Sunday, February 03, 2019

Sermon for 2/3/19: Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany

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Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

God is not like us. He does not submit to our ideas. His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts. We live by faith, not by knowledge or understanding. Unlike every other man, Jesus never considers appearances. He really doesn’t care what people think. He is His own man in a way no one else can be. And whatever He does, whether we understand it or not, it is the right thing.
Such an idea requires faith, because Jesus doesn’t seem to us to be doing the right thing. He seems to be sleeping. He seems to be ignoring us. Wars and disease, hatred and greed, bigotry and addiction: these things don’t seem right. We are plagued with crime and poverty. Families are falling apart. Babies are murdered in their mothers’ wombs. American soldiers die in foreign lands. The government lies. Children cheat. Schools can’t be trusted. Friends betray us. Pastors preach false doctrine. And then, as if we weren’t already our own worst enemies, nature herself comes swooping down on us in hurricanes and tsunamis, in killing frigid temperatures, in ice and snow. And all our efforts against them—our little programs with grief and debt and pregnancy and marriage counselors, our engineering feats and government money—all seem of little effect against the evil that lurks in the hearts of men and the brutal effects of nature. Yet we put our trust in these false gods of flesh and concrete.
Repent. Your answer doesn’t lie in engineered wonders or human ingenuity, in a beautiful home or a perfect meal, not even in happy, healthy, well-adjusted children. You won’t find salvation in human love. Spouses and children disappoint as surely as parents and siblings, as surely as we disappoint ourselves. Repent. Stick to your prayers. Submit in faith to the goodness of God. Be still and wait for the Lord. Your deliverance will be revealed in time. The storms will cease. Jesus is with you.
And what if He rebukes you for your panic, for your desire for safety, for your desperate little faith that thinks it is perishing? Thanks be to God! Thanks be to God that you still have a smoldering wick of faith. Thanks be to God that you know where to go, that you seek salvation in our Lord.  Thank God that you are weak, for it is then that you are strong. He will not let you become dependent on your works. He will purify you with His holy rebuke; He will not let you ride out the storm in false confidence. He will hold you close to Him. Be rebuked again and again. Be broken by His Law. He uses these things to empty you of yourself and fill you with His love. He breaks you to mend you. He kills you to revive you. For His sake we are killed all day long. We are counted as sheep for the slaughter. And His thoughts are not our thoughts. If we stop feeling the Law, we lose the Gospel. First comes the rebuke; then comes the calming of the storm. First comes the cross; then comes the glory.
Are we of little faith, O Lord? Indeed. We are unworthy in every way. But He is our God. He puts His name upon us. He delivers us from these present evils, for He has died bearing our sins. We have no boast, no claim of our own upon His mercy. But we have His Word and Promise. We have His name. We have His body and blood. That is enough. He calms the storms—even the storms within us: the fear, the heartbreak, the despair. He leads us to call upon Him in prayer. He gives us the faith we lack. He saves us. 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.

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