5th Sunday after Pentecost – B (Proper 8) LSB #’s 702, 552, 684
Text – Mark 5:34 & 36
And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, & be healed of your disease.” But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”
FAITH FINDS HEALING
There are many ways in which life is like a scavenger hunt! You have just spent four or five years full-time in college, & more years if attending part-time. Along the way you’ve had plenty of occasions to wonder if you were on the right path.
You’ve finally graduated with a degree & now you’re searching for that full-time job. You’ve had numerous interviews but are still waiting for an offer. Finding meaningful employment, even when everyone is hiring, can be something like a scavenger hunt. There are so many opportunities to question if you are looking in the right places.
The diagnosis is in & now you’re on a scavenger hunt trying to discover the best treatment. You’re having to learn a whole new vocabulary of words that come out of the Latin language. There are new doctors, new treatment locations & new medicines to take, all of which you are extremely unfamiliar with. It’s like a scavenger hunt with your life on the line.
The woman in the Gospel reading knows our troubles all too well. Her situation tugs at the heart – “bleeding”, “suffered”, “spent all”, “no better”, “grew worse.” For 12 years she has suffered one blow after another in a scavenger hunt that’s revealed nothing but failed results. To top it off, she’s considered unclean & has been shunned & cut off from her community.
And before she shows up, a ruler of a synagogue had just found Jesus & pleaded the case of his daughter who was at the point of death. Jesus is on His way to heal her when the woman with the bleeding interrupted Him. During the delay someone came from the ruler’s house who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” (Mark 5:35b-c ESV) Jairus had been on a scavenger hunt to find healing for his daughter & he found it. Then it was taken from him. Knowing the temptation that would be crushing in upon Jairus, Jesus gives him another clue in this hunt for healing, “Do not fear, only believe.” (Mark 5:36 ESV) Then Jesus travels to house of Jairus & raises his daughter from the dead.
The woman who’d been bleeding for 12 years heard of the miracle worker & thought, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” (Mark 5:28 ESV) With nothing left but faith in God, the unclean outcast moves toward Jesus. She touches Him & then realizes the effect of sin had been reversed in body & soul. Faith had found healing & salvation! How about you?
Jairus had sought Him out & fell at the feet of Jesus, imploring Him earnestly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come & lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well & live.” (Mark 5:23 ESV) He has faith that just the touch of Jesus will heal his daughter, but will his faith believe that Jesus can heal her once she is dead?
“Taking her by the hand [Jesus] said to her, ‘Talitha cumi,’ which means, ‘Little girl, I say to you, arise.’ And immediately the girl got up & began walking…” (Mark 5:41-42 ESV) Jairus & the bleeding woman offer us real, tangible images of faith that finds healing. Jesus demonstrates that He is the Lord of creation who had come to restore that creation.
These healings from the effects of sin are demonstrations of what the Last Day will be like as the multitudes of believers are made whole or raised from the dead to wholeness. Then, there will be no more scavenger hunts to search for the path to our future. For all of eternity no one there will lack anything, not ever!
Until then, the Spirit of God creates & sustains faith in us that we might find healing each & every day. It’s something we need every day in this life, because the effects of sin are constantly dragging us down. If we forget that, we easily end up looking, in all the wrong places, for what we need in this life. If we forget that God is working with a long-term view we end up trying to find a quick fix to our struggles. That skews how we approach the scavenger hunt of life. In a scavenger hunt, you need to have faith that the person setting it up is being honest & has your best interests at heart. Otherwise, you can end up on a wild goose chase.
That’s what Satan does to us. He leads us on a wild goose chase that takes us nowhere at best, & takes us to destruction at worst. Faith in Jesus, however, does not simply find healing of the body, but also, most importantly, healing of the soul. He has our eternal best interests at heart, & if the soul is healed then the body will be also.
Neither the bleeding woman, nor Jairus, could see with their eyes the healing that Jesus would grant them, but they believed in it anyway. The Book of Hebrews defines the faith they had as this, “Now faith is the assurance of what we hope for & the certainty of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1 ESV)
In this life, we can’t see it with our eyes, but when Jesus heals it is not simply our body, but we are rescued from sin, from death, from the forces of evil & from all that is wrong & from all that is broken in our world. We know this by faith & not by sight. Faith does find healing even if you cannot see it. And that is the difficulty of living the Christian life.
When the bleeding woman was healed & when the daughter was raised from the dead, it wasn’t difficult for them to believe. They felt it in their bodies in a way that you & I will feel it in our bodies at the resurrection from the dead. The healing of these women was a foretaste of that for them. These events are recorded in Scripture to show us that faith finds healing.
Meanwhile, our lives often seem to be hanging by a thread – another way of saying, “We are living by faith.” We face great challenges & our prospects are often bleak, but we believe. That is why we continue to gather together. That is why we continue to tune in to the promises of Jesus & hang on to those promises – even when it is only by a thread. Our Creator & Savior has promised healing – if not for this temporary life, then perfect healing for the eternal life. He has promised our resurrection just as He raised Jairus’ daughter & as He Himself rose on Easter morning.
We were dead in our sins & unclean before God. While our culture does not readily acknowledge it, nonetheless before God we are unclean. Our misery often manifests itself in an outlook of helplessness & hopelessness. At Baptism God moves to change all of that. By the touch of water & word, our outcome changes, we are freed from bondage & made His children.
This is done without merit or worthiness in us, but purely out of God’s divine goodness & mercy. Christ’s rendezvous with these two women is a powerful illustration of how God touches everyday lives, no matter how bad things may be. It is faith alone that sees past death, empowering us to continue living even when all seems lost & hopeless.
Sin & death are still the greatest problem that human beings have. Jesus remains our only solution. Faith finds healing & faith finds Jesus. Continue to hang on to Him, especially when life seems like a scavenger hunt. Cling to Him with confidence. Cry out to Him for help, trusting that He has already come, & He will come again.
When life seems like a scavenger hunt, & you’re not at sure which way to go, know that our Creator is good & He will guide & direct you even at times without your knowing it. As St. Paul wrote, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16 ESV)
With faith in that promise, the thread by which we hang will be enough, & there will come a day when you know that with all certainty just as the two women who were healed in the Gospel reading. Faith does indeed find healing. Amen.
O Christ, who shared our mortal life & ended death’s long reign, Who healed the sick & raised the dead & bore our grief & pain: We know our years on earth are few, that death is always near. Come now to us, O Lord of Life; bring hope that conquers fear! A ruler proud but bent by grief knelt down before Your feet: “My precious daughter’s gripped by death! Come now & death defeat!” A multitude had gathered round to hear the truth you taught, but, leaving them, You turned to help a father sore distraught. Death’s power holds us still in thrall & bears us toward the tomb. Death’s darkening cloud hangs like a pall that threatens earth with doom. But You have broken death’s embrace & torn away its sting. Restore to life our mortal race! Raise us, O Risen King! Amen. LSB 552:1, 5, 4.
Trinity 3 – 2021 LSB #’s 915, 609, 737
Text – Micah 7:18
Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity & passing over transgression for the remnant of His inheritance?
Beginning with last year’s killing of George Floyd, there has been a lot of intense focus on the issue of justice here in the United States. People on many levels, across racial & economic lines, have really begun to notice that justice is being perverted on an ever larger scale.
There are many disagreements about the causes & solutions, but most people seem to realize that as a nation, we are losing our grip on the ability to administer justice. People across the racial & economic spectrum are responding to that realization. That’s the normal course of human history. Things change & people react to the changes.
If you study history, it’s clear that the longing for justice is a common theme in every society & civilization that has ever existed. The prophet Isaiah described it in rather poetic terms with these words, “We all growl like bears; we moan & moan like doves; we hope for justice, but there is none...” (59:11 ESV)
Job even lashes out at God, “Behold, I cry out, ‘Violence!’ but I am not answered; I call for help, but there is no justice.” (19:7 ESV) More recently, these words were spoken from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963:
“When the architects of our great republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution & the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her
citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given its colored people a bad check, a check that has come back marked “insufficient funds.”
But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom & security of justice.”
Even among father & son there is often disagreement regarding justice, as illustrated by King David & his son Absalom. The prophet Samuel wrote: “So David reigned over all Israel. And David administered justice & equity to all his people.” (2 Samuel 8:15 ESV)
“Then Absalom would say, ‘Oh that I were judge in the land! Then every man with a dispute or cause might come to me, & I would give him justice.’” (2 Samuel 15:4 ESV) Whether you study secular history or Biblical history, it’s clear that the longing for justice is a common thread running through every society & civilization that has existed.
One of the louder reactions to the lack of justice in our nation today is being referred to as the “Cancel Culture.” While social media has empowered people to speak their minds, it has also empowered the masses to attempt to “cancel” those whose opinions they disagree with.
Cancel Culture has been described by its supporters as accountability, but that is not a fair assessment of this phenomenon. If Cancel Culture implied accountability, then it would provide an avenue for redemption. However, when the mob controls the information & the justice, there is no means by which you can regain their respect.
Their attempts to administer or restore justice occur without an impartial judge or jury. The accused have no secure avenue to question or even answer their accusers. Evidence is not needed to convict someone. As the cancel culture has evolved in this age of instant communication it has turned into simply another version of mob rule – might makes right.
Even the national news media & politicians have been sucked into the fray. This in spite of the fact that they are institutions put in place to support & protect the freedoms of all people. In a Cancel Culture, truth becomes irrelevant & everyone loses the ability to understand differing perspectives. When that happens, all of us become poorer & lose opportunities for life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. The point of Cancel Culture rests in the name – eliminating thought criminals from polite society. If the mob cannot control what you say, they will attempt to control your ability to function in society. What happens when people refuse to be controlled? When people push back, the mob must resort to more drastic measures.
In the same way fascism emerged as a socialist’s last resort to impose their worldview, Cancel Culture emerged as a means to achieve a politically correct society. If you do not bend your knee to the mob, then the mob will unperson you.
Which is effectively what our Supreme Court did when they ruled that unborn children can be aborted because we don’t know if they are human beings or not. In a 7-2 ruling, the court decided to unperson any child in the womb. The Cancel Culture today is a loud voice in our nation, but it’s nothing new.
Ever since The Fall into sin, human beings have struggled to maintain justice in this world. When Adam & Eve sinned, they severed the life-giving relationship they had with their Creator. Effectively, they had turned themselves into nothing, but God’s love would not allow that to the be the last word. He addressed the problem & solution through the apostle Peter:
“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:10 ESV) In its negative aspects, the Cancel Culture does not seek to restore people, but to destroy them. It seeks to erase their identity & their voice, with no mercy whatsoever. Forgiveness is a very unwelcome concept.
The heavenly Father also seeks to cancel what is evil, but He chose a much different path
than the Cancel Culture does. He loves His creation, human beings included, & so desires to salvage & save them, that He sends His only Son not just to take on our punishment, but also to do the good, to maintain the justice, that no sinful being is capable of.
Yes, sinful beings do oppress other people, & every other aspect of God’s creation. The reason is this – all of God’s creation has been oppressed by sin ever since Adam & Eve followed Satan’s suggestion to cancel the Word of God. Yet, our Lord does not respond in revenge, but in sacrifice. He gives His own life to pay for our injustice.
Then He raises that human flesh from the dead in order to begin the new creation, where sin will never again oppress anyone; where justice will be perfect at all times because no one will ever violate it. Unlike the Cancel Culture, Yahweh does provide an avenue for the redemption of those who have run afoul of justice. He saves sinners.
Here’s what the Cancel Culture of Jesus’ day thought of that: “The Pharisees & the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners & eats with them.’” (Luke 15:2 ESV) But they did not stop with grumbling. Eventually, they sought to completely cancel the Son of God.
“Then the leading priests & Pharisees called the high council together. ‘What are we going to do?’ they asked each other. ‘This man certainly performs many miraculous signs. If we allow Him to go on like this, soon everyone will believe in Him. Then the Roman army will come & destroy both our Temple & our nation.” Caiaphas, who was high priest at that time, said, ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about! You don’t realize that it’s better for you that one man should die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.’” (John 11:47-50 NLT)
That’s how the Cancel Culture still thinks today, & Satan is still leading the charge. Ultimately, the world seeks to cancel God’s children because in truth it hates their Father in heaven. As Isaiah 59:8 says, “The way of peace they do not know, & there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peace.”
The Cancel Culture talks about accountability, but that advice is only for others. As all hypocrites do, they reject their own preaching. Jesus did not. He preached forgiveness & He lived it. He preached salvation & He made it possible for everyone. Considering all of sinful humanity, Micah therefore says to Yahweh: “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity & passing over transgression for the remnant of His inheritance?” The Holy Trinity alone cancels, not just individual transgressions, but actually takes away the sin of the whole world.
That is the uniqueness of Yahweh in comparison to all the religions & ideologies of the ancient & the modern world. He shows completely undeserved favor towards sinners & He does so repeatedly & continually. Every single morning arrives with His blessings of life & salvation, along with all the things we need for this life.
As he closed his speech at the Lincoln memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. described well how God deals with sin, as opposed to the Cancel Culture of the world:
“I have a dream today. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be engulfed, every hill shall be exalted & every mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plains & the crooked places will be made straight & the glory of the Lord shall be revealed & all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.
With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to climb up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my father’s died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!” And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York…
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every tenement & every hamlet, from every state & every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men & white men, Jews & Gentiles, Protestants & Catholics, will be able to join hands & sing in the words of the old spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we’re free at last.”
Jesus sinners doth receive; oh, may all this saying ponder who in sin’s delusions live & from God & heaven wander! Here is hope for all who grieve: Jesus sinners doth receive. We deserve but grief & shame, yet His words, rich grace revealing, pardon, peace & life proclaim; here our ills have perfect healing. Firmly in these words believe: Jesus sinners doth receive. Amen. LSB 609:1-2.
 Wikipedia: The state of Texas had argued that total bans on abortion were justifiable because "life" begins at the moment of conception, and therefore its governmental interest in protecting prenatal life should apply to all pregnancies regardless of their stage.  But the Court found that there was no indication that the Constitution's uses of the word "person" were meant to include fetuses, so it rejected Texas's argument that a fetus should be considered a "person" with a legal & constitutional right to life.  It noted that there was still great disagreement over when an unborn fetus becomes a living being. 
Trinity 2 – 2021 LSB #’s 497, 622, 818
Text – Luke 14:17-18a
And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses.
HOW BUSY ARE YOU?
Doesn’t it sound like you’re about to get hit up to help with something? How busy are you? It’s the essential question of our day. We fill our lives with things to do whether they are productive or not. In the Gospel reading from Luke, Jesus delves into that question & points out where the priorities of our lives should be centered. In fact Jesus points out where life is!
Huge numbers of people have been deceived into thinking that they already have life, or they’re this close to achieving it. Another great percentage of people have been fooled into thinking that there is no chance in hell that they will ever find life. That roughly summarizes the two main camps that Satan is trying to herd us into. How busy are you?
The setting, as Luke begins this section, is that of a banquet being hosted by a Pharisee. We know this was a wealthy man because the guests are reclined on couches at his table. The average person of the day could not afford a table. The setting also tells us that a trap had been set for Jesus with this invitation. We know that because a man with dropsy is at the banquet.
