Advent 2 Peace
Is. 66: 1 This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. Where is the house you will build for Me? Where will My resting place be? 2 Has not My hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the LORD. “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at My Word. 3 But whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a person, and whoever offers a lamb is like one who breaks a dog’s neck; whoever makes a grain offering is like one who presents pig’s blood, and whoever burns memorial incense is like one who worships an idol. They have chosen their own ways, and they delight in their abominations; 4 so I also will choose harsh treatment for them and will bring on them what they dread. For when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, no one listened. They did evil in My sight and chose what displeases me.” 5 Hear the Word of the LORD, you who tremble at His word: “Your own people who hate you, and exclude you because of My Name, have said, ‘Let the LORD be glorified, that we may see your joy!’ Yet they will be put to shame. 6 Hear that uproar from the city; hear that noise from the temple! It is the sound of the LORD repaying His enemies all they deserve. 7 “Before she goes into labor, she gives birth; before the pains come upon her, she delivers a son. 8 Who has ever heard of such things? Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children. 9 Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?” says the LORD. “Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?” says your God. 10 “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her. 11 For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance.” 12 For this is what the LORD says: “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. 13 As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” 14 When you see this, your heart will rejoice and you will flourish like grass; the hand of the LORD will be made known to His servants, but His fury will be shown to his foes.
Our text this evening is a clear-cut case of Law and Gospel. The Law in this text can be summed up with these two verses: “This generation honors Me with their lips but their hearts are far from Me. And “Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord” will enter into the Kingdom of heaven.’” According to the rules laid down in the Old Testament the priests were doing everything correctly with their outward sacrifices but they had not performed their duties as believers.
This is what God required: “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at My Word.” They were neither humble nor contrite and cared little for the Word of God. This hymn spells it out: Not all the blood of beasts, On Jewish altars slain, Could give the guilty conscience peace, Or wash away its stain.
“They have chosen their own ways, and they delight in their abominations.” This is how Isaiah described them back then. This is how you and I can describe our times. Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.” But what do we do we know of our Country? They have chosen their own ways, and they delight in their abominations…” One of our political parties has in its platform abortion and same sex marriage. That represents nearly half of our citizens. Now surely not everyone belonging to that Party believes in these two things but they go along with it nonetheless! That includes some LCMS pastors, I am sad to say! Politics is one thing, churches are another and yes, very sadly, some churches go along with that also.
And then there is the exclusivity of Christianity. Again: Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.” Now every religion believes that theirs is the only correct way as well they should. And every denomination ought to have the same concept. If yours isn’t the right one, then find the one that is! Why in the world would you attend and share you time, talents and treasures with an organization that didn’t reflect your understanding of the Bible??? When the Bible clearly states “ABC” it doesn’t mean DEF and surely not XYZ!
In this Second Advent week we look at the word PEACE. The world offers “peace” as an end to hostilities. In other words the war is over and the bullets and the bombs have ceased. Last week I was watching the aftermath of WW2. That was a time of great unrest. Starvation for millions, civil wars and uprisings as the Communist started to take over all of Europe. God’s Peace is a concept of a complete calmness. It means no worries, no anxieties, no fears. Recall the angels greeting Mary and later the shepherds as they said, “Fear not!” Things were extremely uncertain. A virgin about to have a child in a community that would stone her! A host of angels suddenly appearing out in the fields at night! How would you feel if it happened to you? A time of anxiety and fear! But the Lord’s message, “Fear not!” Be at peace!
We are living in uncertain times. What is going to happen to our government with this new unpolitical president? Will the establishment counter his every move just to prove that it is their way or the highway? Of the 518 bills passed by the House since January 2015, only 122 have passed the Senate. Is it really that much harder to pull together 100 senators as opposed to 435 congressmen?
What about Rocket Man? Will he start WW3? If he starts something will China and Russia fall in with him or with us or stay neutral? What about the radical Muslims? What is their next target and could it even be us? We already know that in France a Priest was killed in a worship service.
And what about you and me? What guarantees do we have that we will make it through this night? That at our next doctor’s visit we will hear some extremely bad news? We not only live in a time of uncertainty but our very own lives are uncertain!
What does God say about all of this? “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice greatly with her, all you who mourn over her. For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance.” For this is what the LORD says: “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” When you see this, your heart will rejoice and you will flourish like grass; the hand of the LORD will be made known to His servants, but His fury will be shown to his foes.
“Jerusalem” here means to us all that is good and right and holy. This is where the Gospel comes in. We too have offered up our sacrifices with insincere hearts at times. We too have come into this House of Prayer and our hearts were elsewhere. We too have mumbled our prayers and our hymns while our lips said one thing, our minds said something else. “O most merciful God, I have sinned by thought word and deed!” Thoughts- which were impure. Thoughts of problems, of others people while at the same time our lips mumbled Your holy Name. Words spoken unkindly, words spoken in unjust anger and deeds not only that we did , but deeds we should have done but didn’t. God be gracious and merciful to me, a sinner!
And He is! In His unmerited love and forgiveness He sent His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ to live a perfect life in your place and to take your sins to the cross and pay for them in full. He sent His Holy Spirit into your heart and caused you to believe. Signed, sealed and delivered – as Luther said, “Without any merit or worthiness of our own.”
This is how one hymn put it: When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll, Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.
I never will forget a man called Ed. He suddenly found out that he had but days to live and I went to see him at the hospital. He greeted me with these words. “Pastor, 410.” I said, “410? What do you want me to do, bring you my 410 shotgun?” He said, “No! Hymn #410. That is what I want played at my funeral.” (Jesus lead Thou on). Ed had that peace which passes all understanding. Instead of fear, instead of despair, to quote another song, he was getting ready to meet the saints! He was getting ready for the New Jerusalem!
As for you and me, this is what St Peter says, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God…” So then “May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Amen!
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