Big Words: For
Fifth in Five Part Series
June 16 and 17, 2018
Romans 8:30-31/ Ezekiel 17:22-24 /II Corinthians 5:11-17 / Mark 4:26-34
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
Dear Friends in Christ,
In these past four weeks, we’ve been exploring little words with big meanings. We’ve noted that in the English language, so very often the smallest of words have the greatest depth of meaning.
First of all, Christ for us. In today’s Old Testament lesson, the prophet Ezekiel is inviting the kingdom of Judah to look way beyond the darkness and the despair of their present circumstances to the arrival of the Messiah. Jesus Christ would be that tender twig, and his father would plant this twig on a high and lofty mountain. From this small and humble beginning would grow a noble cedar tree, and in the shade of this tree’s branches birds of every sort would nest. We think of how Christ was for us as he was born in humble circumstances, He was for us as He grew up as a carpenter’s son, for us as he gathered a small band of ordinary men to be his disciples, he was for us as he suffered all that we should have suffered, as he cried out forsaken by his own father, as he died and rose up again with a picture of your family and mine in his heart.
The New Testament Church is that noble cedar tree, and as often as we cry out to our Father in heaven for mercy, we are those birds finding shelter in those branches. Today, the Christian Church is the largest religion in the world, numbering 2.9 billion people, which is 31% of this world’s 7.3 billion population. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Today’s Epistle Lesson reminds us that to be in Christ is to be a new creation, the old things are passed away, all things are become new. The kingdom of God is like a grandpa here today with all kinds of regrets, all kinds of memories of being too busy working when his kids were little, all kinds of failures and faults that threaten to dampen his joy. But the Spirit of God is at it again. He is reminding this grandpa that Christ is for Him, his sins have been forgiven, his debt has been paid, his heavenly mansion is on reserve, in the one courtroom that matters, he has been declared innocent.
In today’s Gospel lesson, the kingdom of heaven is compared to a mustard seed, which is relatively small but produces a relatively large shrub. Jesus’ own ministry was small and unimpressive interms of numbers, but resulted in the Christian Church, which now spans the globe and has dramatically influenced civilization. From 120 in Jerusalem to 500 in Galilee to 3000 on Pentecost Day, to 5000 soon after the Church moved into the Gentile world and turned it upside down. By 313Ad, when persecution ended, an estimated 1 million people were confessing Christ in the Roman world.
The kingdom of God is like a father hearing God’s Word this morning. Last night he looked himself in the mirror and saw a man trying hard but falling way short. He saw a man with good intentions but tempted in so many ways to be stubborn and self-centered. But the Spirit of God is teaching him this morning. He’s learning once again that Christ is for him, he’s learning that as often as he brings his burdens, his tiredness, and his chaos to Christ, as often as he lays all of that down at the cross, that often his soul is at rest, his spirit is renewed, his heart quietly rejoices. If God is for him, who can be against him?
Lesson #1 today is to be absolutely grateful as we think about what it means that God is for us. And lesson #2 is to think about what it means for us to respond to all of that grace and all of that mercy, what does it mean for us to live for Christ?
Us for Him Specifically today, we want to paint a picture of what it looks like when a Christian man lives out his vocation as father, we want to be grateful for all that our fathers did right by the grace of God, and 3) we want to direct all fathers to the One Who is all about new beginnings and second chances.
First, what does it look like when a Christian man lives out his vocation as father? If we use Luther’s explanation of the First Article of the Creed as a starting place, we see that our Father in heaven creates, He takes care of, He gives, He richly and daily provides, He defends, He guards and protects, and He does all this out of fatherly divine goodness and mercy with absolutely no merit or worthiness in his children.
Secondly,we want to be grateful today for all that our fathers did or are still doing right, by the grace of God. When I think of all that my dad did right, I think of him and his dad losing a farm and then starting over in1939, over the years, he took care of that farm, he worked the land, he raised white faced Hereford cattle, God gave him the privilege of being a co-creator of 6 children, including four which were born and three which still live today, dad did all kinds of things right, he loved mom with all of his heart, they worked as a team to provide all that was needed, they made a decision early on to go to church and to be on the receiving end of God’s gifts of grace in a regular kind of a way, they taught their children right from wrong, they allowed for the process of trial and error to happen, they were steady, not splashy, quiet, not at all noisy, work first and then play kinds of folks.
Third, we give thought to our fathers failures, their faults, their bad habits, their lousy decisions, and the demons they have or still are battling. The stories abound in our circles of fathers drinking too much, listening too little, and falling way short of perfection. All kinds of fathers, perhaps most of us, if we could do some things differently, would jump at the chance.
Dear friends in Christ, and especially you fathers and step fathers and grandfathers out there today, we would simply have you see Jesus. See Jesus living a perfect life for you, see Him turning His face towards Jerusalem for you, see Him writhing in pain for you, see His blood being poured out for you, see His body getting broken for you, see Him rising up and ascending into heaven and sitting at his father’s right hand for you, see Him in this very moment interceding to His Father for you, see Him working everything out with perfect timing for you, see him shaking his head and being sad every time you’re being a knucklehead, see him and his angels rejoicing over you every time you say “I’m sorry.”
For Shade and For Fruit The kingdom of God is like a small town planted in the midst of corn and bean fields where not just one or two or three but four congregations are full of folks who have concluded this – that Christ has died for all, that those who live might no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. They think of themselves at the same time as birds and branches. Birds who know which trees will provide the best shade and as branches meant to bear fruit. This very night, all kinds of fathers and step fathers, all kinds of grandpas and step grandpas get down on their knees, they praise God in heaven above for the generations who have gone on before them, they ask God to bless anything that day they might have done right by God’s grace, and they cry out one more time for grace to cover the bad they have done and the good they have failed to do, they ask their Father in heaven for one more new beginning, yet another second chance, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters
Pastor Paul Muther