7th Sunday after Pentecost – A (Proper 11) LSB #765
Text – Romans 8:20-21
For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption & obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
SUBJECTED TO FUTILITY
“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” (John 12:27-28a ESV) Those are the Words of God just a few days before He was crucified at the place of the skull. He had been waiting for this death His entire human life & that nature was feeling the weight of it.
We can thank Jesus for His prayer because it reveals the tremendous battle God’s Son had to fight against His own flesh & blood. His human nature struggled with the thought of dying. His prayer gives expression to this resistance, that we feel as well, & reveals something of the victory He won, by submitting to the will of God, & by voluntarily going in to death.
Do you feel the weight of sin? You may never before have been asked that question. On a shallow level anyone who believes that sin is real would certainly agree. Each of us has suffered the effects of living in a broken world – illness, crime, pollution, broken relationships, hurt feelings & the grinding, tedious nature of much of the work we do.
On a deeper level though, we may never have given much thought to feeling the weight of sin. After all, this broken world is the only one we have known. The effects of sin are normal for you & me. Everything we’ve ever done has been corrupted by it, & that has colored our perception of the way things are. Nothing in our lives has the substance or clarity that it should.
The book of Ecclesiastes hits home with such power because it perfectly expresses how we experience the weight of sin. These are the 1st two verses: “The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:1-2 ESV) Now, can you guess which word from the sermon text may be translated as ‘vanity’? “For the creation was subjected to futility…” Vanity is a synonym for the concept of futility! Solomon might have written, “Futility of futilities. All is futility.”
The 3rd verse of Ecclesiastes continues the thought by stating: “What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?” (ESV) It’s been that way since God said to Adam:
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife & have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns & thistles it shall bring forth for you…” (Genesis 3:17-18 ESV) You see, creation has been subjected to futility by the curse of Almighty God.
Feeling the weight of sin, & of the curse, King Solomon wrote so accurately, “All is vanity.” Later in the chapter he adds, “…and a striving after wind.” Yet Solomon was thinking on anything but a shallow level. Here are two more verses from Ecclesiastes 1:
“All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, & what has been done is what will be done, & there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:8-9 ESV) Have you experienced that vanity of living, what can seem like a striving after wind?
Then you have felt the weight of sin, & it is not supposed to be like that. In the 1st chapter of Genesis we hear these words spoken to Adam & Eve: “…Be fruitful & multiply & fill the earth & subdue it, & have dominion over the fish of the sea & over the birds of the heavens & over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” (Genesis 1:28 ESV)
God’s perfect creation was not subjected to futility when He called it into being. Instead, the work of Adam & Eve was joyful & beautiful. They subdued the earth & had dominion over it in ways that were beneficial to every aspect of the planet that was created for them as their home. All of creation was in perfect harmony & it fully supported the efforts of Adam & Eve as they managed the gift that was given to them. When they disobeyed the One who created it all drastic measures had to be taken to keep Adam & Eve from utterly destroying their world. They were banished from the tree of life so they wouldn’t live forever in their sinful state.
Nevertheless, the wickedness of mankind overtook the human race & by the time of Noah, Yahweh determined to destroy all the unbelievers in a massive worldwide flood. By the time the rain began to fall, only 8 people were left who put their trust in the true God.
Years later, at the tower of Babel, the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, & they have all one language, & this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down & there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” (Genesis 11:6-7 ESV)
In both cases the Lord acted to subject His creation to futility because, as Moses wrote before the flood, “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, & that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” (Genesis 6:5 NIV) That’s where human beings end up when they refuse to accept Jesus as Lord.
By subjecting to futility, anything we do apart from Christ, our heavenly Father has limited the damage the human race can do. Looking at the wars just since the year 1900 to our eyes hardly looks like a limitation. However, without those limits the human race would certainly have destroyed itself many times over by now.
