12th Sunday after Pentecost – C (Proper 17) LSB #’s 902, 641:1-3, 5, 698
Text – Luke 14:4a
But they remained silent.
In our day, the remote control has a mute button. Sadly, that only works on the television. I think all of us have wished, at one time or another, to have the power Jesus did to silence those who opposed His teaching. I wonder how many of you would use that mute button while I’m preaching? Effectively, some people do by staying home on Sunday morning.
Later in the gospel of Luke, the scribes & chief priests sent spies in order to trap Jesus. They asked Him, “Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” (Luke 20:22 ESV) That’s the occasion when Jesus replies, “…render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, & to God the things that are God’s.” (Luke 20:25 ESV) Luke summarizes the incident like this:
“…they were not able in the presence of the people to catch Him in what He said, but marveling at His answer they became silent.” (Luke 20:26 ESV) After they make one more attempt to trap Jesus, & He again confounds them with wisdom, Luke writes: “…they no longer dared to ask Him any question.” (Luke 20:40 ESV)
The Pharisees, the chief priests & the scribes were never able to embarrass Jesus or get the upper hand. He always outwitted them so they resorted to lying about Jesus & then getting Him killed. Conflicts seem to play out in the same way in our world, don’t they? “If you can’t beat them, join them,” is the humorous saying.
The reality is more like, “If you can’t beat them, have them killed.” It’s what Cain did to his brother Abel, & murder has been going on ever since. In the Gospel of Luke, the death of Jesus is still a bit down the road, but in our nation, murder is a daily & a nightly occurrence. Given the limitations you & I suffer with, because of sin, we like to think that if we could just silence our enemies that would be a victory. The Creator of heaven & earth does not look at it that way. We should be grateful for that. At Mark 1:15, we find what Yahweh considers to be a victory: “The time promised by God has come at last!” He announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins & believe the Good News!” (NLT)
That sermon was given by Jesus immediately after He was baptized. Victory, in His terms, involves not silence, but repentance. At baptism, when I ask, “Do you renounce the devil?” silence is not the preferred reaction. “Yes, I renounce him,” is the response that God’s host of angels long to hear.
In our culture, you may have seen the signs that some protestors carry, “Silence is violence!” God would agree. Problems arise, however, in the human definition of what is evil. In our day, many human beings are calling evil what God defines as good. All sinful beings struggle with doing good & resisting evil, but calling good evil is to refuse repentance.
That’s what had happened to the nation of Israel as a whole, when God warned them through Isaiah, “Woe to those who call evil good & good evil…” (5:20 ESV) In spite of God’s love for them, for many years the people of Israel had been refusing His love. They were refusing to repent; refusing to turn back to the God who created them & gave them life.
Instead, they were choosing death & it truly was killing them. Isaiah was warning them of their coming destruction, yet, God is able to bring true good even out of destruction. He can use the destruction like a refining fire to burn away the false & bring out only what is true. The reading from Proverbs 25 spoke of that:
“Take away the dross from the silver, & the smith has material for a vessel.” (25:4 ESV) Is that painful? Oh yeah, but the pain comes from sin’s corruption of God’s creation. You & I are the source of our pain, not God. All human beings suffer in this life, & we die in this life because we are corrupted by sin. God sent His Son Jesus to rescue sinners from this broken world, but He does not force us to be saved. Sadly, many people make a willful choice not to be rescued. They remain silent when offered the opportunity to confess their sins & be cleansed of them. All of us have that strong desire to do things on our own.
That desire is often what God is removing from us through the fires of refining. That desire to do it my way is the dross that God removes from the silver. Once that desire is removed, then the children of God no longer remain silent, as Psalm 106 makes clear:
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, ‘Amen!’ Praise the Lord!” (106:48 ESV) Psalm 111 speaks of our praise in church, “Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.” (111:1 ESV)
In the face of God, rather than remaining silent we confess our sins & shout the glory of the Lord. We do this because He washes away our sins & makes us clean & right & holy in His sight. That’s what today is supposed to be all about, resurrection from the dead.
