Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The children of Israel crossed the Red Sea. Their enemies lay dead on the seashore. They journeyed through the wilderness to Mt. Sinai. Moses went up on the mountain to speak with the Lord. And the Israelites waited. And they waited. Finally they got tired of waiting. They told Aaron, "We're tired of waiting. We don't know what happened to Moses. Make us gods to lead the way!" Aaron collected their gold and made a golden calf. But here's the kicker: the Israelites didn't just make a false god. They attached the True God's name to it! My brothers and sisters in Christ, God's people are always in danger of this. Since His Ascension, the Lord's church has been waiting for His return. Instead of holding on tightly to Christ's Word and promises, people begin to think, "We don't know what happened to Christ. Let's make our own." And so, turning away from the true Christ, people make their own gods. We knew it would happen. Jesus said so. Christ is turned from being the Savior who dies and rises for our sins into some other kind of Christ: a personal life coach; a philosophy teacher; an angry Judge; a good pal; a Jesus who says that anything goes. The true Jesus is tossed aside and a false god arises. The terrible thing is that people put their trust in these false Christs and thereby deny and turn from the real Jesus, the only one who can and does actually save us!
The Lord was ready to wipe those Israelites off the face of the earth. And they certainly deserved it! How could they be rescued by the Lord and then turn around and make Him into a cow? That's what sinners do. But Moses reminds the Lord of His promises. God had promised to make a great nation from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For the sake of His Word, because of His promise, the Lord does not destroy them. You and I love to trust in something other than the Lord. Given the opportunity, we would nail Him to a cross ourselves. Yet we are saved by the same thing: the Lord's promises. Because Jesus dies for the sins of the world, and because the Father has baptized you into His Son, He will not punish you for your sins. It falls on Jesus instead. The grace of God that spared the children of Israel after the golden calf is the same grace which spares us from the punishment of our sins in Jesus Christ.
We don't suddenly wake up one day and decide we'd better stop sinning and get right with the Lord. We would keep dancing around our idols until our golden cows come home. Instead, Jesus intercedes. He puts Himself between the Father's judgment of sin and us sinners who have that judgment coming. Christ was nailed to the tree of the cross to be a lightning rod to take God's punishment of sin. As long as Jesus stands before His Father, the Father will never remember our sins or punish us for them. Now He has taken His place with the Father, praying for us, interceding for us, reminding the Father continually that He has taken our sins away and we are to be spared from everlasting death!
Through Moses, God did punish the Israelites for their idolatry. He ground up the golden calf, sprinkled it on the water, and made them drink it! But in the mystery of God's grace, since the coming of Christ, we are not made to eat our idols. Rather we are given to eat the Lord Himself in His body and blood. Where the children of Israel were joined with their false god in a way that pointed out their sin, we are joined to the One who takes away our sin. When we eat and drink His body and blood, we do it for His remembrance, that is, He remembers what He has done for us and holds no sins against us. The true miracle is not some trick that the devil plays with his false gods showing off. The true miracle, the true sign and wonder, is that the Son of God takes the place of sinners to free us sinners from our sin and death.
Our countdown to the end of the Church Year has begun today. It’s time to start paying attention and looking for Jesus to come back! Should we be worried? No. Our Lord has warned us. He has given us His Word, and that Word cannot be broken. When you are troubled as you look around in these last days, then pray with God's Word. Call upon the Lord in repentance and faith. Cling to Jesus in His holy gifts at the font and altar. Then you will be ready with St. Paul and all the saints for the glorious coming of Christ. And so we wait. And wait. But that day will soon come. And on that day, the trumpet blast won't be the one of Mt. Sinai, to frighten and terrify. It will be the trumpet blast of our Savior, coming to raise us from the dead and bring us to Himself forever. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.