Before The Fall into sin all of creation was subjected to a perfect Adam as caretaker. Now, creation is subjected to futility on account of the sin of the caretaker. Once Jesus reveals Himself to us on the Last Day, everything will again be subjected to a perfect caretaker, the New Adam, Jesus Christ. No more sin, no more sorrow, no more tears! Perfect harmony will again be the rule of the day. “How long?” is a common refrain when life isn’t going the way we expect. God’s Word tells us: “that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18 ESV) All of history is moving towards that day & St. Paul reassures us that we will not be disappointed if we don’t give up.
It is difficult to wrap our head around, but as Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins, suffering has taken on a new & positive definition. Our trials & tribulations are not meaningless even when we don’t understand why at the time. Jesus gave purpose & meaning to all misfortune because He took away the permanence of death.
For anyone who believes it, Jesus did put away the old creation when His flesh & blood was buried in the tomb. The hard work of freeing creation from sin’s dominion took place on the cross. Then Jesus rested on the Sabbath, as God did after the 1st creation.
On Easter morning Jesus began to fashion the new creation as His flesh & blood was raised from death & given its new & glorious & eternal form. The future of your body & mine is bound up with, & foreshadowed by, that risen flesh & blood of our Lord & Savior.
We shall be like Him, & forevermore the suffering of this life will have no comparison to the glory of the next life. When that day comes, all of us will realize how worthwhile our days were in this corrupted existence. Even: “…the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.” (Romans 8:19 ESV)
A parable hides it’s meaning from unbelievers, yet at the same time reveals it to those who trust in Jesus. In the same way, the firstfruits of Christ’s new creation are present & visible in God’s children already today. Those fruits are hidden from the people who do not believe in Jesus, & yet at the same time they can be visible to the people who do believe.
Left only to ourselves, & our emotions, it’s easy to be overcome by our suffering & by
the many tragedies of life on this earth. We are surrounded by thousands of bits of evidence each day that all is not well in our nation or in our homes or in our bodies. We do feel the weight of sin. Indeed, we “…groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Hoping for what we do not yet see requires patience.
“Likewise [God’s] Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Amen.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace; behind a frowning providence faith sees a smiling face. Blind unbelief is sure to err & scan His work in vain; God is His own interpreter, & He will make it plain. You fearful saints, fresh courage take; the clouds you so much dread are big with mercy & will break in blessings on your head. Amen. LSB 765:2, 4-5.
 Romans 8:23 ESV
 Romans 8:26-27 ESV
4th Sunday after Pentecost – A (Proper 10) LSB #’s 584, 577, 587
Text – Matthew 13:7
Other seeds fell among thorns, & the thorns grew up & choked them.
FALLING AMONG THE THORNS
There’s always a moment or two when I wonder if I’m going to end up falling among the thorns. It’s the season when blackberries are ripening & the patch has grown to such a point that it’s now quite difficult to reach into the center of it all.
If you’ve spent time picking fruit you know that the best looking of the crop always appears some place just out of reach. Picking blackberries, I will stretch & strain & strive to push through the tangled mass of vines in order to grab it. The danger is that solid footing is difficult to come by. The vines are incredibly entangled at the level of your feet.
If you’re not careful you can easily lose your balance & end up falling among the thorns. That would be a comical thing to watch & a painful event to endure. With the parable that was read in the Gospel lesson Jesus is addressing the pain that His disciples were probably feeling.
The religious leaders of the day were becoming increasingly antagonistic toward Jesus’ teaching. The crowds following Him were failing to grasp who He really was in spite of the miracles He’d performed. No doubt the 12 disciples were becoming discouraged by the lack of response among the people of Israel. As the Gospel of John put it in chapter 1:
“He came to his own, & His own people did not receive Him.” (1:11 ESV) Thus, the parable we read earlier is how Jesus answered the questions & doubts in the minds of those who were following Him. In the context of our culture, we’d ask, “Why isn’t the church growing?” So Jesus explains by likening the Word of God to seed that a farmer or gardener would sow.
