Keeping Watch

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14th Sunday After Pentecost

Keeping Watch

Grace, Mercy and Peace from God our Father, His Son our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

        Watching. Waiting. Not knowing what is to come. All of these have become part of our lives. We don’t know what is coming next. Will it be another round of a virus? Will it be more riots and civil unrest? What are we to do?

        Much like an impending natural disaster, we are all witnesses to tragedy and death. It is like an escapable storm heading into our land. We see the storm growing and we do whatever we can to minimize the losses. Or, like a city behind walls built to hold back the barbarians at the gates, we buttress our fortifications with everything we have in order to stem off the attack.

        Yet walls alone are not enough. As the Latin saying goes, 'praemonitus, praemunitus', or in English, ‘Forewarned is forearmed’. This is why, from ancient times to today, we have watchmen constantly guarding our nation and our towns.

        We are forewarned about severe weather that may damage our crops or our homes. We are told to be on the lookout when a child is abducted through Amber Alerts. We are informed when our water or food has been tainted. All these instances could not happen without a watchman calling out the alarm.

        Strangely enough, even with the warning of impending trouble, some people refuse to listen. We hear it in the news when it is reported that people refuse to leave their homes in the path of a hurricane, or in an area soon to be flooded or overcome with devastating fires. Such people believe they can prevail over the coming destruction through their own wits and fortitude.

        As Christians, we have been given the foreknowledge of the end of the world as we know it. We refer to it as ‘Judgment Day’ or ‘The Day of our Lord’ At that time, all those who have not heard the call to repentance and redemption through Jesus Christ, will be forever lost. And who are the watchmen God has appointed to warn those who mistakenly believe in their own ability to survive this day? The answer is you and me.

        Ezekiel was given such a task by God.

“So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me. [Ezekiel 33:7]

Ezekiel was to be the watchman. He was to warn God’s people of impending catastrophe. The great calamity is God’s judgment on the people. All those who live in wickedness and sin will be put to death.

        God has no desire for his people to die. In verse 11 of the same chapter, God says this:

‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’ [Ezekiel 33:11]

This is why Ezekiel has been selected to be the watchman. It is his duty to sound the trumpet and warn the people of the coming of God’s judgment. Ezekiel is instructed to warn the people of their wicked and sinful ways. He is commanded to tell them about the righteousness of God and how they are to turn away from their unrighteousness.

“When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.” [Ezekiel 33:8]

        As you can see, being the watchman has its drawbacks. God holds Ezekiel responsible for the message he is to proclaim. Ezekiel cannot shirk off the job onto another. He cannot be released from the task and he surely cannot run and hide. If he fails to warn the people with the word from God’s mouth, he will be held accountable.

        Well my friends, I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is that we are the new watchmen for the people of God. We have been commanded by Jesus Christ to warn his people of the impending judgment that will separate the wicked from the redeemed. Like Ezekiel, we are to warn everybody to return to God or die in one’s own iniquity.

        We are to go to our brothers and sisters, our neighbors, friends and enemies and proclaim the salvation of Jesus Christ. The message is simple and true:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. [John 3:16-18]

If the people do not reject the Word given to us through the Holy Spirit, they will turn from their sin and return to God’s favor. However, if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. [Ezekiel 33:9]

        Yes, this is the bad news. If we evade our duty, if we try to avoid the command of Christ, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. [Matthew 18:6] You see? We are responsible not only for ourselves; we are responsible for all of our fellow human beings.

        Now hear the good news. We are not alone. We are not sole and lonely watchmen on the walls of the city. No, we are all members of the body of Christ and with Christ as the head of this body; we are able to do what he commands. Jesus says:

I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” [Matt 18:19-20]

        Our Lord and Savior has not left us to this world to be overcome by those who wish to follow sin and death. We are a community who has the gift of the saving grace of God Almighty. By the forgiveness of our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are now set apart as God’s holy people.

        It is true that we, at times, stumble. It is true that we sometimes succumb to the evils of this world, but this is not the end for us. We have been given forgiveness for all of our sins and now we help one another by forgiving each other.

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. [Matt 18:15-16]

        Like the watchman who warns his friends and family of their peril, we warn our family and fellow human beings of theirs. They may mock us because we tell them this warning comes from God, but this is the beauty of the truth. The Word of the Lord is His alone and it does not return to Him empty. If they reject you, they reject Him. Once you have fulfilled your responsibility, you will not be held accountable for their actions.

        Now does this mean when we tell people about Christ’s salvation and they reject it that we give up? By no means. Just like that earthquake or hurricane, we work to warn them until its arrival. The Day of Judgment is not yet here. Until that day, we are never to cease in spreading the Word that will save all people. Christ gives us a prime example in Matthew 18:

If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. [Matt 18:15-17]

        Yes, there will be a few people who say they are okay and they can survive the earthquake or outlast the storm, they will reject all pleas to come into the light and safety of our Lord. For these people you can only pray for their return to God. And if they do return, we are to welcome them gladly and rejoice as the lost sheep returning to the fold.

        In all things remember; you are not alone. We have each other, we have the church and most importantly, we have the promise of Jesus Christ. Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit to be our counselor. He gave us faith, love and hope. Jesus Christ gave us the keys to the kingdom of heaven.

        We watch for the coming of the Lord. We proclaim the Good News of our Savior. We love, forgive, and have faith because his Word is the way, the truth and the life. In this is our validation. We do not speak for ourselves. We do not forgive sins by our authority. ‘This is the word of the Lord’.

        We have the power, through Christ, to forgive and to be forgiven. In our baptism, we were clothed in the garment of Christ, instilled with his faith and cleansed from our sin. When we receive his body and blood in Holy Communion, we are cleansed again through Christ’s atonement.

        It is through these sacraments that we are continuously renewed in the body of Christ. It is by his work that we are able to stand before all human kind and say, ‘This is the word of the Lord’.

        May God our Father, through his Son, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, give us all the voice of the watchman so that all who hear His Word would turn and believe in His holy name.

“For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen”

[Rom 11:36]