An Everlasting Sign
† I.H.S. †
As we walk though this life, may we continually see the everlasting signs of God’s power and love, at work in our lives, and in the lives of those around us.
Walking by the lake… you can’t take it all in…
Walking by the side of Lake Ossipee in New Hampshire, I learned a lesson about photography, and perhaps about life.
Simply put, the camera can’t take all that we experience with our eyes. They can’t take in the gentles waves, little more than ripples, and the beautiful homes across the lake, never mind the mountains that are visible on the horizon. You can’t take in a 360-degree panorama of beauty, never mind the feeling that occurs when you walk down a road with your son, that you and your dad walked down before.
Likewise, even our eyes can’t focus on everything at once.
There is so much more than we can see and hear, never mind the stories that give the story more depth, and the experience that goes beyond words.
Either because the experience is so full of joy, or so full of the pain of being broken, or sometimes, because the experience is both, and how do you concentrate on the joy, when you are struggling with tears?
And if that is simply trying to process a vacation, how do we catch what is really important about life?
Maybe we need a sign or two to help us along the way, to help us focus on what we need?
Do we see the fruit God’s word accomplishes?
One of the things I don’t often see is what Isaiah recorded God telling us,
10 “The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. 11 It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
This illustration might be harder for us to understand here in California than it is sitting beside a lake in New Hampshire. After all, like looks little different at first today than it did a year ago when we are in a drought. Yet there is still snow in the high Sierras, the depleted reservoirs are again full.
We can’t see those signs, but we do know of the snow and rain from the crops that provide us food, from the grain that gives us bread to the grapes that provide us wine!
But like the camera view that cannot pick up everything, sometimes it is hard to see the blessings of God. They are there, just like the water that sits up in the High Sierras and the reservoirs. We may not regularly note the benefits of the blessings, but the blessings sustain us, none the less.
Again, do we see the rain and snow here? Not so much, but the evidence of that blessing we share see in a moment, just as we do every we eat, and with every sip we drink. His work is there, providing for us, even if all we can “see” are the end results of the blessings.
It is the same way spiritually, as God works through means, and delivers us grace and comfort, as He reveals His compassion and peace.
It will accomplish what God desires it to accomplish, and that is an incredible blessing.
The change is real – let’s see it!
So if in the physical life we see the end product, the food and drink that nourishes us, is there something similar spiritually.
Is there an eternal sign that proves God is at work, that He is blessing us?
Is there something that changes dramatically as a land that was once filled with thorns and weeds being filled with towering cypress and abundant colored myrtle trees, as verse 13 describes?
Yes indeed, we can see the effect of the blessing of God’s word, for the growth and change it does cause. The lives that do change, the lives that hear and know God’s peace in the midst of trauma, the lives that are reconciled.
I started this sermon by talking about the pictures that can’t take in everything the eye can see, and the eyes that can’t take in everything we experience.
Bu those eyes can take in a cross, and contemplate it’s meaning as we are joined to Christ’s death on the cross in our baptism. Those eyes can rejoice as we are welcome to feast on Christ’s body and blood, even as we try to meditate on that incredible feast. Our ears can celebrate as we heard our sin is forgiven, and rejoice as we hear that God is with us.
And as we know this peace, and share it, for so many need to know God’s gift of peace, given through His Son. That peace is the sign of His everlasting power and love, a peace bought for us at the cross and delivered to us in word and the sacraments. The word and sacraments used by the Holy Spirit to change us, for God is with us! AMEN!
Devotional Thought to Prepare us for Advent….
15 I do not call you servants any longer, because servants do not know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because I have told you everything I heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures. And so the Father will give you whatever you ask of him in my name. 17 This, then, is what I command you: love one another. John 15:15-17 (TEV)
233 You spoke about the scenes in the life of Jesus which moved you most: when he met men suffering greatly… when he brought peace and health to those whose bodies and souls were racked with pain… You were inspired—you went on—seeing him cure leprosy, restore sight to the blind, heal the paralytic at the pool: the poor beggar forgotten by everybody. You are able to contemplate Him as He was, so profoundly human, so close at hand! Well… Jesus continues being the same as then. (2)
There is an attitude that negatively views contemporary worship (or that of 30-100 years ago) that treats Jesus to0 close, too intimate, too friendly. They would rather perceive God from the perspective of great distance, and perhaps great fear.
Which would make sense if we were approach Christ’s advent, His coming, with the anticipation of judgment without the cross’s benefit. To turn advent into a time of anticipating hell, fire, and brimstone, wrath and tribulation is wrong.
Don’t get me wrong, we need Jesus to come back, perhaps even desperately so. Life is too screwed up, we all need to be delivered from sin completely, we need to come home to God. But that turns advent from anxiety about Jesus coming, to realizing we and anxiety is more caused because of the wait we endure until He returns.
If we have friends we haven’t seen in ages coming to dinner during the holiday; we look forward to it. We anticipate it, we work hard, trying to get everything as perfect as possible. It is the same for Jesus second coming, we desire to grow in faith, we desire to see people come to know Him, to come to trust in Him, because He is our friend, because He loves us so completely.
Those contemporary worship songs which treat Jesus as a friend, they aren’t as far off base. They bring home that which we need to know, the attitude that Luther noted, makes the difference between one who knows God, and one who only knows of Him,
“For all outside of Christianity, whether heathen, Turks, Jews, or false Christians and hypocrites, although they believe in, and worship, only one true God, yet know not what His mind towards them is, and cannot expect any love or blessing from Him; therefore they abide in eternal wrath and damnation. For they have not the Lord Christ, and, besides, are not illumined and favored by any gifts of the Holy Ghost.” (2)
If we don’t understand God’s desire for an intimate, deep friendship with the people He calls and makes His own, we truly only know a God whose presence evokes fear and brings to the front of our heart the condemnation of guilt and shame. We have to realize the intent of Christ’s incarnation, to head resolutely to the cross, to show us the depth of His love, to bring us healing and forgiveness.
Yes, we should be in awe of God’s presence, we are overwhelmed by His glory, but a glory that pours out grace, that delights in showering us with His Mercy, embracing us in the love, even as the Holy Spirit sanctifies us. The awe of realizing God, in all His glory, desires to be our friend.
Which makes the wait of Advent tense, as if we hear every passing car as if it is our long awaited Friend…
For He is coming!
May your patience and desire to see God sustain you, even as you anxiously await His return. AMEN!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 1170-1174). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
(2) The Large Catechism of Martin Luther. The Apostles Creed: Explanation of the Third Article.