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, July 2, 2017
May the Lord Do So - July 2, 2017 - Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 08) - Text: Jeremiah 28:5-9
Day after tomorrow, Tuesday, we celebrate our nations independence from other ruling authorities and what a wonderful thing to celebrate. Living outside the Houston city limits and not having any restrictions on shooting fireworks, I know how wonderful it is to celebrate the Fourth of July as every year people are still celebrating and shooting off fireworks at 1:00 in the morning. As I have said before, we do celebrate our independence from other forms of government, but we must never forget our dependency on our Lord. It is when we begin to forget our dependency on our Lord and begin to believe we can be independent of the Lord that what really happens is we begin placing our dependency on our human inventions that is when we begin to get into trouble.
When we listen to the people of our world we hear two distinct messages. The first message we hear are words of destruction. You know the people I am talking about, they will tell you that the world is going to end tomorrow. They tell you that things are as bad as they have ever been and that they will get worse. They will tell you how bad the economy is, how our oil supply is running out, and how the earth is heating up from man made global warming, or rather now global climate change. You might remember back in the 1980s it was said that we were going to have a global ice age. There are those who will tell you that there will be tomorrow. They will go so far as to tell you that things are so bad that the Lord will come soon to destroy this world. Just a word to the wise, don’t believe half of what they tell you. God is still in charge.
On the other hand we have the people of our world who only tell us words of peace. These are the people who tell you that nothing is wrong with our world. They may even tell you that it is all in how you look at things. They may tell you all we need is love and then we can have a peaceful existence. They will tell you we just need to be tolerant of others and accepting. They are the people who always find the silver lining in the clouds. Neither of these types of people are new and neither are completely right or completely wrong. As we look at our text we will see that Jeremiah was prophesying destruction and the professional prophets were prophesying peace, but in this case one was right and one was wrong as we shall see.
In order to better understand what is going on in our text, let us look at what was going on before we get to the words of the text. The chapter immediately preceding our text, chapter twenty-seven, is filled with Jeremiah’s words of destruction. Jeremiah received special revelation from the Lord to speak to the people. He knew that the words which he was speaking were true, because he had received them from the Lord. And as we were reminded last week, God’s Word does what it says. So, Jeremiah knew what he said would happen, not because he said it, but because God said it. His Words were God’s words.
At the beginning of chapter twenty-eight we read the words of the prophet Hananiah. His words are words of peace and prosperity. His words are words which the people wanted to hear. We read beginning at verses one, “1In that same year, at the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the fifth month of the fourth year, Hananiah the son of Azzur, the prophet from Gibeon, spoke to me in the house of the Lord, in the presence of the priests and all the people, saying, 2“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. 3Within two years I will bring back to this place all the vessels of the Lord’s house, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place and carried to Babylon. 4I will also bring back to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and all the exiles from Judah who went to Babylon, declares the Lord, for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.” 5Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to Hananiah the prophet in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the Lord” (Jeremiah 28:1-5).
The next verses are our text and they are Jeremiah’s response to all the good things which Hananiah prophesied. Jeremiah begins by saying that he does indeed hope that Hananiah’s prophecy will come true. He is no dummy. He too hopes for peace and prosperity, but Jeremiah knows the Word of the Lord. He knows that Hananiah’s prophecy will not come true because he is an ungodly prophet, he is not speaking from what God has said, and because the true Lord had already revealed to him what He would do.
In response to Hananiah’s prophecy, the Lord spoke to Jeremiah and instructed him to speak to Hananiah. We pick up reading at verse twelve, “12Sometime after the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke-bars from off the neck of Jeremiah the prophet, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 13“Go, tell Hananiah, ‘Thus says the Lord: You have broken wooden bars, but you have made in their place bars of iron. 14For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: I have put upon the neck of all these nations an iron yoke to serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and they shall serve him, for I have given to him even the beasts of the field.’” 15And Jeremiah the prophet said to the prophet Hananiah, “Listen, Hananiah, the Lord has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. 16Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will remove you from the face of the earth. This year you shall die, because you have uttered rebellion against the Lord.’” 17In that same year, in the seventh month, the prophet Hananiah died” (Jeremiah 28:12-17).
Jeremiah truly wanted Hananiah’s words to come true, but he knew the difference between a true prophet and a false prophet as he told the people in verse eight and nine, “8The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms. 9As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet” (28:8,9).
