Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, December 8, 2013
Be of One Mind - December 8, 2013 - Second Sunday in Advent - Text: Romans 15:4-13
Today is the second Sunday in Advent and we continue to prepare ourselves for our Christmas celebration. Remember, we do not celebrate Christmas yet, not until December 25 and then we have the twelve days of our Christmas celebration, until January 6 and the day we celebrate Epiphany. We continue to get ourselves ready for our Christmas celebration by our text reminding us of why we have Christmas in the first place. In the Old Testament reading for today we are reminded of the promise of God to send a Savior from the line of Jesse, King David’s father. We are reminded that this Savior will bring righteousness and eternal peace. In the Gospel lesson we are reminded that God never forgot His promises as we see the fulfillment of His promises begin with the coming of John the Baptist to prepare the way for the Savior, Jesus Himself.
Paul is the apostle who calls himself one abnormally born. Paul was not an eye witness of Jesus like the other apostles, but he was an eye witness as Jesus revealed Himself to Paul on the road to Damascus. In our text for today we have a plea from Paul to live in harmony. We read verses four through seven, “4For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. 5May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (v. 4-7). Why do we need Paul to call us to live in harmony? Here is where we go further back into the Old Testament. Back in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were given one word of instruction, to not eat from the fruit of the tree in the middle of the Garden, the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Because they disobeyed God and ate of the fruit they brought sin into the world and with sin came God’s punishment and curse, death, physical death and ultimately apart from Jesus and faith in Jesus eternal spiritual death. This fall into sin broke the once perfect relationship between God and man and separated us from God. No longer do we have the perfect relationship and communion with God that Adam and Eve once enjoyed.
Not only did this fall into sin separate us from God, it also separates us from each other. Have you ever wondered why children are disobedient to their parents? Why teenagers fight with their parents? Why children fight with each other? Why adults, even husbands and wives have arguments? It is because we are all conceived and born in sin. We share in our first parents sinful nature. With our perfect relationship with God broken, there is no way we can have any good relationship with each other, because it is only as God first loves us that we are able to reciprocate that love toward others.
Now, here in our text, knowing and understanding our broken relationship with God and with each other, Paul would have us be reconciled to each other. It is Paul’s desire that we make amends for our sins and that we live in harmony, that we have peace with one another. Of course, Paul knows our nature. He knows that there is nothing we can do in order to be reconciled with each other. He knows that left to ourselves we would remain forever separated from God and from each other. He knows that we cannot look inside ourselves for the answer instead we must look outside ourselves.
Paul does not simply encourage us, he even gives us instruction in how we can be reconciled to one another. We pick up our text at verse eight, “8For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” 10And again it is said, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.” 11And again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples extol him.” 12And again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse will come, even he who arises to rule the Gentiles; in him will the Gentiles hope.” (v. 8-12). First, Paul encourages us by giving us the answer to the problem of our being separated from God and that is that Christ came as one of us. Christ came as a servant in order to do for us what we are unable to do. Christ came to live perfectly for us in our place, because we cannot be perfect and remember the demand of God’s law is to be perfect, as He is perfect.
Going back to the Garden of Eden, God promised Adam and Eve that He would take care of their sin. He would send a Savior. He would send one who would reconcile the debt of their eternal life because of their sin. God reiterated His promise throughout the Old Testament. God reiterated His promise through the Patriarchs as Paul tells us. And God’s promise of a Savior for all people never changed. Yes, God did narrow the family line through whom the Savior would be born, namely through the line of Abraham, but the promise was never changed to be for only one ethnic group of people. God’s promise was always that He would send a Savior for all people. Jesus came to fulfill all God’s promises made in the Old Testament.
Remember, Paul is writing to the Christians at Rome. He is writing to Jew and Gentile alike. He is writing to those who were of physical descent of the patriarchs as well as those who were not. And he is writing to us today as well, most of whom are not physical descendants of Abraham. Jesus came, not simply to give His life for the Jews, but He came to save Jew and Gentile alike. Too often this was missed as the children of Israel believed that they alone were the ones to be saved and they believe this salvation was their birthright. As we look at the Old Testament texts Paul quotes we see that when God made His promise to take care of Adam and Eve’s sin and the sin of the world, there were no Jews and Gentiles, only people, so His promise was to save all people. We are reconciled with each other only as we are first reconciled to God who reconciles us to Himself through His Son, Jesus, the Savior.
Finally, Paul concludes with a benediction, “13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (v.13). Our God is the God of hope. And here, for us Christians, hope is not a wishy, washy, maybe, but a certainty. Our God is the God of certainty. For us the future may be unseen, but God knows all and sees all and He has a certainty of eternal life in heaven for us.
Our God is the God of joy and peace in believing. The peace which our God gives is a peace which passes all understanding. His peace is not simply a peace of mind, a peace of a few hours of relaxation. His peace is a peace of forgiveness of sins and the gift and promise of eternal life in heaven. Indeed, there is no greater peace for us than the peace of knowing our sins are forgiven because we also know that with forgiveness is life and salvation.
And our God sends the Holy Spirit to give, strengthen and keep us in faith. It is true, we do well on our own when it comes to sinning. We do not need God’s help or anyone’s help. We sin well all on our own and that is only what we are able to do. We cannot look inside ourselves to find the answer to life’s questions, to find a way to stop sinning, to find a way to bear up under temptation. We must look outside ourselves and we do that as we make use of the means of grace which our Lord gives to us and through which He comes to us to help us to bear up under temptation, to give us forgiveness and to help us to live God pleasing lives. Yes, it is the Holy Spirit who works in us to give to us, to strengthen us and to keep us in faith.
So, as usual we ask, “What Does This Mean?” As we prepare ourselves for our celebration of Jesus birth, we are reminded that God created everything in perfection and man ruined it. So, now we no longer live in a perfect world. We now live in a sin filled world. And we are sinners living in this sin filled world.
Thanks be to God that immediately after the fall into sin He promised to send a Savior and Jesus is that Savior and He is that Savior for all. God’s promise was not made to one person or simply to two people, but His promise was made to the parents of all people, so that just as their sin is born in us all, so through Jesus’ work on the cross, the giving of His life is for us all. This does not discount the fact that God chose the children of Israel to be the nation through which the Savior would be born, but the Savior was born not simply the Savior for this one nation, but for all and we see that in the Old Testament texts Paul quotes again and again.
And even today, God heaps His blessings on us. As we make regular and diligent use of the means of grace, reading and hearing the Word of God, remembering our Baptism, confessing our sins and hearing those most beautiful words of forgiveness, “your sins are forgiven,” and as we come to partake of our Lord’s body and blood through His Holy Supper wherein we are given all the good gifts and blessings our Lord has to bestow on us. Through these means we are given forgiveness and with forgiveness again we know we also have life and salvation. Through these means our Lord works to give, strengthen and keep us in faith until Christ comes again.
Paul’s Words remind us of our need for a Savior but even more they remind us that God has taken care of that need as well as all our needs. Jesus is the one promised by God and sent by God to do for us what we are unable to do. And we give thanks for all that He has done, for the giving of His life, for giving us faith and for keeping us in faith. And for giving us the words to say, to God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.