The Sunday after Ascension Day, 2019
The Epistle – 1 Peter 4:7-11
The Gospel – St. John 15:26-16:4a
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
The prayer we prayed this day reflects what our attitude is to be regarding life in this world now and the future we look forward to.
Just the other night, we heard so much of what the ascension of Christ meant regarding the completion of the plan of redemption…
…that is, Christ not only comes, lives, dies and rises to life again… but He ascended as well.
To ascend meant that He would now enter into heaven as the King of glory.
To ascend meant that He would be exalted as head above all.
To ascend meant that He would soon be sending the Holy Spirit who would make Christ present to us.
To ascend meant that He would be forever our mediator, advocate and great high priest, demonstrating the great love He has for us in all that he does for us.
St. Peter in the Epistle today says, “The end of all things is at hand.”
There are always some who will mock the Christian faith by pointing to this very verse and ask… “Well, where is Jesus? Where is the end?
If the Bible says the end of all things is at hand…it’s an awful long time to be saying …the end is near…and still nothing has changed.
This charge is almost as old as when Peter said it.
In every age there are those who say, “The end is near.” And even we say that those who predict end times and set dates and say the end is near are kooks or on the fringe or cults… and that all may be true.
But how should we think about Peter’s statement? He said 2000 years ago, “The end of all things is at hand.” And we believe Him to be right and true…and we believe the Bible to be true…what did he mean?
Well the first answer is usually one that we give and though it is well worn, it is still true.
The end IS at hand if you are looking at it from the perspective of God.
God, who is timeless is not bound to the limitations of waiting and time constraints like we are.
So, to God, who is eternal and all present, …who sees the end from the beginning…the end is just as close or at hand as the beginning.
God is said to be long suffering and patient. Waiting for things or people. And these statements are true, but He does not exist like we do so we have to just do our best to understand Him as He has revealed Himself to us.
If God is the same yesterday, today and forever, this says a lot about His nature and His existence.
Our very short lives here on earth are described in the Bible by James for example as a mist.
He says, or asks…. “James 4:14
“What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (ESV)
We cannot say this about God.
David writes in Psalm 144:3–4
 “O LORD, what is man that you regard him,
or the son of man that you think of him?
 Man is like a breath;
his days are like a passing shadow.” (ESV)
 For my days pass away like smoke… (ESV)
Peter writes earlier in this same letter,
1 Peter 1:24–25
“All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
 but the word of the Lord remains forever.” (ESV)
So, it is clear that we do not exist and live long and when compared to the eternal nature of God, the end can easily be said to be “at hand”.
It is probably best to think about it this way. We should remember that from the time when Christ appeared, there is really nothing left for us “…but with suspended minds ever look forward to his second coming.”
This is not at all to say we shouldn’t care about anything. On the contrary. It should cause us to now live with a focus and a desire to live moment by moment expecting His coming.
We should be longing for it and knowing that all that happens to us is all moving toward a goal…
…to an end that God is bringing about.
Once Christ came, all things changed. We do live in a sort of suspended manner in that we now can see the world with purpose. ..our lives with purpose.
We can see all that Christ has done to change the world in which we live and give it the correct meaning. He gives us a correct understanding of what this plan of redemption is about.
Peter in fact today in the same breath as when he says “the end is at hand”, gives us things to do.
What does Peter ask of waiting Christians…who are living in the end?
Loving one another.
It is certainly strange for Peter to tell us this after he has said the end is at hand. Why not tell us to just wait? Why not tell us to go to the top of the mountain and wait for Jesus to return?
He doesn’t because he knows that our lives should not be viewed as long or forever. We tend to live that way. …as if it will go on forever.
Only from time to time do things occur in life that remind us of our limited time here and how important it is to live as Peter describes.
These things like
Loving one another.
These are the gifts given to us by God, as Peter says today, because we are stewards of God’s grace.
We have been given grace in order to act.
As each of us has a way to contribute to the betterment of the lives of others….what we call the gifts that God gives us to use….we are to use them.
Using these gifts, he says, to serve one another. How can I be of service to other people by using the talents and the abilities God has given me?
Those who have been rightly appointed by the Church to speak the oracles of God, let him do so.
Those who has a desire and an ability to serve others, do so. But do it to serve them as they need it, not as you see fit. Not as you want them served, but as they need your service.
All of these gifts then that we all possess to one degree or another, are to one purpose. To glorify God.
In fact, Peter says it in an interesting way…
He says, “Do all of these things, in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”
Not glorified by our works of service to one another, per se…but glorified by our works of service to one another through Jesus Christ. An important distinction.
All of our works begin, continue and end in Christ. ..as our Prayer Book says.
The works that we do are in Christ. We are ambassadors of Christ, so all we do should be in line with His will…His nature…His desire that we be conformed to Him.
Paul says in Ephesians 2:10,
“For we are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (ESV)
We then glorify God by walking in good works which God prepared ahead of time for us to walk in.
He says to Timothy, 2 Timothy 1:9
We have been saved and called to a holy calling, “…not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began…” (ESV)
There is something to think about. Though good works are the fruit and the proof that we are truly Christian, we are not saved by them.
Rather, we are saved by God because of His grace and purpose for us...which was given to us in Christ. We were found in Christ before the ages began.
Paul says in his letter to the Philippians 4:19
“…my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (ESV)
He places us in Christ by His grace and then supplies all that we need…according to His riches…His good gifts…
God is good and gives good gifts because He is rich in mercy. He is rich in generosity. We are in Christ as a gift of mercy.
And that is how “every need is supplied” is defined.
If we are in Christ, all we need is Christ.
This is why the commentator a minute ago said in essence…what’s left? What matters, but to be found in Christ?
All is new. Our minds are suspended because we have one thing above all other things to wait for and that is the return of Christ.
And we wait, by being in Christ, living in Christ and glorifying God in Christ.
He has already these last weeks given us the comfortable message. That is, the Holy Spirit is present with us.
He is the comforter. He is actually the “other comforter” as Jesus says… He is the other helper…which really is very similar in meaning.
To comfort is to help.
Leave us not comfortless, o God, but send to us your Holy Spirit to comfort us and to exalt us to the same place Christ is.
The Spirit of God is present, comforting and helping us all of the time. His presence is felt and known by us as we are more and more conformed to be like Christ.
He is more present than we are aware of.
God withdraws and suspends that presence at times in order to grow us and shape us and conform us. But it is always to grow, shape and conform us to be like His Son.
So, if the end of all things is at hand, as Peter tells us, then this is how we are to view it.
The end is at hand is not something to be feared, nor as something to sit around and do nothing about.
The end is at hand tells us to wake up!
It tells us that we are to be mindful.
Paul says, Ephesians 5:14–17
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,  making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.(ESV)
 Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. (ESV)
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.