Some seeds fall by the path & are immediately devoured by birds. Jesus wants His hearers to know that this stands for the sad fact that there’s a battle going on for the lives of men, women & children. Sometimes Satan simply takes away the message about the reign of God that Jesus proclaims. People who heard Jesus don’t understand His word or even begin to believe. St. Paul highlighted the urgency of believing when he wrote, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2b ESV)
Next, Jesus teaches that some seeds fall on rocky ground & after springing up quickly they whither & die. This is a picture of those who hear Jesus’ preaching & initially believe & follow. Yet, for some reason, they don’t put down roots deeply into Jesus’ teaching. When they experience personal difficulties because they’re following Jesus they turn away & no longer live as His disciples.
Then Jesus describes how some seeds fall into ground where thorns are also beginning to grow. Some people hear Jesus, believe & follow Him, but they get distracted. Their faith is choked off when wealth seduces them, or the general worries of life in this broken world slowly asphyxiate the hope & joy they once knew by the power of the Good News of God’s reign in this world.
The end result – most of the seed which is sown never produces fruit. It’s one of the central mysteries of the reign of heaven in this sinful world. When God at long last enters His creation, Jesus comes in ways that are mysteriously lowly & weak & resistible. So at the end of this parable Jesus utters the urgent call, “He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:9 ESV)
Those are the explanation parts of the parable. They teach us what is going on when our churches, efforts & people all seem to be failing. Then, the last part of the parable is meant to give us hope & joy. Some seeds fall on good soil & they produce great results.
In other words, some hear the Good News that God is coming to reclaim & forgive His people, including His creation. They hear & they understand. In their understanding they are fruitful for God, the Father of Jesus. Jesus has cast the forgiving Word of God far & wide. He is generous & extravagant in offering His mercy to all. He invites everyone who labors & is weary to find rest in Him. He has come to call even sinners to repentance. Hopefully you recognize that the parable is also meant for our benefit today.
The reign of God in our lives is also not what we expect, nor is it often what we want it to be. Yet, God reigns in & through, our doubts, our trials & our tribulations. Jesus teaches in parables in order to explain why this is the case. The parables begin by hiding the truth & then revealing it so we learn that we cannot know God of ourselves, but only by His revelation.
If we understood things correctly right away, we’d be left with the opinion that we were smart enough to figure it all out. In the narrative leading up to chapter 13 Jesus had been teaching the crowds with direct & simple truth. The crowds were not getting it. In response to this ongoing lack of understanding Jesus shifts His mode of teaching to parables.
This is somewhat like the prophet Nathan confronting David in a parable about his adultery with Bathsheba. First, the one who is guilty is hidden & David condemns the man. After that condemnation, God reveals to David that he is the guilty man. That led David to repent & to believe the Good News, that nevertheless, he was forgiven.
Jesus also taught in parables in order to conduct a sneak attack, to gain an opening in the hearer’s defenses. He tells parables to people who’ve been turning their hearts away from Him & from His message. The parables are to pull people up short & force them to think. Jesus hopes in some way to bring us to the truth about God’s reign in our lives & in our culture.
So the point of this parable has nothing to do with the kind of soil we are, or how we become good soil. Jesus teaches us, instead, that it is the Word of God alone that produces results. Granted, there are many people who resist God’s Word & deny it the fruit it deserves. Jesus describes their circumstances & how they end up rejecting any understanding of His rule in the here & now. That’s why our Lord ends with the words: “He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:9 ESV) Baptism & the Word of God have the power to change their heart into productive soil. Jesus tells this parable to encourage us that the OT reading is true:
“For as the rain & the snow come down from heaven & do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth & sprout, giving seed to the sower & bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, & shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV)
What are the thorns in your life today? Is it wealth? Is our culture gaining an ear so that you find yourself compromising the Word of God? Are you buying into the lie that evolution is proven science & God’s story of creation is just a fairy tale? Is all the corruption in Washington DC causing you to lose hope in God’s wisdom & power to work all things together for our good?
Then this parable of Jesus has the answer for you: “As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word & understands it. He indeed bears fruit & yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, & in another thirty.” (Matthew 13:23 ESV) Jesus is promising that His Word will yield abundantly in spite of all the problems we feel weighing upon us.
Jesus carried our thorns for us to the cross, as the Gospel of Matthew explains: “And they stripped Him & put a scarlet robe on Him, & twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head…” (Matthew 27:28-29 ESV) The result of Christ’s death in our place, & the power of the Word of God concerning that historical fact, is perfectly illustrated by the following event.
In 1994 a team of Christians visited Stavropol, Russia to distribute Bibles. A local citizen led them to an old warehouse that held many boxes of Bibles. They had been confiscated in the 1930s when Stalin was sending Christians to the gulags, & they’d never been moved. So the volunteers arranged to use them. Among those who showed up to help load the truck was a young agnostic student wanting to earn a day’s wage. But soon he slipped away from the job. When a team member looked for him, he found him sitting in a corner with a Bible he had taken from one of the boxes. The young man was crying.
The Bible he had picked up from the hundreds that were there was signed by his grandmother. She’d been persecuted for her faith yet no doubt had prayed for her family & even for this very grandson. Now the Holy Spirit was using her Bible to bring him to faith.
That incident really is the essence of the parable of the sower. Jesus gave it to us for our encouragement. God casts His Word throughout the world & it does not return to Him empty. It does yield a crop of faith many times over.
As a result, no matter how many times we may fall into the thorns, & no matter how often we wish our church would grow & do great things, by faith we know that our Lord already is accomplishing great things through those who believe in Him. Amen.
Almighty God, Your Word is cast like seed into the ground; now let the dew of heaven descend & righteous fruits abound. Let not the world’s deceitful cares the rising plant destroy, but let it yield a hundred fold the fruits of peace & joy. So when the precious seed is sown, life-giving grace bestow that all whose souls the truth receive its saving power may know. Amen. LSB 577:1, 3-4.
5th Sunday after Pentecost – A (Proper 9) LSB #573
Text – Matthew 11:27
All things have been handed over to me by my Father, & no one knows the Son except the Father, & no one knows the Father except the Son & anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.
What does it mean to be chosen by the Son of God? The devil has spent a lot of time & effort in order to confuse the issue in the minds of God’s people. Satan works at creating confusion hoping that some will be lost. I’ll be working with the following illustration in the hope of clearing the confusion & of strengthening your faith in Jesus Christ & in Him alone.
The 7-year-old boy of the family was asleep in his upstairs bedroom when a fire broke out on the 1st floor of their home. As the family gathered on the lawn outside, they suddenly heard the cry of the 7-year-old from the window above: “Daddy, save me!”
They saw him outlined in the glow of the fire, but he couldn’t see his family below because of thick black smoke. He just heard their voices: “Frankie, jump! We’ll catch you!” Frankie crept to the edge of the windowsill, but was afraid to jump. “Frankie, you must jump,” came the plea from his father. “But I can’t see you, Daddy! I can’t jump. Save me.”
The family & the neighbors added their encouragement. “All of us can see you. Your father will catch you. Jump, Frankie!” The boy felt the heat of the flames inching closer & closer. He knew he had to do something. He knew his father was a big, strong man, & he believed that his father loved him dearly. He wouldn’t lie.
So Frankie closed his eyes, jumped, & fell straight into his father’s waiting arms. If he remained in his bedroom, Frankie was as good as dead, but His father’s love for him gave Frankie life, the life to surrender into the arms of the waiting father. Otherwise, Frankie’s fears would have paralyzed him & been the cause of his death. The same reality is true of us, so Jesus frequently tells His followers not to be afraid. Jesus demonstrated His love for you by dying a horrible death, even suffering hell, in your place. Jesus demonstrated His almighty power for you through His resurrection from the dead. He is totally capable of saving you.
Will you jump? Will you surrender yourself into the arms of your Savior? It sounds easy enough in theory, yet putting it into practice on a day to day basis never seems to go well. St. Paul confessed in the reading from Romans 7: “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” (7:18b ESV)
After the sermon, we’ll be installing members of our congregation who’ve been chosen to serve God in this congregation. Will those men & women gladly serve their Lord with the 1st fruits of the blessings God has given them? Will they serve grudgingly & only when they feel pressured to do so? Will you encourage them in their work even when they make mistakes?
A famous preacher named Jonathan Edwards described the predicament the people are in whom our Creator calls us to serve:
“The devil stands ready to fall upon them & seize them as his own. …They belong to him; he has their souls in his possession & under his dominion. … [The demons] stand waiting for them, like greedy, hungry lions. … [T]he old Serpent is gaping for them. Hell opens her mouth to receive them.”
Those of you who’ve been chosen, “How will you serve your Lord & Savior? When temptation comes calling, will you reject the effort needed to serve?” God will be empowering you to do His will, but the option is there to reject it. You will not be forced to surrender into His arms. Like Frankie in the 2nd floor window a time will come when you cannot do it alone.
If not for the father & his family, would Frankie have died? Certainly. He did not have
the wherewithal within himself to save his life. He would have curled up & died, frozen with fear, as hell opened its mouth to receive him. It was the father who chose to save his son. The father spoke words of encouragement that changed the boy’s fear into faith in the father’s arms. The rest of his family also spoke words of encouragement that helped to change his heart.
It was those words, as it is with the Gospel, that changed Frankie’s fear into faith & thus he was saved. The boy made no decision to save himself. In fact he had no ability to do so without the strength & love of his father. Frankie finally surrendered himself to his father. He entrusted his life to his father’s arms.
The text for today’s sermon is quite clear: “…no one knows the Father except the Son & anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” As Jesus reveals the Father to us, some of us surrender to Him & by God’s power we’re changed into His children. Others refuse to surrender & determine to go their own way. They reject the mercy of their Creator & remain in unbelief.
“Hell opens its mouth to receive them. … [The demons] stand waiting for them, like greedy, hungry lions.” Until Judgment Day arrives, Jesus calls out to them, & to us as well, “Come to me, all who labor & are heavy laden, & I will give you rest. …& you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29 ESV)
Which is the more pleasant picture? Which scene offers life in abundance & which scene squeezes every last ounce of breath out of you? Jesus invites all people to come to Him. He offers to reveal the heavenly Father to them & such revelation has the power to change who you are, to transform you from death to life.
Some people reject that change which leaves them where they’re at – death. All of us begin our lives there, for all have fallen short of the glory of God, & the wages of sin is death. Will you repent & believe the Good News that your sins have been removed from you as far as the east is from the west? Will you surrender yourself into the safety of your heavenly Father’s arms? Will you accept the rest that Jesus offers? Those are questions that even children of God should be pondering, because every single day of our lives our hearts turn astray. We fall for the temptations of sin & in fear or shame we shy away from surrendering our lives back to Jesus.
We try to figure things out on our own. The world tells us that Christians don’t know what they’re talking about. We get caught up in that ourselves & forget that it’s our role to lean totally upon Jesus so that we can point Him out as Savior to the people we know who are lost in darkness. We are to encourage our fellow Christians with the Truth of Jesus Christ.
To save us, Yahweh chose the foolishness of the cross in order to shame the wise. In Biblical terms, the wise are people too proud to jump into the heavenly Father’s loving arms. The little children are those who recognize just how helpless they are. Like Frankie, they know they’ll die if they don’t surrender each day to their heavenly Father.
In the verses immediately before today’s Gospel lesson the wise & understanding, in their own minds, have been warned to repent. In the verses immediately after today’s Gospel lesson the Pharisees take counsel that this Jesus of Nazareth must be destroyed.
In between them, the reading for today reminds us that regardless of whether our ministry seems to be successful or not, God is God, & Jesus is a gracious Savior inviting everyone to come to Him for true & eternal rest. We do not choose Him. We are powerless to choose. Instead, Jesus chooses us for then our rescue is certain & sure.
Almost hidden in a secluded corner of a cemetery is a small gravestone, polished smooth by the wind & weather of many years. The stone no longer bears a name nor any date inscribed upon it. To the stranger passing by it tells nothing about the man, woman or child whose final resting place it marks; nothing except one thing! Still legible on the face of the fading stone, in letters that neither wind nor weather have been able to erase, is a single word – Forgiven! That is what it means to be chosen by God. He made the choice to send His Son to erase our sins. And as Jesus Himself said, “It is finished.” Amen.
Lord, ’tis not that I did choose Thee; that, I know could never be; for this heart would still refuse Thee had Thy grace not chosen me. Thou hast from the sin that stained me washed & cleansed & set me free & unto this end ordained me, that I ever live to Thee. It was grace in Christ that called me, taught my darkened heart & mind; else the world had yet enthralled me, to Thy heavenly glories blind. Now I worship none above Thee; for Thy grace alone I thirst, knowing well that, if I love Thee, Thou, O Lord, didst love me first. Amen. LSB 573:1-2.
 The Abingdon Preaching Annual 1995, compiled by Michael Duduit. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994, p. 227.
 Edwards, J., Sinners in the hands of an angry God – Sermon from the year 1741.
4th Sunday after Pentecost – A (Proper 8) LSB #541 to tune of #733
Text – Jeremiah 28:8
The prophets who preceded you & me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, & pestilence against many countries & great kingdoms.
WAR, FAMINE & PESTILENCE
On May 13, 1940, Winston Churchill addressed the British parliament as he was about to become prime minister. The troops of Adolph Hitler had already invaded Poland, & just begun their Blitzkrieg into France, Belgium & the Netherlands. War was crashing upon the world as Churchill stepped into leadership.
Unlike many politicians, Churchill did not promise a bright, optimistic future; he held out no hope of speedy victory or early peace. Instead, he electrified the parliament & unified his country with famous but difficult words: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears & sweat.” Can you picture any of our politicians campaigning on a slogan like that?
The prophet Jeremiah delivered a message similarly difficult: God’s righteous judgment was making itself known in the rising power of Judah’s enemy – Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar’s victory of was inescapable; captivity & long exile was looming – blood, toil, tears & sweat.
These were not only geopolitical realities, but as Jeremiah proclaimed, Yahweh Himself was directing events to judge His people & to call them to repentance. War, famine & pestilence are not pleasant words, but they were the reality facing God’s people because of their own unwillingness to submit to the will of their Creator & Redeemer.
It’s easy to say, “We believe in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God,” but submitting to His will, that’s another issue all together. Making Him #1 in every aspect of our lives, good times & bad, that’s where we truly find out what it means to “believe” in Jesus. People believe in Santa Claus for he brings presents & gifts. People believe in the tooth fairy because she leaves money behind. People play the Mega Millions Powerball Jackpot because they believe they might hit it big. Who believes in war, famine & pestilence? It seems our heavenly Father does because He had His prophets preach that sermon on many occasions.
Jeremiah is often called the “weeping prophet” due to his persistent message of God’s judgment. Micah prophesied in the days of King Hezekiah, “…Zion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins...” (Micah 3:12 ESV) So when the false prophet Hananiah predicted victory & peace within two years, Jeremiah had to confront him.
Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in Him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, & you will know the truth, & the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 ESV) Lies are always used by Satan to enslave people. Why are we so tolerant of them? We’re not pleased with sermon titles about war, famine & pestilence, yet all of them spring forth from lies.
Jeremiah’s entire ministry was a type of martyrdom as his life was constantly being threatened by other men, yet Jeremiah followed the truth. He obeyed His Creator. You & I are to fear God & we are not to fear men. We should fear God in the sense of obeying Him rather than obeying the teachings of men.
