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News That Will Knock Your Socks Off:

Sermon of the Day

News that Will Knock Your Socks Off

Isiah 52:7-10


May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ knock your socks off, and may people exclaim the beauty of your feet as you share with the the Gospel!

One of “those”moments

In 2 Kings 6, there is a great story that illustrates the lesson found in Isaiah’s words today.

A King and His army are determined to capture Elisha and his servant, and his entire army, the infantry and chariots to a place called Dothan.  Elisha and the servant wake up, and the servant panics, as the place they are staying is completely surrounded by the bad king and all his minions.

The servant’s reaction, knowing the enemy is so large, so angry, so prepared is to cry out, “Master, we are doomed! What shall we do?”

Elisha’s response is simple, “don’t be afraid,” and then he prayed for the servant’s eyes to be opened and as God opened his eyes, he saw the Army of God surrounding the King and his forces, ready to pounce if need be. Interestingly enough, the prophet of God had mercy on the invasion force, and they would return home.

But can you imagine the servant, go from full-fledged panic to struggling with the change, knowing that God was with them?  Can you imagine the joy?  We don’t’ hear a response from him but maybe it was because he couldn’t speak….

For the beauty of the prophet’s words, this message that they weren’t alone, was overwhelming.

Such is the news Isaiah is describing when he says that those who bring the gospel have beautiful feet, In Hebrew it is not “hey – those are good looking feet….”  It is a jaw-dropping exclamation, beauty that leaves you nearly speechless, a joy of realizing that everything has changed.  It is that kind of message, so incredible, so beyond anything you could hope for,  it could knock your socks off!

It’s only good news if…

There is a problem with receiving good news, to seeing those beautiful feet that we need to realize.  We have to be ready for it.

In our reading from Isaiah, we see the watchmen, the city guards, standing on the wall.  They are at war, the enemy is threatening, they are about to be plundered, ransacked and robbed again.  The city itself is described in ruins in verse 9, as their Redeemer, their kinsman-redeemer arrives with all of His army.

The servant in Elisha’s story as well, he too was overwhelmed, thinking they were doomed, that there was no hope…

This is why good news is… well… good news. 

The gospel is the greatest news of all, those who bring it have beautiful feet because the level of hopeless that we have without it is beyond words.

Think about the damage that sin does to people, as it divides people from each other.  The damage that resentment and hatred does, as the unrighteousness of the world crushes is, as we become so defensive, so way of the pain that we isolate ourselves from those around us, fearing what they might do, or say or think.

But it is not only external sin and unrighteousness that affects us, our own sin eats us up from the inside, as it breeds guilt and shame.  This too isolates us, it turns our lives into the spiritual equivalent of Pompeii or Jericho,  Just a bunch of ruins and ash.

Heck, this can happen even to us, and we know how guilt and shame, resentment and hatred can affect us….we’ve seen it isolate us from others, convince us that everyone else in the world is against us.
Can you imagine how it would be if we didn’t have any hope?

The Lord Demonstrated His power…

Isaiah will then describe that hope we have, that hope which overcomes the loneliness, the hope that reminds us that we are not alone, that we can love again, that God will remove the guilt and shame and help us to know, we are loved, by Him.

Hear the words again.

The watchmen shout and sing with joy, for before their very eyes they see the Lord returning to Jerusalem.

Let the ruins of Jerusalem break into joyful song, for the Lord has comforted his people. He has redeemed Jerusalem.

10 The Lord has demonstrated his holy power before the eyes of all the nations. All the ends of the earth will see the victory of our God.

 This is what is amazing, no matter how bruised or battered by sin, no matter how isolated, God reaches into our lives. He comes to us, and even as we aren’t sure what will happen next, His very presence brings us comfort, it assures us we aren’t alone, that what we thought was a ruined life will be restored, made whole, made holy.

This is what the His holy power has done already, Isaiah looked forward to it, Mark and the apostles bore witness to it, they became the men with a message, because the power of God, the love and mercy of God was seen at the cross, and understood when Christ was revealed, and stood in their midst and comforted them with the words,

Be at peace!

That is what He is doing in our lives, in these moments, as we hear His promise of redeeming us, and the Holy Spirit brings us to the point where depending on the work of Christ is more important than justifying our sin, or defending ourselves from the sins of others.  It is realizing the incredible presence of the God who redeems us, who repairs our ruins, who gives us life.

That is why, despite an army massing against him, determined to capture and enslave him, Elisha was able to tell his servant, “don’t’ fear!”  and the apostles could live in a time of great persecution, knowing that the Lord who is with you is greater, far greater than anything we encounter in life.

This is the message that knocks our socks off as we hear it, which prepares us to go and bring the message to others, who will realize how beautiful our feet are, as we share God’s grace, His love and mercy, with them.  AMEN!

Conversations On the Way to Heaven: Get Along Back There!

this was the destination of so many of our trips, My Aunt and Uncles home in North Andover…..those trips had some great times, and some challenges…

Conversations on the Way to Heaven:

#1  Get Along Back There!

