He’s Making His Lists: An Advent Sermon on Isaiah 11
He’s Making His Lists
† I.H.S. †
May the grace and peace of God, our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ flood over you, as you realize how God has planned for and desired an intimate relationship with you!
- Wisdom from our youth—Three lists
The average sermon takes 8 hours to develop—and another 4-5 to write out the manuscript, which then is the basis for what you hear.
I said basis, anything good said beyond the manuscript is God caused… anything odd—blame me for!
For tonight’s sermon, the preparation time was shortened by our youth considerably! As we looked at the passage a couple of weeks ago, their conversation is the basis for this sermon, as they talked about what was important for me to communicate to you!
Our theme for Advent is the idea that God made a bunch of lists in the Bible, to help us understand what it means for Jesus to be the Christ, to be our Savior. There is a lot about Jesus, and the Bible neatly organizes it into lists for a reason.
To overwhelm us knowing that Jesus is, and that He loves us and works on our behalf, and to help us see what His work accomplishes in and for us.
In tonight’s passage from Isaiah 11, there is not one, not two, but three different lists the youth identified. We are going to focus on lists two and three, because when I asked which list I should focus on, they divided on lists two and three, and then realized you need list two, the things Jesus would do, to see list three, the effects of those actions in our lives…
So let’s get into List #2
- List two – What Jesus Did!
So here is what Isaiah said Jesus would do, things we know He has done and is doing still.
First, it says he will delight in obeying the LORD – that is God the Father.
How did Jesus obey the father? Well, Paul describes it this way,
“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” Ephesians 1:5 (NLT2)
God the Father said to Jesus, “Go save them – and bring them Home!” And that is what everything else sets up.
That’s why Jesus doesn’t judge us based on our appearance, nor will Jesus ever listen to rumors and hearsay about us! No matter how many sins Satan will accuse us of, Jesus will cover each one. (that doesn’t mean we go commit more!)
Jesus will give those who are broken and poor justice, and make fair decisions for those who are exploited and oppressed. Again—this is both physical and spiritual – some people are physically poor and exploited and others are spiritually so. In each situation, God is there, working in their lives. (Which probably means we should do the same!)
That is the power of God’s word at work, when He declares those who are broken are healed, those who are imprisoned are free, when those who are alone, are those He gathers and invites into the deepest relationship.
So that’s the work in list 2, and here is the effect in list three.
- List three – The Effects of His actions
The third lists detail the results of what they were to expect Jesus to do. Simply put, it seems like His coming was to provide them a life of peace that is crazy!
All these natural enemies resting side by side, Wolves and lambs, Leopards and goats, Lions hanging out with small calves—that just sounds crazy! Isaiah will up this idea of of peace though.
Anyone want to take an infant into a cobra den?
Or let a toddler play with a bunch of rattlesnakes?
God’s work in our lives is leading to a place where everyone is that peaceful! Who are the people that are your enemies, your adversaries, those that damage you, whether unintentionally or intentionally? They cannot do so, and if they are, or become believers, they will be as close as your closest friend, and you will rejoice in that!
The Apostle Paul talks about the power that raised Christ from the dead at work in us, and that is what happens! God at work in all who believe in Him, and calling others to that place!
First, He judges us, and instead of finding us guilty as charged, He makes us righteous, cutting away all the sin and all that goes with it. Then He puts changes our heart—and gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us and makes us more and more like Jesus.
And then we learn from Him to live in His peace… to even love and pray for those who do not know that peace… That is why He came… that is what we need to see!
That is why these lists are here—to get to know Jesus, to see what He is miraculously doing, and to see the profound impact on our lives, and our world, and to provide for us a future that is amazing…
He is our God, and we are His people. AMEN!
Let Nothing You Dismay: The Returning – A midweek advent message!
Let Nothing You Dismay
May the mercy of God of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be so clearly revealed, that when you have strayed into disobedience and sin, you simply remember the promise and return, knowing He will cleanse you from all sin and unrighteousness. AMEN!
There are words that we hear God speak through Malachi this evening that are brutally scary.
“But who will be able to endure it when he comes? Who will be able to stand and face him when he appears?
That’s a hard question, will you be able to face God when he appears? When he brings our the Law and compares your life against it? Will you be ready?
Or will you be one of those who Jesus spoke of, when Matthew records,
21 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.
Matthew 7:21 (NLT2)
While my head knows I can count on God’s grace, my heart and soul struggle to hear those words. And it gets scarier,
At that time I will put you on trial. I am eager to witness against all sorcerers and adulterers and liars. I will speak against those who cheat employees of their wages, who oppress widows and orphans, or who deprive the foreigners living among you of justice, for these people do not fear me,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
I wonder if we have lost a healthy fear of God, a fear that drives us to Him, to ask for the mercy He has promised us?
