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Semper Paratus


“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”  

(Hebrews 10:23-25)

Semper paratus is the motto of the fifth branch of our military, the U.S. Coast Guard. It’s a Latin phrase that means “always ready.” Through extensive training in meteorology, naval safety, communications and rescue operations, members of the Coast Guard keep themselves prepared for adverse conditions on the sea. They must always be ready to handle their own ship in dangerous situations, to assist disabled vessels in a storm, to intercept and arrest drug smugglers, and to repel enemies from our coastlands.

It’s a good thing that people are able to specialize, isn’t it? Not everyone can have the advanced training it takes to handle a ship in a storm like a Coast Guardsman. In the same way, not everyone has the specialized skills which are needed to treat a trauma victim like an emergency room doctor, or to safely rescue someone from a burning building like a firefighter. Also, it’s not enough just to learn the skills and procedures once; it takes continuous practice and drilling. Why? In an emergency, there is no time to look up the right procedure in a book. There may not even be time to think about it. In the confusion of a crisis, training and muscle memory have to take over in order to save lives.

You may never find yourself on the open sea in a hurricane. You may never need the skills to treat a car crash victim, or enter a burning building to rescue a child. One thing you will certainly face, though, is the world’s greatest calamity of all time, the return of Jesus on Judgment Day. That is why Jesus urges us, in Matthew 24:44, to “…be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

You don’t know when that day is coming, and there won’t be any time to prepare once it arrives; you need to be in training for it right now. Are you “semper paratus”—always prepared—for the Lord’s return? In Hebrews 10 we are told how to stay in practice, to be always ready, as we “see the Day approaching.”

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope.” Our hope of standing victorious on that great day is found in our daily trip to Jesus’ cross, repenting of our sins and receiving the Lord’s full forgiveness because of Jesus’ death in our place.

Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.”  The exercise and practice of our faith is strengthened daily by our fellowship with like-minded believers.

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together”  Weekly worship at church is not just a frill; it is the Lord’s way of keeping us and our fellow believers in practice with the Gospel, so that we know by heart the path to safety at Jesus’ cross.

On the day of our Lord’s arrival, there will be multitudes who will be unprepared. They will wish they could hide from the righteous judgment of God, but there will be no place to hide. As for us, with regular use of God’s Word, and fellowship in that Word with like-minded believers, we’ll be “always ready” to greet our returning Savior with joy!

Bruce Naumann is associate pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.