Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jeremiah 15:15-21 - “Out the Door”

11th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 17) (Year A - Lutheran Service Book readings)
Saturday, August 27, and Sunday, August 28, 2011

• Jeremiah was called to be prophet—to speak God’s Word to the people
• He was called to tear down—preach the Law, the judgment concerning the people’s sin
• But he was also called to build up—preach the Gospel, the merciful words from God
• God said to Jeremiah—“speak the words I give you.”
• And so Jeremiah had.

(Moving to side door of sanctuary that opens to the outside, opening door, and continuing outside)
• And so Jeremiah had, he had gone forward, he had spoken the words of God
• He spoke about the coming destruction that would bring judgment on God’s people
• He spoke about the people’s sin—the ways they had turned their backs on God, the ways they had practiced idolatry and greed
• Jeremiah spoke about the ways that God would tear down
• Yes, there was always a hint of hope, statements about God bringing the people back if they’d only repent
• But for the most part, the message was a tough one, a tough one to preach, a tough one for the people to hear
• Jeremiah was mainly pointing to the ways that God would tear down

• And so as the people hear Jeremiah’s message,
• As they reacted negatively to him
• As they plotted against Jeremiah, plotted to lock him up and throw away the key
• As they rejected the message of God, rejected God’s promise of removing His judgment if they’d only repent
• As the people rejected Jeremiah
• He backed away from the message

(coming back in from outside)
• He stopped preaching
• He came back to God
• He came back to God with a complaint, the complaint we have in the reading from chapter 15

• Jeremiah prays passionately to the Lord:
15 You understand, O LORD;
remember me and care for me.
Avenge me on my persecutors.
You are long-suffering—do not take me away;
think of how I suffer reproach for your sake.
16 When your words came, I ate them;
they were my joy and my heart’s delight,
for I bear your name,
O LORD God Almighty.
17 I never sat in the company of revelers,
never made merry with them;
I sat alone because your hand was on me
and you had filled me with indignation.
18 Why is my pain unending
and my wound grievous and incurable?
Will you be to me like a deceptive brook,
like a spring that fails?
• In other words, Jeremiah is saying, “I’ve done what you asked Lord, I’ve preached this terrible message, I’ve separated myself from the people, but now I’m threatened and alone and rejected.”
• Jeremiah is saying, “Have you tricked me, Lord, tricked me into preaching your message only to have it ruin my life?”

• That must have been a deadly quiet stillness after Jeremiah shouted those words.
• That must have been a cold, lonely moment for Jeremiah—separated from the people and now feeling like he was separated from God.
• And in the meantime, Jeremiah wasn’t preaching to the people, wasn’t going out the door, wasn’t doing what he had been called to do.

• But then Jeremiah receives God’s answer, a wake up call, a way of bringing Jeremiah to his senses:
“If you repent, I will restore you
that you may serve me;
if you utter worthy, not worthless, words,
you will be my spokesman.
Let this people turn to you,
but you must not turn to them.
20 I will make you a wall to this people,
a fortified wall of bronze;
they will fight against you
but will not overcome you,
for I am with you
to rescue and save you,”
declares the LORD.
21 “I will save you from the hands of the wicked
and redeem you from the grasp of the cruel.”

• At first, this message probably strikes us as harsh—God tells Jeremiah to repent, to turn away from some sin, some offense, but what is it that Jeremiah has done?
• Well, it means to turn away from this grumbling, turn away from this talk of being deceived and fooled by God, turn away from this reluctance to go out the door.

• And if Jeremiah will turn around,
• If Jeremiah will turn away from the grumbling and go back out the door and go back to preaching to the people,
• Well, then, God will restore him.
• God will make him a prophet again.
• If Jeremiah will spend his time on worthy words, on words from God,
• Then Jeremiah will be God’s spokesman.
• Don’t turn to these people, don’t fall for their threats, don’t take up their words.
• In other words, don’t turn away from the message that God had given him. Don’t turn away from being a prophet sent to speak God’s message of tearing down and building up.

• But God doesn’t just say, “Jeremiah, pick yourself up and get back out there.”
• God gives Jeremiah an encouragement, an encouragement that recalls His promises that God made when He first called Jeremiah to prophet.
• God says, “I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze. They will fight against you, but will not overcome you. For I am with you to rescue and save you.”
• God doesn’t just tell Jeremiah to pick himself up, stop grumbling, and go back to preaching.
• God reminds Jeremiah that there’s protection and security, there’s power and help.
• What an image to help Jeremiah—I have made you a wall of bronze.
• The people can hit him and fight back all they want, but their blows will just bounce off a wall of bronze.

(Going back out the door)
• So Jeremiah goes back out the door, goes back to preaching God’s message to the people.
• He preaches about how God will tear down.
• He gives glimpses of the hope that God will build up again.
• Jeremiah preaches to the people—a fortified wall of bronze, never alone as he preaches a difficult message.

• You know, while I’m out here, I’m thinking that this is where God is sending all of us—sending us out to speak His message, His message of tearing down and building up, His message of Law and Gospel
• I’m thinking that we are sent out to the people around us to speak about Jesus Christ, to speak about Jesus living, dying, and rising again, to speak about Jesus coming to forgive our sins, to bring us back into a right relationship with God, to give us eternal life.
• I’m thinking we’ve been sent out here with this message.

(Slowly coming back in the door, closing the door)
• But aren’t we like Jeremiah—as we face the taunts of people, as we face their rejection of the message, as we face threats,
• We slowly back in
• We come back in the door
• We come back to God and complain to Him, complain that the message is too difficult, that the people are rejecting us, that we’re alone and unable to do what He’s asked us to do
• I don’t know about you, but I don’t like it when people have made fun of me for being in this Christianity stuff
• I don’t like that the way I live my life makes me stand out from the crowd
• I don’t like that people just don’t even want to hear what I have to say about spiritual things
• I’ve been told I’m a hypocrite, I’ve been told that I’m na├»ve, I’ve been told that what I believe is fine for me but don’t start telling other people what to believe
• I hear all of that, and I back in, come back in the door, come back to God and basically I say, “What are you thinking, God?”

• And like with Jeremiah, God doesn’t just tell us to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and get back out their, kid.
• God tells us turn around, to turn away from this grumbling, turn back to the door, turn back to the people, go back out that door
• But He also tells us that He has made us a wall of bronze.
• A fortified wall of bronze.
• There’s protection and security, there’s power and help
• The people can hit us and fight back all they want, but in the end, their blows will just bounce off a wall of bronze

• Now it may not feel that way as it’s happening
• It may not feel like those blows are bouncing off
• Sticks and stones hurt, but so do words
• It may feel very painful when we’re out there
• But God has given us this tremendous promise, this promise that we are not alone, that He will always be with us
• It’s a promise that God gave to Jeremiah
• It’s a promise that gets repeated in the Gospel of Matthew as Jesus sends out His disciples, sends out His Church, Jesus says, “And lo, I will be with you always to the very end of the age.”
• We are not alone.
• We may be threatened and made fun of and rejected and people may refuse to listen to us, but we are not alone.
• We are fortified walls of bronze.

(Going back out the door)
• So we go back out the door
• We go out to share God’s Word with others
• We go out to tell others that they have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
• We go out to tell others that there is forgiveness and hope in Jesus Christ.
• We go out to tell others that Jesus died for our sins and rose again to give us eternal life.
• We go out to call others to faith in Jesus.

(Coming back in the door)
• And we’ll be rejected again, we’ll face rejection for our faith and our message
• But then we’ll find ourselves back here again
• We’ll come before our God in prayer
• We’ll hear from God that we are walls of bronze.
• And God’ll send us out the door again.

(Going out the door)
• We’ll find another way to speak about God
• We’ll find ways to show God’s love through our actions
• We’ll tell a friend about why church is encouraging to us
• We’ll sit with a coworker who’s going through a tough time in life
• We’ll be good neighbors as a witness of God’s love

(coming back in the door)
• And then something’ll cause us to get scared or feel lonely again
• That friend won’t want to hear about church
• That coworker won’t want us to pray for them
• The neighbors won’t treat us kindly
• We’ll come back to God, wonder aloud why all of this is happening to us, wonder whether we can really be His servants who speak His word
• And God’ll say it once again that we are walls of bronze.

(Going back out the door)
• We are fortified walls of bronze
• We have a message that tears down and builds up
• We have a message of Law and Gospel
• We have a message about our sinfulness
• We have a message of our sins being forgiven by Jesus
• We are fortified walls of bronze
• We are being sent out as God’s spokespeople.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Isaiah 51:1-6 - “Speedily: Daddy, Why Didn't You Run?"

10th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 16) (Year A - Lutheran Service Book readings)
Saturday, August 20, and Sunday, August 21, 2011

The following are my notes from this weekend’s sermon. I didn’t write out a full manuscript for this sermon.

So the other day we were up at Betty Russell Playground just over here in the neighborhood. The boys had their bikes, and Jude, our five-year old, decided to try out his bike on the skatepark ramps. We unfortunately he had a bit of a crash. I saw it happen, so I walked over to check on him. He was laying on the ground, crying, with a small scrape on his elbow. Jude was hurt, but what he was really upset about, what was making him cry and yell was that I hadn’t run to him. I had walked. It upset Jude that I hadn’t run over as soon as he crashed. I had walked.

Well, we got Jude’s scrap patched up with a Band-Aid, and Jude went back to playing and riding his bike—although not on the ramps anymore. But he said a few times to me, “Daddy, you should’ve run.” I had walked. That’s what upset Jude the most.