Dropsy is what, in our day, we call fluid retention, often due to heart disease. A man like that would be an outcast from society & never be allowed in the house of a prominent Jewish leader, especially on the Sabbath. That he is there tells us that the Pharisees are up to no good, waiting to see if Jesus will break the Sabbath law against healing. Jesus does.
After healing the man, things get a little testy, with Jesus asking some very pointed questions that highlight the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Maybe to break the tension, “When one of those who reclined at table with [Jesus] heard these things, he said to Him, ‘Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!’” (Luke 14:15 ESV) It was a common thing to say in their culture & the expected response would be something like this: “O Lord, may we be among the righteous & be counted without blemish, worthy to sit with the men of renown on that great day…” But instead of easing the tension, Jesus tells a provocative parable!
“[Jesus] said to him, ‘A man once gave a great banquet & invited many.’” In their day this invitation alerts people to the fact that a banquet is coming. An RSVP is expected so the host can determine how much food to prepare, but since they didn’t have microwave ovens, it was more difficult to predict exactly when the meal would begin.
When the food is finally ready to be served, a 2nd invitation goes out to those who replied that they would attend. It’s sort of like the invitation you got from mom when she’d been cooking for an hour & said, “Dinner is ready!” That meant you better come to the table right now because the food is hot, & because mom has worked hard at preparing it.
In constructing His parable, if Jesus were playing nice, everyone would have come to the banquet. The problem is, that would have been a lie, & Jesus is not simply the Way & the Life. He is also the Truth, though with it He brings the ultimate degree of love! Jesus tells the truth in order to save us from eternal destruction.
In the culture of the day, it would have been unheard of, after sending in your RSVP, to not attend the banquet. Only the most extreme circumstances would have been an acceptable excuse. Yet, everyone who sent in their RSVP, tells mom basically, “We don’t want to eat dinner with you!” With verse 18, Jesus continues:
“But they all alike began to make excuses. The 1st said to him, ‘I have bought a field, & I must go out & see it. Please have me excused.’” To our 2021 ears, in a culture that knows little of agriculture, that doesn’t sound too unreasonable. But to the people of Jesus’ day, it was a totally preposterous excuse. In the Middle East, no farmer in his right mind would buy a piece of land without first inspecting it & learning the entire production history of that acreage. This excuse was a bold-faced lie & everyone listening to Jesus would recognize it as such. It was clear that the host of the banquet was being intentionally insulted & disrespected.
Likewise with the man who bought five yoke of oxen & claimed that he needed to now examine them. This is another transparent lie. And the 3rd man gives his excuse that he just got married & doesn’t even bother asking to be excused, he simply states he will not be there.
The original audience that Jesus was speaking to would easily have identified the theological movement of the parable. The eternal banquet of heaven has been announced. The hour has come. All is now ready. Let the feast begin, & it begins with this Rabbi called Jesus. Those who seek to eat bread in the kingdom of God should follow Jesus.
Yet, not in the parable, but in real life, the Pharisees have come up with a stream of excuses. They complain that Jesus not only eats with sinners, but actually welcomes them. And since He healed the man with dropsy, Jesus clearly does not keep the Sabbath in a strict fashion. Neither does Jesus fulfill their expectation that Messiah will restore the nation of Israel to power.
The parable is informing them that as they reject Jesus, they are rejecting the great banquet of salvation promised by God in the OT. This banquet table has been set through the presence of Jesus in their midst, but this great feast is just not a distribution of free rations. To enjoy it you must come in to the banquet hall.
Do you remember the Pharisee who tried to break the tension with what he thought was a safe & innocuous statement: “When one of those who reclined at table with [Jesus] heard these things, he said to Him, ‘Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!’” (Luke 14:15 ESV) What this Pharisee was failing to recognize is that the kingdom of God is already making its claim on him now. Now, in the person of Jesus “the kingdom of God” is already in the midst of them while he & his fellow Pharisees, without realizing it, are actually refusing to eat bread in the kingdom of God. The Pharisees are living comfortable lives so they neither perceive their need for a Savior, nor for the banquet of life that Yahweh is offering to them.