In the OT that day was the Sabbath. It too was all about life & forgiveness, but the religious leaders in that day had made the Sabbath about anything but mercy. It was all about the letter of the law. So, those leaders set a trap for Jesus, because they felt that He was too easy on people. In their opinion, Jesus was kind to people who were not real children of God.
When Jesus asked them, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” they understood that the correct answer was yes, but to admit that would reveal that the entire “religious” system, in which they had gained power, was a mess. It no longer had anything to do with the heart of God. Thus, the awkward silence. . .
Not only had their plot failed to trap Jesus, they themselves were being revealed as
heartless. They had been trapped by their own trap. And that is what sin so often does to us. At those moments, the Holy Spirit is inviting us to turn away from our foolishness. He’s inviting you & me to turn to God & be delivered from it. Paul describes that when he writes:
“For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind & making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:22-25a ESV)
Paul was not silent when confronted with his sin. Likewise, we too should use the power the Holy Spirit gives us to repent & give thanks to God that He has enabled us to believe the Good News. All our sins are forgiven, & the resurrection of Jesus, from the dead, proves that there is life after the grave – perfect, beautiful & peaceful life.
Our saintly nature does not want to be silent about that, but our sinful nature does. Who will deliver us from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.
As when the shepherd calls his sheep, they know & heed his voice; so when You call Your family, Lord, we follow & rejoice. With joyful lips we sing to You our praise & gratitude that You should count us worthy, Lord, to share this heavenly food. The mystery of Your presence, Lord, no mortal tongue can tell: Whom all the world can not contain comes in our hearts to dwell. You give Yourself to us, O Lord; then selfless let us be, to serve each other in Your name in truth & charity. Amen. LSB 641:1-2, 4-5.
this old house
This is the sermon Pastor Poellet preached at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Frankentrost. Pastor grew up at this congregation and they are celebrating their 175th anniversary during 2022.
11th Sunday after Pentecost – C (Proper 16) LSB #’s 821:1-3, 528, 821:4-5
Text – Isaiah 66:22
For as the new heavens & the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the Lord, so shall your offspring & your name remain.
THIS OLD HOUSE
It is a joy to be here with you as you continue to celebrate 175 years of Immanuel Lutheran Church history. God’s house, here at Frankentrost, has seen a lot of changes through the years. I’ve been alive during 63 years of that history, well less than half, but I have seen some real characters come & go in that time.
However, I’ve got to say, I am noticing some gray hair creeping in. With some of us, the electrical wiring is shorting out. With others, the plumbing has gone bad. And others still have a few cracks in the plaster. Some of our hinges don’t move like they used to, & they squeak a lot more than they once did.
With old house remodeling, the phrase “money pit,” describes how you keep pouring money in but the pit never gets filled. Physical health ends up a lot like an old house remodeling project. Even with insurance, financial planners suggest that a couple can expect to spend around $400,000 on health care just during their retirement years.
As the book of Isaiah draws to a close, the nation of Israel had become a dilapidated old house – a money pit. No amount of blessings that God invested in it could ever fill that hole. The house of David was abandoned, empty & desolate. Its people had been dragged off to a house not their own amongst a people & a language not their own.
The Israelite rebellion had led them & their house to this place. When Yahweh called, no one answered. When He spoke, no one listened. They did evil in His sight & willfully chose what did not delight the Lord. (Isaiah 66:4) David’s old house is full of suffering & pain. His old house was filled with disease & misery. The old house was built on lies & corruption. The old house would one day be destroyed by smoke & fire as the Babylonians burned the city of Jerusalem to the ground. Isaiah predicted it as did the only-begotten Son of God. What kind of house are you building today? What is God’s prediction for your home?
King Solomon knew a thing or two about building, & he shared his wisdom in Psalm 127, “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” (127:1a ESV) As many blessings as God has given to His people here at Immanuel, sinful creatures that all of us are, we have misused His blessings & often made a terrible mess of things.
We live in an old house that will one day be destroyed. As our nation descends into complete idolatry, as even churches & pastors leave behind the truth of God’s revelation, what will become of us? What will happen to your children or to our communities that have been formed by the crucified Son of God? What will happen to this 175-year-old house?
