First Sunday in Advent
November 28, 2004
“Jesus Knocking on the Church’s Door” Revelation 3:20-22
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Today is the First Sunday
in Advent, which is the first day of the Church year.
During Advent we prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ.
The first advent or coming of Jesus was when He came in the
flesh. He who was begotten
of His Father before all worlds came down from heaven and was incarnate
by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary and was made man.
The second advent of Jesus will be when He comes again with glory
to judge both the living and the dead.
Jesus came in blessing. Jesus
will come in judgment. Jesus
came into this world to save sinners.
Jesus will come into this world to judge sinners.
Jesus came in humility. Jesus
will come in glory. Jesus
came in such a way that sinners could approach Him without fear and find
in Him forgiveness of sins, true pardon from God, and peace of soul and
conscience. Jesus will come
in such a way that sinners will want to flee from Him in terror, but
there will be no escape from that divine judgment and retribution
against all the evil and all the evildoers of this world.
He came and He will come.
In order to be able to stand before the Jesus who will come to
judge the world in glory we need to find our refuge in the Jesus who
came in humility. But since
we cannot fly back in time to join Jesus at His manger, how can we take
refuge in Jesus today? Where
is Jesus today? How can we
find Him who is the Savior of sinners as the Savior of sinners before He
returns to judge the living and the dead?
Today’s Old Testament Lesson
gives to Christ’s Church the name: “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”
What makes the Church the Church is the Lord Jesus.
The word Church comes from the Greek word, Kyrios,
which means Lord. Jesus is
the Lord God. And Jesus is
our righteousness. He is
the Lord, our righteousness. The
righteousness that we need to stand before the Lord is the righteousness
that the Lord Himself gives. When
Jesus came into this world at His first advent, He came to bring
righteousness to sinners. They could find no righteousness within themselves.
They needed true righteousness to be provided for them or they
would remain sinners forever and forever condemned by God for their
sins. This is why God sent
His Son, our Lord Jesus, into this world.
He came to become our righteousness.
Where is Jesus today?
How can we find Him today? Jesus
can be found wherever His righteousness is given. The Church of Jesus Christ is not a specific place.
You cannot locate the Church on the map.
If you want to find the Church you must find Jesus, for He is her
head. We confess in the
Apostles’ Creed that the Church is a communion of saints. Where
do the saints get their holiness? It
is from Jesus, the Lord. The
Church is the Communion of Saints because the Church has received the
righteousness of the Lord Jesus. By
divine imputation, the flawless righteousness of Christ has become the
righteousness of the Church and all Christians.
So if we want to find Jesus we must find the gospel that
pronounces us sinners righteous. We
will not find Jesus in works of righteousness that we have done.
We will find Jesus in the washing of regeneration and renewing of
the Holy Spirit through which God justifies us by His grace, clothing us
in the righteousness of His Son. We
will find Jesus in the Sacrament of His body and blood, given and shed
for the forgiveness of sins. We
will not find Jesus just anywhere.
We must find Jesus where Jesus chooses to be found.
He chooses to be found in communion with His holy Christian
Where is Jesus today?
He is where the gospel is purely preached and the sacraments are
rightly administered. These
are means of grace. They
are the means by which God brings His grace to us and delivers us from
our sins. The gospel and the sacraments of Christ identify the Church
of Christ. They mark the
Church. Where the gospel is
proclaimed and the sacraments are administered, God Himself is reckoning
sinners to be righteous by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to
them. Where the gospel is proclaimed and the sacraments are
administered, the Holy Spirit is creating new and eternal life by
establishing true Christian faith in the hearts of those who hear the
gospel. We can’t see
faith, but we can identify the means by which God creates faith.
The Holy Christian Church can be identified even though it cannot
be seen. Jesus is present
wherever His gospel and sacraments are given out to sinners.
Therefore, the Holy Spirit is also present, calling sinners to
faith, wherever Christ’s gospel is proclaimed and His sacraments are
Jesus cannot be disjoined from
His holy Christian Church on earth.
This is why the picture St. John paints for us in our text is so
disturbing. It ought to
grab our attention and keep it! Jesus stands at the door of His own Church and asks
permission to enter. Jesus
spoke to the Church of Laodicea through His apostle, John, as recorded
in the Revelation of St. John. They
were neither cold nor hot. They
were indifferent to the gospel. They
were self-sufficient, or so they thought.
Jesus said to them: “You say, ‘I am rich, have become
wealthy, and have need of nothing’; and do not know that you are
wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” (Revelation 3:17)
Nobody wants to be wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.
But if you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked,
don’t you want to know that you are?
Or do you want to pretend that you’re just fine as you are?
Jesus offers us a meal.
It is a meal in which we eat and drink and by that eating and
drinking we enjoy fellowship with God.
When we eat and drink Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s
Supper this is a sacramental eating and drinking.
The bread is His body and the wine is His blood.
When we eat and drink the bread and the wine with our mouths we
also take into our bodies the body and the blood of Jesus. But the Christians in Laodicea were attending the Lord’s
Supper! They would not have
been identified as a church if they had not celebrated the Lord’s
Supper. Yet Jesus invited
Himself in to eat with them. Why
would He invite Himself in to eat with them if they had already been
eating with Him? It is
possible to eat and to drink Christ’s body and blood orally without
eating and drinking spiritually. The
oral eating and drinking takes place through the mouth.
The spiritual eating and drinking takes place in faith.
Jesus speaks of this spiritual
eating and drinking in St. John’s Gospel, chapter six.
What do you want?
For what do you hunger and thirst?
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for
righteousness, for they shall be filled.”
But those who don’t hunger and thirst for righteousness won’t
find much interest in what Jesus has to give.
For the banquet He sets before you is precisely that!
He invites you who have failed and He offers you to participate
in His success. He says,
“To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I
also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”
How do we overcome? St.
John writes in 1 John 5:4, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the
world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world: our
faith.” Faith is not
preparing the meal. Faith
is not serving it up. Faith
is not even setting the table. Faith
is eating and drinking. It
is taking in the promises of God, and not just any promises, but the
promises that are joined to the flesh and blood of Jesus. Faith takes Jesus in and won’t be content without Him
because faith knows how wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked we
are without Him. By faith
we share in the victory that Jesus won as He set His face toward
Jerusalem, rode into the city on a donkey as the promised Savior, and
then bore the sin of the whole world on the cross a few days later.
Some of us vicariously enjoyed
the Green Wave victory last Friday when East Grand Forks won the
Minnesota State football championship.
We did not play the game. But
we say that we won. We won
only in the sense that our team won and we share in that victory in an
emotional sense. We share vicariously in Christ’s victory in more than an
emotional sense. We share
Christ’s victory by faith. Faith
should not be confused with any emotion, though it is often attended by
deep emotion. Faith is best
defined as trust. But it is
not a self-centered trust. Faith
doesn’t trust in faith. Faith
trusts in the flesh and blood of Jesus.
It relies on His vicarious obedience and suffering.
Faith looks at Jesus’ journey to the cross and sees itself with
Him, joined to Him in a bond that cannot be broken.
Faith sees itself dying with Christ and rising with Him to
everlasting life. Jesus
defines faith as a spiritual eating and drinking and he invites us to
eat. True Christian faith
receives what God gives to it.
The purpose of the Divine
Service on Sunday morning is that God may give and we may receive.
It is that Christ would dine with us and we with Him. That Christ is here whenever His gospel is proclaimed cannot
be denied. That Christ is
present with His washing and His holy Supper cannot be denied.
That we foolishly, sinfully, and to our own great peril consider
other food more satisfying than the banquet of God’s grace should not
be denied, either. Instead,
we repent of it. We repent
in sorrow and our Lord Jesus, the LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS, replaces our
sorrow with joy. He invites Himself into our hearts, our homes, and His own
Church. He feeds us with
the bread of life. May God
graciously give us the ears to hear what the Spirit says to the churches
that we may always hunger and thirst for the food and drink that our
Lord Jesus alone can provide!
Rev. Rolf D. Preus