Why does faith feel attenuated or faint today? What is different today than even say 100 years ago? It is a question that I find myself asking over and over. And I think that that answer is what we refuse to take seriously. We will take faith itself seriously, sometimes so seriously it is just “the big lie” or maybe the necessary lie. We take works deadly seriously. Well maybe not Christians as much catechized on grace, but the world right now is all about justice which is nothing if not a demand for good works. But what we do not take seriously, as something worthy of contemplation in itself, in Himself, is God. The ground of all faith and works, the precursor to these things, is God. We are invited to abide in Christ. He is the vine and we are the branches. That is not an image of faith, but of union. And we feel that ache of desire without understanding what it is pointing at. We always get turned inward which finds nothing when the object of desire is outside of us.
The last judgement text can give a Lutheran heartburn, primarily because it inspires the question in the title.
What this sermon does is attempt to put the last judgement within its context in Matthew. It seeks to stay within two guard rails in interpretation: being willing to say ‘I don’t know’ and letting the text tell us what it means. There are two important questions that this is applied to. 1) Who are all the nations? 2) Who are the brothers Jesus references? These two questions form two halves of an answer. They also help I think to answer that title question, or at least lessen its force. The sermon ends with three short applications for our life together.
If we are willing to narrow the scope of the what those phrases mean – which I believe is correct based on the Gospel text itself – we get both a more humble eschatology, a text that is encouragement instead of judgement, and a greater emphasis on faith and church life.
1 Kings 18:1-19
A funny scene with Elijah & its NT parallel (Joanna, the wife of Chuza in Luke 8:3)
The doctrinal gospel in the nutshell – grace, faith, election
A theoretical question – commandment vs. ordinances
1 Samuel 1:1-20
“Big Love” and how the Bible handles Polygamy (i.e. it is not a commended model)
A worthless priest and the faith of Hannah
Paul’s deep connection to the teaching of Jesus (the yeast of the Pharisees Matthew 16:6, Luke 12:1)
Spirit before flesh – faith before works