You Are Disaster Ready
A sermon based on 1 Peter 3:18-22
Sunday, November 30, 2014 - Advent 1B
I trust that God will take care of me as he sees fit in any and every circumstance and that if he wants me to die, nothing can spare my life, and if he wants me to live, nothing can take it away. But I don't believe that such trust in God means we don't do the very best that we can to take care of our bodies and to prepare for an event that might put us in harm's way.
So, this is my bug-out bag. In case I need to "bug out" of the parsonage in the event of an emergency, or in case the van is buried under an avalanche on the way to Anchorage, I want to be ready. It's a survival bag of sorts. It wouldn't keep me alive for very long, but it's got some basic necessities: I've got a few of those space blankets, a camp stove, some waterproof matches, a few freeze-dried meals. It's not much, but it's what I've got so far as I try to prepare for a disaster.
How about you? Are you disaster ready? FEMA—the Federal Emergency Management Agency—has a website: www.Ready.gov that aims to educate people so that they are disaster ready. They say that in many cases, after a disaster strikes help is unavailable for most for the first three days. So it has advice on how to prepare for earthquakes, winter storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, and floods. It has lists of suggested items to keep in store for an emergency like food, water, batteries, and first aid supplies. If you want to be disaster ready, maybe you want to check out www.Ready.gov.
Of course, Noah didn't need a website to help him to be disaster ready. God had revealed to him that a big disaster was coming: a global flood that would destroy all living things that moved along the ground. And Noah got disaster ready. He build the ark, he stockpiled food, he trusted in God's promise to rescue him, and he did all he could to warn others of the impending disaster.
Now, you and I don't need to prepare for a global flood. God promised that he would never flood the entire earth ever again. But God has revealed to us that a big disaster is coming. We need to be ready for another global event—the destruction of all things, not by water, but by fire, on the Last Day when Jesus returns.
Jesus himself said, "37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man." (Matthew 24:37-38)
The word Advent means "Coming." And it is that season in which we are encouraged to prepare for Jesus' coming. Because he most certainly will come again on a day and at a time that no one will anticipate. There will be no time to run and get more water, food, and batteries. There will be no warning, but it will come like a flash flood. And for those who aren't prepared, it will truly be a day of disaster. So the question is, "Are you prepared for Jesus' coming? Are you disaster ready? You'd better be.
So how do we get ready? In an inspired digression from his main point about suffering in these end times, the apostle Peter gives us this encouragement in our sermon text from 1 Peter 3:18-22:
18 For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, 19 through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison 20 who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.
What saved Noah and his family? Well, there are a number of answers to that question:
First, and most obvious, you might say that the ark saved Noah and his family from the destructive waters of the flood.
But you might also answer that question by saying that the waters of the flood saved Noah from the corrupt and depraved world around him. It lifted Noah and his family in the ark up above the earth while it scrubbed the surface clean.
You might answer that Noah's trust in God's promises saved him and his family as he believed what God said would happen and prepared.
But finally, and ultimately, you might best answer that question, "What saved Noah and his family?" by saying it was God's grace that rescued them.
In the same way, you can answer the question, "How are we prepared to be spared from the disaster that is coming on Judgment Day?" in a number of different ways:
Œ You can say that we are prepared because our sins are forgiven through Jesus: "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God." He lived a perfect life in our place—he was perfectly righteous—and gave that perfection to us. He died an innocent death for our sins—for us who are unrighteous—and took those sins away. Now we are brought close to God.
You could also say that we are saved and ready to go by our Baptisms that connect us to Jesus' saving work: "This water [of the Genesis flood] symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God." Baptism saves—plain and simple. As the waters of the flood cleansed the earth of wicked sinners, so the waters of my baptism have cleansed me of sin by delivering what Christ has done on the cross to me individually and by creating faith in my heart.
Ž And speaking of faith, you could say that we are ready and prepared against the disaster of Judgment Day through the faith given by the Holy Spirit through Baptism and the Word. The same Spirit that made Jesus alive physically has made us alive spiritually.
And speaking of Jesus resurrection, we can say that Baptism only gets its power from Easter: "[Baptism] saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him." So we are prepared and ready to bug out of this life because we know that we too will rise to live again just as Jesus did.
But finally, and ultimately, you might best answer that question, "How are we prepared to be spared from the disaster that is coming on Judgment Day?" by saying that it's God's grace that rescues us.
Noah was prepared. And as a result, he was saved. When the flood waters came, he could rest in peace aboard the ark, confident that God would keep his promise to deliver him. And God did deliver him, not just from the flood, but from the wicked influence that might rob him of his faith. So 350 years later when death approached, Noah could still rest in peace confident that God would keep his promise to deliver him again. And he was saved into God's heaven.
So too, we are prepared. We are disaster ready. God has prepared us. He has saved us though Jesus' work, through his perfect life and innocent death. He has prepared us through our Baptisms and the saving faith he's given us. He has prepared us through Jesus' resurrection from the dead. He's prepared us by his grace.
And as a result, when Judgment Day comes, we don't need to be afraid. It won't be a day of disaster for us, but a day of rescue and of joy! So we can rest in peace, confident that God will keep his promise to deliver us and take us into his heaven.
And in the meantime, we want to do all we can to stay ready for Jesus' Advent—for his coming.
Can you imagine if Shem left the ark right before the flood hit telling Noah, "Hold on, dad. I forgot my coat and my spare sandals. Oh, and I left my favorite bow and quiver at my friend's house. I'm just going to go get those things. I'll be back in a few hours."
What disaster might have come if any of the eight had been distracted by some petty concerns that caused them to leave the ark. In the same way, don't let the things of this life or some petty concern distract you from being prepared for Judgment Day.
Stay prepared. Stay ready. Not with a bug-out bag, but by continuing to strengthen your faith. Remain in the Word:
Pick up an Advent calendar and then read a devotion every day as you open the little door.
Get an Advent wreath and sing or just read an Advent hymn as you light the candles.
Remember your Baptism each day as you shower and take the dirt from your body. Remember how God washed you clean of your sin, adopted you as his own, and planted the seed of faith in your heart giving you, "the pledge of a good conscience toward God."
For those members who are confirmed, receive the Lord's Supper often as you are regularly assured of the forgiveness of your sins through Christ, who, "died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God."
And all of these go into your "bug-out bag" of faith that keeps you always ready to bug out of this sin-filled world when Jesus comes again.
You are disaster ready through Jesus! Be at peace and always ready to go! And do all you can to help others get ready before it's too late. In his name, dear friends, amen.