Or do we just keep dwelling in our sin, in the guilt and shame that drives us into the ground?
You see, our fear of God shouldn’t drive us away from Him, but it should drive us toward him. That is what God is talking about through Malachai when he says,
God doesn’t Change
6 “I am the Lord, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already destroyed. 7 Ever since the days of your ancestors, you have scorned my decrees and failed to obey them.
We have to understand that about God, that while he abhors the sin, He doesn’t hate us. He wants to be in a relationship with us, not destroyed for what we have done, and what we’ve not done. A healthy fear of God realizes that He is patient and merciful, and has always intended to be.
That’s why he hasn’t wiped us out and destroyed us, pouring out His wrath upon us.
He has never wanted to, it is not what He desires, and so He is patient, waiting for us to remember the promise and return.
Here is that promise,
Now return to me, and I will return to you,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
Return to me, and I will return to you! What a promise, what a God who promises not to leave us alone in the midst of our brokenness, but promises forgiveness, cleansing and healing!
The people of that day struggled, they ask how they could return when they never left.
We don’t have to do that, we know that He wants us to return, so we don’t have to play that game. We see how much He wants us return, as we think about Jesus coming into the flesh, dwelling with us, teaching us about the love of God then demonstrating it on the cross.
Return to me He says, and so we do, as we move into our time of confession, knowing God will be faithful to forgive us…knowing that He will return to us.
Then You Will Know that… A Lenten Sermon on Ezekiel 37
Then You Will Know
† In Jesus Name †
As you know the miraculous work of God in your life, as the grace, mercy, and love become reality, never forget that this is your LORD who walks with you!
In the midst of the miraculous
There is a part of me, the geeky part, that would love to see a movie made out of the Old Testament scene today, with the skeletons coming together, with the tendons and muscles crawling up the bones, the faces going from skeleton to muscle to flesh…
It would be like watching a horror movie in reverse….
And then the miracle of the wind, roaring across the valley, visibly entering each body’s nostrils, entering their mouths, their eyes snapping open, amazed by the life that now pumps blood through the body that surrounds the formerly dry and brittle bones!
What a wonder it would be!
A great crowd of people, awake and risen from the graves, brought back to the life they were always meant to live!
What a great movie, what complicated special effects, probably even beyond the imagination of Spielberg or Lucas!
And the most miraculous thing that happened would be overlooked in such a movie…
The incredible miracle of the chapter, found in these words,
“Then you will know that I am the LORD!”
“Then you will know that I am the LORD!”
Even as we see everything else happen, not just as a movie in our lives, but here and now, will we hear those words? Then will We Know?
Yea – those are our bones…
The first thing that might take away our knowing is looking at the bones, our bones.
Like Israel, most of us can see how we’ve withered and dried out. We can see where our faith is challenged, where temptation has turned to sin, where the first cracks happened that left us broken, that made us outsiders.
It may have been the sin of jealousy and coveting that got you, or some juicy piece of gossip that you had to pass on. Maybe it was a desire that caused you to be unfaithful in your words or thought, or anger that caused you to hurt someone you should have loved. Or maybe the sin was not honoring parents or authorities, or not recognizing the need for time with God, or using His name in a way we shouldn’t, or not using it when we should.
It doesn’t matter the sin, whether it was in thought or word, or action that we took, or knew we should and didn’t.
Those bones in the story are ours, as much as they were Israel’s.
And seeing them, we can lose our hope, we can lose our focus on God, and see only our own sin.
But that isn’t the story here, nor is it where our thoughts need to dwell. Can our dried bones live? Can we, despite our sin and shame find life? The LORD knows…
It’s time to stop focusing on your sin, your history
Yea – that is the Quickening
Our dry bones can take much of our attention away from God. So can our being brought back to life, the miracle of God covering our sin, our nakedness, and putting His Spirit within us.
It is truly a miracle, this work of God, this thing that theologians calls the quickening, this miracle were a sinner is declared and becomes righteous by God’s command. This miracle where sin is stripped from us, and laid on Jesus at the cross. Where we are brought to life with Him and His resurrection.
This is a wonderful thing as God saves us from our hopelessness, and causes us to rise again.
But it is not the greatest thing, not even close…
But here is what you need to know.
Go back to that phrase, “Then you shall know that I am the LORD!:
We may skip over that far too quickly. For the other things, our sin and our being brought to life seem to capture our attention, they are more graphic, more visual, and knowing that Jesus is the LORD, that is something we might just assume, or take for granted.
But know here isn’t just about knowing the facts, it is about knowing God as LORD, as the I AM. To know him deep down into our heart and soul, the part of us that seems hidden. Hidden not only from those who know us but deep down into the parts of us that lie beneath our character, that truly define who we are.
