Pastor James Hopkins preached this sermon on the Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Trinity, 11/13/2022. The bulletin is available as a PDF: Trinity26 Bulletin

The texts for the sermon were the day’s epistle andd gospel lessons. To read the Bible texts for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday after Trinity, click here. 


On the great, Last Day, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, will perform one shepherding task that is far less popular than those we’ve come to appreciate. 

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him,

then He will sit on His glorious throne.

Before Him will be gathered all the nations,

and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep and the goats.

And He will place the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left. verses 31-33

At that point, it is done. The bell has rung. School is out. The world’s last afternoon is over. And you are either a sheep or a goat. You are on the right, or you are on the left. 

Today, this morning, now, Jesus says that you are a sheep; and what’ more is you are His sheep. Jesus is your Shepherd. He has baptized you into His flock. He is the door to sheep pen, and He has brought you in. He leads you, He cares for you, and He speaks to you, because He loves you. Because you are His sheep. 

Just before Jesus, the Good Shepherd, ascended into heaven, He made certain that you, His sheep, would be cared for. He commanded His apostle, Peter, “Feed My lambs…Tend My sheep.” John 21:15-17

Jesus is coming back for His sheep. He is coming back for you. And when He does, He wants to find you well cared for and well fed. 

Of course, that involves some of what you’d expect: Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper. But the act of tending sheep suggests even more: namely preaching, teaching, and loving. And, given that today is pledge Sunday, perhaps it also involves shearing. 

That particularly spicy portion of 2 Peter, which you just heard this morning, belongs in the “tending” category. 

If you don’t understand that you are Jesus’ lamb, His sheep, it is easy to get the wrong idea. You might get the idea that Peter, or Pastor Hopkins, is trying to scare you into good behavior. 

It’s true, of course, everything that Peter says of that day: the floor is lava, along with sea and sky; but you aren’t told this so that you would be frightened. Rather, Peter writes: 

Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace. verse 14

He wants you to be at peace. That is the opposite of fearful or anxious. But you aren’t only to be at peace. You are also to be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish. That, by the way, is how the Bible describes good sheep. 

What does that mean? What does diligence to be without spot or blemish look like? 

Or, put another way, since you are waiting for everything to burn away like over-dry kindling, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness? 

In the epistle, Peter’s question is rhetorical. The answer is supposed to be obvious. Luther sums it up this way: 

Since you know that everything must pass away, heaven and earth, consider how completely you must be prepared with a saintly and godly life and conduct to meet this day. (AE 30:197) 

Of course, in the context of the epistle, that also means to beware of scoffers. Beware those who say that your Lord has left you as orphans, and that He will not return. Since the days of the fathers, and since the days of the apostles, it is true, that time has gone on, as Jesus said it would. But this is not license to do as you will. His apparent delay is to give everyone time to repent. He is holding out judgment, so that every last person can be brought in. 

That’s a message the scoffers outside the ark refused to understand until it started raining. That’s a message the scoffers outside the church refuse to understand. God is patient. But He will not be patient forever. As you consider how to use the time is given you, consider what will no longer be there after Jesus sets fire to everything. 

Your degrees, your houses, your bank accounts, your voting ballots. All these things will be burned, along with the beast in Daniel’s prophecy. 

They serve purposes now, and that is fine. But they will not endure. Let them be what they are. Let them fulfill godly purposes. But do not try to pull them out of the fire and bring them into the new creation. You will only burn your own hand. 

Instead, let your hands be used to serve your neighbor, as Jesus describes in the Gospel; that they would see your good works, glorify your Father who is in heaven, and stand next to you at the Shepherd’s right hand. 

Be diligent to be found without spot or blemish, and at peace. Read God’s Word and pray daily for yourself, for your family, and for the whole world. Be patient with others as God is patient with us. Share the Gospel. Words are necessary. You’re not likely to do this too much. After all, the Church is like the ark, but it isn’t really the ark. We have more than enough seats. 

After all that, you can be sure that some spots and blemishes will still be there. How, then, will you be at peace? 

Return to the One who washes all spots and blemishes away. Return to your Baptism. That’s code for Confession and Absolution. 

Return to the preaching of God’s Word. Return to this altar, where Peter’s successors continue Peter’s task: feeding. 

The Son of Man who will come on the Last Day and all His angels with Him, comes to you now, enthroned in Bread and Wine, that you would be fed by His Body and Blood, and made spotless where it counts. 

Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace. verse 14

To Him be glory now and forever, and to the ages of ages. Amen. 


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