We Have Hope: A sermon from a broken heart.
We Have Hope!
† In Jesus’ Name †
In this new year, may the hope of God’s rewards for you, the rewards of being His children become more and more real, as we see the hope for our future in Christ Jesus!
You have to wonder….
One of the guys I want to meet in heaven is the guys who chose and approved the readings for the three-year church cycle, and how we choose which readings to use. I mean you look at the readings for today, they don’t seem like the kind of readings you want to start the year with, they don’t seem exactly what you might call promising!
They are the readings that call us to remember some of the youngest martyrs in the church. An event that Matthew’s gospel compared to the time the young people of Israel were led off into captivity, a fate that was the result not of their unfaithfulness, but the unfaithfulness of the generation that preceded them.
That is the weeping that Jeremiah’s passage originally referred to, yet Matthew says it is equally applicable to the time of Jesus birth. For then, the male infants and toddlers were sacrificed because of a man’s paranoia…
Again, the readings don’t seem to be the kind you want to start the year with!
Well, not at first…
The sobering reality…
The sobering reality is that babies are still killed because of the sins of the generation that would have given them birth. You look to places where children are taken from their homes and conscripted into armies. Others are simply killed because they won’t convert to another religion. Estimates online say between 10,000, and 100,000 ( http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-24864587) Christian martyrs in the world last year. Worldwide the estimate is another 43 million children were killed before their birth in 2015. Even as I wrote this sermon yesterday, the amount for 2016 was already over 171,000 (http://www.worldometers.info/abortions/)
It is enough to make you weep.
This is just one form of the trauma that exists, one that makes no sense, like those observed by Jeremiah and by those who watched Herod massacre young children.
But the Law isn’t that
But it is not the acts of death that I see confronting us today. We need to find ways to help those being persecuted, and those who are told that life is disposable if it threatens our lives.
But I want to look at the Rachel’s, those of us who weep for this reason or maybe others. Some of us have hit that point, and others of us have friends who are experiencing that level of grief, that level of despair or depression. This is the law that confronts us this morning when the struggle to trust in God is too great, and we refuse to be comforted.
How do you help the person whose cry is described as, “deep anguish and bitter weeping.” How do we help the person, “refusing to be comforted.”
How do we help a person when faith doesn’t seem to be enough?
For that is the mission of the church, especially this church. Remember how we are described,
Concordia is the place where broken people find healing in Christ while helping others heal.
So how do we, as the people of God, bring healing and hope to people who have none? And how is that the gospel message for this day, and for this year?
And the gospel is this…
We do it the same Jeremiah did, and with the same message:
We spend time with them, there in the struggle. Praying for them, holding their hand, feeding them, caring for them, and sharing with them this message,
Do not weep any longer, for I will reward you,” says the LORD. “Your children will come back to you from the distant land of the enemy. 17 There is hope for your future,” says the LORD. “Your children will come again to their own land.
In the passage, God addressed the very issue that was causing the struggle, the pain over the children who were. No more. He didn’t forget them, nor the pain that the people of God knew, as the innocent suffered because of the evil of that day.
In this passage in Hebrew, five times, the phrase, “says the LORD” is used, though we see it only three times. The important thing is to realize this isn’t the title of God, the Lord Almighty, but the personal name we aren’t to use in vain, but to use in communicating to Him.
He keeps saying,
First he was the one who heard the cry of His people and recognized the depth of the pain. Even the fact that the people refused to be comforted. That is what God says…
And then He says the promise. Do not weep. There is hope for your future.
In this case, the children will come again into the land, they will return from the land of the enemy.
For the Jewish person, this is a promise of reconciliation, that God will restore not the property, but the position of being the covenant people, the people He has promised to care for, the people He loves.
That is what so many fail to see when they talk about being the chosen people. They look for the land, rather than the relationship.
But the hope, the hope which will dry up the tears is found in the relationship. The very thing that was forgotten, that was trampled upon, is restored to those it should have been passed onto.
When Matthew’s gospel quotes this passage, he recalls to people’s minds the promise. Not a promise to one mother, but to the nation of Israel – that God’s people will be God’s people. He will restore them. That He will keep His promises, including the one we don’t always see occurring, that all things work for good, for those who love God, and are called according to His purpose.
You see, we aren’t waiting for God to keep this promise somewhere in the future. The very thing that would call us “home” has occurred. We have this relationship with God; we are His people that have returned. We know that the promise is complete, even though we struggle to see its completeness…. Because we don’t see Him face to face…yet.
But we shall, and we have the promise of eternity with Him.
That is the promise, the ultimate promise, of that day when there will be no more injustice when there will be no more martyrdom or those who are sacrificed for the benefit of others.
For this is why He came….Jesus even said so, in his first recorded public sermon.
18 God’s Spirit is on me; he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, To set the burdened and battered free, 19 to announce, “This is God’s year to act!” 20 He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the assistant, and sat down. Every eye in the place was on him, intent. 21 Then he started in, “You’ve just heard Scripture make history. It came true just now in this place.” Luke 4:18-21 (MSG)
This is the message we have for those, who at first refuse the comfort we want to want dearly to give them. It is the message of the altar; the place were we find healing, and the peace that comes from knowing God will do what He promised.
For He always has. He always speaks to His people, bringing them comfort, and hope.
God still acts, and He will in our lives, and in the lives we bring to find His love, His mercy, and His peace.