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A Gathering of Eagles

Matthew 24:15-28

Rev. Kurt Hering

Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Trinity
Trinity Lutheran Church  
Layton, Utah

Play MP3 of this sermon

Sun, Nov 17, 2013 

Preaching to the saints of the Lutheran Church at Christ-Elkhart and Faith-Hugoton in Kansas since February 8, 2015. All sermons prior to that date were preached either at Trinity Lutheran Church-Layton or First Lutheran Church-Tooele, Utah.

Dear Baptized Believers in Christ Jesus,

Welcome to a gathering of eagles! You are among the elect of whom Jesus is speaking and to whom He is giving a heads-up lest you be led astray and trade your eternal heritage for the rotting spoils of this world. . . .

. . . The world, and those who deny the bodily presence of Christ at His altars, see us who take Christ’s apostle Paul at His word as vultures gathered around a corpse. . . .

But what the world sees in the negative, we rejoice in as the most positive of positives. For what others see as vultures gathered around a corpse are actually a gathering of eagles of which the prophet Isaiah writes:

Even youths shall faint and be weary,

and young men shall fall exhausted;

but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;

they shall mount up with wings like eagles;

they shall run and not be weary;

they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:30-31

To hear the entire sermon preached for the Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Trinity, "A Gathering of Eagles," click on the MP3 audio link provided above. The audio begins with the Old Testament reading from Exodus 32:1-20. The sermon begins at the 17:50 point of the mp3 file.

A servant of the Word and His folk,

Pastor Hering

For those of you who prefer to read or read along while listening, the preaching manuscript follows below.

Nota bene: Sermons are meant to be heard. Some points from the manuscript are explained and filled out during the preaching, so you will need to listen to the audio file to get the full message.

TEXT: [Jesus said:] “When you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 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. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.” Matthew 24:15–28

Dear Baptized Believers in Christ Jesus,

Welcome to a gathering of eagles! You are among the elect of whom Jesus is speaking and to whom He is giving a heads-up lest you be led astray and sell trade eternal heritage for the rotting spoils of this world.

Today’s Gospel is full of double entendres, maybe even multiple applications, depending upon where you stand in relation to Christ Jesus and the kingdom of God.

Starting at the end of our text, when Jesus says, “Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather,” understand that the word “vultures” can just as easily and rightly be translated as eagles. What’s the difference?

Well, let’s look to the table set before us.

• We believe that, according to the express Word of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we take and eat His body in the bread He breaks for us; that we take and drink His blood in the cup of wine He pours out for us.

• Others, are abhorred by such an understanding of Holy Communion and see it as cannibalism—and not just unbelievers, but many who are members of churches today.

The world and those who deny the bodily presence of Christ at His altars see us who take Christ’s apostle Paul at His word as vultures gathered around a corpse.

What does Paul say?

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

But what the world sees in the negative, we rejoice in as the most positive of positives. For what others see as vultures gathered around a corpse are actually a gathering of eagles of which the prophet Isaiah writes:

Even youths shall faint and be weary,

and young men shall fall exhausted;

but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;

they shall mount up with wings like eagles;

they shall run and not be weary;

they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:30-31

And so this is why our dear Father in heaven has gathered us here this day, and why He gathers us together every Sunday and other holy days of the church year, and even whenever His people ask for it out of a desire to renew their exhausted strength, refresh their weary spirits, and revive their fainting hearts. [Article XXIV of AC & its Apology]

With that in mind, let us now look at the earnest warning our dear Savior gives us lest we be led astray from this gathering of eagles and fall amongst the vultures. Again, let us keep in mind the multiple applications, depending upon where one stands in relation to Christ Jesus and the kingdom of God.

Jesus said:] “When you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

10. All this pertains still to the Jewish nation. For if this should come upon us at the end of the world, then would we, according to the text, have to be in the land of Judea, because he really points to that country. It is also true, when he says that no greater calamity has been or can be upon the earth than was at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem; as we see in history, how unmercifully they were slaughtered and even killed one another, cast themselves into the fire, and permitted themselves to kill one another. Yea, the famine was so great that they ate the strings of cross-bows and even their own children. It was so shameful and abominable that like pity and distress shall never be heard again.

11. But they themselves wanted it, hence God permitted them to be thus blighted and destroyed. He would gladly have had mercy upon them and preserved them, but they brought themselves to such distress with their stiff-neckedness, that they killed and consumed one another; that as they began it, all such murder and bloodshed had to increase. Thus the death of Christ and of all the prophets is most abominably avenged on them, and that without ceasing, they raged against the Word of God, and persecuted and drove away the Apostles, as St. Paul says in 1 Thess. 2, 15-16, that the wrath of God finally came upon them.

12. When such fearful wrath and abominable plagues are at hand, says Christ, then flee wherever ye are able to flee;

Application #1: The Jewish people who continued to center their worship in the Jerusalem temple and its bloody sacrifices of bulls & sheep & goats & such. They suffered as Luther describes.

The Jews who believed Jesus to be the promised Messiah of the Law and the Prophets of Holy Scripture fled to the mountains and the church of eagles gathered in and around the body of Christ set out before us in His Sacrament and spread out with us in His Church, while those who saw only the dead corpse of a prophet—and a false one at that—suffered great tribulation, such as [Jesus said] has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.

So this, contrary to the fire and brimstone preachers and doomsayers of our time who want to like what is happening politically and militarily to that desolation and tribulation, should give us eagles great comfort as our Lord gathers us into and around the body of Christ.

Yet there is a warning from our Lord to His Church in these latter days that began with His Ascension and Pentecost sending of the Holy Spirit into the world through His Church. While those days of that great tribulation have been cut short for the sake of the elect, as Luther explained, what follows that word of comfort ought give us even greater pause.

And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 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.

As great as that tribulation in Judea, there is a greater and eternal tribulation awaiting those who are deceived and led astray by the great signs and wonders performed by the false christs and false prophets of which our dear Lord and Savior warns. Who are they? Listen to Paul again.

2 Corinthians 11:3-4 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.

Galatians 1:6-8 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

And here is that Gospel, that good news brought into the world by the apostles and prophets for the salvation of all who believe. Wherever the [body of Christ] is, there the [eagles] will gather.” And that Gospel you have heard and of which you will eat and drink today saves you and cuts short your tribulation.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. . . Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” John 6:35-40, 49-5—that is, His corpse, the very body of Christ.

So, again, Dear Baptized Believers in Christ Jesus, you are being spared the greatest of tribulations for you are a gathering of eagles! You are among the elect of whom Jesus is speaking and to whom He has given the kingdom of heaven even as He gives you His very body, the Bread of Life. For you are forgiven all your sins and as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, [at] the coming of the Son of Man--Who will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God—[you will be] caught up together with [all the saints who have gone before and may come after you] in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so [you] will always be with the Lord----in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen



Insofar as this sermon is a true proclamation of the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, it belongs to Him and His Church. Therefore its use is free to all who deem it worthy and beneficial.



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