Thursday, February 5, 2015

Sermon -- Chapel at Huron Valley Lutheran High School (February 5, 2015)

Chapel at Huron Valley Lutheran High School, Westland, MI
DRAWN TO THE CROSS – The Prophet Reveals God To Us.
The Greater Prophet Is Coming.

In the name + of Jesus.

     When the Lord appeared to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai, he did not appear in his bare glory.  Rather, his glory was hidden by the cloud that hung on Mt. Sinai.  The people of Israel, therefore, did not gaze upon the glory of God.  They did, however, hear his voice utter the commandments.  And they were terrified.  Each one pleaded,“Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.” (Deuteronomy 18:16)  Sinners were terrified in the presence of the holy God.  They prayed that the Lord would speak to them through a prophet so that they could bear it.  The Lord was pleased with their prayer, and he answered it by speaking through Moses.
     Of course, Moses did not prophesy forever.  He was mortal and eventually Moses died.  The Lord continued to reveal his word through other prophets.  They, too, were mortal and eventually died.  And though they preached forgiveness and salvation to people, they did not win forgiveness and salvation for people.  A Savior would have to do that.
     But it is this very reason that we despise him or think little of him.  God did not come in dazzling splendor to astound and amaze us.  He was a lowly peasant from a backwoods town.  Many were disappointed in him, for he is not what we expect a Messiah to be.
     To this day, Jesus may be a disappointment to you.  After all, you can go to church all your life and you will not see great miracles.  Grandma is not miraculously cured of her Alzheimers.  After surgery, chemo treatments, and endless doctors’ visits, your uncle still dies of cancer.  If our churches could boast that we regularly perform miraculous healings, there is no doubt that we would see lines out the door every Sunday—for people who are eager to be healed and for those who want to watch it.  Instead, what do we offer?  We preach a message of forgiveness of sins, of the mercy of God, and of the resurrection to eternal life.  We prepare a sacred meal for devout Christians to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of sins.  And people shrug their shoulders and make other plans because that does not seem important or impressive.
     So, where is the glorious Jesus?  Listen again to what Moses said: “The Lord said to me, ‘…I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers.  And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” (Deuteronomy 18:17-18)  Remember what the role of a prophet is.  It is not to dazzle you with miracles.  A prophet preaches.  God puts his words in the prophet’s mouth so that he can declare to you the word of the Lord.  This is how God still works today.  Your pastor may not be the world’s greatest speaker.  In fact, he isn’t.  By definition, there can only be one greatest speaker in the world.  Odds are, it’s not your pastor.  But he proclaims to you the forgiveness of your sins—even the sin of despising preaching and his word.  He assures you of the mercy of God—that God is merciful to people who crave something different than what God gives.  He points you to Jesus who delivers you from sin, death, and the devil.
     Your pastor points you to Jesus.  The prophets of old pointed ahead to Jesus.  Jesus is that great prophet whom the Lord promised through Moses.  Jesus does not merely speak for God.  Jesus is God who speaks for himself.  This is why you stand for the gospel reading.  Jesus is speaking to you.
     And though Jesus is a faithful prophet who proclaims the word of the Lord, Jesus is more than just talk.  Jesus has also acted for you.  Jesus proclaims the forgiveness of sins to you because he has paid the price for them.  Jesus has borne your guilt, and therefore, he has also borne your punishment.  Jesus has received your curse and died your death.  He is merciful—for he does not give you what your sins deserve.  And he is gracious—for he gives you the blessings you do not deserve. 
     And just as God hid himself in flesh to deliver you from your sins, so God continues to hide himself in humble, lowly things to deliver his forgiveness and salvation to you.  His word is still preached so that you do not need to fear God in his bare glory.  Instead, you hear it through frail flesh and blood pastors who need it just as badly as you do.  The Lord attaches his word to water where he cleanses you of all sin.  The Lord attaches his word to bread and wine so that you can feast on the heavenly meal for the forgiveness of your sins.  Granted, these things are flashy.  But the Lord is not interested in trying to impress you.  He is intently interested in saving you.  He has come to do the work for your salvation, and he sends pastors to proclaim salvation to you.

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

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