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Private Confession: By Appointment

What's Next?

November 22, 2020 Pastor: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Verse: 1 Corinthians 15:24–15:28

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Christ Lutheran Church
Cleveland, Ohio
November 22, 2020
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras

Last Sunday Of The Church Year
What’s Next?

(A translation with nouns in place of pronouns and a few clarifiers: DCK)

Then comes the END / TELOS: when Christ delivers the Kingdom to God the Father, after eliminating every rule and every authority and power. For Christ must reign until he should put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. “For God has put all things under Christ’s feet.”

Now when it says that “all things are now in a state of subjection” (Psalm 8) it is clear that God the Father is excepted, he, that is, who put all things into subjection under Christ. Now when all things are subjected to Christ, then the Son himself will be subjected to the Father who put all things in subjection under Christ. So that God may be all in all! (1 Cor. 15:24-28)

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Beloved in Christ, the human heart is always asking: What’s next? For as often as we attain any goal it soon loses its charm and we begin to ask: What now?

On this final Sunday of the church year, as we bid farewell to the old, and stand poised to enter this next year of grace, the church teaches us to contemplate the end of all things, and to turn our attention to what comes next. What St. Paul calls in today’s epistle, the END, or the TELOS.

But there is a difference between now and then.

Now we always wonder what’s next, but in the TELOS there is no next thing, nor will the human heart want any more, because what comes next is our entrance into an eternity of time, space, glory and wonder.

Or said another way we will then have reached the goal for which our God created us; and then, finally, we will be in a state of perfect satisfaction. of perfect peace; and will worship our Lord in “everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness,” living the very life that God himself lives.

But getting from here to there, from here to the “TELOS” takes time, grace, patience and faith, for we must pass through many tribulations to get there including the final judgment detailed in today’s gospel.

God’s Old Testament church passed through many “dangers, toils and snares” to get there. She “suffered the loss of all things” because of her sins. She stubbornly refused to repent, or to reconcile with the LORD who was her Holy Bridegroom.

And so he allowed the Babylonians, the most wicked and powerful nation on earth, to flatten her land, demolish her temple, wipe her greatest men from the face of the earth, and to deport all the rest to Babylon, where they were held captive for 40 years.

But in her darkest night the LORD sent the prophet Ezekiel to Babylon. He sent Ezekiel THERE to minister to his church in her imprisonment, even as our Lord teaches us to do in today’s gospel.

His Word, we could say, was “made flesh and dwelt among them” in their captivity. When they were lumbering beneath the pressing consequences of their sins, their stubbornness, their refusal to return to their God. That is when the Prophet Ezekiel gave them a foretaste of the Telos.

There is no single word in English that can translate the word Telos.

But it is the place, or in our case, the Person to whom all things lead, and at whose gracious feet all things end in glad and eternal fulfillment. That person is Christ. That person is our God and Father who is “all in all.”

But as Israel had to pass through Babylonian captivity before she was restored to glory, all men must all pass through the greatest trial in history, the final judgment that our Lord details in today’s gospel.

Now what is amazing about this gospel is that while Scripture teaches that we get to heaven, not by our own merit’s, but Christ’s; the Great Judgment is not conducted based on our faith, but on the fruits of our faith. On the mercy we extend to Christ in the person of the world’s most helpless people.

What a mysterious sentence! “When you have done it unto the least of these my brothers, you have done it unto me! And … when you have not done for them, you have not done for me!”

Which are you?

Will you be one of the sheep on the Lord’s right hand, who passes through the final judgment and enters the “Kingdom prepared for the Righteous before the foundation of the world.”

Or are you a goat on the Lord’s left hand who goes into eternal punishment prepared for the devil and his angels?

Though every word of today’s gospel is golden it can be interpreted through its first three verses:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. And all the nations will be assembled before him, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, and the goats on the left.”

There are two “glorious thrones” we must consider today. This first is
the cross.

Roman crosses, besides the vertical and horizontal bars, had both a foot rest and a narrow seat so that a person could prop himself up to prevent sinking down and dying too soon of strangulation.

It was there to prolong the despair and the agony. This is the death that our Lord willingly and joyously endured “for us men and for our salvation.”

And so the cross is the first glorious throne that our Lord sat upon, which led to the second one. The one on which he will return, along with all his holy angels, to conduct the Great Trial on the Great and Awesome Day of the Lord.

As there were three crosses on Calvary, not just one, so there will be three stations at the final judgment.

As on Calvary the Lord will be in the center; and on either side of him will be those, who like the Good Thief, “visited with this glorious prisoner” at the 11th hour and received a great promise: “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

And those who like the other criminal cursed Jesus with his dying breath.

Those assembled on the Lord’s right hand are those who are Blessed by Baptism; and with the power of baptism which is the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit who gives us eyes to see what the world cannot see: namely, the face of Jesus in the face of all whom the world considers “non-essential” and to come to their aid, even as Christ came to ours …

…and will come as often as we call upon him.

They will go into the Kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world: it is endless, brilliant, breath-taking and spectacular: and they will never want for more.

The goats on the other hand are those who refused to worship the crucified Lord. Refuse to serve Christ by serving “the least” of his brethren.

Those who scorn the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the strangers, the sick, and the imprisoned. They will go into eternal punishment prepared for the devil and his angels.

By God’s kindness we are the sheep on the Lord’s right hand. And so let us see to it that we spend the new year of grace worshiping only him, and serving only him, by serving those whom he calls: the least of these my brothers. Amen