Sermon for November 17, 2013@: Legacy
Pentecost 28c, 2013 (November 17)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Luke chapter twenty.
Today we are going to talk about legacies. There are different kinds of legacies, of course, there is the legacy of a sports team. The legacy of a statesman or political leader. The legacy of a business owner. There is the legacy of your family. A legacy is whatever it is that is left behind after you die.
In Jesus’ day, the Jews had a legacy. Their legacy, so they thought, was the Temple. They admired its beautiful, noble stones and offerings. The huge columns, the candles, the altar of incense. There was the holy place, and within that, the holy of holies, where God promised to dwell between the cherubim and on the mercy seat. This, so they thought, was their legacy. It was a legacy rooted in blood, built for them, this time at least, built for them by Herod the Great on the site of the original Temple, which was destroyed in 586 B.C. by the Babylonians. It is hard for us to fathom the size and grandeur of this building. It was one of the marvels of the ancient world. Some of the stones which were carved for its foundation weighed upwards of six-hundred tons. The great cathedrals of Europe have nothing on this temple of old. And so the Jews were proud of this temple. They saw it as their as identity, their place of worship but much more than that. They saw Herod’s Temple the sign that God loved them, that they were special, and that nothing could ever harm them again.
We all have a tendency to do this with our legacies. Legacies can be both good and bad. They can help us remember the many accomplishments of those who have gone before us. But they can also lead us to pride in the wrong things. What is your legacy as a human being? What will people remember about you five, ten, twenty or fifty years after you die and go to be with Christ? What is it that truly endures in this life? As we ponder the end of all things and the return of Christ, this is a question that is really worth considering along the way. What will you be remembered for?
Now in our Old Testament for today from the book of Malachi, we hear that the people wanted their legacy to be their own works, not God’s enduring mercy for them. They thought that the things of this life, the buildings and works of man were what really matter. God said to them, “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble.” (Malachi 4:1 ESV) It is a sad reality that what seems important to us, what looks and feels enduring and long lasting, well, often these are the very things that burn up the fastest in the fire of judgment and time.
This is why our Lord says to the Jews about the Temple, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” (Luke 21:6 ESV) In 70 A.D., not forty years after Jesus’ resurrection, the city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, razed to the ground along with its beautiful Temple. No two stones were left upon each other, as Jesus Himself had said.
In God’s Kingdom, what endures isn’t the things of this world. Not when it comes to brick and mortar, at least. This building will be torn down someday for something else. Cars break. Computers go into the great recycling bin somewhere. Whatever it is that we cling to in this fallen world, they will all fade away into nothingness sooner or later. All of this is a result of sin, the brokenness and rebellion which we all endure every day. We all construct our Tower of Babel, and in some way live under the fantasy that we can reach to the heavens with our own labors. But it is not so. That is your own pride talking, and it is a lie.
So if the things of this world are broken, fading and ready to burn away like so much stubble on the plains, then what does endure? What is it that will really stand the test of time? What is it that will last far beyond own years and those of our children’s children’s children? What endures is Christ, the power of His resurrection, and His Word offorgiveness for you. We hear about it in Isaiah as follows:
“The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:7–8 ESV)
The end will come. It is even already upon us. The end will come, but the end of all things here on earth isn’t the final act in some great tragedy of life. Far from it. It is exactly when these crazy things are happening, which destruction seems to loom around every corner, it is precisely then that we hear of what is to come. Jesus says it this way at the end of our Gospel:
““And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”” (Luke 21:25–28 ESV)
Straighten up, Jesus says. He doesn’t mean that like a drill sergeant. No, He means it like a father will lift up his child’s teary face and give them comfort. Look up! The best is coming. Resurrection is on the way. Jesus’ work of salvation and eternal life is on the way for you, always for you. Your redemption is drawing near.
So God uses what may be the most wispy and transient of all things to deliver the one thing that will endure to the end of the world and beyond. He uses the ordinary. Just words. Words of comfort and Gospel. Words of hope in the midst of sorrow and death. He uses words. He uses bread and wine, He uses water, things that are hear today and gone as fast as you can swallow. Yet through these, the most impermanent of things, God gives you the one thing needful, He gives you a legacy of eternal life in His name.
That, my friends, is called faith. Trust in His Word of promise and hope. Trust that even though steeples are falling, your life may be a confused wreck, and that the wars and rumors of wars persist, trust that God will continue His quiet work of redemption, drawing you back, preparing a place for you, and making you a home. For where Christ is, there is the kingdom of God.
Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.