Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sermon -- Advent Vespers, Week 3 (December 17, 2014)

LUKE 1:46-49,53
He Fills The Hungry With Good Things.

In the name + of Jesus.

     A rich, young man came to Jesus and asked him this question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16)  The rich, young man knew that he were going to set foot in heaven, he had to be good.  He also recognized this much about himself: He was lacking that good thing.  He was hoping that Jesus would enlighten him what that one good thing was.  Jesus answered his question, although the rich man missed it.  Jesus replied to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good?  There is only one who is good.  If you would enter eternal life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17)  
     There is only one who is good.  The specific word Jesus used for good (agaqoV) means “morally pure, excellent, and perfect.”  There is only one who is good.  All that God is, all that God does, and all that God says is morally pure, excellent, and perfect.  If you want to dwell with God, then you must also be morally pure, excellent, and perfect.  The rich, young man did not pick up on Jesus’ answer.  The ruler was only thinking about the good he could do, not about him who IS good.  There is only one who is good (Matthew 19:17).  God alone is holy.  He alone is pure and excellent.  But among mankind, there is no one who is good.  We all must confess with the Apostle Paul, “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. …  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:18,19)  Even if we want to do what is good, we cannot; for we ourselves are not good.
     Many people, like the rich, young ruler, are convinced that they can do the good God desires as long as they know what that good is.  The rich, young ruler was convinced that he was good, or at least good enough.  He did not think God needed to be gracious to him; that was for sinners.  He did not think that he needed to be saved; that was for people with problems.  We, too, have an inflated view of ourselves.  We follow the news or Facebook and snicker at the foolishness of others.  We listen to the office gossip and roll our eyes at the smut and the shame.  We compare the best in us to the worst in others, and we conclude that we are good, or at least good enough. 
     A haughty spirit dwells within us all.  We love flattery, because deep down we believe that it is true.  We are that gifted, that interesting, that nice, and that good.  Our pride is so ingrained that we feel disrespected when others are complimented, as if we are slighted by someone else’s talent or generosity.  We do not love our neighbor as ourselves because we love no one as much as we love ourselves. 
     The Lord has nothing for those who are haughty in their spirit.  The Virgin Mary reminds us, “The rich he has sent away empty.” (Luke 1:53)  If you are full of yourself, you have no room for anything from God.  It was not Jesus’ intention to send the rich, young ruler away without any blessing upon him, but the rich, young ruler did not want his grace.  He was convinced that he did not need it.  He believed he was that he was good enough.  He was rich in his spirit, even confessing to Jesus that he needed precious little to get eternal life.  In his case, he was sure that he was just one good deed short.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)  But the rich are sent away empty. 
     Jesus also teaches, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)  You hunger for food when your stomach is empty.  You thirst when you are getting dehydrated.  You are starved for attention when you are getting ignored.  In the same way, you hunger and thirst for righteousness because you recognize that you do not have it.  You are poor in spirit because you have nothing to impress or please God with.  The good that you need for eternal life must be supplied to you.  Blessed are you when you see this, for he fills the hungry with good things.
     Blessed are you when you confess with St. Paul, “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” (Romans 7:18)  For then you recognize yourself as you truly are—sinful.  Do not take pride in righteousness that you do not have.  This is not a confession that is fun to make, but it is an honest one.  We are beggars who have nothing.  We are not good, that is, morally pure, excellent, and perfect.  The good news is this: There is one who is good.  And Mary burst into song because he would come into the world through her.   “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior  He has filled the hungry with good things.…” (Luke 1:46-47,53) 
     There is one who is good. (Matthew 19:17) 
The Holy Spirit filled Mary’s womb with this good one—in fact, the only good, morally perfect, excellent, and perfect human being who has ever been born.  Far from being a rich, young ruler, Jesus was a humble, poor peasant.  And far from seeking the one good deed that needed to be done to have eternal life, Jesus always and only did what was good to win eternal life.  And all the good he did, he did for us.  You and I confess with St. Paul, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:19)  Jesus not only wanted to do what was good; he did.  Jesus not only wanted to avoid all evil; he did.  There is only one who is good, and the greatest good Jesus did is to fill you with his good things.
     Jesus has the righteousness you hunger and thirst for, and he fills the hungry with good things.  In your baptism, he cast out the unclean spirit in your heart and filled you with his Holy Spirit.  He puts to death your lust for more sins and brings to life a wholesome hatred for all that is wicked.  He makes your heart clean and your spirit right so that you delight in what is good and godly.  He fills the hungry with good things.  He not only gave you birth into a new life through your baptism, he also nourishes you in that new life.  He prepares a banquet for you and feeds you with the feast of heaven.  He gives you his body and blood and fills you with good things.  For by his body and blood, he gives you forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.
     “My soul magnifies the Lord  He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.” (Luke 1:46,53)  The Lord does not send you away empty—without peace and hope, without comfort and joy.  Instead he satisfies and satiates you with good things.  He delivers you from the haughty spirit which lives on flattery and despises your fellowman.  He fills you with a humble spirit which recognizes that all the good which is in you has come from him.  He forgives all your sins.  He delivers his salvation to you.  This is the good you need if you will have eternal life.  “Blessed are (you) who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for (you) shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)  Jesus fills you with God’s riches so that you shall have eternal life with your Lord.  Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; and it is his goodness which saves you.

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