Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sermon -- Advent Vespers, Week 1 (December 4, 2013)

Foretold As Prophet.

In the name + of Jesus.

     The writer to the Hebrews begins his letter this way:  Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets.… (Hebrews 1:1)  The word of the Lord was revealed and proclaimed to God’s people through the prophets again and again.  Moses, however, was unique among all of the prophets.  God tells us one reason why:  “If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream.  Not so with my servant Moses.  He is faithful in all my house.  With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the LORD.” (Numbers 12:6-8)
     The Lord spoke with Moses face to face.  The Lord put his words into Moses’ mouth, and Moses then declared the word of the Lord to the people.  The Lord had foretold that the Christ would be a prophet like Moses.  He declared, “I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” (Deuteronomy 18:18)  The Christ would come to serve as prophet.  The role of a prophet was to speak for God to the people.  Jesus Christ would do just that.  He would speak exactly what was given to him from the Father.  In this way, he was a prophet like Moses. 
     Moses spoke face to face with the Lord.  And when Moses returned from speaking to the Lord face to face, Moses’ face radiated with the glory of the Lord.  When the people saw the glory of the Lord shining from Moses’ face, they fled in fear.  Moses had to cover his face with a veil to hide the glory so that the people could approach him.  While the Christ also came from the presence of the Lord to proclaim the words which were given to him from his Father, he did not shine forth in radiant glory.  Just as Moses hid his face with a veil, so Jesus veiled the glory of the Lord in himself.  However, Jesus did not hide behind a veil.  Jesus hid his glory behind flesh and blood. 
     The Lord had told Moses, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers.” (Deuteronomy 18:18)  The Christ would be a flesh and blood Israelite who would come and proclaim the word of the Lord.  He would not look like anything special.  No one would have to flee from the fear of his glory.  In fact, he would even be despised for his lowly appearance.  But he would be the Lord’s prophet.  More than that, he is the Lord.  Though his glory would be veiled in flesh, God would speak for himself to his people.  As the writer to the Hebrews declares: Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son….” (Hebrews 1:1-2)  So, while he would be like Moses, he would surely be greater than Moses.  Moses was a faithful servant in God’s house, but Jesus is his Son.
     As prophet, both Moses and the Messiah would have the same task—to proclaim the word of the Lord.  And just as it was with Moses, so it is with the Christ.  Whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. (Deuteronomy 18:19)  The Lord holds us accountable for hearing and obeying the word of the Lord.  He requires an account of us—whether we are faithful or fickle, whether he will commend us or condemn us.
     Through Moses, the Lord gave his Law.  The Lord himself declared what is good and what is evil.  The Lord demands that we always love and do the good and always despise and avoid what is evil.  Though Moses proclaimed God’s demands, Moses cannot help you keep them.  And though Moses made known the threats God issues against the disobedient, Moses cannot rescue you from them.
     When the Christ came to serve as the Prophet, he did not take away the threats of God’s Law either.  The Commandments have not been abolished.  They still stand.  They will always stand, for they are the words of the Lord.  For that reason, Jesus’ first sermon began with the word, “Repent!”  He does not ask, “Okay, is there a good reason you have not been avoiding evil thoughts, bitter words, and selfish actions?  Was heeding God’s word and doing it inconvenient?  Is God just asking too much of you?”  He does not ask it, because the Law does not allow for excuses.  The Lord requires obedience of you.  He requires an answer from you.  The Lord does not give you permission to be fickle.  And he will not let you craft your own definitions of good and evil so that you can exonerate yourself.  Do not make excuses; make confession.  Hear the word of your Lord: “Repent!”
     Now, continue to hear the word of the Lord: “Repent, and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)  Jesus does not come to damn you by God’s Law.  He comes to deliver you from your sins against God’s Law.  He has come to proclaim mercy, forgiveness, and peace.  He does not abolish the Commandments, as if the word of the Lord is adjusted due to times and places.  21st America is no different than 1st century Palestine or 1400 BC in the Sinai Peninsula.  God’s will remains constant.  The word of the Lord stands.
     So Jesus comes as a prophet like Moses to speak the word of the Lord.  But Jesus is greater than Moses, for he also comes to fulfill the Law of the Lord.  Here is the Good News proclaimed by your Christ: He answers God’s holy Law for you.  He answers with the holy obedience God demands.  He silences the threats of the Law, because the Law has nothing to say against him who is holy and blameless.  And so Jesus assures you: The works of the Lord have been done.  The word of the Lord has been fulfilled.  Obedience has been given by Jesus.  And sins have been covered by his holy, innocent blood. 
     The Prophet tells you to be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins and for your eternal salvation.  He tells you that his righteousness has become your righteousness through your baptism.  The Father now sees you as holy and blameless, and so the Law has nothing to say against you.  Your Christ, your Prophet, has decreed it.  These are the words the Lord has put in his mouth, and he does not lie to you.
     Though God’s Law has nothing to say against you, it still has something to say to you.  The Lord still tells you what is good and what is evil.  He still tells you to love and to do what is good and to despise and avoid what is evil.  As God’s new creation, you have been made just for this.  You not only agree that the word of the Lord is delightful to hear, but it is also right to do.  You know that good works are not done in theory; they are just done.  And since you are God’s people, you are eager to hear it and eager to do it.
     God has spoken by his prophets, but in these last days, he has sent THE Prophet, his Son, Jesus Christ.  He has been anointed to speak to us the very words of God.  He assures us that he has delivered us from our evil.  He has filled us with a love for what is good.  The Prophet, our Christ, lives and reigns to declare the mercy and salvation of God.  His word endures, and his words save..

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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