Jesus Himself is God’s invitation to the feast. To evade or ignore Him is to be excluded from the great banquet of God, from the eating of bread in the kingdom of God. What Jesus is teaching here is what St. Paul wrote of, concerning God, in 2 Corinthians:
“For he says, ‘In a favorable time I listened to you, & in a day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2 ESV) Psalm 23:5 paints this picture of salvation: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.” The threat of death is erased if you’re invited to this banquet!
Back to the parable. After receiving the insults of his well to do guests, the host’s anger does not result in revenge, but in grace. He has the poor, the maimed, the blind & the lame invited to the banquet. Their suffering & need was twofold. They were already broken in body & mind, but they were also ostracized from their community because of their brokenness.
As we heard in the OT reading, verse 4: “‘Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!’ To him who lacks sense she says, ‘Come, eat of my bread & drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways, & live, & walk in the way of insight.’” (Proverbs 9:4 ESV)
That causes a problem for sinners because we don’t like to acknowledge being simple. We prefer to think much more highly of ourselves. In our sin we are far off from God, but as St. Paul wrote in Ephesians 2: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” (2:13 ESV)
In verse 17, Paul writes of God, “He came & preached peace to you who were far off &
peace to those who were near.” And finally in verse 22: “In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” Our busyness can carry us far off from our Savior. How busy are you? The food is ready! Jesus is waiting. Won’t you join Him? Amen.
Lord Jesus Christ, You have prepared this feast for our salvation; it is Your body & Your blood, & at Your invitation as weary souls, with sin oppressed, we come to You for needed rest, for comfort & for pardon. Grant that we worthily receive Your supper, Lord, our Savior, & truly grieving for our sins, may prove by our behavior that we are thankful for Your grace & day by day may run our race, in holiness increasing. Amen. LSB 622:1, 7.
2nd Sunday after Pentecost – B (Proper 5) LSB #’s 908, 589, 655
Text – Genesis 3:8
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, & the man & his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
HEARING THE SOUND OF GOD
Because cats prefer to hunt just after sunset, it’s not uncommon to be out walking our cat in the dark. One of the things that’s very interesting, to me anyway, is the tremendous level of alertness he displays. In fact, his persona inside the house is almost like death compared to his persona outside in the dark.
His ears are on super high alert, as every sound I can hear & many, many more that I cannot, attract his attention. If he turns his head & locks in, I know from experience there is certain to be something there. One night, in those circumstances, I turned on the flashlight only to find a skunk about 20 feet in front of us.
Cats have hearing that is 3 to 5 times more sensitive than human beings have. It also ranges too much higher frequencies & is more sensitive even than the hearing of a dog. With such poor hearing, relatively speaking, it should be no surprise that human beings have trouble hearing the sound of God. Jesus Himself confirms this in Matthew 13:
“This is not why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, & hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” (13:13 ESV) Jesus is making the point that even more detrimental to us than our poor hearing is the fact that you & I are extremely adept at actively tuning out the sound of God.
In just the 3rd chapter of the Bible Adam & Eve had already tuned out this helpful advice from the 2nd chapter: “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good & evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” You know what happened from there, & another familiar event begins with the closing words of helpful advice in Exodus 31:
And the Lord said to Moses, “You are to speak to the people of Israel & say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me & you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you. You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the 7th day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. It is a sign forever between me & the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven & earth, & on the 7th day He rested & was refreshed.’” And He gave to Moses, when He had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God. (31:12-18 ESV)
Again, if people disobey the advice of God, He warns that death will come. And what do the people do? Chapter 32 begins with their classic response:
When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron & said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, & your daughters, & bring them to me.” And he received the gold from their hand & fashioned it with a graving tool & made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” (32:1-2, 4 ESV)
Talk about actively tuning out God, the people He rescued from Egypt were masters at it. So, how would you rate your ability to ignore the reality of God? If you heard the sound of God, would you be afraid & try to hide? Sadly, we know that we do.
