Nov 17, 2019 – The Words of Jesus!
Today’s going to be a day that this congregation long remembers. But why? What will each of us most remember about this day? For some what may be remembered is the music. For some, it may be remembered as the first day they’ve heard, heard, the gospel and its message of freedom, grace and forgiveness in the blood of Jesus Christ from the cross. For others, this day may be the last time they ever hear the gospel before going home to heaven.
So, what will determine what you remember of this day? How about this. Let the last words of Jesus from the gospel lesson be remembered. Let those words ring in our ears throughout today and for always. Say these words with me please. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
Heaven and earth will pass away Jesus said. And looking at the other scriptures today, along with the whole gospel lesson, we see lots of destruction and passing away talked about, don’t we? In the Old Testament lesson God talks about bringing total destruction on the land. That’s truly frightening – that God, the creator – would bring total destruction to His creation. That, that is something to fear.
But let’s go back to those words of Jesus. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. In Jesus’ words we find comfort, not anxiety. Though heaven, and all that we see and know of this earth will be destroyed, yet in Jesus’ words we have life and hope simply because / those / words / last. They endure. They triumph. Only Jesus’ words and His words alone are what we hope in.
And why is that? Because of the total destruction that Jesus Himself endured for our sakes. That’s what the cross of Christ was about, the total destruction of our sin. And lest you think I’m talking in the abstract, remember His death was real.
Jesus died the death we each deserved for our sin. And He did so willingly. He did that so that we have the forgiveness we absolutely needed, to be restored to God in heaven above. That needs to be in our minds this day. Remember that what Jesus suffered for us was not in the abstract; but real, true, pain and death. This was for us so that what we read in psalms 98 is not in the abstract either.
Among other wonderful things, the psalm says, The Lord has made known His salvation; He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations. His salvation is our salvation in the gift that the Lord has made known to us by His everlasting word. Jesus died /// and rose again that we might live in the righteousness He won for us. And that righteousness elicits in us, a desire to become more Christ-like. But how does that happen for us.
It comes by ‘creative destruction’. We – our sinful nature we’re born with – we are destroyed in the death of Christ in our baptism and we rise to a new life in Him just as He was resurrected from the dead. We were reminded last week that we are a child of death, as well as a child of the resurrection. Think of it like a jeweler who cuts diamonds. In order for the beauty of the diamond to be exposed it undergoes a destructive process by the way a jeweler uses his hammer, chisel, and abrasive tools. Only through such destruction can the beauty be seen.
But how does that happen for each of us? It takes t i m e to become the people God calls us each to aspire to in this life. It takes God filing away the rough edges and smoothing out the harsh things in us, then rebuilding us by the grace of Christ. That grace is the forgiveness won by Jesus on the cross.
A few years back we had the joy of seeing Dana’s nephew Chris get married. When I do premarital counseling one of the key things I talk about is, the glue that holds a marriage together. That glue is – apologizing and forgiving. I talk about the fact that we have an endless supply of forgiveness because that is what Christ gives us. Forgiveness doesn’t come from what we do but what He has done. So, holding a marriage together is done with the forgiveness that God supplies to us.
I bring this up because Satan always works to remind us of our sins in our marriages, in our other relationships and in our relationship with God. He’ll always try and turn us away from repentance to instead, remind us of our sin. I’ve told you the story before of when Martin Luther had a vision of Satan coming to him and unrolling a scroll that showed Luther all his sins, and Luther began to quake in fear. But then he remembered that in his baptism, all of his sins were covered under the blood of Christ.
And Luther picking up an inkwell hurled it at Satan and shouted ‘Yes those are my sins, but you have forgotten that I’ve been baptized, and all my sins have been washed clean in the blood of Jesus.’ The ink stains on the wall of the Wartburg castle are still there so I’m told.
I’m reminded by this story of a little-known song by Christian artist Nicole Nordeman. The song is called Rolling River God. And it has to do with baptism and how we are given totally new life in Christ in our baptism. I’m giving each of you a smooth stone so that we can be reminded that it takes time to smooth away the rough places in our life and live the new life in our baptism that God has gifted to us. And while that new life is given to us immediately, it takes us time to adjust to it and learn to live in that life. So, to teach us that, that it /takes /time /to smooth away the edges and rough places in our life, the song lyrics say this:
Little Stones are smooth – Only once the water passes through… So I am a stone, rough and grainy still. Then it goes on to say, I know that time brings change and change takes time. And toward the end of the song she writes to God, my prayer would be just one, that you might pick me up and notice… that I am… just a little smoother in your hand. When you notice that I’m not as smooth as I should be or when your lives are still rough and not yet as smooth as we should be, I’d ask you to pick up this stone and rub it a little and be reminded – that change takes time. We all need time in this life to be smoothed out in the cleansing waters of God as we all seek to be more Christ-like: We are still being shaped by the Master Jeweler.
Let us all remember this day – the glue that binds us together, that it’s the everlasting words of Jesus, His words of healing and hope, of renewal, of restoration and / forgiveness / words that forever remain. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. In Jesus name, amen.
Sermon #1054 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
First Reading Malachi 4:1-6
4 “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. 3 Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the Lord Almighty.
4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.
5 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”
Second Reading 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
6 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”
11 We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.
Holy Gospel Luke 21:20-33
20 “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. 22 For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. 23 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
29 He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.
32 “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.