasingly demands we keep our faith a totally private matter; that says refrain from expressing your beliefs in public.  Keep your faith in church and out of your vocation; out of your social interaction; out of public view.  All these attempts to limit the scope of our faith or wipe out Christianity provide us the opportunity to preach the gospel to those who would silence it.  They give us a time and place to preach a witness against those who persecute the people of God.  Persecution gives us the platform to do just what Jesus says: Publish the gospel among all nations.  While we proclaim the gospel, we face persecution.  So says our Lord, and with our own eyes and in our lives we see his words come to pass.  And yet, the gospel goes forth, just as Jesus promised. 

5 After speaking of the whole world and to the whole Church, finally today Jesus speaks to us on a personal, one-on-one level.

[St. Mark 13.12-13a]

Now the brother shall betray the brother to death, and the father the son; and children shall rise up against their parents, and shall cause them to be put to death.  and ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake.

6 As the prophet Micah warns us:

[Micah 7.5-6]

Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide: keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom.  For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house.

On a personal level, we face the threat of martyrdom every day.  Those we hold most dear and love with all our heart, may in the end make martyrs of us all.  Few, if any of us can say that all our family and friends have been and remain faithful to the Church.  And some of us, no doubt, know the heartbreaking sorrow of a loved one who militantly opposes our faith, our hope, and even our Christian love.  Thus it is for us in the Church, and thus it always has been.  So says our Lord, and with our own eyes and in our lives we see his words come to pass.

7 After all this bad news, Jesus makes a promise to sustain us through all our trial and tribulation in this life.  He says:

[St. Mark 13.13]

. . . but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

These words of Jesus ring just as true as all that came before.  As we endure in our faith in the face of a world struck by the chaos of false prophets, war, and natural disaster, Christ sustains us by his grace.  He that shall endure unto the end shall be saved from a world in rebellion against its God.  As we endure in our faith in the face of persecution that seeks to quiet our piety, diminish our devotion, and steal us from our Lord, Christ strengthens us for the fight, energizes us to share the gospel, and grants us fortitude to face even the possibility of martyrdom and baptism in blood.  He that shall endure unto the end shall be saved from all such persecution.  As we endure in our faith in the face of personal opposition and even hatred because of our belief, Christ nourishes our faith with his holy word and this precious promise: He that shall endure unto the end shall be saved from such hatred.

8 Christ has saved us from it all.  He has secured our salvation—Christ has saved us from these threats by his death upon the cross.  On the cross, Christ suffered the attacks of the world that would not receive him as its savior.  On the cross, Christ suffered the persecution of the enemies of God and those who would destroy his Church.  On the cross, Christ suffered the abandonment and opposition of those near and dear to his heart, because they lost their faith.  And on the cross, Christ sealed his promised of salvation in his very own blood.  As his blood poured down upon the ground of Calvary, the healing of the world began.  As his blood poured down from the cross the reconciliation of the Church and her enemies was accomplished.  As his blood poured down from his hands and feet, head and side, the family of God was restored and our bond with our Lord was made sure.  For in his suffering and death upon the cross, Christ sealed his promise: He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. 

9 So, as the world rages around us, and as we face persecution from outside the Church; and even as those near and dear dare to challenge our faith and our hope, let us do as the writer to the Hebrews encourages us:

[Hebrews 10.22-25]

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

As we draw near to Christ with a true heart, may we always hold this promise of our Lord steadfast in faith: He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.  God grant it for Jesus' sake.  Amen.

Invocation In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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