First Lesson: Genesis 19:1-17, 23-29:
1The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. 2“My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.”
“No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.”
3But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. 4Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. 5They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”
6Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. 8Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”
9“Get out of our way,” they replied. “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door.
10But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. 11Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door.
12The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, 13because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.”
14So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.
15With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.”
16When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. 17As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”
23By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. 24Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. 25Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. 26But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
27Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.
29So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.
Psalm 25 on Page 74 in Christian Worship
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul;
in you I trust, O my God.
Remember, O Lord, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me, for you are good, O Lord.
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
Look upon my affliction and my distress
and take away all my sins.
Guard my life and rescue me,
for I take refuge in you.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning,
is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Second Lesson: 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13:
9How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? 10Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.
11Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. 12May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.
Gospel Lesson/Sermon Text: Luke 21:25-36:
25“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
29He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.
32“Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
34“Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. 35For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”
It’s one of the most famous novel openings in the history of English literature: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. Dickens used these words to describe the time of the French Revolution. He admitted that it wasn’t really, but it seemed that way to those who lived through that time. There is a time coming that will truly be both at the same time…
Jesus Describes the Last Times As…
I. The worst of times!
II. The best of times!
I. The worst of times!
- Jesus was exiting Jerusalem on the Tuesday of Holy Week
- His disciples commented on the size and scope of the buildings
- Jesus told them than not one stone would be left on top of another
- He told them of the destruction of Jerusalem coming in 70 AD
- This disturbed them, so Jesus basically said, “If you think this is scary…”
- He told them of the coming of the end of the world that would be announced
- The things that announced it would be scary: wars, hatred, disasters of all kinds
- It was only going to be scarier and while it was, people were going to deny it
- They would say that the world has been going on like this all along, no ending
- Jesus said that this would lead only to more intense and scarier signs
- Even the heavenly bodies would be shaken when the end drew nearer and nearer
- Finally the end would come – this kind of people wouldn’t pass away until then
- When that end would come, all those who doubted it will have the worst of times
- Since the time of Jesus, we have seen the signs he spoke about come to pass
- Despite all the efforts of people to bring about the best of times, no use
- We have only seen the hearts of people grow colder & lives grow more violent
- We know that day will finally come at the end of this sick world, not scared
II. The best of times!
- Jesus told them that when we see those things happen, we are to look up in hope
- He said it means that our salvation is drawing nearer and nearer
- What he meant is the full expression of the salvation that he won for us
- You see, Advent has a double meaning as we begin another church year
- It points us to Jesus’ first coming – something many doubted would take place
- When he came, he worked out our salvation when we couldn’t work it out
- Because he came, we have sure confidence: Word will never pass away
- We know we can look forward to his second coming as the best of times.