Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sermon -- Sexagesima (February 23, 2014)

ISAIAH 55:10-13
THE LORD WORKS THROUGH HIS WORD.

In the name + of Jesus.

     In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  And God said, “Let there be light.”  And there was light. (Genesis 1:1,3)  And there was light, because God said so.  That is the way it was with all the rest of creation.  God called forth the dry land from the seas; and it was so—because God said so.  God called forth the sun, moon, and stars; and it was so—because God said so.  God commanded that the earth bring forth all kinds of land animals; and it was so—because God said so.  After he formed Adam and Eve from the dust of the ground, God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it….” (Genesis 1:28)  And to this day, people reproduce one generation after another, because the word of the Lord works.  It is so, because God says so.
     The Lord also gave another word to Adam.  “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17)  And it would be so, because God said so.  Of course, you know that Adam and Eve did eat from the forbidden tree.  And so just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…. (Romans 5:12)  The Lord was true to his word.  The wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)  And the soul who sins shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4)  It is not good news, but it is exactly what God said would happen for all who have sinned against him.  God is true to his word.  He will not mislead you or lie to you.  The word of the Lord does the work he says it will do.
    Of course, you also know that the Lord has not abandoned you in your sinful, mortal, and cursed condition.  But the Lord does not simply declare that all his previous words are reversed.  God does not contradict himself.  The wages of sin is death no matter how much the Lord does not take pleasure in the death of anyone.  The soul who sins shall die no matter how much the Lord is not willing that any should perish.  The word of the Lord stands because God is not wishy-washy.
    Still, the Lord worked through his word.  The Word made flesh has come to demonstrate that God is merciful and just.  God is just; for he sees to it that the wages of sin is death and that the guilty perish.  Jesus has taken all your guilt from you.  He has borne the curse for all mankind.  Jesus made himself the guilty one on behalf of all sinners, and he has died the death and received the damnation for all sinners.  God said that is the price for sins.  Since God said so, so it was. 
     But Jesus also shows you that God is merciful.  Jesus willingly suffered and died for you.  He did it because God does not take pleasure in the death of anyone.  Jesus did it because God is not willing that you should perish.  Jesus suffered for your sins.  Jesus died under your curse.  Jesus did all of this for you, so that you would be forgiven of all sins and saved from every hellish torment.  So, Jesus’ sufferings and death mean that God is just and that God is merciful.  The guilty has been punished—Jesus on behalf of you.  The guilty have been pardoned—your sins are remitted.  God has been true to his word; and the Word made flesh has saved you.  The Lord has worked through his word.
     Now, God does not simply make a decree which reverses the curse of sinners.  It is not accurate to say that all are saved simply because God says so.  Even with salvation, God works through his word.  This word still stands: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)  But in order to believe in Jesus and confess his name, people need to hear about him.  The word of the Lord must be preached so that Jesus’ sufferings and death are proclaimed, revealing God’s mercy and salvation.  And that is why you come to church, study the Scriptures in Adult Bible Class, and read your Bibles at home—so that the Lord would work in you through his word, creating and sustaining in you the faith which saves you.
     Now, you have heard a good number of sermons over the years, and chances are you vividly remember few of them.  And you may also hear a sermon that you think is a dud.  It happens.  Not every sermon will be an award-winner.  But do not think that means listening to sermons is a waste of time.  And do not despise preaching and his word; for, this is where the Lord does his work.  Listen to Isaiah: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11) 
     As often as you hear the word of the Lord, the Lord is sustaining and strengthening your faith.  If you neglect or ignore the word of the Lord, the Lord cannot feed your faith.  Jesus does not tell his parable for nothing.  Sometimes our hearts are the hardened path where the word never takes root.  Sometimes we let the weeds, that is, the cravings of worldly pleasures, choke out our zeal for Jesus.  Sometimes times of testing cause us to cast of the cross the Lord would have us bear so that he might teach us to rely all the more on him.  This is to our own detriment. 
     Our sinful pride convinces us that we do not need the word of the Lord, and that we can get along fine without it.  After all, many people live for decades without God’s word.  But do not be deceived by their supposed happiness.  In these cases, the Lord still works through his word, but he works against them.  Remember: The wages of sin is still death, and they have no deliverance from their sins.  The souls who sins will die, and they call on no Savior and so they have no salvation   Do not envy those who ignore or defy God’s word.  Rather, cling tightly to the Lord and yearn to hear his word.  This is where the Lord works salvation in you.
     Hear what the Lord works for you through his word.  Isaiah states: “Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” (Isaiah 55:13)  Isaiah proclaims the salvation worked by the word of the Lord.  No longer shall life be cursed by thorns and thistles, weeds and briers.  Instead of a cursed and crooked world, we shall know a lush and vibrant life.  Instead of a life filled with pain and toil, we shall know peace and rest.  For now, you know the peace which comes from God’s mercy and forgiveness.  But that peace is still marred by a world that is marred and a life that knows sorrows.  But you have a salvation coming where all things shall be perfect and all things shall be made new.  The world will not know thorns and briers, but cypress and myrtles.  Bodies shall not know pain and disease, but health and wholeness.  The world shall not know disaster and destruction, but all things shall be verdant and vibrant.  Everything shall be restored to the glory and perfection of Eden. 
     This is the salvation which is promised by the word of the Lord.  It has been won by the Word made flesh.  This salvation is pledged to you by the word which is preached.  It was poured upon you by the word which was attached to baptismal waters.  It is poured into you by the word which is combined by the bread and wine on the Lord’s altar.  The Lord works through his word to strengthen you, to sustain you, and to save you. 

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

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