Every time we struggle in coming to grips with a particular sin, & the guilt we feel because of it, we experience, to a degree, what Adam & Eve felt. There’s was far worse because they went from being perfect & holy to completely depraved & sinful in one fell swoop.
All that you & I have ever known is the brokenness of sin, & the road back to holiness is a long & treacherous one. Jesus described it this way, “For the gate is wide & the way is easy that leads to destruction, & those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow & the way is hard that leads to life, & those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14 ESV) Satan is hounding us every step of that way, always trying to lead us astray, chanting his mantra, “Did God really say? Did God really say?”
Have you been listening for the sound of God? Do you know what He sounds like? When you hear Him, what emotions does it bring to the fore?
Personally, when I hear the Word of God it often shakes me to the core! There are plenty of times that I sense the power & the majesty of the Almighty Creator when I read the Bible lessons or stand here in the pulpit. It can be very unnerving.
The men who serve as elders here have all commented that the 1st several times they helped serve communion was an unnerving experience that they did not expect. One of my former pastors made ‘hearing the sound of God’ a frequent experience for me when he was preaching. I’ve also experienced that ‘hearing’ while singing in a church choir.
Since God created everything there is, it’s not unreasonable to think that we should hear the sound of God from His creation. Maybe the stars sing to you on a cold, clear winter night. Maybe you hear the sound of God in the cry of an eagle in flight. Psalm 29 tells us:
“The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders,… The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon. The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire. The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;… The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth & strips the forests bare, & in His temple all cry, ‘Glory!’” (29:3-9 ESV)
And there are always the classic words to the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 19:
“And he said, Go forth, & stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, & a great & strong wind rent the mountains, & brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: & after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: & after the fire a still small voice.” (19:11-12 KJV)
Once they heard the sound of God, Adam & Eve attempted to hide themselves from
Him. In the next verse, God asks, “Where are you?” Given that God surely knew where they were, this question has richer intent. Certainly, God was reinforcing the reality of how His children had distanced themselves from God by trying to hide. However, behind that word of rebuke it seems that God’s question implies an invitation that His children come back to Him.
What makes this astounding is that this is the 1st word spoken by God after He speaks all creation into existence. This new word, this rebuke & yet invitation, sets the theme for all the rest of Scripture – a recital of God’s desire to bring his children home.
And if they do not come home, God will find ways to come into their world to bring them home. He will send patriarchs & matriarchs, prophets, judges, elders & in the fullness of time, His Son. God’s “Where are you?” marks the 1st step toward the supreme gift of God’s love for the world, the gift of Him who came “to seek & to save that which is lost.”
When Adam & Eve broke God’s creation, the obvious question confronting them was this, “How is God going to deal with this Genesis 3 world – that is the now fallen & sinful world?” You & I have the same question when we surrender to the devil’s temptations or to our sinful desires. God’s answer is always to seek us out in order to save us.
Sending His Son is the supreme revelation of God’s answer to the problem of a broken world. Sending His Son is the supreme revelation of God’s love for us. Sending His Son is the supreme revelation that we need never be afraid even when we have sinned.
It is that love which changes our hearts & minds so that once again we will hear the sound of God & not be afraid. Amen.
Speak, O Lord, Your servant listens, let Your Word to me come near; newborn life & spirit give me, let each promise still my fear. Death’s dread power, its inward strife, wars against Your Word of life; fill me, Lord, with love’s strong fervor that I cling to You forever! As I pray, dear Jesus, hear me; let Your words in me take root. May Your Spirit e’er be near me that I bear abundant fruit. May I daily sing Your praise, from heart glad anthems raise, till my highest praise is given in the endless joy of heaven. Amen. LSB 589:1, 4.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet