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