Feb 24, 2019 – Promises, Promises
A couple weeks ago was valentine’s day and there were cards, gifts, and candies exchanged among folks to celebrate. And we don’t want to overlook that, after all St Valentine, a Christian saint, is who the day is named for. There are accounts of three different guys all referred to as Saint Valentine.
Only two of these have roots in actual history and they both have to do with being martyred for faithful Christian action. One is reported to have been a physician, named Valentine, who gave aid to Christians under persecution. He was said to have done this in
imitation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The other account speaks of a Christian bishop named Valentine who secretly performed Christian’s marriages when marriage was forbidden by the wicked roman emperor Claudius II and he was imprisoned for trying to help these couples through Christian matrimony.
As both stories go each of these men, the doctor and the bishop, were killed for their faith-based actions on Feb 14th. And from this history has developed the practice we now have of celebrating the promises made by lovers to one another. After all, many of the valentines we send and receive speak of being faithful and true. They promise love and loyalty.
But; how many of those promises that are made on the 14th, or any other day, are promises that are kept? Sad to say, more marriages will break up this year than remain faithful to their vows and promises.
I’ve heard of a formula – of 3 ingredients – that show that love is actually at work in a marriage. These three ingredients are: passion, partnership and promise.
It’s the 3rd thing in this formula is what we’re focusing on today and that is, promise: A promise is a vow of loyalty. We’re all looking for loyalty. That’s part of what drives people to give and receive valentines’ greetings. Promises; that is our words declaring faithfulness to one another, our promises carry us through in a marriage when either passion dims or partnership falters. Our promise, that “I do” – at the altar is our bond to remain loyal and faithful, even when other things would tell us to give up.
This year over 2 million people will say “I do” … and they won’t. Marriages start out with promises, and partnership and passion. And that’s as it should be.
Marriage, like our salvation in Christ, is based on a promise. Marriage is a promise to love – salvation is God’s promise to redeem us. As Christians we live day-to-day in the hope of God’s promise to us of redemption. As married people, we live day-to-day trusting in the hope of our beloved’s wedding promise.
I’ve known folks whose wedding promise has lasted over 50 years. That’s a commitment to be admired for demonstrating such devotion and dedication. Has it always been easy for them? I’m quite sure it’s not.
A marriage is only as strong as the ones making the promise. Salvation also is only as strong as the One making that promise. Our hope of salvation is rock solid because the One who makes that promise is the ‘rock of our salvation’. His promise does not fail, therefore our hope is not in vain, and it cannot fail, because God does not fail.
Do our marriages all have that same guarantee? Unfortunately, no. That’s because we are not as reliable as God is. We will make mistakes and we will foul up and we don’t always live up to our promises even in the best of marriages. And yet marriage, through all the attacks it has suffered, still seems the smart thing to do. For us humans, however, keeping promises is not a matter of intellect or brains.
Keeping promises is about keeping your word. It’s not enough to simply say “I do.” You have to do the “I do.” Being knowledgeable – being smart – is no guarantee of a person keeping their promise. We all know smart people who do foolish things, especially in the area of marriage.
Some years back one of our shuttle astronauts, Lisa Nowak, an expert in robotics, was arrested and faced attempted murder charges for her actions regarding her ‘affection’ for another astronaut. She personally threatened another woman that this man, whom she claims to love, was seeing, and so she was arrested. And at the time of her arrest, she was a married mother of three holding advanced degrees and was a graduate of the naval academy.
Being smart, having smarts, does not guarantee that we’re good promise keepers. Nor is there any measure we can use as a guarantee of our ability to keep our promises. That’s what makes marriage such a risky thing.
It’s based on the promise of one person to another. I’m starting to make this sound like marriage is a bad idea… and that’s not the case at all. In fact, scripture calls us to be faithful in our marriage vows and urges us to uphold as sacred that which we promise to one another before the eye of God.
That’s why forgiveness in marriage is absolutely necessary. One of the cardinal rules I’ve learned to pass along from my training in marriage counseling is this: Forgiveness is the glue that holds a marriage together. Period. Because we all fail, we all need forgiveness.
And all true forgiveness is based on what God Himself promised us when He sent Jesus Christ to the tree of salvation, to the cross. Jesus died on that cross to show us how great is God’s passion for us. And in His dying and then rising again to new life, we have the guarantee of God’s promise of forgiveness and salvation to the world that can be found in no one else.
Just so in our marriages, as in all our relationships, forgiveness is needed because we are not the best of promise keepers. I think understanding that is at the heart of the Old Testament lesson from today. Jeremiah tells us in verse 5 “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength, and, He will be like a bush in the wastelands; He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.
To trust in people as your source of hope and strength is to set yourself up for disappointment and dryness. To put trust that rightfully belongs in God, to put that in a person instead, will lead, according to Jeremiah, to living in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land; in other words a place of desolation.
I remember some years back driving along the Great Salt Lake between Salt Lake City and the Nevada border. That’s truly a desolate place that’s uninhabitable. It’s dry and wind-blown and the salty ground is white to the point of being painful to the eyes. There is nothing there that supports life as we would want to live it.
And that’s what happens when we put the trust in people that we should be putting in God for our hope. When we do that, we’re left with nothing, because people fail one another.
Then Jeremiah goes on to say, read verses 7 & 8 with me… “But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. 8 He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”
In these words, along with what’s in the gospel lesson we get a picture of the redeeming promises of God. To trust in the Lord and His promises is put down roots where the stream gives life to the tree. It is, in the prophet’s words, it is / to / be / blessed.
Turning to the gospel lesson today, before we close, we have more of God’s promises there. Jesus 4 times uses the same word as Jeremiah to speak of God’s promises, He uses the word ‘blessed’. When you look into that word and see its meaning in the Greek and Hebrew from which it’s derived, that meaning speaks of being fortunate or happy in the sense of being a privileged recipient of divine or godly favor. Listen to that again, to be called blessed to be in the position of one who is a privileged recipient of godly favor.
Listen to what applying that sounds like to what Jesus says in vss 20-22 , “you are a privileged recipient of godly favor you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 you are a privileged recipient of godly favor you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. You are a privileged recipient of godly favor you who weep now, for you will laugh.
22 you are a privileged recipient of godly favor when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. So, for the result of those who Jesus said are blessed, who are the privileged recipients of godly favor, read the 1st sentence from verse 23 with me please Jesus there says, Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.
We have the promise of heavenly reward from God Himself to put our trust in. He is our true lover in whose promise we trust and whose promise will never fail.
His promise is sure because His word is sure. Of all the promises ever made to you, the promise of God for your salvation in Jesus Christ is the promise that never fails.
In the name of the promise-keeper who came to grant us the sure hope of heaven, Jesus Christ, we pray, amen.
[Sermon #1003 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO]
First Reading Jeremiah 17:5-8
5 Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. 6 He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.
7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. 8 He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
Epistle Reading 1 Corinthians 15:1-20
15 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Holy Gospel Luke 6:17-26
17 And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, 18 who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.
20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.
“Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
26 “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.