|2 Advent Proper B2
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
2 Peter 3:8-15a Sermon
December 7, 2008
Hymns (from the Service Book and Hymnal):
14 "Rejoice All Ye Believers"
12 "Comfort Comfort Ye My People"
4 "On Jordan's Banks The Baptist's Cry"
1 "Hark A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding"
TEXT (vs. 8-9): "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."
It was back in the late 1950's that our family took a trip to California. Besides visiting our relatives out there, one of the things we did was to go to Anaheim, home of the world-famous Disneyland. Of course I was pretty young at the time, but there are parts I do remember. I know I got my obligatory Disneyland hat and also my Mickey Mouse ears, which fastened under my chin with an elastic string.
Because there was a lot I didn't remember from my first visit, our family went back there again in the early 1970's. And indeed a lot had changed-there were new attractions, and various things had experienced a facelift.
But there was one thing I remembered from my first trip to Disneyland that hadn't changed a bit on my second visit. That one thing was the long queues of people waiting to get on a ride or visit an attraction. Those people would slowly wend their way back and forth through sort of a maze of railings. You could stand there and wait for a long, long time for some of the things. And you didn't have much choice either, unless it was to give up out of sheer frustration and go do something else.
I enjoyed a lot of the things we did, but I didn't enjoy the wait at all. My dad enjoyed it even less than I did. And when all was over and done, and we were exiting, we'd make comments as to whether the particular attraction was worth the wait. Indeed there were times when we concluded that it wasn't.
The folks in charge of the Disney empire were only too well aware of the problems created by long queues of people. I understand now that Disneyland and Disney World have done something to help correct this. When you go there now, you can get what is called a "Fast-Pass." Of course this costs extra. In effect what a fast pass does, is to allow people to circumvent the long queues. They can walk right on past those people who have waited for hours and receive preferential treatment. And if the ride fills up with the fast pass people, then the others who are waiting have even a longer wait for their turn.
As a general rule, people don't like to wait. I know that I don't. I don't like it when someone tells me that they're going to meet me at a certain time, and then they don't show up. And when I'm the person who has had to make someone else wait, I feel especially guilty. That happened just this past week when my alarm clock didn't go off, and I made a group of people wait for over a half hour for me to arrive.
Waiting is something we just don't do very well. I've said it before that we all have a "wait" problem, spelt w-a-i-t, which of course has nothing to do with a scale. The problem with waiting has to do directly with our level of patience. Some people wait better than others.
For a child, they can't wait for Christmas or their Birthday to come. For an adolescent, they can't wait until they're old enough to get a drivers' license, or turn 18, or turn 21. To them it seems like an eternity, and waiting is almost like torture. That's one of the reasons that the Disney folks have concocted their "fast pass" system at their amusement parks.
This morning, I've given my sermon a simple, one-word title. That word is "Maranatha." You may have seen this word, because it is frequently used by various Christians for a number of different things. You might have seen Maranatha bookstores, Maranatha singers, or even congregations that bear the name "Maranatha." Have you ever wondered what it means?
It is a Biblical word; but it appears only once in the Bible, in I Corinthians 16, 22 as part of Paul's farewell. It is an Aramaic word that has been transliterated into Greek, and it means "Come quickly, O Lord." It is intended as a prayer for Christ's quick return. As it is used today, it has taken on more of a statement of promise with a much more loose translation of "The Lord is coming soon." Regardless of which sense it is used, it still contains the element of time with the words "quickly" and "soon."
In our text for today from Peter's second epistle, he brings this element of time into focus for us. In the first instance in the second part of verse 8 we read: "With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day."
It's unfortunate that people have so often misapplied this metaphor. For example people have said that the days of creation might have well been thousands of years each as they try to marry creation with evolution. But an intelligent study of Scripture will show that such is definitely not the case.
We have to remember that time as we know it is something God established at creation. The Hebrew word for "day" is "yom" which means a literal 24 hour day as we know it. Here on earth, the only reference we have is within the realm of time. We cannot accurately perceive something outside of that realm. Infinity and eternity, without a beginning and an ending, are totally foreign concepts to us.
But God is eternal. He exists outside of the dimension of time. The "thousand year" comparison in Peter's epistle is simply a metaphor for us to understand the comparison between the finite here on earth, and the infinity in the hereafter.
In verse 9 of our text, Peter further explains: "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness." We understand "slow" in terms of what we know, like having to stand in a queue for a long time, or sitting in the waiting room for a doctor's appointment. A dial-up internet connection is too slow for us, so we get a DSL connection or a cable modem. Our computer is too slow, so we upgrade to a faster model. We want a fast car, not a slow one. We have become attuned to the concept of slow being bad, and fast being good.
But the Lord is not slow in the way we understand the term. It is much better to look at the Lord's timing as his being patient with us, as Peter points out in our text. He wants to give people time to come to know him, and time to repent and amend their sinful lives. This is keeping with God's will as stated in I Timothy chapter 2 verse 4 which says that God "...wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth."
The time that we're alive on this earth is to be understood as God's time of grace for all people. This is the time for people to come to know Jesus as their Saviour, and then to live their lives dedicated to his service. This is exactly what Peter is pointing out in our text for today.
Salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ alone, and by no other way. When the Holy Spirit works in our hearts and brings us to faith, and through faith we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, we are guaranteed a place in God's eternal kingdom. Through faith in Jesus our salvation is secure.
But then what are we going to do with the rest of our days here on earth? Are we going to live our lives in rampant sin, and look to Jesus as the source of cheap grace? Are we going to sit in our homes with the smug attitude that says in effect, "I'm saved and that's all that matters?"
Peter reminds us that God wants all people to know Jesus and be saved. He also is quick to give us some words of hope in verse 13 of our text: "But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness." That's the promise of heaven for us and for all true believers in Christ.
The end of all things is coming, and Jesus will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. We don't know when that will be either. But we know it is going to happen sometime, and we can be certain of God's promises.
As Christians, we pray "Maranatha"-come quickly, Lord Jesus. In verse 12 of our text Peter says that we are to "...look forward to the day of God and speed its coming." When Jesus comes, it will mean our eternal reward in heaven. So yes, we indeed want that to be sooner than later.
So what do we do in the meantime? In verse 14 of our text today, Peter tells us: "So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him."
If we're at peace with him, then our faith is intact. We need to keep our faith strengthened to capacity by faithfully hearing the preaching and teaching of his Word. We come together as a fellowship of believers to strengthen each other. And we work together to bring the message of Jesus Christ to the unbelieving world around us.
We're not just saved and that's it; rather we are saved for something. There is a purpose for Christians to be on this earth, otherwise God would take us home the moment we come to faith.
In Matthew 5 verses 13-16 Jesus tells us: "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
These are instructions for the Christian. So while we are waiting for Jesus, this is what we are to be doing. We have a purpose for being here. And that purpose certainly doesn't mean that we sit on our hands and do nothing. Our faith in Jesus our Saviour is something that we cannot keep to ourselves. It is something we put on display as a witness to others.
Unfortunately we don't play the waiting game too well. Our sinful attitudes always seem to be getting in the way. John the Baptist preached repentance, but we'd rather continue down the path of sin. Jesus says that we are to be the salt and light of the world, but we'd rather sit on our faith and keep it private. And through all of this, we are lackadaisical about the Lord's return. We frequently lose sight of this promise.
But that day will indeed come. So we need to always remember that whatever sins we have committed, however unfaithful we've been in playing the waiting game, however lackadaisical we have become in our Lord's service, we are forgiven. God patiently extends his gracious invitation during our time of grace on this earth, with the promise of forgiveness and restoration through faith in Christ Jesus. God wants us to be the recipients of his grace and enjoy citizenship in heaven forever.
This brings us back to the time we have on earth, and how we regard it. Popular singer Al Stewart recorded a song about this in 1983, which made number 7 on the charts, entitled "Time Passages." Here are a few of the lyrics: "Well I'm not the kind to live in the past; the years run too short and the days too fast; the things you lean on are the things that don't last...drifting into time passages; years go falling in the fading light; time passages; buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight."
In Al Stewart's song, he laments the quick passage of time. Things of this earth aren't dependable and don't last, and one day just sort of drifts into another. The years go by as we wait for that day when our last train comes, and our Lord takes us to be with him at home in heaven.
There are times in our lives when the passage of time also seems like an eternity, especially when we are waiting for something or somebody. We can sit and stew about it, or we can somehow productively occupy ourselves. When I know I'm going to be waiting, I usually have some reading material or even a crossword puzzle handy for something to do. I like to occupy my waiting time with something, and be patient.
Today, Peter reminds us that the time of grace we have on this earth is a demonstration of the Lord's patience with us and with all of humanity. From the moment that first cell divides in our mother's womb, our clock begins to tick away the minutes we have in God's time of grace. God winds that spring only once; and when our last hour has come, it will be time to meet Jesus face-to-face.
So what do we do while we're waiting? Through the Apostle Peter, God asks the question in verse 11 of our text for today, "...what kind of people ought you to be?" He then goes on to answer: "You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming." And then he concludes this thought in verses 14-15: "So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation...."
We're Christians, saved by grace through faith in Christ Jesus our Saviour. We've not only been saved, but we've been saved for a purpose, which is to serve our Lord during our life on earth. There is no "fast pass" when it comes to God's time of grace for us. And so, may we always be led to practice the same kind of patience our Lord has demonstrated to us. Maranatha; come quickly Lord Jesus, come quickly.