The Faithful Way of the Lord
First in a Series of Five Sermons
December 2 and 3, 2017
Isaiah 64:1-9, I Corinthians 1:3-9, Mark 11: 1-10
I Corinthians 1:9 - God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Dear Friends in Christ,
My way or the highway is a predominantly American idiom that dates back to the 1970’s. This philosophy of my way or the highway works well in certain professions and arenas of life and not so well in others.
Recently I listened to a presentation by Mark Gregston, who suggests that the three inner needs of every child are 1) a secure love, 2)a significant purpose, and 3)a strong hope. Three lessons we would learn today about the faithfulness of our God, one from each of the appointed lessons.
Lesson # 1 has to do with living secure in God’s love, He is present even when it seems as though He is (hiding).
The context of Isaiah 64 is that even though Judah would be taken into exile by Babylon, and even though their capital city would be destroyed, and even though it would seem as though God had withdrawn His presence, the day would come when the tables would be overturned, the Babylonians would be destroyed, the Jews would be released, and the kingdom of God’s grace would prevail. God would be present in the preaching of His Word, He would be present in the shedding of blood at their altars, He would be present in their Passover meal. No matter what happened to them as a nation, they were to be secure in God’s love. He would be present even when it seemed as though He had withdrawn entirely.
To this very day, in every one of our families, there are chapters of life where it seems as though God has withdrawn His presence, chapters of life where it seems as though He is not making His face to shine on us, but is hiding. These days, Tom Eustice has to be wondering where God was when his wife was suffering a heart attack and then dying, the Westphal family had to be wondering where God was when their mom and grandma was suffering the ravages of dementia, and my own family could be forgiven for wondering why our little grandson Gabriel Brandon was given only an hour to live here on earth, why we would need to lay into the cold ground a beautiful little child.
We have wondered what many have wondered, has my family done something wrong? Is God angry with us? The answer, of course, is that yes, our family has done plenty that is wrong, in our sins we have been a long time, we have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like polluted garments…
But no, God is not angry with our family, He took every ounce of His anger out on His own Son, Jesus Christ. As Jesus went the way of Calvary, His Father poured out on Him the sinful thoughts, the sinful words, the sinful deeds, the sinful habits, the sins of omission, the sins of every generation onto His beloved Son. He poured out His anger until there was no anger to pour out. No, God is not angry with any of us who are calling on His Name. Though our sins be as scarlet, in Christ, they are white as snow. As far as the east is from the west, that far has our faithful God sent our transgressions. Application #1 today, as often as it seems as though God is hiding, that often go looking for Him. Go looking for Him in the preaching of His Word. Go looking for Him in the waters of Baptism. Go looking for Him in the repentance of your sins. Go looking for Him in His Supper.
Lesson #2 about the faithfulness of our God comes from today’s Epistle Lesson, it has to do with our need to have important assignments in life and not just to be wandering aimlessly through life, He enriches us in every way for a significant (purpose). The really good news we celebrate in this Advent season is that even when we are faithless, our God is faithful. He is the one who has called us into the fellowship of believers in the waters of Baptism in the first place. It is through the preaching of His Word that He has sustained His Church throughout the ages, it is by his true body and blood that He preserves us steadfast in true faith unto the end.
He preserves us in faith not just so that we can survive life and have our own souls saved, but that we could spend our days encouraging others along the way as well.
Lesson #3 about the faithfulness of our God comes from our Gospel lesson, His desire is that we live by His grace with strong hope for the future, He keeps His promises in unexpected (ways). The people of Jesus were looking for a Messiah who would assert himself, they were looking for a king who would overthrow the domination of the Romans, they were looking for an anointed one who would restore the kingdom of Israel to former prominence and prosperity. A normal king would ride into town on a war horse with chariot, but not this King, He came in on a donkey not yet ridden. A normal king would come in pomp and circumstance planned out well in advance, but this celebration would be spontaneous and from the hearts of folks who would cry out Hosanna, which means “save now Lord.”
In this Advent, we do well to cry out in every one of our families, to cry out as a congregation of believers, to cry out as a nation, Hosanna, which is to say, save us now. Save us now, Lord. Save us, Lord Jesus, in these days from falling into the ditch of being so busy that we don’t have time to be still and to be secure in your love. Save us, Lord Jesus, from falling into the ditch of wandering through life without Godly purposes. Save us now, Lord from falling into the ditch of hopelessness. Help us, dear God, to never forget that You are a promise keeper. Many days, He keeps His promises in regular and expected fashion. Some days, He keeps His promises in unexpected ways. Every day, He is faithful and be trusted. He is the way, the truth, and the life. His promises are as sure as His suffering, His death, and His resurrection from the dead.
The not so easy way. (Story of my high school football coach Ken Bakkegard, who asked me, as one of the senior co captains, what went wrong. We had just lost a game we didn’t think we should have lost. The other team had come from behind and beaten us. I said words I later regretted. I said, “Coach, I don’t think we’re in shape.” The rest of the season wasn’t so easy, coach worked us harder than ever, and at the end of every practice, he would ask me to lead an addition ten minutes of working out. We won some, we lost some, but in every one of our days, it was the coach’s way or it was the highway.
The kingdom of God is like a large church in a small town full of folks who are secure in their Savior’s love, they know their lives have significant purpose, and they live with this strong hope that Jesus is coming, they pray often that he would come soon.
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