January 7, 1951 the wooden church that used to stand here burned to the ground. It was a devastating blow to this congregation, yet within 14 years, by 1965, a new church & a new school had been built & put into operation. When people follow Jesus they are blessed, because remaining in the Vine causes the branch to live & grow & bear fruit.
Many people in church communities today no longer embrace the gift of salvation offered by Jesus. Instead, they follow the thoughts & the ways of men, which are idolatry. You may recognize this well-known verse from Isaiah: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” (55:8 ESV)
By the time Isaiah gets to the early verses of chapter 66, the idolatrous faction of the church in his day, had completely denounced the remnant of Yahweh that still clung to the truth of His teaching. Many church leaders & pastors in our time are denouncing as haters & bigots anyone who clings to the truth of Yahweh’s teaching. They like to think that they have evolved beyond that ancient & backward understanding of truth. In other words, “We’re smarter than that now.” What is amazing & very disturbing at the same time, is how little of reality those ‘smarter than that’ people can see. They have no clue.
Their ‘reality’ is upside down & inside out in every way. In chapter 5, Isaiah warned about the dangers of sin & idolatry: “Woe to those who call evil good & good evil, who put darkness for light & light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet & sweet for bitter!” (5:20 ESV) From my perspective, that perfectly describes the mainstream media & culture in our land.
As disheartening as that can be, there are now boundless opportunities to share the love of Jesus Christ with people who have no clue. As I grew up here in Frankentrost, I did not know a single person who was lost to hell for eternity. I know people like that now. I can see their need for Jesus in so many ways. You probably know some of those people too.
It’s true that many of them want nothing to do with the real Jesus. At best, they’re willing to tolerate a Jesus that they make up in their own heart & mind. But there are some who will follow Christ & their lives are changed for all of eternity.
A lady named Keiko grew up Buddhist in Japan. Her older sister was attending a Catholic school & for one of her classes needed a Bible. Out of curiosity, Keiko began to read it but assumed the stories were just myth & fairytale. She doesn’t know when, but over time, at some point, she began to believe that the words are true. Now she is a faithful Christian.
Sometimes God calls us to help people take those first tentative steps into the Christian faith. At other times, He calls us to strengthen & encourage people who already follow Jesus. And there are times when the Holy Spirit calls us to be with someone as they leave this life to enter heaven. God provides all sorts of opportunities for us to share the love of Jesus, our Lord & Savior. Those opportunities are there in good times & in bad. They are there in cultures that follow Jesus & in cultures that do not. And God sent people to be with us as we took, or are still taking, those first tentative steps of faith. He sends people to strengthen & encourage us as we follow our Savior.
And if friends or family can’t be with us as we enter heaven, Jesus is there to receive us. The original Frankentrost settlers had many troubles 175 years ago. All of us have our struggles today. With our government increasingly turning against public expression of the Christian faith there are more troubles ahead. Listen to these words from Matthew 24:
“And you will hear of wars & rumors of wars… For nation will rise against nation, & kingdom against kingdom, & there will be famines & earthquakes in various places. And then many will fall away & betray one another & hate one another. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.” (24:6-7, 10, 12 ESV)
God’s Word makes it clear that we cannot predict when the world will end, but those words of Matthew 24 are sounding eerily familiar. The point Jesus is making is this, “Be ready, because you don’t know when the end is coming!” We don’t know when this old house will collapse once & for all.
You see, it’s not just you & me that are getting older. It’s not just our churches or nation. It’s the entire universe that is becoming this old house. That’s what sin does to all of this creation. It’s why God gave the life of His Son – to reverse the curse. This old house needs to be rebuilt right from the foundation & cornerstone.