We also have to remember that when we see LORD in all capital letters, it is not His title, it is His name, YHWH, or Jehovah, the I AM that Moses was told to use to introduce Israel to Him with. The Name we are to call out to God with when we are in despair, the Name of God we are to use in our prayers and our praises, the God who communes with us here.
This is knowing at our deepest part, knowing Him in the most intimate of settings in our heart and soul. Knowing Him at a point where brokenness is healed, where love is known, even if we can’t explain it. Where peace is found, for there God has put His Spirit. For God has breathed into you life, a life that is abundant.
This is the real miracle in the valley of the dry bones, the revelation not just of salvation, not just of the Love of God, but of knowing Him, and realizing how well He knows and loves us.
For as that is revealed – we become more and more aware that we dwell in His presence, and are safe there… for He is our LORD, He is YHWH, our God. AMEN!
Politics, Hard Decisions, and our Faith
Devotional Thought fo the day:
But these men pressed the king. “Keep in mind, O king,” they said, “that under the law of the Medes and Persians every royal prohibition or decree is irrevocable.” 17 So the king ordered Daniel to be brought and cast into the lions’ den.* To Daniel he said, “Your God, whom you serve so constantly, must save you.” 18 To forestall any tampering, the king sealed with his own ring and the rings of the lords the stone that had been brought to block the opening of the den.
19 Then the king returned to his palace for the night; he refused to eat and he dismissed the entertainers. Since sleep was impossible for him, 20 the king rose very early the next morning and hastened to the lions’ den. 21 As he drew near, he cried out to Daniel sorrowfully, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God whom you serve so constantly been able to save you from the lions?” 22 Daniel answered the king: “O king, live forever! 23 My God sent his angel and closed the lions’ mouths so that they have not hurt me.b For I have been found innocent before him; neither have I done you any harm, O king!” 24 This gave the king great joy. At his order Daniel was brought up from the den; he was found to be unharmed because he trusted in his God. NABRE, Dan 6:16–24
509 To be able to judge with rectitude of intention what is needed is a pure heart, zeal for the things of God and love of souls, free from prejudices. Think about it! (1)
I will admit – I don’t have the purity of heart, and not enough zeal for the things of God, and while I try to love souls, there are days this isn’t an option.
If we were back in the days of Darius and Daniel, I can hear the FB and Twitter comments blasting this King, trying to force him to release Daniel, calling him names, and crucifying him in the media for doing what he did. Or the opposite – for not dealing with Daniel severely enough.
They didn’t see his sleepless night, his mourning, His brokenness.
If we were there, we would see someone in power doing that which we know he should not have done.
His heart wouldn’t have mattered, only his actions. His only hope was in the God Daniel trusted, only then could the king know peace. He wasn’t Darius’s God, yet. Darius would praise him, indeed, order his entire country to praise the God of Daniel
26 Then King Darius wrote to the nations and peoples of every language, wherever they dwell on the earth: “May your peace abound! 27 I decree that throughout my royal domain the God of Daniel is to be reverenced and feared:
“For he is the living God, enduring forever, whose kingdom shall not be destroyed, whose dominion shall be without end, 8 A savior and deliverer, working signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, who saved Daniel from the lions’ power.” NABRE Dan 6:26-28
This is a lesson for us, for our tendency to judge before we know; before we see the big picture, and the heart of the man in authority Before we realize that God is at work, as promised> We need to pray for our leaders, for the decisions they have to make, that they may not want to make. Even the decisions we disagree with, and find evil in our view.
We can only do this if our faith is in God, even as Daniel’s trust was. Only if we are convinced of His promises can we endure, or watch others endure their own lion’s den. Its not our faith in the Darius, or even in the Daniel, it is God’s reliability we are talking about here…
The God who restores things that are broken, from governments ot leaders, to our own souls.
Trust Him, know He will deliver us… and be confident in His work in you. DOing such will leave in you peace… free to love, to serve the Lord. AMEN!
(1) Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 1938-1940). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
Fiiled with Joy – A sermon based on Isaiah 29 (manuscript)
Filled with Joy!
† In Jesus Name! †
May you be so filled with fresh joy from seeing and hearing the love of Christ at work in your life, that you humbly welcome His molding you into His image!
The fear of the unknown
It is that sense you have, the night before you take on a new job.
Or maybe as you sleep for the first night in a new place and have to struggle to remember where the bathroom is, and where the light switches are. You hear strange groans and creaks and noises, and your heart it trying to decide to dive under the covers or find a weapon, or both!
Or maybe it is that call from the doctor’s office, you know the one where the doctor himself calls you and asks that you come in, right now…
I don’t know what the official phobia is called, but the fear of the unknown is the greatest fear that most of us will ever face. It doesn’t matter what the unknown is, a matter of fact; that is why it is so scary! We just don’t know!
As we look at the lesson in Isaiah today, we see that problem, the unknown future, the kind of future God prophecies about, but are we willing to hear, to see what He has in mind?
The message of God’s love
At the beginning of the Old Testament reading from Isaiah, the future is compared to a sealed book. The future is explained in a message from God that reveals all that is needed to know. A message that would calm the fears, that would bring the heart peace, and give assurance that all will be good to those souls who are stressed and anxious.
But those who the message are given too, perhaps scared of the unknown, don’t bother to read the message. They say, “we can’t read it because it is sealed”, even though it was given to them to read.
It’s like getting that certified letter from the IRS, or from the Superior Court. You stand there looking at it, unable to open it, as if not reading it somehow makes things less terrifying! Every morning you see it on the table, and you don’t want to even touch it!
And the message from God goes unheard, unread, unseen.
Others will claim that they are unable to read it, that the words are beyond their comprehension, so they too leave the message unead, unseen, unheard. It’s like those people who haven’t read the book of Revelation, for they fear what they will read will scare them.
The future becomes even more concering, it terrifies us even more.
We tried to fill the gap
Which is where our hypocrisy comes in, according to this passage from Isaiah. You see, rather than face our fears, rather than dealing with God directly. The world does this by creating other gods. Gods who will give them what they want, who will allow them to chase after what is worthless.
Unwilling to hear what God says, we make up our own rules, our own traditions, and then judge others by whether they follows what we say. We will say that we are God’s, we will say and sing the right things, but do we really understand the heart of God? Do our hearts beat in time with His? Is what He desires what we desire more than anything else?
Or is our worship, and the things we do that “prove our righteousness” simply empty, going through motions without realizing that they don’t please God? The prophets called Israel out on this over and over, telling them their sacrifices meant nothing, that their gatherings were worthless. The Pharisees were accused of this as well, as they tithed everything, even down to the seeds for their gardens. But they overlooked mercy, and helping those in need.
Our attempts to fill in the gaps, to prove we are good are worthless, and when we think about it, they don’t rid us of the fear of dealing with a God who seems to perfect, so righteous, that we don’t, we can’t stand being in His presence.
If only we saw His words, if only we could read them!
We’ll even go farther, we will tell God, our creator, that He doesn’t know what he is doing. That His laws don’t make sense, that we understand and know better. That his idea of life, or right and wrong, is wrong. We are like Isaiah’s jars – telling the potter who made them that he is intellectually challenged.
Or as Chris will soon hear from some student, that he just doesn’t understand, because the sophomore knows what he is talking about! And compared to God, we often act like sophmores, a term from the greek meaning “wise fools”!
We didn’t have to, He knows what He is doing
The idea that Isaiah is trying to get across is that we don’t have to play God, we don’t have to step in and fill in the gap when we don’t see God doing what He wants to! He is far smarter, and if we try to take control, our lives will be full of sorrow.
Yet even then, God will not abandon us! He has promised to amaze us with amazing things!
For what God had planned for us causes us to disguard our own wisdom, to drop the plans, to come out from the darkness, to be able to see and hear His words,
or we are in the days of verse 18,
In that day the deaf will hear words read from a book, and the blind will see through the gloom and darkness. 19 The humble will be filled with fresh joy from the LORD. The poor will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel..
Foe we, like Israel of old, like the believers who followed Jesus and struggled, have been told what the future holds, a future that has hope, that has peace, that has glory beyond our imagination.
Paul revealed that when he wrote,
9 However, as the scripture says, “What no one ever saw or heard, what no one ever thought could happen, is the very thing God prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (TEV)
It is seeing this plan come together, as we beging to understand that Jesus’ death and resurrection is our death and resurrection, that this was the plan, this was the gospel even back in the days of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea and Paul and Peter is amazing.
To realize that as He hangs from the cross and says Father, forgive them, Jesus is thinking of Dustin, Chris, Tom, Jim, Chuck, and Al and all of Concordia,
To know that when He said said, take and eat, this is my body, given for you, He was revealing our future. And when He said this is my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sin, He was making our eternity possible.
This is why we can see, it is what we heard, even though we were once dead to the words of God.
So hear, see and rejoice in God’s presence
It is as we see this, we lay aside our wisdom, our plans, our self defensiveness and know the presence and love of God.
We, those who are humbled by the love of God, are filled, as Isaiah promises, with the fresh joy of the Lord, and we, who were poor, rejoice in the presence of the Holy One, the Lord God of Israel!
And our hearts and minds, finally enjoying His peace, relax and praise Him. AMEN!
We Cry our Hosanna (save us!) Because our World is Upside Down!
We Cry Out, Hosanna
Because Our World Is Upside Down!
† IHS †
As we adjust from living in a world that is upside down, may the grace of God turn our world right side up, and help us be at peace with the change!
