There is a secret so secret that not even CIA knows it, so secret not even the angels know it (not even Gabriel), so secret that not even Jesus knew it. Big, big secret. The secret is the date when this whole universe is going to come to a screeching halt, curtain comes down, game over, time to be judged. As Jesus said, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Not even the Son? Jesus did not know when the LD would be? Correct, in terms of his humanity; of course he knew when the LD would be in terms of his divinity. How did that work? It’s the second greatest mystery in the universe. While we can’t explain it, the Bible does de-scribe it. When Jesus was visibly here on earth, in what theologians call his State of Humiliation, he did not make use of his divine power and glory. He never gave up his divine power and glory, mind you, for he always remained God; but he did not use it, except on occasions to serve others and give evi-dence of his divinity by doing miracles. Maybe a modern way to illustrate this is to say, Jesus, since he is God, always had full knowledge of the Last Day saved in the Cloud, but in terms of his humanity it is like he had turned off his Wi-fi.
But the point of all this is: the date for the Last Day is a big, big secret. Could happen later to-day. Could happen next year. Don’t know. That fact is meant to have a profound effect on your life. And that profound effect can be summed up in two words: pay attention. Which, as it turns out, is also one of the secrets to really living your life.
And then there’s the story. The one Jesus told. Of a man going on a journey, which we just heard. You understand that the man going on a journey is Jesus, who ascended into heaven, right? He puts his servants in charge. You understand that the servants are Christians, right? So, for the sake of us who are on the edge of 2018, I will give this parable a modern twist for the sake of our learning.
Let’s say this man did not have a house but hospital. He was a man whose heart was as big as Texas. He saw so much suffering. So much pain. So much death. He said, “Why doesn’t somebody do something about this?” But, of course, HE was a somebody. So he founded a hospital. With his own money and sweat. He filled it first with capable doctors and nurses, then data processors and maintenance workers, and finally admins and janitors. And then he had to go away. For a long while.
And this was the part that concerned him. So before he left, he first talked to the doctors and nurses. He said, “I am putting each of you in charge of your own area, with your assigned tasks. But make sure you keep paying attention! Not just to what you are doing but why you are doing it. Other-wise, you’ll end up just going through the motions. And then when I come back I’ll have to fire you.” Which is what happens to Christians as well, if we aren’t paying attention. Just go through the motions. Forget why we do what we do in worship. Sing, “Lord, have mercy on us” in the same way we might ask someone to pass the ketchup. And we end up becoming self-righteous. Which Christ hates. So that when he comes back on the Last Day, such church-goers who are self-righteous will hear Jesus say, “You’re fired! Depart from me you who are cursed.”
Next this man talked to the data processors and maintenance workers. He said, “I am putting each of you in charge of your own area, with your assigned tasks. But make sure you keep paying at-tention! To struggling to do what you do in a way that is praiseworthy. Otherwise, you’ll get comfort-able with cutting corners, getting sloppy. And then when I come back I’ll have to fire you.” Which is what happens to Christians as well, if we aren’t paying attention. If you get sloppy with how you talk about other people, you slip into the sin of gossip. You get sloppy with how you handle stress and you slip into the sin of lashing out or the sin of self-medicating. Get sloppy with your morals, with your marriage, with how often you have devotions, with how you shop, with how you deal with your unhap-pinesses, and you slide into sins; and because you slide into them, you get comfortable with them. Which Christ hates. So that when he comes back on the Last Day, such church-goers who have gotten comfortable with their sins will hear Jesus say, “You’re fired! Depart from me you who are cursed.”
Finally the man talked to the admins and janitors. He spent the most time with them, in fact. He said, “Everyone knows that the people who really keep things running smoothly are the admins and janitors. So, while I am putting each of you in charge of your own area, with your assigned tasks, I say doubly strongly to you, make sure you keep paying attention!”
“How?” they asked. “Because all we do is ordinary, day-to-day stuff.”