As he wrote, Isaiah had been wondering, & so do we, if Yahweh will ever come down to address the plight of His true children. “How can You be silent & afflict us forever?” are the words Isaiah used in 64:12. In the last chapter of Isaiah, the Lord amplifies His response, begun in chapter 65, to the praying faithful. He continues to drive home a two-pronged message, insisting that the hand of the Lord is with His servants, & His indignation is against His enemies. Let the faithful take heart; let the wicked be warned. Already in chapter 57, God said:
“I dwell in the high & holy place, & also with him who is of a contrite & lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, & to revive the heart of the contrite.” (57:15 ESV) Those who tremble at God’s Word will be persecuted for His name’s sake & will bear the taunts even of family, but it is those doing the taunting who will be put to eternal shame.
We live in an old house. It can be discouraging as we see the plaster cracking, the plumbing leaking & hear the hinges squeaking. The people of our nation no longer honor God as they once did. It was the same story in Isaiah’s day. People can only handle God’s blessing for so long. Then we take it for granted & go our own way.
As the book of Isaiah draws to a close, God is reassuring us that He is already at work building a new house: “For as the new heavens & the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the LORD, so shall your offspring & your name remain.” But it’s not just the house that will remain before God. It is also the names of His people.
From Abraham to Zehnder & every name in between, that trusts in the Lord, & all their faithful offspring, shall remain forever before the heavenly Father. Because of our sinful nature, all of us have spent hours building the wrong kind of house. Yet, God’s prediction for your home & for mine is eternal. They shall remain forever before the Lord.
Our new home shall never need remodeling because it is being built of living stones that are connected to the Vine & are producing fruit for the Lord. Every time we turn back to Him, our sins are painted over by the blood of Christ. Each of us who follows Jesus can trace our roots back, not just 175 years, but all the way to God’s promise to Abraham that he will have descendants as numerous as the stars. In this new house that God is building, “…people will come from east & west, & from north & south, & recline at table in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 13:29 ESV)
The world of home improvement television has exploded since it first began in 1979 with the arrival of “This Old House.” It was a PBS show that looked at renovating historical homes. Over the years, restoration television has seen a boost in popularity thanks to the creation of networks like “HGTV,” which are all about embracing your fantasies for a bigger, better home.
Any fantasies you may have about a bigger & better home will pale in comparison to that one that Yahweh Himself is creating for us. If you are bothered by the old house that you currently live in, remember these words of Jesus:
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go & prepare a place for you, I will come again & will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3 ESV) Amen.
When life’s troubles rise to meet me, though their weight may be great, they will not defeat me. God, my loving Savior, sends them; He who knows all my woes knows how best to end them. God gives me days of gladness, & I will trust Him still when He sends me sadness. God is good; His love attends me day by day, come what may, guides me & defends me. Now in Christ, death cannot slay me, though it might, day & night, trouble & dismay me. Christ has made my death a portal from the strife of this life to His joy immortal. Amen. LSB 756:2-3, 5.
What Was Promised
10th Sunday after Pentecost – C (Proper 15) LSB #’s 720, 748, 411
Text – Hebrews 11:39
And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised.
What Was Promised
Promises, promises! It’s a phrase that people use when they do not believe the person who’s making the promise. It goes along with the line, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!” How important to you is it that your friends & acquaintances keep their promises? The reading from Hebrews highlights the long-term perspective taken by God.
This morning, the sermon piggy backs on to the sermon from last Sunday. It will continue to meditate on the nature of faith. This began last week with the emphasis on faith as the basis for hope. It gave examples from Abel all the way to Israel’s entrance into the Promised Land. Now the emphasis will shift to the results of faith.
This new emphasis is framed by the use of the phrase ‘through faith.’ The author names Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel & the prophets “who through faith conquered kingdoms…” That’s in verse 33. Verse 39 closes the frame by stating, “And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised.”
That seemingly negative thought is the guiding thought for this morning’s sermon. And that thought is preceded by these words regarding those who trusted in God, they:
“…suffered mocking & flogging, even chains & imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep & goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated… wandering about in deserts & mountains, in dens & caves of the earth.” (Hebrews 11:36-38 ESV)
Unlike 30 years ago, & more, it is not difficult today to regard Christians as a despised minority of contemporary society. However, with his letter, the author of Hebrews is making a passionate appeal for us to instead regard ourselves imaginatively as part of a heroic community with God’s backing. He wants us to identify emotionally with all the named & nameless people of faith. Over millennia, they have born witness to Yahweh, & His love for us, by what they achieved & by what they suffered.
It is faithful endurance of suffering that most clearly demonstrates the power of faith. The faithful people of God endure Abel-like suffering even when that is all that their physical eyes can see. Meanwhile, their eyes of faith look forward to & ‘see’ their eternal salvation. Here on earth, God’s children do not receive what was promised. That comes on the Last Day.
Intellectually that’s understandable enough. Emotionally, suffering is much more difficult to accept, especially due to the long-term nature of the payoff. It’s easier for us to accept suffering if there’s an end in sight. It’s less trouble to endure suffering if the payoff is 20 minutes from now.
Abel & Abraham, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel & the prophets have all been dead for thousands of years & they still have not received what was promised. Each of them is still a soul without the resurrection from the dead. They are still waiting for God to fulfill His promise. All the children of God are still waiting for the result of their faith.
Throughout history God’s children have struggled to live by faith. Faith is the basis for our hope, but our faith is weak. Through faith we will gain results, but all of us are still waiting for that ultimate, never-ending result that Jesus referred to as paradise.
And who on earth waits longer to see the results of their work than teachers? We have kindergarten graduation ceremonies, but the graduates are far from a finished product. The same is true for graduation from 8th grade & high school & even from college. In the Christian realm our graduation does not occur until our body is raised from death & reunited with our soul. Until then, we have not received what the heavenly Father has promised. Sinful creatures that we are, having to wait patiently can be frustrating, because every aspect of our lives is corrupted by sin. Nothing works out perfectly for anyone, ever. Even if God performs a miracle our sinful nature is still not unhappy. We see that in our nation right now – anger in so many places.
What’s your response to all that anger? The author of Hebrews is trying to help his audience deal with their struggles against sin. The book seems to have been written in the latter half of the 1st century, to what was likely a Jewish-Christian house church in the city of Rome.
The audience of Hebrews was likely a small community that stood apart from the culture of its day. The courage of the people there had not failed in time of crisis, but it was failing in the long, drawn out, unending struggle with sin in small ways. They were sliding down the slippery slope rather than falling off the cliff.
They were facing persecution & ridicule which caused them to be offended at what they saw as the weakness of Christ. They were looking for a Savior to make things happen, like conquer the pagan Roman rulers. They may have wanted their house church to grow & change lives dramatically. Maybe they felt like they were not receiving what was promised.
They wanted to ‘see’ results rather than continue living by faith. Their frustrations were overwhelming them. They were tired & worn down by life in this sinful world. The last verse of the reading from Hebrews points them, & hopefully you see it too, in the right direction:
“Consider [Jesus] who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (12:3 ESV) Living out our day to day lives is a battle, & like the soldiers in Ukraine, we get tired, especially when all that we see is our own resources. The resources of Jesus Christ are infinite even though you can’t see them with your eyes.
God has promised a new creation & He raised Jesus from the dead as proof that He is
going to complete it, but sitting here now, you can’t see any of that either. And when the disciples first saw Jesus, after the resurrection, even though they saw Him with their own eyes, they still did not believe it. When it comes to the things of God, eyesight is highly overrated. Trusting Jesus, no matter what we see, is what the cloud of witnesses commend us to.
In life & in death, in prosperity & adversity, in victory & in persecution, Yahweh vindicated His OT people for their faith in Messiah. We shall see proof of that as they are raised from the dead on the Last Day, & by seeing it we will have proof that our own resurrection has occurred. On that Day all God’s children will fully receive what God has promised.
It is worth waiting for, through joys & sorrows, through blessing & tribulation. We struggle because God works with such a long-term perspective. He’s eternal. Our lives fall a little bit short of that. It’s not unusual for our courage to fail in the face of eternity. The OT cloud of witnesses struggled as well, but remained faithful by God’s grace & mercy.
We can lean on God’s grace & mercy as well. He is faithful to all His promises, but in the time that He knows is best. As our culture moves away from God, faith in Jesus will become even more important in our lives because increasingly we will no longer blend in with society around us. Faith in God will not fail, even though we do, because God never fails.
It is not our faith alone that saves, but faith in the almighty God is what saves, & it is through faith in the almighty God that we receive results such as forgiveness & eternal life. This story gives an illustration of the Christian life.
A group of Japanese high school students was on a tour of the United States. As they went through busy airport terminals & tourist sites, their leader told them, “I will hold a Japanese flag high above my head as we work our way through the crowds. Just keep an eye on the flag & you won’t get lost!” When the group returned to Japan, a teacher asked them, “What is the one thing you remember most about your trip to the United States?” They replied in unison, “The Japanese flag!” Whenever they were concerned about their greatest fear, getting lost, they found comfort & courage in seeing their flag. Christ Jesus is our flag.
Whenever we find ourselves struggling, Jesus calls us to look to Him, the founder & the perfector of our faith. When we get to heaven, if St. Peter asks you, “What is the one thing you remember most about your life on earth?” the answer will be “Jesus!” Amen.
I’m but a stranger here, heaven is my home; earth is a desert drear, heaven is my home. Danger & sorrow stand round me on every hand; heaven is my fatherland, heaven is my home. What though the tempest rage, heaven is my home; short is my pilgrimage, heaven is my home; & time’s wild wintry blast soon shall be overpast; I shall reach home at last, heaven is my home. Amen. LSB 748:1-2.
SPEAKING FROM THE DEAD
9th Sunday after Pentecost – C (Proper 14) LSB #’s 813:1-2, 4-6, 828:1-4, 750:1-3, 5, 7
Text – Hebrews 11:4
By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.
SPEAKING FROM THE DEAD
The prophet Samuel had died & King Saul was in a world of hurt. The army of the Philistines was gathered against him & he was afraid. When he inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer, so he said to his servants, “Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her & inquire of her.”
When Saul arrived the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” He said, “Bring up Samuel.” Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?”
Saul answered, “I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me, & God has turned away from me & answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams. Therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do.” Samuel replied,
“Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has turned from you & become your enemy? …Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord & did not carry out His fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the Lord has done this thing to you this day. Moreover, the Lord will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, & tomorrow you & your sons shall be with me.” 
Samuel was speaking from the dead, telling King Saul that in 24 hours, he & his sons would be dead as well. In our day, the idea of someone speaking from the dead is usually associated with horror movies. Speaking from the dead is not the kind of thing you normally connect with our conservative denomination of the Lutheran church.
In the book of Hebrews, God’s Word contains a much more positive & useful kind of
speaking from the dead. It’s nothing sensational nor horrific, but it does highlight how pervasive
is the impact of faith. Abel has been dead for at least 6000 years, yet through his faith in the Creator, Abel still speaks to you & to me:
“By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.” (Hebrews 11:4 ESV)
If someone you & I never met can do that, how about the godly parents & grandparents that we have known? How might their faith still speak to us today? In the case of Abel, he gave an offering to God that was motivated by sincere gratitude to his heavenly Father.
Since Cain murdered him for this, it probably wasn’t the 1st time that Abel had upset his brother. If that’s the case, Abel did not allow his brother’s jealousy, or lack of faith, to push Abel away from God. Abel clung to & trusted his Lord even to the point of death. Abel’s witness to us is not simply one of words, but also of faithful action.
While we are still alive, what do our words say to others? Do our actions preach the same sermon, or do our actions contradict our words? Is your heart aligned with the Creator? Once we’re dead our legacy is set in stone.
The words & the actions of Cain contradicted each other. His heart was not aligned with his Creator. Only the faith of his brother is cited by the Word of God as still speaking today. Will your faith in Jesus still be speaking once you are gone?