Discomfort and the Poseidon Adventure
Vicar Mark made a comment in Bible Study the other night that made so much sense. Talking about Palm Sunday, (aka the Sunday of the Passion) he compared it to an old movie, the Poseidon Adventure.
He indicated that Palm Sunday is like the few hours after the people on the upside down ship were rescued. When they were still so disoriented because what had been upside down, was now right side up. Where what had sadly become normal, was not normal any longer.
It is like trying to adjust to the sermon being the very first thing in the service.
It’s odd, and we aren’t comfortable with it.
Yet when God comes into our lives, it is to put everything back the way it should be.
We have to get used to it as well! Even as we have to get used the paradox of this being both Palm Sunday, and the first day of Holy Week; also known as Sunday of Christ’s passion.
The world shifts back to normal, but will we recognize it? Will we adjust to God making everything right?
Our Discomfort with the Meek Ruler
When in a few minutes, you hear the words of Zechariah read, I want you to think through the words,
Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt.
That was why the people of Jerusalem were so happy, this was the King, their King that was entering Jerusalem, the one to whom they cried out Hosanna. By the way, that isn’t just a cry of victory, it is a cry asking for it, a cry of despair, a cry for Jesus to go out and win.
Even as they recognized and cried out to Jesus, knowing this, they didn’t see what the salvation they cried for entailed.
For instance, instead of coming on the White Warhorse, proud and ready to lead, he comes on donkey’s foal – a young ass barely able to carry him.
That’s not what we want as our leader, we want someone strong, ready to take on everything, ready to go to war, ready to conquer everything. The kind of King we can follow in triumph.
But that Is upside down thinking. If our God is God and nothing can stand against Him, then Jesus doesn’t have to come decked out for war, He can come humbly and peacefully. He can come in a way that is relaxed, in a way everyone can reach out to Him.
That is how it would be, if sin didn’t rule over people. Jesus knew why He came, and the kind of kingdom He would establish. Confident of the Father’s love, and their plan to set everything right side up, He comes with that in mind.
Our discomfort with the Peace He Brings!
We see the same disorientation, when you start to think about the peace this prophecy about Jesus’ promises. Usually we think of creating peace by disarming the enemy, making them submit to us.
Look at the verse again.. and hear this when it is read later,
10 I will remove the battle chariots from Israel and the warhorses from Jerusalem. I will destroy all the weapons used in battle, and your king will bring peace to the nations.
The prophecy wasn’t about God disarming the world, it was about God disarming Israel! That doesn’t sound quite right! It sounds quite upside down in fact! At least from the perspective of living in a broken, sinful world, we want a country well armed! After all, isn’t It the world against us? Shouldn’t we make it submit to us?
As God moves to set make everything right, Jesus shows us the greatest victory through dropping the defenses, and loving and serving those who would be our enemy. His example isn’t from forcing them to obey, but by giving us the confidence to obey.
A confidence that realizes that we don’t have to be offensive in dealing with our enemies, for Jesus will provide them a level of peace, even as His kingdom spreads throughout the world.
As Israel, under the watchful eye of the Roman military as well as the religious authorities calls out for Jesus to save them, Zechariah’s prophecy should point them to the paradox of the cross, where Jesus brings the Father glory, where He wins us the victory, by disarming himself.
They never saw it coming. They couldn’t see it right, for their world was upside down. The question is will we see it here.. And now?
Or has sin disoriented us too much?
He is our answer, our place of Safety.
Zechariah saw it coming. Perhaps it is a better to say the Holy Spirit inspired His perception, and led Zechariah to write this prophecy.
Here some more of it,
11Because of the covenant I made with you, sealed with blood, I will free your prisoners from death in a waterless dungeon. 12 Come back to the place of safety, all you prisoners who still have hope!
Even as the Vicar and an Elder process this morning, you will note that the procession moves towards the altar, toward the place where you will be given Christ’s body and blood this morning, the place where you cry of Hosanna – God save us! Is answered.
Before a cross, remembering that it was at the cross where the blood of the covenant was poured out, even as the wine and blood will be poured out this morning.
Everything turned upside down. A Kingdom won by surrender, peace gained by allowing violence, leadership found in humility, Life created in death, freedom found in submission. Saints found as sinners are revealed to be in Christ.
A life lived in safety and security, for eternity.
Because of God’s passion, because of the peace He came to bring, riding on a donkey.
So we celebrate that Christ, the one who flips everything, making it right, making life the way it was supposed to be. We celebrate Jesus, who sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in us, to give us the strength to deal with the disorientation is revealed to be something need to know – the peace that passes all understanding.
You Won’t Ask? I will provide anyway!
You Won’t Ask? I will provide anyway!I
As you experience the grace of God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, may you know the peace of the Babe, held in His mother’s Arms.
Can We Know Peace? Snoopy and the Red Baron & the real Story
As we look at the world, at Afghanistan, Syria, the Ukraine, as we hear of more shootings, and protests here in America, as we hear of disasters and people living in poverty, looking at a romanticized view of the manger causes… dissonance.
How can this be the same world?
My mind wandered back to a more peaceful time, or at least, It was in my mind. In a small New Hampshire town, the news of the Vietnam War was far more distant than the wards of today… and life seemed at peace.
I remember listening to Christmas music, on our record player, the albums that would get pulled out, year after year. One of my favorites was a group called Royal Guardsman, and their Christmas song was about Snoopy.
Yes, Charlie Brown’s dog, and a fight he had with Baron Manfred Richtofen in World War I, on Christmas Eve. A battle about to end with snoopy getting shot down, when the bells of Christmas began to ring in the village below,
The chorus was
“Christmas bells those Christmas bells
Ring throughout the land
Asking peace of all the world
And good will to man”
And for a moment, there was peace.
Such actually happened in World War I, not between two pilots, but two armies. For an evening, they laid down their rifles, they silenced their artillery, and as one man started singing silent night, men from his army joined their voices to his, then the other army did as well.
For an evening, as bells chimed from churches, announcing the birth of Jesus, there was peace.
Can that happen today?
Will we know if it does?
Can we know peace in War?
That question God wanted to ask…. Yeah
In the days of King Ahaz, in the time described in our Old Testament reading from Isaiah, there was a war.
We know the passage so well, because of the prophecy of Mary, and the name, Immanuel, which means Immanent or Immediate God. It is from where we get our blessing, “The Lord is with you!.”
Jerusalem was going to get run over, brutally run over….surrounded by armies,
In order to provide for God’s people, a prophet is sent to break this new to them.
God asks the king, “let me prove I will be with you through these times, ask me for something to confirm it….Let me give you and answer for the questions you will ask.
Ask, and you shall receive…. Jesus will ask us, centuries later….
Ahaz refused to answer, for whatever reason.
I won’t put you to the test…. I won’t demand you prove your presence, your love, I won’t depend on you God, no matter what threatens me. That’s Ahaz voice, defensive, dismissive….
Will we doubt the One who was promised, the babe born to a virgin, the One who would remind us that God is with us? That God has promised to deliver His people, and bring them, bring us safely home?
Will we hear it, more than this night!
Many of our wars aren’t military battles, nor even do they include weapons. They are wars with our neighbors, or our families,, skirmishes and fights with friends. Civil wars within our hearts, within our souls.
We need to hear that God wants us to ask of Him, we need to seek Him out, we need to realize that He will prove that He is as here this night
We need to know He is Immanuel, our God, with US.
That is what this night, these songs, these readings are all about. It’s why we gather. It ‘s why we are here……
and we are why He is here….
We are why this baby doesn’t just belong here… in the manger, but here, on the altar.
The sacrifice that we would know peace.
During a war, nearly 100 years ago, the bells pealed out, and the war was forgotten,… and men sang the praises of God, who came and dwelt among us…
To bring us the peace of heaven…..
So seek, and knock and ask….
And realize the answer was first seen, as a young lady laid her newborn babe in a manger, and God the Father offered Him as the sacrifice to prove Himself to be our God, and to make us His people.
The One Who Would Die, that Others Will Live
What Child is this?
The One Who Would Die,
That Others Might Live…
John 11:17-27, 38-53
In Jesus Name
May the grace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be well known by you, bringing you great peace and joy as you know the depth of His love.
There are Sundays were the sermon develops simply, where there is only one point to the reading, only one lesson to learn about the depth of God’s love. Here, in this reading, there are a number of sermons that could be given.
One about God’s love, as we see in revealed in Jesus’ interaction with Martha,
Or God’s love, that would weep over the depth of a friend, and then raise him back to life.
Or one of my favorites, as we look at Caiaphas, the high priest, who like a hostile witness in court, still proclaims the truth…about the depth of God’s love – and doesn’t even know it.
As I prepared for this day, with the children singing, the words at the end of the reading kept coming to the front of my mind,
“he did not say this on his own, as the high priest at that time, he was led to prophesy that Jesus would die for that entire nation, Not only for that nation, but to bring together and unite all the children of God, scattered around the world….”
We see God’s heart, at the depth of that plan, to bring together and unite al the children of God, scattered around the world.
One of the things we talk about here, is that church is often a foretaste of the glory of heaven. Not the building, but the people, the mercy, the love….as we sing together, as we heard God’s words, revealing His love, we place before God our burdens, as we share in the Lord’s Supper, this is all a little taste of heaven.
