2nd Sunday in Lent – A LSB #’s 908, 915, 698
Text – Romans 4:16b-17
Abraham is the father of us all, as it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” In the presence of God, Abraham believed that God makes the dead live & calls into being that which does not exist. (NIV)
IN THE PRESENCE OF GOD
Some things you have to see to believe; like the Grand Canyon. It’s just too big for any photograph to capture. Even having hiked from the top of the canyon to the bottom, & back out again, I still can’t do justice to it with mere words. You have to be there in order for your mind to get a hold of how enormous it is.
And then, if being there & looking at it from the top down still doesn’t allow you to grasp it, hiking all the way from the bottom to the top, will absolutely allow ever muscle in your legs to grasp the enormity of that hole in the ground. I was seriously concerned about whether or not I would make it out alive.
When I made it to the top, finally, I felt as if God had truly made the dead live. But I was young & my body recovered quickly. The physical suffering & the emotional doubt I struggled with that day was really nothing more than a small lesson in the much larger picture of life. Still, my view of how invincible I was had changed in the presence of the Grand Canyon.
Abraham’s life changed in the presence of God. The OT reading for today records the call of Abraham. “The Lord said to him, ‘Leave your country, your relatives & your father’s home, & go to a land I will show you.’” (Genesis 12:1)
That is a drastic, open-ended request. It says nothing about where he’d be going, & they didn’t have twitter in those days for keeping in touch once you moved away, let alone cell phones or the US Mail. But Abram went as the Lord told him. How often has God asked any of us to make that drastic a change in our lives? Not very often, has He? We don’t have to move away from our country, our relatives, or even our parent’s home in order to be in the presence of God each Sunday. Yet, in our culture today, that seems to be a monumental task. To many it’s unreasonable. And gathering together with God’s family only once a week doesn’t necessarily keep your head above water, let alone get you safely back to shore.
The society we live in now is working to remove God wherever possible. Our souls are drowning in it. It’s suffocating them to death. It’s even been referred to as a “culture” of death, because more & more people are promoting death as a solution to problems.
The words “pro-choice” are used to disguise the fact that the death of an unborn child is considered a solution to someone’s mistake. Euthanasia is trumpeted as a way to die with dignity & with independence. If a person’s quality of life doesn’t meet some arbitrary standards then it’s presumed that death, administered to the patient, is the better option.
Each of those deaths is encouraged because people have given up hope of life. They do not believe that God makes the dead live. Or they’re afraid to believe, because if you truly believe in something it’s inevitable that a call for commitment will follow. And commitment is never the quickest solution, since by definition it means you are in for the long haul.
Once I was tired, & only half way out of the Grand Canyon, it was a constant battle to keep my mind off of how hopeless things appeared. To a woman who’s pregnant & in poor economic circumstances, the situation is a lot more serious than that of a wimpy hiker climbing out of the Grand Canyon.
To a person struggling with all the issues that come along with a terminal illness, it’s easy to understand how commitment can seem very pointless. To the child whose parent has been in the nursing home & unresponsive for several years, it’s not difficult to sympathize with the fact that they’ve grown weary of the ordeal. With no hope for the future in this life, in a sense,
death has already occurred; at the very least, death to hopes & to dreams. So what’s the point? The point from our text is not that God will always work miracles as He did with Abraham & Sarah. As far as having a child of their own, they were old enough for their hopes to be dead. Abraham was cited for his great faith in that he believed God actually makes the dead to live.
Abraham & Sarah finally did have a child, but not all of our struggles & suffering in this life will have such a happy ending, or such recognizable results. The key to the sermon text for this morning, & to peace in a Christian’s life, is this: In the presence of God, Abraham believed.
Just as my view of how invincible I was had been changed, in the presence of the Grand Canyon, so Abraham was changed in the presence of God. Sarah & Abraham had no logical reason to believe that they would ever have a child. Yet Abraham believed anyway.
Some things you do have to see in order to believe, like the scope of the Grand Canyon. But with the things of faith you have to believe first, & then God will enable you to see. None of us chooses to believe on our own. No unbeliever ever makes a decision for Christ. Faith & belief are always the work of God for only He can create anything pure & holy.
Unbelief can never be the source of good. Unwanted pregnancies, terminal illnesses & taking ten years to die in a nursing home do not occur because of God’s design. They happen in this life because of our sin, not because of our God. Yet He is able to take the evil designs of man & of Satan & turn them for good.
In the presence of God, evil can be changed. In the presence of God, even you can believe. But apart from His presence each & every one of us is lost & damned. And there will be a day in history when every single person will kneel in the presence of God. On that day it will be too late to begin to believe.
Romans 14:11 tells us, “It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will
bow before me…’” (NIV) The question you might consider is this: Will you bow to the Lord before it’s too late? PAUSE
In the presence of God, Abraham believed that God makes the dead live. Each & every day of life on this earth, we awake with unbelief & with death in our heart. And they aren’t just lying there dormant. They’re actively at work trying to destroy your soul. Daily they need to be suffocated & drowned, because daily they draw us into sin. Daily we see the ugly result.
It’s no wonder some people kill themselves. They’ve reached the point where they can no longer live with the pain of the death they see within them, but our Lord calls us to see in a different way. In His presence, through the power of His Word & through Baptism, He causes us to believe. And because we believe, then we can finally see what it is that our Savior sees.
When Jesus reached the spot, He looked up & said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once & welcomed Him gladly. All the people saw this & began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’” The only thing the people saw in Zacchaeus was the greedy sinner, but Jesus, He saw the saint.
The text continues, “Zacchaeus stood & said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.’”
The sermon text began, “Abraham is the father of us all, as it is written: ‘I have made you a father of many nations.’” Zacchaeus, though a sinner, was a child of Abraham in fulfillment of God’s promise. In the presence of Jesus, Zacchaeus believed, & this very moment every one of you is in the presence of God.
At your baptism you were brought into the presence of God so that you might believe.
In Holy Communion you are in the presence of God so that your faith might be strengthened, & where two or three have gathered together in His name, Jesus says, “there am I with them.”
He has promised to be here this morning, so that our unbelief might be drowned & die with all sins & evil lusts, that our belief might come forth & arise to live before God in righteousness & purity forever. Daily, God does make the dead live, but we see that with the eyesight of faith, & with no other.
So we come into His presence again in order that our faith & our eyesight might be strengthened & renewed. We need that because what we see in this world with our physical eyes often breaks our heart. We come into His presence in order that we might believe that God makes the dead to live, because that kind of believing is truly seeing.
Won’t you come along & see what it is that Jesus sees? Today, salvation has come to your house, & your Savior wants to change you by His presence there. In spite of the Grand Canyon of your sins, in each of your struggles, your Lord & Savior is calling you to believe so that you might see. Amen.
Today His mercy calls us to wash away our sin. However great our trespass, whatever we have been. However long from mercy our hearts have turned away, His precious blood can cleanse us & make us white today. Amen. LSB 915:1.
 Luke 19:5-7 NIV
 Luke 19:8-9 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet