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, November 30, 2014
I Always Thank God - November 30, 2014 - First Sunday in Advent - Text: 1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Today is our New Year’s Day of sorts. Today is the first Sunday in the new church year. Our church year begins with Advent. The word advent means coming. The season of advent is the time we spend preparing for our celebration of Jesus’ coming to earth. We prepare ourselves for our celebration of God taking on human flesh and being born as one of us. What an awesome event. God intervening in human history to save all people from death and hell. Our text for today is the beginning of Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth. In the seven verses of our text Paul outlines who God is and what He has done, notice that is past and completed action, what God has done for us. How fitting our text is at the beginning of this new church year as we prepare our hearts and minds for our Christmas celebration that Paul outlines the reason for our joy.
Our text begins with Paul saying, “3Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 3). How easy one could read over those words and just continue on as if they were mere words, especially since they are often the words we hear at the beginning of many a sermon. But when we stop and take some time to unpack those fourteen words we see that Paul says a tremendous amount with such few words. Paul begins by invoking God’s grace upon us. God’s grace is His undeserved love for us. God’s grace is the love that He has for us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us. Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross earned our forgiveness. And it is only because of God’s grace, knowing that we are forgiven, that we can have true peace. True peace comes only from knowing we are forgiven and that we are no longer guilty. For most people peace is difficult because of guilt. Too many people spend too many restless night because of guilt. With forgiveness, the guilt is removed and one can have peace. True peace is that peace which comes from knowing the love of our Father in heaven, a love that so great that He gave the life of His Son for us.
But Paul does not stop there he continues, “4I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus” (v. 4). Here we are reminded, again, that the grace about which Paul is speaking is the grace which comes at a price, the price of the cost of Jesus on the cross. The cost for our sins did not just vanish, the cost had to be paid and Jesus paid the price for our sins. He suffered the punishment, the eternal punishment, the eternal spiritual death penalty, which should have been ours to suffer. Paul rightly gives thanks to God for us, because without God’s grace we would be lost and condemned creatures, but with God’s grace, which we are given through His Word and Sacraments, we are forgiven children of God.
Paul continues in verse five, “5that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge” (v. 5). It is through Jesus that we have been made new people. It is through Jesus that we have been enriched, we have been transformed, from being sinful human beings to being saints on our way to heaven. We are no longer what we were before, complete sinners and enemies of God, but we are not yet what we will be in the future, completely and only saints in heaven. We are somewhere in the middle. We are on our journey heavenward and with the help of the Holy Spirit we are enriched each day so that we continually conform our lives to God’s good and gracious will.
Paul continues in verse six, “—6even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you” (v. 6). The Word of the Lord that Paul proclaimed to the Corinthians was not preached in vain, but took root in the hearts of the people and bore fruit which showed the affect of his preaching. In simple terms we might say that their faith was shown in the change of their behavior. No longer did they act like heathens and enemies of God but instead they lived their lives according to God’s good and gracious will.
In verse seven Paul says, “7so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 7). In particular Paul is speaking about the gift of grace. Our God is a generous God, so much so that His grace is continually poured out upon us. We never lack for God’s grace.
Verse eight reads, “8who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 8). How can we be guiltless or blameless before the Lord on the day of judgement? In and of ourselves we cannot. But because of God’s grace, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection we are guiltless, we are blameless. And remember, this guiltlessness is what gives us peace. His righteousness is counted as our righteousness.
And we have God’s promise given through Paul in verse nine, “ 9God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (v. 9). It is God who calls us to fellowship with His Son, we do not come seeking Him, He comes calling us. And note that it is God who is faithful, we are not the ones who are faithful. We have a tendency to forget our promises, to go back on our promises, but God is faithful, He never goes back on His promises, no matter what we do, He is faithful.
At our Baptism our Lord placed His name on us. He claimed us as His children. We have just heard Paul’s words of all that our Lord has done for us, undeserved as we are. So, what? What is our response to all that our Great God has done for us? Our response begins with giving thanks and praise to God. We give Him thanks and praise by coming to church to worship Him. We give Him thanks and praise by praying to Him and saying thank you, by singing hymns and songs of praise to Him. Even more, we praise and thank our Lord best when we do so with our very lives, when we live our lives according to His good and gracious will, bearing witness to all the world of who our God is and what He has done for us.
We respond to all the many good gifts and blessing we have been given to by our great God by overflowing and sharing God’s gifts with others. We do this through speaking to others, through telling others about Jesus, but even more by acting out what we have learned. Unfortunately it is difficult to allow God’s gifts to overflow from us when we reject and neglect to be given God’s gifts. When we absent ourselves from God’s Word and Sacraments then God cannot give us His gifts and without His gifts we cannot overflow and share them with others. Thanks be to God that as we come and are given His gifts that He pours out His gifts on us so much that we do overflow and share those gifts with others.
We respond to the good gifts and blessing we are given to by God when, with the help of and by the power of the Holy Spirit, we strive to strengthen our faith. You know, people who love to read always seem to find a book to read. People who love to hunt always try to find time to hunt or read magazines about hunting, or try to do anything that has something to do with hunting. People who love to golf always try to find time to golf, or read magazines about golfing, or try to do anything that has something to do with golfing. People who love to fish always try to find time to fish, or read magazines about fishing, or try to do anything that has something to do with fishing. People who love sports always try to find time for sports, or read magazines about sports, or try to do anything that has something to do with sports. The same things can be said about people who love any kind of activity, skating, exercise, bicycling, cooking, needle point, quilting and the list goes on. Why is it then that people who say they love the Lord try to find as many excuses as they can to keep from reading about the Lord, to keep from learning about the Lord, to keep from doing anything that has to do with the Lord? We respond to the good gifts and blessing we are given to by God when we, with the help of the Holy Spirit, strive to strengthen our faith. Indeed as you have heard me say before, faith shows itself in the desire to be when and where the gifts of God are given out and the opposite is true as well, for there to be no desire to be given the gifts of God would indicate a lack of faith. Here at St. Matthews we offer many opportunities to be given the gifts God has to give from the Wednesday morning Bible class, the monthly Saturday morning men’s breakfast Bible Study, the Bible study on Sunday morning as well as our regular Sunday Divine service and now during advent our midweek services as well as Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. My prayer is that the Lord will move you to be a part of these opportunities to grow and be strengthened in your faith and my prayer continues to be that so many people will respond that we will need to add more times and places to study God’s Word and be filled with His good gifts and blessings.
We respond to the good gifts and blessing we are given to by God when, with the help of he Holy Spirit, we strive to be faithful. Praise the Lord because even when we are not faithful, He is faithful. Even when we forget to respond to His many good gifts and blessings He still remembers His promise to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. He still remembers His promise to take us to heaven to be with Him forever in eternity.
Paul’s words of reminder of all that our Lord has done for us are good words to begin this new church year. Now we pray that the Holy Spirit will come into our hearts and lives and move us to respond, with His help, to be given all those gifts and blessing, to then give praise and glory to His Holy Name. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.