Isaiah 10: 41 – Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Dear Friends in Christ,
A little boy was walking down the beach one day, and spotted an older lady, a lady who looked like a grandma sitting under a beach umbrella. He walked up to her and peppered her with questions, “Are you a Christian?” “Yes” she answered. “Do you read your bible every day?” “Why, yes I do.” “Do you pray often?” “Yes, why do you ask?” “Well, I was wondering if you would hold my quarter while I go swimming?”
Obviously, the little guy wanted to know a little of this lady’s character before he trusted her with his 25 cents. So also in Isaiah 41 did God want the nation of Israel to know that His character was rock solid, His record of keeping promises was perfect, His right hand was always going to be stronger than any enemy could throw their way.
In Isaiah 10, the prophet wanted Israel to know exactly how special they were in His sight. No matter what happened to them, they were to remember how gracious God had been to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. Out of all the nations on God’s green earth, He had chosen Israel as the nation from which the Messiah would come. Verse 10 is a verse Dolly’s family wanted all of you to be focused on this morning. V. 10 piles comfort upon comfort.
It begins with words we so frequently hear in Scripture – do not be afraid. As God’s people mired in exile, they had all kinds of reasons to be afraid. They had to wonder if their brutal oppressors would ever let up, they had to wonder if their children or grandchildren would ever e allowed to return to their homeland, they had to wonder if their pain would ever be less, if their suffering would ever end, if their future would ever be bright again.
Again and again, God would give His people a history lesson and invite them to rest in His faithfulness. He was the one who delivered them out of Egyptian slavery, he was the One who had brought them across the Red Sea with an outstretched arm, He was the One who had guided them through 40 years of wilderness and into the Promised Land. He was the One Who had given them victory after victory, even when the oddsmakers would have put all their money on their enemies.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
So also did Dolly have to wonder some days. No doubt she had days in her marriage and raising family days that were better and for worse, days of sickness and good health, days that were richer or poorer, days that seemed blessed and days when it seemed as though nothing went right. No doubt there were days when she didn’t think Reinhardt’s jokes were very funny, no doubt there were days when her kids made her mutter, no doubt she worried about her grandchildren and what their future would be like.
Again and again God’s Word would give her reason not to be afraid. In Holy Baptism the sign of the cross had been placed on her forehead and on her heart, marking her as a redeemed and forgiven child of God. From her mother’s knees, she had been taught that Jesus loved her, that He had loved her enough to live a perfect life for her, He had loved her enough to suffer all that He was sent to suffer for her, Jesus had loved her enough to be crucified until He was dead and buried for her, He loved her enough to rise up again on the third day for her. In all the chapters of her life, her Father in heaven was sending His angels to be with her, her Good Shepherd was following her around with goodness and mercy, the very Spirit of God was working on the inside of her a faith that could fight through her challenges. As often as Dolly received her Lord’s Supper, that often her sins were forgiven, that often her weakness gave away to an out of this world kind of a strength, that often she could rest in God’s faithfulness.
A true story is told of a boy that was getting picked on by the neighborhood bully. He teased and he taunted, he ridiculed, he ranted, and he raved, he pushed and he shoved day after day until one day with his Marine Corp dad happened to see what was happening. This dad did what any good father would do. He picked up the neighborhood bully by the scruff of his neck and scared the living daylights out of him. He held him in the air until it was clear that he understood that if this bullying happened even one more time, there would be hell to pay.
From that day forward, the boy that had been getting picked on rested in his dad’s strength, he rested in his dad’s promises, he rested in his dad’s faithfulness.
So also for you, dear friends, your Father in heaven invites you this very day, in all of the chapters of your lives, to rest in your God’s strength, to rest in your heavenly father’s promises, to rest in your God’s faithfulness. It’s interesting to note that Dolly passed away on Ash Wednesday, a day where millions of Christians are reminded by ashes in the form of a cross that from dust they came and unto dust they will return.
The Lenten season points us forward one more time to a dark Friday afternoon where it seemed as though the neighborhood bully had gotten his way, that Friday the devil and his minions had taunted and they had teased, they had ranted, they had raved, and they had ridiculed. That Friday we call good, the enemies of God had pushed and shoved, it seemed as though they had prevailed, but in reality the exact opposite had just happened.
In reality, God was doing what He had said He would be doing. In reality, by suffering, dying, and rising again, our God was picking up the devil himself by the scruff of his neck and making clear there was a new sheriff in town. By rising on the third day, Jesus proved that He was Who He said He was, He proved that all of Scriptures are true, He proved that the Father has accepted the sacrifice of His Son, He proved that because He lives, so also shall Dolly Melchert and all believers live.
As often as Dolly remembered or heard and believed the Word of God, as often as she treasured the forgiveness of her sins, as often as she received the very body and blood of her Lord in the Supper, that often the victory of Holy Week was delivered directly into her soul. That often the grace and the mercy of her God was able to sweep away her fears. That often the righteous right hand of her God was able to lead her into an unknown future.
The kingdom of God if like a frightened toddler who is comforted so long as mom or dad is near. It’s like a nervous teenager who is able to make it through a school day as long as she knows one friend will walk alongside of her. It’s like a distressed traveler whose car has broken down, but help is on the way. It’s like a family waiting and waiting for death to separate them, but knowing for certain their loved one will soon be in the very presence of Jesus Christ, knowing for certain the day is coming when the dead in Christ will rise up.
The kingdom of God is like a kid who once lived in fear of the neighborhood bully but now is resting in the righteous anger of his dad. It’s like a man not too far away who used to spend his days wallowing in the guilt of a messed up life in days gone by, but this morning he is resting in the forgiveness of his sins. It’s like a woman who used to be consumed with worry about what the future might be holding, but this morning, she is resting in the promise of her God to give her the strength to cross bridges when they come. It’s like a family bowed down in grief this week, but at the same time, they are resting in the faithfulness of a God who promises the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. May God help every one of you live one day at a time, knowing that each day has enough trouble all by itself, believing that your God is a God of new beginnings and second chances, and trusting that Dolly and Reinhardt Melchert are resting in the arms of their Savior. Amen.
Joel 2:12- 19
· Story about a newly wed couple where the groom drank too much at their wedding reception, he drove drunk, crashed his motorcycle, caused the death of his bride, wounded himself, and ended up in jail. Jesus Christ was wounded for that man, He was crucified until He was dead and buried for that man, He rose up again so that His Father could be gracious to that man.
· No doubt there are people not too far away from here who have drove drunk, there are those who have caused accidents, there are those who have wounded loved ones and themselves with their reckless habits. Jesus Christ was wounded for those people, He was crucified until He was dead and buried for those people, He rose up again so that His Father could be merciful to those people.
· No doubt there are children in our school who have lied to their parents, children who have disrespected their teachers, children who have fallen into fits of crabbiness, fits of nastiness, fits of orneriness. Jesus Christ was wounded for those children, He was crucified until He was dead and buried for those people, He rose up again so that His Father could be slow to anger with those children.
· No doubt there are teenagers in our high school who have broken all kinds of commandments, teenagers who have had little or no time for the Word of God, teenagers who have failed to do the good they wanted to do and fallen into bad habits they didn’t want to fall into. Jesus Christ was wounded for those teenagers, he was crucified until He was dead and buried for those teenagers, He rose up again so that His Father could abound in steadfast love for those teenagers.
· Three lessons we want to learn from Jesus about Lent on this Ash Wednesday.
1. Lent is about staring in amazement at a sacred head, now wounded, instead of just passing by unimpressed.
· Amazed at how far He came to find us - the ones who came from dust and are returning to dust. The ashes for which this day are named symbolize that we are dying, they remind us that the wages of sin is death, they warn us against getting full of ourselves.
· Amazed that Christ would take on flesh and blood, as He did when He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus went so far as to become dust for us, He went so far as to become sin for us, that we might be claimed by our Father as sons and daughters.
· If ever there was a season to be amazed by the grace of God, if there was ever a season to be quiet in the house of God, if ever there was a season to be sorry for the ways we have offended our God, if ever there was a season to weep over the messes we have left behind, if ever there was a season to regret the opportunities we have missed, this is the season.
#1 lesson – staring in amazement at a sacred head, now wounded, instead of just passing by unimpressed.
2. Lent is about pastors and congregations gathering in sacred assembly, admitting that we are wounded, and crying out for mercy.
· Luther writes that Joel was a kindly and gentle man. He does not denounce and rebuke as do the other prophets, but pleads and laments. He tried with kind and friendly words to make the people pay attention and mend their sinful ways. But it happened to him as it happened to the other prophets, they did not believe his prophecies, they held him to be a fool.
· In the first chapter, Joel predicts that Israel will be destroyed and carried away by the Assyrians. He pictures the Assyrians as locusts cutting, swarming, hopping, and unrelenting.
· In our text for tonight, Joel urges the folks to blow the trumpet, to consecrate a fast, to call a solemn assembly, to gather the people. The elders and the widows were to come together, the married and the single folks were to come together, the teenagers, the children, and the nursing babies were to be summoned, ministers and priests were to lead the people in admitting that they were wounded, crying out for mercy.
· No doubt many of their wounds were self inflicted, many of their wounds were brought on by their enemies, some of their wounds were just part of being human, all of their wounds, all of our wounds are to be brought to the foot of the cross. Again and again we cry out for mercy, and mercy is ours. Even before we can get the words out, by his wounds we are healed. Hear the good news tonight – a broken and contrite heart, our God will not despise.
· Lesson #2 is about gathering together, admitting we are wounded, crying out for mercy.
3. Lent is about getting turned around by God and going in opposite direction instead of just going through the motions.
· Lent isn’t for pretend sinners. Lent is for real, honest to God sinners who have fallen, they have fallen hard, and they realize they have fallen hard. Over a thousand times in the Old Testament, we have this word for repentance that has to do with getting turned around and returning to God
· Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning….return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love…
· The best the Law of God can do is show us we are in the wrong place, only the Gospel can turn us around. The Law of God can get our attention, but it is only by the grace of God that new hearts can be created. The best the Law can do is show us what the damage we have done and the holes we have dug for ourselves. Only the Gospel can undo that damage, only the Gospel can lift us up out of those holes, only the love of Christ can compel us to go in brand new directions that give glory to God and build up other people.
The kingdom of God is like a man whose head begins to hurt, his blood vessels are bleeding, he is rushed to the hospital, and after a short time, the doctor announces his decision to drill a hole in the top of his head. A more frightening moment is hard to imagine. And yet this surgeon’s drill saves a life. Recovery is slow, but sure. So also is God’s Law like surgeon’s scalpel on our sin. The Law cuts us to the heart, because we are indeed wounded by sin and death. It may feel quite uncomfortable, but God’s mercy makes such a healing possible. Praise God that he mercifully sends a wounded Savior to heal us wounded people.
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther