The Peaceful Way
December 16 and 17, 2017
Third in a Series of Five Sermons
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, he will surely do it.
Isaiah 61: 1-4, 8-11 /I Thessalonians 5:16-24 / John 1:6-8,19-28
Dear Friends in Christ,
Why is God doing this to me?
Recently I visited and prayed with an elderly lady whose long time gentleman friend had passed away, and now she was alone. We visited at length about how good he was to her over the years, how he had protected and provided for her in her days of trouble, and how afraid she was of what was to come. Her large and friendly dog named Buddy had finally settled down and was sitting at her feet, as if he was watching over her and a bit suspicious of me. At a certain point I handed her a booklet of devotions with the title, “I am trusting God.” At this point, she erupted with tears and with anger. She cried out, “I have been trusting God all my life. Why is God is God doing this to me? “ She looked me squarely in the eyes and wanted to know, “What is the purpose of God taking him away from me?” At the height of her emotion, the dog Buddy stood up and came towards me, as if to say, what’s going on here?
No doubt you have had those kinds of days. Days when you had a hard time understanding God’s ways and thinking, days when you felt alone and as if God were far away, days when you may have shaken your puny little fist at Almighty God and cried out, why is God doing this to me? In all three lessons appointed for this Third Sunday in Advent, the Spirit of God would invite us to know the peace that only Jesus Christ can give. A peace that the world has no way or idea of how to deliver. A peace we forfeit as often as we worry about the things we cannot control. A peace we forfeit as often as we fail to recognize the realities of life. A peace we forfeit as often as often as we excuse the things we could, in fact control.
Two Sundays ago we focused on the Faithful Way of the Lord, last Sunday the Mighty Way of the Lord, next Sunday the Revealed Way, and Christmas Eve candlelight, the Loving Way. Today the Peaceful Way of the Lord is our theme.
Three parts to our sermon today focused on feeling and sensing and knowing the peace which our world has no way of giving us, the peace that only Jesus Christ can give. God’s peace comes our way as often as we know Christ as 1) Evangelist, 2) Preacher, and 3) Light.
(Old Testament lesson) First, God’s peace comes in knowing Christ as (Evangelist). We learn this from the prophet Isaiah who writes, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
In these first verses of Isaiah 61, the Messiah Himself is speaking. He has been anointed to bring good news to the poor. Evangel is good news. Evangelism is the bringing of good news. Christ is the evangelist commissioned to bring good tidings to the meek. The meek are the poor in spirit. They are persons whose hearts have been rendered receptive by God’s grace. They are folks who cry out for forgiveness, and know the peace of having their hearts and souls declared blameless.
God’s peace flows and even floods into every nook and cranny of our lives as often as we know Christ as Evangelist. The kingdom of God is like a couple whose marriage broke apart years ago, but in this Advent season, they realize that God’s grace is slowly but surely healing their hearts. The kingdom of God is like a man captured by his own addictions, but in these days, by God’s grace, he is experiencing a new beginning. The kingdom of God is like a family bent over in grief over the loss of a lost one, but these days – the Christmas story is helping them to know what Isaiah meant when Christ spoke of giving them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit…
Lesson #1 today is bring all of our faint spirits, all of our bleeding hearts, all of our troubled souls again and again to the One Who knows what we need even before we ask, it is to spend time with Him Whose great desire has always been to have mercy, it is to know again and again the God of peace himself who is able to sanctify us completely.
(Epistle) Second, God’s peace comes in knowing Christ as (Preacher) 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good….
In verses preceding our text in I Thess. 5, Paul is admonishing the early Christians to be patient with those who are causing trouble in their midst. He warns them against seeking revenge. He invite them to keep on pursuing that which will be beneficial to others.
In our text, Paul first gives us a description of the sanctified Christian life, and then tells us how the God of peace will sanctify us through and through. Isaiah had described the people of God as oaks of righteousness who have been planted by the Lord for the glory of God. And now Paul describes us as people who have found a way to be rejoicing in all the circumstances of life, as people who prayerfully work their way through the ups and downs of life, and as people who develop the habit of counting their blessings and living life with cheerful hearts. Proverbs 15:15 comes to mind, ….he that is of a cheerful heart [hath] a continual feast.
So how is it that we get to have this continual feast of cheerfulness and prayerfulness and thankfulness? By knowing Christ as Preacher! Luther explains the Third Commandment in this way, we should fear and love God that we may not despise preaching and His Word but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.
The kingdom of God is like a family who has gotten out of the habit of attending Divine Services. They are finding that when life is going well, all seems well with their hearts and souls. But when their days of troubles and trials come, it seems as though nothing is right. The kingdom of God is like a young person drifts away from the Church, and as he does so, his Christmases seem more and more to be getting emptier and emptier. Something is missing, he’s not sure what.
Dear friends in Christ – the best solution we know for the problem of emptiness is spending time with Christ the Preacher. Jesus declares, Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it. The Psalmist says it this way, “Blessed is he whose delight is in the law of the Lord. Blessed is he who on his law meditates day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water that yield their fruit in season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that they do, they prosper. Paul says it this way in our text for today, “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything, hold fast to what is good.”
Lesson #1 on the subject of the God of peace sanctifying us completely was to know Christ as the bringer of good news / Evangelist. Lesson #2 is to know Christ in the preaching of His Word/ Preacher, and Lesson #3 is to know Christ as Light.
Third, God’s peace comes in knowing Christ as (Light) 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
Darkness is all around us, darkness is nearby, darkness is world wide, perhaps the worst darkness is on the inside of us. Just a couple of days ago, we were visiting our daughter Michelle and family near Lewiston, and for whatever reason, I stopped at the Church of the Brethren cemetery where our little grandson Gabriel is buried. You won’t be surprised to know that as I approached the fresh grave, the tears began to flow one more time. The wind seemed colder and the darkness seemed darker out there. I wasn’t sure exactly how to pray, and so I thanked God for His promise of resurrection, and I asked God to help me be a better grandpa, I asked him to help me be a better husband, I asked him to help me be a better pastor. If I would have been thinking about our Gospel lesson for today, I would have asked God to help me be a more faithful witness to the light of the world.
Dear friends in Christ, I don’t know what kinds of darkness is holding you back in this season of Advent, but I do know that it doesn’t stand a chance as often as you spend time in the presence of Jesus Christ. I don’t know exactly what are your specific purposes and assignments are in these days, but I do know what Pastor Muther would say is your number one assignment in all the days of life – namely that you receive the light of the world into your hearts, that you live in that light, that you enjoy the light, and that you bear witness to that light.
I’ve told this story before, and now I’m going to tell it again. (Story of Delilah, a nursing home resident I visited, prayed with, and communed month after month for many years. One of the first times I visited, as part of our devotions and lead up to communion, I reminded her that Jesus had died on the cross for her. At which time her eyes got big, she got this worried look on her face, she looked me squarely in the eyes and blurted, “He’s dead?” And when I assured her that Jesus rose up again on the third day, she relaxed, she was as relieved as she could be, and she rejoiced! In most of my visits from that day forward, I would use the expression that Jesus died for her, just so we could have the pleasure of rejoicing in the resurrection.
Lesson #1 this morning is to know Christ as Evangelist, lesson #2 is to know Him as Preacher, and lesson #3 is to know Him as Light. Dear friends, this very day and in all of your days, Jesus Christ has this great desire to be a light unto your paths and a lamp unto your feet!
The kingdom of God is like a large church in a small town full of folks who from outward appearances don’t really look any different from anybody else, but a closer look will reveal that their God of peace has not only called and gathered them into the Church, He is in fact enlightening them, He is sanctifying them, He is keeping them in the true faith through all the ups and the downs of life. They know that Jesus Christ does more than just help them survive the season, He keeps on bringing good news of great joy worthy of all kinds of celebration. They know that the preaching of God’s Word isn’t just to be one option among many activities to be considered, it is their opportunity to be clothed with the very garments of salvation. They are tempted like everyone else to be swallowed up by the darkness of conflict and failure and cemeteries, but the light is never very far away, in fact it is inside of them, by grace, and through faith in Jesus Christ. Amen.
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