Posts Tagged ‘The Second Coming’

Sermon 12-31-17: “Pray Always and Do Not Lose Heart”

January 4, 2018

Today’s scripture, the Parable of the Persistent Widow in Luke 18:1-8, is about more than the need to be persistent in prayer. It’s also about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ—and how we can be ready for it.

Sermon Text: Luke 18:1-8

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In our Wesleyan tradition, on New Year’s Eve in fact, is something called a “Watch Night” service. Methodist churches rarely have them anymore, but the idea is that, instead of ringing in the new year, you spend the night in prayer—literally “keeping watch.” And what are you watching for? The Second Coming of Jesus Christ. As Jesus says in many places, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour”[1]—of his return.

God’s Word tells us repeatedly—through Jesus in the gospels and in Revelation,[2] through Paul in 1 Thessalonians,[3] and through Peter in 2 Peter[4]—that the Second Coming will occur like a “thief in the night.” This image implies two important truths—and I confess that, for most of my life, when I contemplated the image of a “thief in the night,” I only considered one aspect of the image: that Jesus’ return will be unexpected. Jesus said, “But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into.”

The Second Coming will be unexpected—at least for the vast majority of people living in the world. Many of us have security systems in our homes, not for the sake of people breaking in during broad daylight but in the middle of the night, when we’re asleep. So the alarms can go off and we can be alerted to the danger. So, when I’ve considered the “thief in the night” image in the past, I’ve always considered the “in the night” part more than the “thief” part. But… let’s turn our attention to the “thief” part: How will Jesus, in his Second Coming, be like a thief. Have you ever thought about that? I mean, that’s kind of a negative image for Jesus, isn’t it? How will Jesus be like a thief?

He’ll be like a thief for those people who find their treasure in anything other than God and his kingdom and his glory; for anyone who treasures earthly things above heavenly things; or temporal things above eternal things. Why? Because everything that isn’t of God, everything that isn’t of his kingdom, everything that isn’t for his glory in the end will be “destroyed by fire,” Peter says.[5] It is passing away. It is being consumed by moths and rust, Jesus says. Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 08-13-17: “Living at the End of the Age”

September 7, 2017

This sermon is about Second Coming of Jesus Christ. I chose to preach this doctrine because of Peter’s words in 1 Peter 4:7a: “The end of all things is at hand.” Does this mean that Peter expected that the Second Coming would happen at any moment? Probably not. He knew, based on the teaching of Jesus, that there were signs in history that must occur before that happened. I explore these signs and talk about the most important thing we Christians should do while we wait.

Sermon Text: 1 Peter 4:7-11

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Last Christmas, in the New York Times, op-ed columnist Nicholas Kristoff interviewed one of my favorite contemporary preachers, Tim Keller, who, until his retirement a couple of months ago, pastored a large, multi-campus church in Manhattan. Kristoff said, “I deeply admire Jesus and his message, but am also skeptical of themes that have been integral to Christianity — the virgin birth, the Resurrection, the miracles and so on.”

So Kristoff wanted to know if he could still be a Christian if he didn’t believe “the miracles and so on.” And Keller told him, politely, no—it’s not possible. And of course that’s right. In many ways, Kristoff wanted to do what Thomas Jefferson did: remove all the supernatural stuff from the gospels and focus on Jesus’ teaching. His teaching is great, after all. Or as Kristoff said, “I deeply admire Jesus and his message.”

But I wonder if Kristoff really understands what Jesus’ message is. Now, he likely has in mind Jesus’ great moral teaching, as in the Sermon on the Mount and in many of his parables. You don’t have to be a Christian, after all, to appreciate that Jesus is the greatest moral teacher who ever lived. But what about the rest of Jesus’ teaching? One scholar I read estimates that fully 20 percent of Jesus’ teaching has to do with events associated with his Second Coming.

If Kristoff and many others think Jesus was onto something when he taught about morality, maybe they should hear what he has to say about this other important doctrine.

So that’s what I want to do in today’s sermon: talk about the Second Coming. The reason it comes up is because of what Peter says in verse 7: “The end of all things is at hand”—and this fact ought to dictate how we live. Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 05-07-17: “Against ‘Easy-Believism'”

May 16, 2017

“Easy-believism,” the idea that being a Christian is easy and requires very little of us, is a crisis in the local church, in the United Methodist denomination, and in the culture at large. Yet today’s scripture speaks against easy-believism in a few important ways. I talk about two of those ways in this sermon.

Sermon Text: 1 Peter 1:13-21

Many of you have used Uber. I never have. I know it’s very popular. In case you don’t know, it’s like a taxi service, except the drivers aren’t taxi drivers; they’re just regular people in their regular cars. You have an app on your phone when you need a ride somewhere.

Uber recently released its “Lost and Found Index,” a humorous report on the forgetfulness of its passengers—i.e., the items that passengers forgot about and left behind in Uber vehicles. For example, the most frequently forgotten item, unsurprisingly, is the cell phone. The second most frequently forgotten item is a ring. That’s surprising… although as someone who tends to take off my wedding band and fiddle around with it—including spinning it like a top on tables—I guess it shouldn’t be that surprising. It spins really well! Keys, wallets, and glasses round out the Top 5.[1]

A surprising number of wedding dresses are forgotten in Uber vehicles.

As an absent-minded person who tends to forget things, I can relate. But all of us know that panicky feeling we get when we lose or forget or leave behind something valuable. “This is so important!” we say. “How could I have forgotten that?”

Brothers and sisters, if, when we read today’s scripture, we get that same panicky feeling—and we say, “This is so important! How could we as a church have forgotten that?”—well, we’re probably reading this passage correctly. Because today’s scripture reminds us of some very important truths that we tend to forget in our Christian lives. Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 06-29-14: “Therefore Keep Watch”

July 3, 2014

Wedding Receptions

 

Every week, most of us United Methodists recite the Apostles’ Creed. When we do so, we affirm that we believe in a doctrine that we rarely talk about: the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. What is it, why should we believe in it, and why is it relevant for our lives? How are we supposed to live now, before Christ returns?

Sermon Text: Matthew 25:1-13


The following is my original sermon manuscript with footnotes.

In the past ten years of my pastoral ministry, I haven’t one time messed up the names of any bride or groomwhose wedding I’ve performed. I haven’t said, “Stephen, will you have Amy to be your wife,” only to have Stephen say, “My name is Richard! And her name is Cindy!” That hasn’t happened yet, I’m happy to say. At least I don’t think it’s happened!

Once I did a wedding for a bride and groom who had interchangeable names—names that could easily apply to either a man or a woman—something like Casey and Taylor. Which one’s which? And they weren’t members of my church, so it’s not like I knew them very well.

Their wedding was at 6:00 on Sunday evening. Sunday! Which is the worst day for us pastors because we all take long naps on Sunday afternoon! Anyway, I set my alarm to wake up extra early from my nap, in part because I wanted to make sure I had time to learn their names and keep them straight.
Read the rest of this entry »