Sermon for Lent Midweek Service, April 6, AD 2022

2 Peter 3:1-14

Many events, especially in the last two years, have served to challenge our normalcy bias. It is possible, with wars and rumors of wars, that it will be challenged even more in the future. Normalcy bias is when we assume that things will just continue as normal, what seems to be a coming threat or catastrophe is no big deal. Like ignoring a tornado warning, thinking, “well I’ve been in dozens of these and was never hit by a tornado before.” Then despite all warnings afterward saying, “I never thought it would happen to me.”

While normalcy bias is dangerous in disasters and other catastrophic events, Peter warns by way of reminder of another type of normalcy bias. This is the bias of only looking at life in this world, as if God were not a part of it. When our mind is focused every day only on this world and not on the Word of God we will train ourselves to think of this world as the only real and important thing.

We should make all efforts to avoid this and fix our mind on the Lord and His Word. As the Psalm says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2). As we heard last week, the writings of the prophets and apostles are not mere writings of man, but are inspired by the Holy Spirit. They cannot err since they are from God. Faith holds on to the writings of Scripture, knowing that the predictions and commandments are true.

One of those predictions is that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. There should be no surprise to Christians that there are those who scoff at the predictions of the prophets, even among those who call themselves Christians. These last days are now, the time between the Ascension of Christ and his second coming. We wait in hope, trusting in the promise of Jesus’ coming, partaking of his gifts now that he gives to us, ascended to the right hand of the Father. These gifts, the Word and sacraments, are streams of water to a tree in the desert. Ignoring and departing from them leads to seeking solace elsewhere, usually in our own sinful desires. So it is no wonder that scoffers, who ignore or deride the scriptures, will scoff at that blessed hope, the coming of Jesus Christ.

This is the ultimate normalcy bias – “where is the promise of Jesus’ coming? He hasn’t come so far, so I suppose he will never come. Seems pretty foolish to hope for someone who never comes.”  Scoffers view Christians looking to the return of Christ like Linus waiting for the great pumpkin on Halloween. Maybe sometimes you feel like you’re waiting for the great pumpkin, something that you only have the vaguest hope for, and this life takes over as the real thing. It doesn’t even have to be a conscious decision to scoff at Christ. When we make career or sports or success or the daily troubles of life the priority over Christ, we aren’t living as those anticipating his coming, but the scoffers who say, “things will never change anyway.”

We should repent of this, for Jesus is not the Great Pumpkin. He does not promise his return without evidence. The people in Noah’s day were warned and continued living their lives, marrying and giving in marriage, until one day the flood came and all life outside the ark perished. This was done by the Word of God, the very same Word which is preparing for the coming of Christ and the final judgment.

We could list off several other occurrences that Peter does not. Sodom and Gomorrah continued their sin and even when visited by angels did not repent until it was too late and the cities were destroyed in fire for their evil. In Jeremiah’s day, he prophesied that the Babylonians would come take the city of Jerusalem, that God had given them over because of their sin, but they would survive if they surrendered. The leaders and false prophets scoffed at Jeremiah, after all God had always protected his holy city before! Yet when the Babylonians came those who did not heed Jeremiah were killed and the city was destroyed. So also too after Jesus’ day, when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, razing it to the ground, fulfilling Jesus’ words that no stone would be left on another – which none of the Jews would believe.

Jesus says that he will return like a thief in the night. The thief does not announce when he will come. This does not mean he has not warned of his coming. He has told us that he will return soon. Those last days are now, just as they were during the time of Peter. All Christians are currently awaiting Jesus’ coming. We don’t know the day or hour, but we know he could come any time.

Even more, it may seem like Christ has delayed long, but to God it is not a delay. For him a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day. Time does not pass for God as it does for us, He is not bound by it. A thousand years is as a day – the longest human life recorded did not reach even a thousand years, and to God it was just a blip. To say “nothing changed in my day” is foolish. Yet on the other hand a day is as a thousand years – God is longsuffering and gives us time to repent that we need. We can only repent of our sins while we are on earth, and God wants all to repent and believe in Him. The seeming delay is not due to God’s weakness, but due to His great love for fallen humanity, for you.

See, in all those times where God gave the warning and then came suddenly, there was a way of escape. Noah and his family had the ark. Lot was rescued from Sodom. The Israelites who gave themselves up were not killed by the Babylonians. The Christians who knew the Romans were coming had fled from Jerusalem long before. What is the common theme here? All these who escaped followed God’s Word. They did not let normalcy reign, but let God’s Word reign in their lives and acted according to it.

So when Christ comes like a thief and the heavens and the earth are dissolved in fire, the escape will likewise be to those who hold to God’s Word. His coming is nothing to fear for those who have the life which cannot be consumed in fire. In our baptism, like pure gold we will not be dissolved but refined, as in the coming of Christ at our resurrection we will live yet without sin. Baptism gives us that life which is ready for the new heavens and the new earth. Nothing sinful or ungodly can remain at the end, but those in Christ shall endure forever.

We live then in lives of holiness and godliness, trusting that Christ is coming soon, and we with him will pass through the judgment and the fire and enter into the new heavens and new earth. Live as if you have a true and final hope which outlasts everything in this world. When you consider the troubles and successes of this life are temporary you can more firmly fix your eyes on the goal which is the promise of eternal life in Jesus Christ. The longsuffering of Christ does not mean he does not care about you. It does not mean he wants the wicked to prosper. Christ waits to return for he wants all to repent. Let that repentance begin here, seeing every day until Christ comes again not as an opportunity to sin, but another day in which He shows to you His love and patience. Amen.  

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