Matthew 18:21-55

† IHS †

May our journey together always be filled with God’s joy and peace, as His mercy flavors every moment!

A Bajillion Hours crammed in the back seat… 

I remember every twist and turn, as if it was yesterday, and not 42 years ago.

Everyone went and got in the old yellow Dodge Dart.  Up two miles on Brookdale Road, the right onto North Policy, then right onto Pelham Road.  Up onto route 93, then route 213, then southwest on route 495, off the highway on Mass Ave, then right on Fernwood to my Auntie Lanie’s and Uncle Wally’s house, where Thanksgiving Dinner and my favorite French onion dip awaited.

I remember so much of the drive, the rest area we never stopped at, the Mall and the golf course, going over the Merrimack River on the double decker bridge, and along its banks the dump and the reform school,  My dad always remembered to point that out for some reason.   Some great memories, and well some challenging one’s as I squeezed into the middle seat between my older brother and little sister.

I looked it up on google maps this week – it was 12 miles, 18 minutes in no traffic. I swear there were times that it seemed like a bazillion hours.

And as we look into conversations that occur on the way to heaven, this was the often heard phrase,

“Get along back there!”

Which was usually followed by something like, well we will hear those in the weeks to come!

Why is it so difficult to get along with each other?  Why do we hear these same kinds of conversations today?  As Jesus, guiding our journey, hears not only our words, but our thoughts, it is difficult to hear him asking us to get along!

Get Along back there?

In today’s gospel, the words of Peter so sound like one of my siblings.  “Do I have to forgive my brother?  Do I have to forgive my sister?  Peter’s not as blatant as my brother and sister were, he asks, “how many times do I have to forgive?”  But you know if Jesus said 7, Peter was going to go to his brother Andrew and tell him he was at 7 already…and so the next time? You do it again Andrew, and you will pay for it!

But the base question is the same – do we have to forgive those who sin against us?

The answer is, of course yes.  We are people that believe in reconciliation.

It’s not a measure of the law, but a description of those who live the life of the baptized, those who live in a relationship where Jesus has reconciled them to the Father, and they are His children together.

That Is why Jesus tells the parable about the two slaves, they both belong to the same household, they are, legally, family.  Yet the first man, although forgiven that which he was to pay back, refuses to forgive the debt of the other man. Even to the point of visiting violence on the other slave.

Sounds like one of those backseat things – even up to the contact.

Why do we fight, and why do we struggle to forgive each other, when the dust settles? Haven’t we heard jesus’ 7 times 70 enough, or this parable?  Don’t we realize that we’re the ones who sins cannot be paid for in a thousand lifetimes, and we are willing to collect the debt for what is petty in comparison?

That sin you are holding onto, that pain, that resentment, how does it rate against the pain that your sin has caused God?  You have decades of it?  Do you really want that sin dividing the body of Christ Jesus?

I realized something this week as I was going over all three readings today.  There is account after account in scripture of how we are bound together, how we worship together, how we feast and fellowship together, how we endure together, how we face persecution and even die, together.  In all these things we are together, weeping together and rejoicing together.  What happens to one, happens to all.  What happens to all effects each one?

One exception, verse 12 of our epistle.

12 Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God.

Hearing that, we come back to the gospel….

33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.

35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters* from your heart.”

Faith if God is where we find the strength….

So what do we do? How do we find the ability to really forgive, to give no more thought to the debt incurred by sin?

Well Peter and Andrew weren’t the only brothers in the readings this morning.  There was also Joseph in the Old Testament Reading.  You know, the guy who his loving brothers kicked out of the back of the family station wagon, and sold to wandering merchants?

Look at how he forgave his brothers…

19 But Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. 21 No, don’t be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children.” So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them.

Can you see those words of Joseph coming from your mouth, to those who have sinned against you?  What do you think their reaction would be?  What do you think yours would be?

The sinners who thought their brother would grab them by the neck in revenge, he gave up that right, because of the work of God in all their lives.  A work that saved their physical lives.

We have something more incredible, something more beyond thought, in the work of Christ, who doesn’t just forgive 490 sins of ours, Heck, that is just this week!  He’s the master who forgives us all, who brings us home to the Father in heaven, cleansed, pure, holy.  Who gave up everything to make that happen, because He loves us. Who endured the pain of the cross, because of His love for us.

If Joseph could forgive, knowing the blessing of God seen in the saving his people from famine, we should be even more eager to let them know the gospel.  That every sin was paid for on the cross, that we have been forgiven a world of sin.  That is what the communion feast celebrates!

We are a forgiven family, we are brought together on a journey home, to heaven, to a feast.  We are called to love each other, even if for a moment we struggle with it – we still love, and we shall forgive, even as we are forgiven.

For that is what the Holy Spirit is transforming us into, giving us the ministry of reconciliation, the ministry mercy.  The Spirit’s transforming all of us who trust in Christ’s work, and the promises made to us, which we hear in His word.

So drop all the burdens, drop all the sins an rejoice in Christ’s peace…look to Christ, and find that we are all getting along on this journey in peace! AMEN?

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