We are very much like the people of Jeremiah’s day. I would like to say that we do not like to hear about destruction and while that is true I do believe that we still like to hear good juicy gossip. We like to hear about the pain, problems and destruction of others. But, for the most part I believe that we would rather hear about peace and how things are getting better. I believe that we are at the point in our own nation of wanting peace at any cost and even at all cost. The big deal today is to be politically correct meaning that you go out of your way so as to not offend anyone, whether you agree with them or not. It is almost to the point that you cannot disagree with anyone and if you do, then it is you who has the problem.
The problem is that this position, peace at all cost, costs all things, including and especially peace, true peace. I believe our Gospel lesson from Matthew speaks loudly to this issue. Jesus tells us that He did not come to bring peace to earth, but to bring a sword. Hey folks, it may still be okay and fairly easy to be a Christian in Westfield, Spring, Humble, or Houston, but it is getting harder and harder to be a Christian in the rest of the United States and in the rest of the world.
But let us get back to being a Christian right here in our own neighborhood. I believe that it is getting harder to be a Christian in our own neighborhood. I believe that we have already let the our society tainted by our media influence our attitude toward how we are to be as Christians. I continually hear how Christians and especially Lutherans are seen as people who think we are better than others. This is especially true when it comes to discussing things like our practice of closed communion, our practice of excluding members of lodges, our practice of not having joint worship with other churches, and especially in our practice of preaching against the sins of abortion, homosexuality, living together, drug and alcohol abuse, and so on. As I have said before, the world hates Christians especially Christians who believe the exclusive claims of God’s Word, that is that there is only one way to eternal life and that only one way is through Jesus.
Unfortunately I also hear some our own members wanting peace and harmony at all cost. I keep hearing our own members talk about not wanting to offend anyone. Folks, the gospel is offensive. If we are not offending people with our message then I would wonder if we were truly proclaiming God’s Word. As we just heard in the Gospel lesson, Jesus said He came, not to bring peace but a sword. It is only when we are in the Word and the Word is in us that we can have true peace and harmony. The reverse is not true, that is that we can have true peace and harmony and then we are in the Word. That does not work. I have actually had people tell me, “Pastor, once I get my life straightened out, then I will be back in church.” It simply does not work that way. The only way to get our life straight is by being in the word and letting the Word have His way with us. It is the Word alone which brings true peace and harmony.
I believe I am beginning to understand the way Jeremiah felt when the Lord told him to proclaim His Word. In the same way that the people of his day were giving more credence to words other than to God’s Word, so too today. People actually listen to and believe the news media and the politicians more than and over God’s Word. It is frightening. I am all for peace and harmony. As Jeremiah says, “Amen!” to peace and harmony, “May the LORD do so!” At the same time we must not forget Jesus’ Words in Matthew, that Jesus came, not to bring peace, at least not a fake worldly peace, but rather He came to bring a sword. Nor must we forget His words that, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” In other words, we must never forget the need to give up this world and our life in this world knowing that our Lord has a better place prepared for us.
How do we know what is true, what is God’s Word? Our Epistle lesson from Romans helps us out with that point. We know what is true and what is from God when what we hear speaks about our need to recognize and confess our sin and our Lord’s work to forgive us and save us. When we are spoken of as being able only to be given the gifts of God, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and our Lord being the one to give us all the good gifts and blessings He has to give, with no effort on our part, this speaking is how we know what is truly from God. Remember, faith plus anything means it is not faith but the anything that saves. Faith plus nothing. Faith that is given. Faith that is the instrument which is given which reaches out and takes hold of all the other gifts and blessings, this is saving faith. The direction of salvation is always from heaven to earth, from Jesus to us.
We may want to always hear good news, news about peace and prosperity in the land. Wanting to hear such news is good. The best news, the most trust worthy news is the news which our Lord gives to us in His Word, the news that He is our Savior. If you want true peace, true peace does not come from within. True peace is not simply a worldly peace. That peace, a worldly peace only lasts for a short while. True peace, peace which lasts, which transcends time is peace that comes from sins forgiven. With sins forgiven, with guilt washed away, that is true peace, peace which passes all understanding. I pray that the Lord will always give you a yearning to hear His Good News, the best news of all, that your sins are forgiven, and with sins forgiven you may respond and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.