It just seems right then, that the voices of children we hear sing are from many cultures, from all over the world, the children whom Jesus came to make His own, just as He came to make us His own… people from all over this globe, just as heaven will be people from every nation, of every language, of every ethnicity. Today’s sermon is about how He planned and did this very thing!
These passages during this church season, what we call lent, help us get ready for Easter. They help us become more and more aware of God’s plan from the very beginning, was to be with us, to bring light and love into our world, which often lacks it.
Such as this prophesy of Caiaphas, which would point to the long awaited glory of Israel being revealed, and the hope of all peoples. The High-Priest, the head of all things religious, who studied the scriptures, said words that were so accurate, that He didn’t see it.
He said, “’You don’t know what you’re talking about! 50 You don’t realize that it’s better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.’” John 11:49-50 (NLT)
It was just to be just Caiaphas had prophesied. But he was by no means the first. Some 700 years before Caiaphas said those words, another prophet by the name of Isaiah put it together, a little more carefully:
10 But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD’s good plan will prosper in his hands. 11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. Isaiah 53:10-11 (NLT)
It is the same thought – but where as Caiaphas thought the death of Jesus would save a problem with the Romans, it would do so much more, saving people from our rebellion against God, our sin.
When during our time of confession and absolution earlier, I mentioned that God daily and richly forgives our sins and grants us new life, those are not just mere words. They are what we believe, what we count upon each day.
But we realize as well, and take great joy in the knowledge that this has been God’s plan from the beginning, that Jesus, the one, would die that all the children of God would never fear the power of sin, that is, that death would somehow be the end.
Isaiah talks of this in words that are interesting – that because the righteous servant, by experiencing death, would make it possible for many to be counted right. Simply because Jesus bears our sin, the grief, the guilt, the pain, the shame, and yes, the penalty for what we’ve done wrong.
Because of that action, he does save us, God’s people, all who trust in Him, from every corner of this planet, from every people group, from Asia, from the Middle East, from South America, and Europe, and even LA and the OC.
That’s been His plan, from before the foundations of the world, a plan we see, even as we look at the children’s smiles, as we heard their voices praising God this morning
There is a last lesson here. That I need to make absolutely clear to each and everyone of us. Some because we think we’ve gone too far from God. That might be worried about someone they think is gone to far from God…or in either case, lost hope for God to be able to work in their lives.
Hear Jesus prayer, to the Father…
40 Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” 41 So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” John 11:40-42 (NLT)
That of course, is the challenge, this idea of trusting God. Martha couldn’t even begin to conceive of what Jesus was telling her, that in a mere moment, with a cry, her brother would be returned to her and Mary.
In the same way, when we talk about eternity, about the finality of death, it is hard to see beyond the tomb. Yet God is here, just as He was there. Martha trusted in Jesus for the harder miracle, the resurrection from the dead, for all eternity.
It is why Jesus came, why he was born of Mary, and laid in a manger.
So that people would hear God’s love..
The same Child, was the one who would be nailed to the cross….
And rise from the dead, and ascend to heaven…..
So that we would know the Father sent Jesus… and sent Him that we would know the incredible depth of God’s love…..
for us, for those we love…. For those still, no matter what language they speak, no matter where they were born, no matter their culture.
For in Christ’s death, we find ourselves alive, in a relationship with God… rejoicing in His mercy, and given His peace.
A peace that is beyond all understanding, guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Bearing Christ for the World
Bearing Christ for the World
† In Jesus Name †
As we contemplate the praises that a young pregnant girl offers, because she trusts in God’s promises, not just for her, but for the people of God, can we as well be blessed because we trust in Him, as we bring Christ into the world as well.
How much confirmation means
The bottom line – you are blessed because you trust God at His word..
But the things she trusts in God for, we should as well
Some think she was sent to her cousin in disgrace, a young teenage girl – pregnant prior to her marriage. The timing is off for that – for she left a few short days after Gabriel brought her the message of God’s intentions for her- which makes Elizabeth’s words all the more… incredible.
I would think she hadn’t told anyone but in a hurry takes the opportunity and leaves town – but caring for her aunt gave her a chance to get away, to contemplate the incredible message, to try and figure out what to tell her fiancé, her family, her friends.
Remember – back then – such a disgrace was often punished by throwing her out of the house – and throwing stones at her.
She gets to her cousins house, probably deep in thought, a bit anxious, and though not doubting God, the implications of being chosen by Him for a purpose still dominating her thoughts, her emotions. And in the midst of this – without any prompting, her cousin Elizabeth proclaims,
[Mary] “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed.
Put together with the words of Gabriel – these form the beginning of the prayer anyone who grew up catholic knows quite well, Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thine womb – Jesus!
These words of Elizabeth, so powerful, so confirming, fueled by the power and joy of the Holy Spirit, confirm that which was already known… but oh what peace it is, to have confirmed that which God has already made clear is His will in one’s life. No longer can it simply be discounted as a dream of a young girl – but a reality.
