How do you get ready for the day? What is the routine for you? My routine consists of hearing the alarm and then pressing the snooze. Grudgingly I get up, use the restroom, put in my contacts, do my devotions, perhaps work in some exercise depending upon the day, shower, get dressed, fix the spikes in my hair, eat breakfast, brush my teeth, and attempt to assist with the craziness of getting the kids ready for the day. That’s getting ready for the day in a nutshell for me. How about for you?
The writer to the Hebrews takes what we typically understand to be Judgment Day or the Last Day and simply calls it The Day. In those days, The Day was so familiar, so central to their teaching, that when The Day was referenced, people knew what it meant. It shaped their lives and their behaviors. So, how are we ‘Getting Ready for The Day?’
As The Day draws near, we are directed to draw near to God. This is what we just heard in the confession of our sins. “Beloved in the Lord! Let us draw near with a true heart and confess our sins unto God our Father, beseeching Him in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to grant us forgiveness.”
We get ready for The Day by repenting, by confessing our sins, admitting that we are poor, miserable sinners who have offended God and justly deserve both temporal and eternal punishment. This is our daily routine that we follow as we get ready for The Day. And we do so in ‘full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.’
As baptized believers, day in and day out, we die and rise with Christ. We admit we are wrong (not easy to do), we apologize, we beg for forgiveness, and we ask for help to change our sinful ways.
Then, in the stead and by the command of the Lord Jesus Christ, the pastor delivers to us the forgiveness of sins. Because “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (Divine Service I).
So is repentance a part of our daily routine as we get ready for The Day? Is it a priority in the ever busying schedule? Do we take time to examine our thoughts, words, and deeds according to the Ten Commandments, or is that only a Sunday thing? Have we so compartmentalized our lives that we only draw near to God in repentance because it is in the bulletin telling us to do so?
Because the truth is that God so loves us that He desires to sprinkle our hearts clean and wash our bodies of the filth of sin each and every day. Daily, as we get ready for the day, He delights in our hearing of His words of forgiveness. He wants to shower each of us with His love constantly, which is why He directs inwardly digest His Word as if our life depended upon it. Because it does! He knows full well that the journey is long, and He is here to help us so that we may be faithful to the point of death and so receive the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).
Which brings us to another way we are directed to get ready for The Day. The text tells us to ‘hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.’
In our baptism, our parents, sponsors, and the congregation spoke on our behalf regarding the faith into which we were baptized. They were not speaking for us, but rather in testimony of the faith that was being given to us on that very day through water and the Word.
Years after that blessed day of our baptism, we were invited to stand up before the congregation just as many of our confirmands recently did so a few weeks ago on Reformation Sunday. There before the congregation, they publicly affirmed the faith that was given to them in their baptism. In fact one of the questions even asked: “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” To which the Confirmands reply: “I do, by the grace of God.”
The point was and is that Confirmation is not graduation. It is not the end of the line for the life of faith. It is merely a stepping stone in the life of faith as a baptized believer. Many of us sit here in public testimony to that fact. It was years ago that we publicly confessed our faith at our Confirmation, and yet, here we are by the grace of God still confessing the one, true faith given to us at Baptism. Thanks be to God for that!
However, would any of us ever say that it was easy? Is the life of faith easy? No doubt, all of us could provide a laundry list of examples where we have been tempted to wander from our faith or abandon it altogether. Perhaps some of us here are in that very moment now as the devil is waging war on our very souls.
So, it’s no wonder that the writer to the Hebrews instructs us to get ready for the Day by saying that we are to hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering. Because the fact of the matter is that as sinners, we do waver. We do wander. We do get lost, and in those moments we need to be found.
But thanks be to God, He who promised is faithful. Our God is not a distant God, but rather One who sends His Son to enter into the valley of the shadow of death. And where we might have a hard time holding fast to the confession, He has no problem holding on to us. He is holding us now in the palm of His righteous right hand, and He will not let us go. Those hands that He holds us in were stretched out on Calvary on our behalf, pierced for our very transgressions, so that we may be saved. He is, and always will be faithful.
He faithfully died for us. He faithfully rose from the grave for us. And He will be faithful to His promise to return when The Day finally arrives. Though we don’t know when that day will be, we can trust that He will be faithful to send His Son back to earth to take us to be with Him.
I can’t tell you what joy that brings me as a pastor to be given the privilege to proclaim that very truth at funerals here in our congregation. To look into the eyes of those who grieve and mourn, and tell them that for all those who died believing in Jesus, there is a reunion yet to come in the presence of the Son of God. The Day is coming when we will see Him descending from the clouds, the dead in Christ will rise first, then those who are alive will meet with those who have been raised, and we will always be with the Lord. What a day, The Day will be!
Until The Day arrives though, the writer to the Hebrews continues in saying that we are to ‘stir one another up to love and good works’. As we look at the trend of our day where regular worship attendance is being redefined, now more than ever, we need to be stirring one another up to love and good works. No longer is the Sabbath Day being kept holy. There are other priorities in peoples’ lives. Where Sunday used to be sacred to most companies and organizations, it is now hard to find anyone who still thinks it is a day to be held in the highest regard.
That’s why now, more than ever, we need to reassess what is most important in life. When I ask the question when I am teaching, “Is there ever a point that we don’t need the forgiveness of sins offered in God’s Word and Sacrament,” everyone responds with “No!” Yet, so often that does not seem true when it comes to weekly routines. Here’s the thing though, if we behave like the world on Sundays, how will the world ever know that Sunday is the day to keep holy? How will they ever know that the reason we prioritize gathering on Sunday is because that is The Day our Savior rose from the dead, and that is the only hope we have for salvation?
So, it’s no wonder that the writer to the Hebrews tells us to ‘not neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as we see The Day drawing near.’
People of God, we need each other. God brings us into a community of faith so that we may be encouraged to know week in week out that we don’t go it alone. The journey is long and it is tough, but thanks be to God that as He guides us, we have others who are on the same journey. As we look to our left and right in the pews, we see our family. In some cases they are family by blood. In fact, in all cases, we are family by blood. Each of us has been sprinkled by the blood of Jesus cleansing our sins. Each of us has been nourished by the blood of Jesus giving us forgiveness, life, and salvation. Truth is, we are family. God the Father is our heavenly Father, and Jesus is our brother from another mother, but we got the same Father.
And what a joy it is to be welcomed here into the house of God, to draw near to Him together in the full assurance of faith, confident that as we hear His Word and receive His Sacrament, we are being readied for The Day. And I think I join with all of us in saying, “I can’t wait for The Day to finally be here.” So, “come, Lord Jesus, and come quickly!” And all God’s people said, “Amen!”
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.