In the OT reading, Hananiah was preaching the easy lies which men wanted to hear. Jeremiah was preaching the hard truth of God & his life was threatened for it. Discerning between true & false prophets is never merely an exercise in theory. Lies bring about war, famine & pestilence. Our Lord’s truth brings life. It creates life. It restores life.
However, it takes faith from God’s Holy Spirit to believe that, because Jeremiah’s prophecy made it clear that Babylon would conquer the nation of Israel, that such conquest was God’s will, & any would-be prophet who predicted otherwise was simply lying. It would be easier on us now if there was forgiveness without repentance, but we cannot return to God without actually returning to Him. The nation of Israel tried it & they died. All the worldly powers in our United States are trying it now. They will die trying as well. The false prophet Hananiah was offering the people false comfort. The elite & well-connected men & women in our culture are doing the same. They want us to give up the Word of God as outdated.
Rather than resist our culture & do battle against the lies of the rich & famous, who would not prefer a quick and easy peace? I’m sure Winston Churchill did as well. Our selfish nature just wants to live its own life, according to its own desires; which is exactly why the Lord God was sending His wrath & judgment on Israel. They only wanted the same.
Even Jeremiah wishes what Hananiah said were true. In verse 6 of the OT reading he says, “Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord make the words you have prophesied come true.” Yet he also reminds Hananiah, & us, that God’s prophets are usually bearers of bad news: “war, famine & pestilence.” (28:8)
Even Jesus gets into the act in the Gospel reading: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34 ESV) That is a startling warning coming from the lips of the Prince of Peace. The words of Jeremiah, concerning true & false prophets, help us listen to that much greater Prophet.
How do we know if any prophet speaks the truth? We know by seeing whether or not what he said actually happens. The sword of judgment from God really did fall on Christ on the cross. It was His blood, His toil, His tears & His sweat that satisfied Yahweh’s judgment & brought us peace. That is the rich, costly freedom of Yahweh’s saving love.
How do we know if any prophet speaks the truth? Our heavenly Father’s grace & victory for us actually did dawn with Christ’s resurrection. The new creation has come into being in the risen flesh & blood of Jesus Christ. Our resurrection too, will be part of that new creation. Then, war & famine & pestilence will be gone for all eternity. For today, speaking & showing the truth about how God loves life, & chooses life, may not bring temporal peace, but through faith we do see the all-surpassing hope & joy of living forever in Yahweh’s family.
Our Lord’s love of life not only preserves us in adversity but also reaches out & rescues those deceived by the devil’s lies. That category includes us, “For all have sinned & fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23 ESV)
What St. Paul wrote about in his letter to the Romans is not comfortable or pretty. Though harsh it is truth. The prophet Jeremiah holds out the same thought. And the 1st words of the Gospel reading from Jesus aren’t exactly how our culture would go about creating a safe space. The truth often hurts, but in God’s kingdom it also creates life.
We have the privilege of living our lives on the foundation of the blood, toil, tears & sweat of Jesus Christ Himself, our Lord & our Savior. That may seem old-fashioned, outdated & hopelessly unenlightened to our modern & progressive culture, but the cross of Jesus is truth –hard, solid, unchangeable & eternal. Jesus has rescued us from this body of death. Amen.
“Away from us!” the demon cried when Christ, the Lord, drew near. “Our dark, disordered world is lost when You, the Light, appear!” But Jesus spoke with God’s own power; “Come forth!” was His command; for evil cannot bear the Light nor sin the Truth withstand. O risen Christ, God’s living Word, to us, we pray, draw near. Come, speak the truth that cleanses sin with love that conquers fear. Drive out the doubt that cripples faith; expel our pride & greed that we, from powers that threaten us, may, by Your grace, be freed. Then help us, Lord, to greet each day with hearts & wills made new &, when You call us forth to serve, to rise & follow You. Amen. LSB 541
Pastor Dean R. Poellet