Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Sermon -- Chapel at Huron Valley Lutheran HS, Westland (February 1, 2017)

From chapel at Huron Valley Lutheran High School in Westland, Michigan.

JEREMIAH 5:20-24


In the name + of Jesus.

     The Lord rules by his word.  When God created the heavens and the earth, he simply summoned things into being.  God said, “Let there be light.”  And there was light.  It was so because God said so.  And it continued through each day of creation as God summoned into being the dry ground, the plants, the sun, moon, and stars, and all the animals.  Everything came into being by God's word.
     Likewise, everything in creation continues to run by God's command.  Following the Flood, the Lord promised to Noah, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22)  It is not only a promise of God, it is a command to the creation that God has made.  The world produces its harvest throughout its seasons because the Lord has decreed it to be so.  The earth continues on its orbit through each year and spins on its axis for each 24 hour cycle because the Lord has decreed it to be so.  The Lord rules by his word, and nature obeys his commands.
     Jeremiah made reference to God's commands in our reading.  I placed the sand as the boundary for the sea, a perpetual barrier that it cannot pass; though the waves toss, they cannot prevail; though they roar, they cannot pass over it. (Jeremiah 5:22)  The Lord has decreed that the rivers, lakes, and oceans are not free to go beyond what he has commanded.  No matter how hard the waves batter the shore, the Lord draws the line as to how far they can go. Granted, the Lord sends an occasional tsunami.  Then we see the shocking footage of ocean waters violently pour across the shore and devastate the land.  The reason it is news is because it is unusual.  Tsunamis do not normally happen.  God sends them to remind us that this is a broken world and that we must flee to him for refuge.  But on a normal summer's day, you do not take your life in your hands when you go to the beach.  The tides follow their schedules.  The waves stop at the shore.  Nature remembers its God.
     When God created the heavens and earth, he simply summoned all things into being by his word.  There was an exception to that form of creation.  The man and the woman were not simply summoned into being.  God carefully, personally crafted the man from the ground and the woman from the man's rib.  And while God loved and blessed all of his creation, it was only to mankind that God gave special blessing.  All of creation glorifies the God who made it, but God gave people a way that they could personally honor and glorify him.  He gave them commands by which they would honor him with obedience and by which they would serve one another in love.
     And though the waves obey God's commands, people do not.  Adam and Eve ate from the tree which God had commanded them not to eat.  We are no better.  We are also called to honor God by obeying his commandments.  You don't get to credit yourself because you have not eaten from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  That is not the command that God has given you.  You are to love your neighbor as yourself, and even love and pray for your enemies.  Once again, we want to credit ourselves for works which are merely hypothetical.  “I would be welcoming to the refugees coming to America.  I would be such a good friend to the Downs Syndrome kid I saw on that TV show.”  But we are not even that kind to the people we actually do see and live with day after day.  We are cruel to classmates.  We bicker with family members.  We do not even love our loved ones very well.  And in failing to love those closest to us, we fail to honor God who has been pleased to give them to us.  Nature remembers its God and serves him.  We have not.
     Declare this in the house of Jacob; proclaim it in Judah: “Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears, but hear not.  Do you not fear me? declares the Lord.  Do you not tremble before me?" (Jeremiah 5:20-22)  The God who controls seas and storms and seasons will certainly enforce his commands.
     The Lord rules by his word.  While the forces of nature fill us with awe, and while they warn us that God is not to be trifled with, they do not save either.  So, in order to save us, the Word became flesh.  God revealed his compassion in a man.  And though Jesus did demonstrate his control over nature—calming the storm, walking on the sea, multiplying the loaves, and healing diseases—none of those things saved either.  The Word became flesh in order to deliver us from God's wrath and death.  Jesus, who did keep the Commandments and honor his Father, exchanged his perfect obedience for our sins.  Then he gave his body up to beating and flogging, to nails and spear, and finally to death.  He prayed for his enemies and died for them, for us.
     When Jesus died, nature responded.  The sun refused to give its light as Jesus endured the abandonment of his Father.  The earth quaked when the giver of life gave up his life.  Jesus was placed into the earth for burial, but then another earthquake announced that sin and death had been overcome.  Jesus is risen.  He lives and gives new life.  Creation would be restored to his perfect order.  Sinners would be delivered from sin and death.  The earth will give up its dead, and all who believe the word of the Lord will be raised to inherit eternal life in a perfect new world with perfect, glorious bodies.  We will dwell together in perfect agreement with God's word and will, and we will love one another with perfect kindness.
     The Lord God loves what he has created, and so he has acted to redeem it.  Sinners are forgiven through Jesus' innocent sufferings and death.  Death is overcome through Jesus' resurrection.  One more time, on the Last Day, Jesus will bring forth people from the dust of the earth to live.  And even creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:21)  
     It is good and right to remember the Lord and to heed his word.  For in it, we find our salvation.  But the amazing grace is this: that God remembers us.

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