Monday, November 30, 2015

Sermon -- 1st Sunday of Advent (November 29, 2015)

JEREMIAH 33:14-16

THE DAYS ARE COMING WHEN 
ALL WILL BE SECURE. 

In the name + of Jesus.

     You probably remember stories or movies from the past where a guard would be keeping his post at night.  Throughout the night, he would cry out, "Whatever o'clock and all's well!"  I suppose the news was met with mixed feelings.  On the one hand, you were thankful that all is secure.  On the other hand, you had to be awakened in the middle of the night to learn that. 
     When security becomes a big issue, it is because your security is either being threatened or has been disrupted.  France and Belgium are acutely interested in security right now because they have been the targets of ISIS attacks.  Simply surviving the day should not have to be a laudable goal, but when security is shattered, it is.  They welcome the cry, “All is secure!” now.  Entire industries have been built in order to guarantee your security in one fashion or another.  LifeLock exists to save you from identity theft.  Guardian Alarm helps to secure your home against intruders.  Investment companies are supposed to secure your retirement years.  The fact that we have to go to some lengths to get this security tells us that it is more fragile than we would like to believe.  We will often pay good money to hear the “All's secure!”
     In the days of Jeremiah the prophet, Jerusalem had lost its security.  The Babylonian army had marched against the nation of Judah and besieged Jerusalem.  The only security Jerusalem had was its walls, but those walls would be breeched soon enough.  Inside the city, life was brutal.  Food and water were scarce.  The threat of Jerusalem being overthrown was imminent.  Nebuchadnezzar's armies finally burned the temple, ended the Davidic kingdom, destroyed Jerusalem, and took its citizens into exile.  Jerusalem would not know security; they would only know death, destruction, and captivity.
     In the hardship of those bitter days, Jeremiah foretold a better day.  “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely.  And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’” (Jeremiah 33:14-16)  Even before Jerusalem was destroyed and the kingdom was wiped out, in the midst of the siege against Jerusalem, Jeremiah promised: The days are coming when all will be secure.
     Now, as we had considered earlier, security means different things to different people.  In the midst of the siege, the residents of Jerusalem certainly were interested in security.  Many of them wanted only to go back to a life of buying and selling, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage with little thought at all of repentance and obedience to the Lord and his word.  Oh, they would have given the Lord a polite acknowledgement on their traditional holy days.  For the most part, though, the Lord was reduced to quaint nostalgia.  But it was for this very reason—this pathetic and apathetic faith—that the Lord sent his destructive judgment upon Jerusalem.  If they would give so little devotion to their Lord, the Lord would devote their city and temple to destruction.
     Now, did the life of the people of Jerusalem sound much different from our lives today?  It is so easy to relegate our devotion to Sunday mornings and our faith to personal, even secret, meditation.  The entire Christian Church in America appears to be quite apathetic about the faith—willingly and eagerly forfeiting Sunday mornings to pursue other activities.  I can't say that a threat will besiege us as Babylon besieged Jerusalem—for the Lord has not said so in such specific terms.  But the Lord does use threats and terror as a foreshadowing of the judgment and destruction that will come upon all mankind.  On that day, there will be no escape.  All will have to give an answer for their apathy.  Repent.
     The situation for the citizens of Jerusalem was hopeless in many ways.  The Babylonian army was not going to go away.  Jerusalem was not going to be spared.  The temple and the Davidic kingdom would not survive.  And yet, Jeremiah proclaimed a hope for these people.  It would come much later, after their captivity.  All was not lost.  God's anger was not permanent.  The days were coming when all would be secure.  God's promises would be fulfilled.  “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely.  And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’” (Jeremiah 33:14-16)  The days were coming when all would be secure.
     If the Lord chooses to afflict you with terror or loss, either on a national level or a personal one, he does it for your good.  He is showing you that all the security you trust in is a fraud.  Even if it makes your life here easier, it will not save you from sin or death.  Your security is found in Jeremiah's prophecy as well.  Whenever we hear the phrase, “The days are coming, declares the Lord” in the Old Testament, they point to the Messiah.  He is the Branch which would spring up from the stump of Jesse, the kingdom of David.  Jesus would establish a new kingdom—one that would not be corrupted by greed, one that would not be twisted by favoritism, and one that would never be overthrown because of its wickedness—for there is no wickedness in it.  Jesus would “execute justice and righteousness in the land.” (Jeremiah 33:15)  It is because of Jesus' justice and righteousness that all will be secure.
     We like the idea of justice being executed because we believe that we are innocent and will be spared.  Our vengeful spirit cheers the idea of the wicked getting their just deserts.  We cheer when we hear about ISIS leaders getting bombed.  We fist-pump at the reports of our least favorite candidate's alleged scandals or embarrassing comments.  We even smile at the misfortune of people we just don't like because they are not like us.  But Jesus does not come to do the kind of justice we would like done.  Rather, his justice is executed by his own execution.  In order to atone for our apathy, in order to put an end to our vengeance, Jesus was crucified.  It was at the cross that God handed out both the cruelest and the most gracious stroke of justice.  It was cruel because Jesus was condemned for sins he did not commit.  It was most gracious because Jesus willingly suffered God's wrath for us.  The guiltless one was convicted and condemned on behalf of us for all our guilt.  How can we be apathetic about that?  It is what secures for us God's favor.  By his death, Jesus has secured our forgiveness.  By his resurrection, the Son of David has secured his place on the heavenly throne and has secured our resurrection to eternal life.  The days are coming when all will be secure.
     Make no mistake about it: All is secure.  Even if someone would steal your identity, the Lord knows you and claims you as his own.  Even if your stuff is taken, your true treasures are in heaven.  Even if you should be slain, that does not undo your resurrection to eternal life.  Your place in God's kingdom is secure.  Your everlasting salvation is secure.  You might feel that the world is dangerous and poses many threats upon you and your family.  Perhaps.  But none of them can destroy God's favor.  None of them can negate Jesus' love and salvation.  If you seek security, then flee to Jesus.  For, the days are surely coming when all will be secure, when the threats will be over, when your troubles will cease, and when God's peace will reign forever.  Jesus will come again.  He will bring you to his heavenly kingdom, just as he has delivered you to his kingdom of grace.


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

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