But let’s not overlook the rest of Elizabeth’s words, indeed we cannot – for they form the foundation – not only for the reason Mary is called blest, but for the sermon as well!
44 When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”
You are blessed because you believe the Lord would do what He said…
That my friends, is not only Mary’s blessing – but yours as well.
Let’s see why
He hasn’t forgotten me!
Mary responds to Elizabeth’s words, with words of her own, words of praise, words that adoringly reveal the glory of God she is witnessing. These are not the kind of words you would expect from a teenage girl – unless that teenage girl was filled with the Spirit of God. Hear again the first section.
“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
Have you ever felt that God was so busy, He forgot about you for the moment? That your prayers went to voicemail? Have you ever felt that you weren’t important to God? Growing up, I was often the odd man out, and while I didn’t mind persay, I you sometimes wondered if God knew who I was, any more than those whose lives flashed past mine. I get what Mary is saying here.
The word that “took notice” is translated from is an incredibly powerful word. It’s look and deep perception and discernment combined. This kind of look pierces all of our outside illusions and comes right to the core of our being. God the father took notice of Mary, even as He takes notice of us – each one of us, and places within us His love, His peace. And as she realizes this depth of God’s concern for her, as she realizes how He will work in her life – the joy and worship just flows from her soul….it will know no limitations in this moment, and yes – we do count her blessed – for she trusted in His love.
Bringing this home, there is not one of us, that isn’t so blessed. There is not one of us, that goes without God “taking notice of us”. To realize that He does love us, that He is interested in us, that He is immanent, transcendent, incarnate in our lives as well as Mary’s – that is an intimacy with God that goes beyond anything we can imagine.
The question is – do we realize it – do we hear the voices that confirm it, just as Mary heard Elizabeth’s cry of joy?
He has done something wonderful for me!
Mary moves on from the realization that God takes notice of us, as her praises slightly transistion,
49 For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me!
Pastor’s pet peeve moment – why doesn’t that sentence end with a exclamation point? What were the translators thinking – imagine how they would have felt – if on Christmas day, when their children and spouse opened their presents, if the reaction was, o what a great present.. no, they want to hear their children exult with glee – excitement – and yeah – hugs and thanks.
Yet they used a period her. Yup – God is mighty and holy and He did some great, well good sorta, well nice things for me – PERIOD.
Can’t you see the women dancing in each other’s arms, the mother of the prophet, and the mother of Jesus, the mother of God. Can’t you hear their laughter – their joy, their excitement? Or do you think this scene occurs with the high dignity of English tea time?
Sure – Mary is not thinking about the cross yet, or the resurrection – while she knows her Son will be the promised one, that the baby- just barely forming in her womb – is the Lord who will change everything – who will turn the world upside down.
Would we, who have been joined to Christ incarnate, whose bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit – as much the temple of God as the young lady whose body bore the son of God, rejoice as well as we bear God for the world!
While I would admit there is a difference – that being physical – in both Mary and our lives, the presence of God is indeed what makes us blessed, it is why we rejoice! It is something beyond wonder, beyond amazement, that God would look upon us and choose us, that He would bless us, that He would abide with us.
He does something for those like me!
I find it extraordinary as well – that Mary’s magnificat doesn’t end there – with God doing wonderful, great things for her. Her song takes a final transition, as she realizes this wonderful thing is not just about her…but a blessing for the entire world. Let me call your attention to verses, 50, 53, 54, and 55
50 He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands.
54 He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful.
55 For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.”
It is amazing to me, that Mary takes this incredible news in her life – and realizes that it isn’t just about her – that all those who desperately need to know God’s mercy, that its about those who are hungry for something more in life, that He fills, that those in need of help He has helped – as He pours out His loving mercy to them, even as He promised…
That it is finally about the descendant of Abraham – the one long promised coming, the Lord who would bless every nation, who would create from a bunch of sinners like us, a people for God – a people for God to Love.
The early church fathers, the pastors and bishops of the first few centuries – often talked of Mary as a image, a symbol of the church. That the qualities that make her unique in some ways, are the very qualities one finds in the bride of Christ, the church, Often this is talked about, as she answers Gabriel’s message with the “let it be done according to Thy Word.”
As well, I think the incredible quality of hers, to see the effect of God’s presence in her life, as it affects others, is also a major characteristic of the church. For that is our call as believers – as those who bear God’s name, who are the temple of the Holy Spirit – a place people can find forgiveness, and healing and peace, even as Jesus brings those things into our life.
For we as well bear Christ, we bring Him into the world, and in doing so, share with others the intimacy, the love, and peace He has given us, for we are blessed for we believe God would do, did do, what He said He would, in Christ. AMEN?