More & more the culture of our nation is telling us that Christianity is a fairy tale. If you tell someone outside the church that through his faith, Abel is still speaking today, they might laugh at you if they had any idea who Abel was. The world will gladly accept it if you believe that the dead speak through the trees, or the rocks, or the clouds, or the rivers. But if you dare to say that through faith in Jesus Christ Abel still speaks today, you will be labeled crazy. Science cannot fathom faith & science is but one of the false gods that our culture now worships. Through science, God has allowed human beings to do amazing things, but science is not to be worshipped. As the reading from Hebrews began,
“…faith is the substance of things hoped for, & the sign that the things not seen are true.” (Hebrews 11:1) Jesus Christ is the focal point of the Christian faith, but none of us here today have seen Him. “In the beginning, God created the heavens & the earth,” (Genesis 1:1 ESV) but none of us was there to see that. Our broken world is real, but it is not true. Heaven is!
Heaven is true because it will be creation as our Lord & Savior intended it to be – perfect & beautiful beyond anything that you or I can comprehend today. It is so beyond anything we have experienced, that the only way we can attempt to describe it is by saying what it is not – no more tears, no more sorrow, and no more pain.
“…faith is the substance of things hoped for, & the sign that the things not seen are true.” (Hebrews 11:1) Christianity is NOT a fairy tale, but the world certainly tells us that it is. It is the lie of Satan himself, that this world is true & heaven is not. To base & entrust your life on what you can see in this world that is actually committing yourself to unreality.
Actual reality – the Way, the Truth & the Life – is in what is not readily seen: Christ as Lord. What is real? Jesus, who is the world’s rightful & reigning King, but He hides this reality from view so that it must be seen with the eyes of faith. Faith in the Word, in Holy Baptism, in Holy Communion, & in the bride of Christ which is the new Israel – that is reality.
That faith is ‘the conviction of things not seen’ points to the capacity of faith to discern reality that is not visible to the naked eye. Faith sees heaven even now. Faith sees the glorious future that awaits all of those who follow Jesus. Already now, faith sees the “great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes & peoples & languages, standing before the throne & before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, & crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, & to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:9-10 ESV)
Still today, faith hears Abel speaking through the offering he brought to God in faith. Satan, working through Cain, tried to silence the words & the faith of Abel. Satan failed even though Abel died. Thousands of years later, Satan failed again, even though Jesus died.
Abel’s body is still in the grave until the Last Day but Jesus is already risen. The new creation, the true reality, has already begun in the resurrected body of Jesus Christ. On the Last Day all of the physical creation will be completely restored to a state of perfection.
Through his faith, Abel still speaks to us today. By faith Noah built the Ark though no one had ever seen a flood. By faith Abraham traveled to a foreign land that he’d never seen. By faith, Sarah conceived a child even though she was long past the physical ability to do so. By faith, you & I trust in God no matter how far our culture & even pastors run away from Him.
By faith those who follow Jesus trust that He has paid for all our sins & erased them with His blood. Every time our actions have contradicted our words, the Holy Spirit has been at work realigning our hearts with God. As the Gospel reading taught:
“Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, & yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!” (12:24-25 ESV) God loves us & is working to restore us to His original perfect design, because you are of infinite value to Him.
The Gospel also reassures us in verse 32, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” That is telling us it’s a done deal. The kingdom is ours so we can live in it already now. Faith in Jesus allows us to ‘see’ what cannot be seen with our physical sight. We see the glory of God in the stars of the sky. The journey that God has put us on will take us from our lives of struggle here on earth all the way to lives with zero struggles in the eternal city of God.
“And [God] brought him outside & said, ‘Look toward heaven, & number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then He said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ And he believed the Lord, & He counted it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:5-6 ESV) Amen.
We are called to stand together with the saints of ages past, with the patriarchs & prophets in the faith they once held fast; promises & hopes they treasured now we find fulfilled at last! Now in many tongues & cultures songs of celebration ring; millions who confess our Savior honor Him as Lord & King &, for courage, grace & guidance every day their prayers they bring. To each coming generation tell the truth, persuade, explain, till the time when time is ended, till the Savior comes again – till the saints are all united under Christ’s eternal reign! Amen. LSB 828:1, 4-5.
 This entire introduction contains various verses of 2 Samuel 28 ESV.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet