Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sermon -- Advent Vespers, Week 2 (December 10, 2014)

LUKE 1:46-49,54-55
He Remembers His Mercy.

In the name + of Jesus.

     Day 150.  Still on the ark.  The torrential rains ceased about three months ago, but we are still adrift.  There is no land anywhere.  We live with the continual sounds of the animals snoring or lowing or clucking.  And the waves.  The endless sound of the waters pounding every side of the ark, making it bounce in every direction, making all the timbers creek.  Does God know that we are still here?  Does God remember us at all?
     You could imagine Noah’s diary reading like this.  It was at just this time, Day 150, that we read these words in Genesis: But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark.  And God made a wind blow over the whole earth, and the waters subsided. (Genesis 8:1-2) 
     Surveying the Old Testament, we notice that there are a number of times that the Lord remembers his people—either individuals such as Sarah who was without child, or the entire nation of Israel as they languished in slavery under Pharaoh.  It is not as though the Lord had forgotten these people.  The Lord knew that Noah was on the ark, that Sarah was barren, and that the Israelites were being brutally treated by their oppressors.  The Lord also knew that he had made promises to these people—that he would deliver Noah from the Flood, that Sarah would have a son, and that Israel had a Promised Land awaiting them.  The Lord did not forget.  But to these people who were waiting…and waiting…for God to fulfill his promises, each must have wondered, “Has the Lord forgotten me?”
     But then the Lord remembered.  At that particular time, the Lord was pleased to act and to keep his promises.  When God remembers, he does not only have mercy for that moment.  The Lord acts especially to advance his promise of a Savior.  He remembers his mercy.  Therefore, God remembered Noah and delivered him from death so that, many centuries later, Noah’s offspring would deliver the world from death.  God remembered Sarah and gave her a son, the seed of Abraham, so that the true Seed of Abraham would come through whom all nations would be blessed.  And God remembered Israel and delivered them out of slavery and death by the blood of the Lamb so that through that nation the Lamb of God would finally come whose blood delivers us from the slavery to sin and from death.  He remembers his covenant forever. (Psalm 105:8)
     These were not the only times God’s people had to wait for God’s mercy.  God had spoken to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring that salvation come.  Through this Savior, all nations would be blessed.  Through Him, the curse of sin would be removed.  Through Him, we would be delivered from fear and frustration, death and decay.  Abraham did not see the fulfillment of God’s promise; nor did Isaac, nor Jacob.  Nor David.  Nor Isaiah.  Nor Malachi.  For centuries, God’s people waited for his mercy.  For centuries, God’s people wondered, “Does God know that we are still here?  Does God remember us at all?”
     It is a hard thing to wait for the Lord.  God’s people still wonder, “Does God know that I am here?  Does God know that I struggle?  Is he aware that I am hurting?  Does God know how hard this is?  How wicked this world is?  How bitter this life can be?  Does he care?  Does God remember me at all?”  Even though we are the ones who are helpless, even though we struggle with temptations and fail, we still think that God is the one with the problem.  We are upset that God does not love us as much as WE love us.  We get sick of waiting for God.  Satan sends liars who promise us easy answers and quick solutions.  Those voices sound much more attractive than our Lord’s call to wait.  He even convinces us that drunkenness and debauchery are better solutions than patience, perseverance, and prayer.  Because we do not believe that God is faithful, we become unfaithful.  Because we do not like the way God is acting, we act out against him.  However, this never takes away our struggles, and it only adds to our sins.  Repent.
     [The Lord] remembers his covenant forever. (Psalm 105:8)  You should too.  For God has never promised to deliver Paradise to this sin-corrupted world.  His promise is to deliver us out of this sin-corrupted world to his blessed Paradise.  The Lord promised Adam and Eve that he would save mankind from our deserved and damnable fate while the smell of the fruit was still on their breath.  He promised his mercy to Abraham, and David, and through Isaiah and Malachi.  If the Lord was pleased to repeat his promises, surely the Lord remembers that he made them.  And the Lord is faithful.  He remembers his covenant forever. (Psalm 105:8) 
     Fast forward 2,000 years after Abraham—though the years hardly seemed fast.  The Lord remembered his mercy.  He sent the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary to tell her that he was pleased at that time, in that place, and in her womb to fulfill all that he had foretold.  The Savior was now to come into the world.  Salvation would no longer be a prophecy.  Salvation was to be fulfilled.  He remembers his covenant forever. (Psalm 105:8) 
     And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…  He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” (Luke 1:46-47,54-55)  The Lord Jesus Christ came into this world because the Lord remembered his mercy and was faithful in delivering it.  Jesus has demonstrated God’s mercy to us.  He does not treat us as our sins deserve.  Rather, he chose to be treated as we deserved to be treated.  He is the son of Abraham who was sacrificed instead of Isaac.  He is the Lamb who was slain so that we would not be.  He has saved us through baptism so that, like Noah, we are lifted up above death and destruction.  Therefore, you are not condemned for your impatience with the Lord.  He, instead, has been patient with you.  He is merciful, daily forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin.  When you sin, remember that he is merciful.  Then confess your sins to him; for, he remembers his mercy.  And flee to his altar where the blood of the Lamb once again marks you so that death shall pass over you.  He remembers his covenant forever. (Psalm 105:8) 
     My soul magnifies the Lord.  He remembers his mercy.  Our Lord Jesus Christ has suffered, died, and is risen.  He ascended into heaven, leaving us with the promise that he will come again to take us to be with him in everlasting peace and joy and life.  Fast forward 2,000 years since then.  He still has not returned.  The world has not gotten better.  We still struggle and suffer.  We still endure fear and frustration.  Does the Lord know that we are still hurting?  That we are still waiting?  Does the Lord remember us at all?
     Dear Christian, do not grow weary or impatient.  He remembers his covenant forever. (Psalm 105:8)  And he remembers that you have been marked as a child of his covenant.  The Lord who suffered and died for you will not forget you.  The one who came to redeem you will not forget to deliver you to the mansions he is preparing for you.  And yes, the one who loves you and cares for you and counts the hairs on your head also knows your problems and your pains.  His mercy is not made known by delivering you from your problems for a moment, but in delivering you from them forever.  He came in mercy to redeem you.  He will come again in mercy to receive you.  My soul magnifies the Lord: for he remembers his mercy, and his mercy endures forever. 

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

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