He answered, “Pay attention to the big picture. Not just to your little cubicle or your little sec-tion of the building. But to the big picture. About what this is all about. Otherwise you will become myopic, you’ll make too big of a deal about little things and treat big things as if they aren’t a big deal. And then when I come back I’ll have to fire you.” Which is what happens to Christians, as well, when we aren’t paying attention to the big picture. We forget what life is all about. And then we begin to treat false doctrine (which we hear in songs on Life FM, or get suggested on social media, or we hear in school, or which are taught at a friend’s church) like it is not a big deal; but Jesus, who sees the big pic-ture, thinks it is. Or we begin to feel that missing worship a few times a month or missing the Lord’s Supper is no big deal. But Jesus, who sees the big picture, thinks it is. Or we begin to treat reaching out with the Gospel as if that’s for other people to do, it’s not that big of a deal; but Jesus, who sees the big picture, thinks it is. Keep the big picture in mind. Otherwise when Christ comes back on the Last Day, people who have lost sight of the big picture will hear Jesus say, “You’re fired! Depart from me, you who are cursed.”
The date of the Last Day is a big, big secret. That fact is to have a profound effect on your life. And that profound effect can be summed up in two words: pay attention. As Jesus said, “What I say to you, I say to everyone (so this includes you and me), ‘Watch / Pay attention!’”
The reason he is so adamant about our “paying attention” is because he is so adamant about paying attention to you. Started back before you were born. Before you were born, he was already paying attention to you! The same Lord who said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jer. 1:5), knew you before you were even conceived. That’s astounding, isn’t it. He is the shepherd who went after you, just you, and left the other 99 sheep behind; he is the woman who swept and searched and wouldn’t give up until she found you, just you, the one lost coin. He is the Lord who says to you what he said to believers at Jeremiah’s time, “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jer. 31:3). That’s the kind of eye he’s been keeping on you—eyes filled with love.
He proved his love by coming and dying for you, just for you, and living a perfect life, for you, as your Substitute (and mine) and paying for your sin (mine as well). And he rose again for you, just for you, to prove all your sin is paid for and the door to heaven stands open. He proved he did it for you, just for you, at your baptism, when he connected you to his death and resurrection, when he had you called by name. By name. Sent his Holy Spirit into your heart so you would believe it. So you could be certain that the Lord is paying attention to you, just to you, by name, and in love. And be-cause we daily sin much and so have reason to be afraid of God’s paying attention to us, he gives us a regular, repeating word of assurance: his Supper. As you eat and drink, Jesus Christ himself comes to you with his body and blood and saying, “Hey, I did all I did for you. Here’s proof. My body and blood that earned your salvation.”
The reason Christ is so adamant about your and my “paying attention” is because he is so ada-mant about paying attention to you and me. Not paying attention to everybody, just you. That is one of the irrefutable conclusions of the doctrine of the Trinity. You know the doctrine of the Holy Trinity—the Bible teaches there is one God who reveals himself as three distinct persons and yet remains one God. It’s a great mystery. In fact, it is the greatest mystery in the universe, according to the Lutheran Confessions.
What this means, of course, is that God, therefore, cannot be divided. He is one. Which makes God the simplest living being in the universe. God is one. He cannot be divided into smaller parts. You and I can. But God can’t. He is one and he cannot be divided. Just like we confess in the Atha-nasian Creed, “We worship one God in three persons and three persons in one God, without mixing the persons or dividing the divine being.” God cannot be divided.
Hence, God’s love cannot be divided, God’s forgiveness cannot be divided, God’s attention cannot be divided. So when he says he loves you in Christ, you get all his love, for his love cannot be divided. When he says he forgives you in Christ, you get all the forgiveness Christ earned, for his for-giveness cannot be divided. And when God says he is paying attention to you, you are getting all this attention, for his attention cannot be divided. You are getting his undivided attention. This is profound implications for how you pray, for how you react to the pleasant blessings you enjoy, how you deal with the painful ones. But most of all, imagine what that means for how badly he wants to finally have you with him in heaven. After all, you’ve been the center of his attention even before you were born.
That’s why he wants you and me to grow in the art of paying attention. Paying attention in worship instead of going through the motions. Paying attention so you struggle against every sin in-stead of getting comfortable with any sin. Paying attention so you keep the big picture in mind, so that you make his Word and Sacraments the top priority in your life. For he does not want us destroying his gift of faith given us by the Holy Spirit.
And as you grow in paying attention, you will find that you are also growing in really living your life. Really living your life does not mean going skydiving or taking trips to Paris or finding a “soulmate.” No, it’s paying attention. That’s the key to really enjoying your food. That’s the key to enjoying your work more. Paying attention is what keeps marriage fresh. Paying attention is even the key to not losing your keys. Paying attention. As Jesus said, “What I say to you, I say to everyone, ‘Watch / Pay attention.’” Because the Triune God is paying his undivided attention to you every single day, to bless you and save you in Christ. Amen.