And that’s what can upset us the most about God, too. Why doesn’t He run? Why doesn’t He bring His righteousness and salvation into our lives RIGHT NOW? I mean, the reading from Isaiah 51 today says, “My righteousness draws near speedily.” Speedily? It doesn’t seem very speedy to me. Most of the time it feels as if we’ve just crashed our bike, we’re laying on the ground scraped up and bleeding, and God is walking, God is walking—not running—God is taking His time in coming to help us.

• Want God to run
• Isaiah 51:5: “My righteousness draws near speedily.”
• It sounds like God is running, should be running so fast that we’d never even hit the ground
• Instead, it seems like God is walking, God is taking His time, and it seems like He’ll never get here, never show up in time to help us

• Essentially, we’re here sprawled out on the ground—crash-landed from the various things that plague us in this life.
• We look over to God, sees God standing there, and we believe that He promises to come lift us up.
• BUT God still seems distant. God still seems like a distant watcher. God might be moving toward us, but boy, He’s moving slow.

• Yet, there’s this promise there in Isaiah 51, there’s this promise that God will move, God will show up, God will bring His righteousness and salvation into our lives. God will act. That’s really the promise in Isaiah 51.
• It’s not so much a promise that He will always act immediately.
• It’s a promise that He will act, that He is acting, that He is doing what needs to be done for our good, for our salvation.

• Think about it this way: in Isaiah 51 when God says that His righteousness draws near speedily, He also points us to remember that we descend from Abraham and Sarah. By faith, we are descendants of Abraham and Sarah.
• Abraham and Sarah never got to experience God’s promise completely.
• Sarah was barren, couldn’t have children, and Abraham and Sarah were old, but God promised that they would have a child. God promised that He would make Abraham into a great nation, make Abraham’s family as numerous as the stars.
• But Abraham and Sarah only got to see the one son, Isaac. They only got to see God’s promise start to take shape. God didn’t snap His finger and instantly give Abraham an incredibly huge family. God gave Abraham one child who had another child who had another child until the people of Israel became a great nation many generations later.
• In Abraham and Sarah’s view, it probably looked like God was walking. God wasn’t running. They were traveling around based on what God said, traveling around based on God’s promises, but they couldn’t really see how God was going to make it all happen.
• Yet, what they believed was that God was acting. They believed that God would move from His spot. They believed that God wouldn’t leave them alone. They believed that God would come and lift them up.

• This is the faith we have. This is the rock from which we have been cut. We’re of the same faith as Abraham and Sarah. We’ve got faith that God will move, that God will come to our aid.

• And God did act. After many generations, generations waiting for the promise to be fulfilled, God came walking in. God walked the Earth. God came in the person of Jesus. Jesus came and walked among us, came and lived and died and rose again. Here was God coming to our side. Here was God bringing the help we desperately needed as we laid sprawled out on the sidewalk. Here was the Band-Aid, the binding up of our wounds.
• For generations it may have seemed like God wasn’t moving, like God wasn’t taking notice of the predicament of the people.
• But then He acted, He sent Jesus

• Our predicament was permanent exile, death forever
• Jesus came and conquered death
• Jesus came and took the punishment for our sins
• Jesus came and gave us the promise of eternal life
• God had acted

• But now, now that we have faith in Jesus,
• Now maybe we’re back to wondering where God is, wondering why God isn’t running to our side when things aren’t going well—
• When your life gets stressed out, when you face hardships, when you crash, when you’re sprawled out on the ground, why is God just standing there? Why is God walking? Why isn’t He running?

• Stock market falls—advice: ride it out
• I don’t have much faith in the stock market
• I have faith that God will provide for me
• BUT right now, when I look at our savings, looks like God is walking, not running

• Yet the promise in Isaiah 51 is that He is going to act, He is able to act, He is going to act according to His will and for our salvation. We’ve got faith that God will move, that God will come to our aid.
• It may appear that God is standing still
• It may seem like God is walking when He should be running
• It may seem like God is distant when we need Him close
• But the promise of Isaiah 51 is that He is very much on the move, He is acting, He is bringing about His righteousness and salvation in the world and in our lives
• He brought faith in Jesus into our hearts, and He’ll bring that ultimate promise of eternal life to us also

• You are descendants of Abraham and Sarah
• Perhaps you’re only seeing one part of the promise
• Hard to believe that God is moving to help you when you can’t see the whole promise being fulfilled
• But God’s promise in Isaiah 51 is for you:
• The law will go out from me;
my justice will become a light to the nations.
My righteousness draws near speedily,
my salvation is on the way,
and my arm will bring justice to the nations.
My salvation will last forever,
my righteousness will never fail.

• Maybe that’s hard to see because you’re so aware that you’ve crash-landed, you’re sprawled out on the ground
• But God is moving—in His time, in His way—God is moving to come to your aid, to come lift you up, to come bind up your wounds.

• God’s moving in the person of Jesus Christ today
• God’s moving to bring you forgiveness for your sins
• God’s moving to bring you faith in your heart
• God’s moving to support you and comfort you
• God’s moving to strengthen you
• God’s moving to lift you up when you fall
• God’s moving, His righteousness draws near speedily