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 16, 2017
My Word Will Not Return Empty - July 16, 2017 - Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 10) - Text: Isaiah 55:10-13
Have you ever tried to talk to someone, but the whole while it seems like their mind is somewhere else? If you are a parent, have you ever spoken to your child and felt as if the words you were saying were going in one ear and coming out the other? I suppose that even children feel that way, at times, about speaking to their parents. Have you ever sat watching a television show or the news, or gone to a movie, or read a book and when it was all over you thought to yourself, “What did I just see, read, hear, or whatever?” Our minds are remarkable things, but unless our attention is on whatever we are doing we may miss out. Although we live in a world that speaks of multitasking, that is doing more than one thing at a time, a wise pastor once told me, when we multitask, we are doing more than one thing half-heartedly and not giving one hundred percent to any task thus all the things we are doing while multi-tasking are not done with our best effort. This is especially true when it comes to God’s Word, to our lives and the priorities of our lives. Today our lessons focus our attention on the importance of God’s Word.
Before we get to our text it is necessary to do a little background study. First, let us go back a couple of chapters and look at Isaiah chapter fifty-three. This is the chapter which prophecies the coming of the Messiah. In this chapter, chapter fifty-three Isaiah, describes the Messiah as a Suffering Servant Messiah. He tells us that the Messiah will come as a human being, that He will take all our sins on Himself, that He will suffer and die on the cross for us, in our place. He will suffer the suffering and death, the eternal spiritual death penalty pronounced in Eden, that is He will suffer hell, which should be ours to suffer, for us in our place so that we might be given forgiveness of sins, and with forgiveness we will be given life and salvation.
From Isaiah fifty-three we move to the next chapter, Isaiah fifty-four in which we are given words of our future glory in heaven. These words are given to us only because of the work accomplished by the Messiah, the work prophesied in the previous chapter, chapter fifty-three. Next we move to the first part of chapter fifty-five, the verses right before our text. These verses invite us to take part in the salvation which is ours, gained for us by the Messiah.
All of this brings us to our text. The first verse of our text, verse ten reminds us that it is God who gives rain and snow. He gives the rain and the snow which, “come down from heaven, and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread for the eater” (v. 10). These words are both literal and figurative. Our Great God gives us rain and snow to water the earth so that the plants bud and flourish. Our Great God also gives us His Word and sacraments which water us spiritually so that we may grow and flourish in our faith.
How do we respond to God’s gifts of His Word and sacraments? Are we joyfully given His gifts? Or do we neglect to be given, even refusing and rejecting by absenting ourselves from the very place His gifts are given out? Do we even refuse and neglect to believe His Word and promises? We neglect to be given God’s Word and promises when we are unfaithful in our worship attendance as well as our daily reading of God’s Word. To be honest, we can go so far as to say that we despise God’s Word and promises when we neglect to be in His Word. We are offered ample opportunity here at St. Matthew to be in the Word. We are offered the Word in the divine worship service every Sunday. We are offered Sunday morning Bible classes. We are offered other Bible studies during the week, a Wednesday study, a Thursday evening study a Saturday men’s and a Saturday women’s study. We make available the devotional book The Portals of Prayer for home personal and family devotions. The Sunday sermon is available online to read. All of these are ways in which we are given the opportunity to hear God’s Words and promises. If we are not taking part in these, then we might truly say we are despising God’s Word and refusing and rejecting His gifts.
Continuing in verse eleven of our text God tells us about the word that goes out from His mouth. He says, “it will not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (v. 11). As we have said many times, God’s Word is a word with power, power to give and do what it say. God’s Words and promises do what they say. God gives us His Word and Sacraments to give to us and to bring us to faith, to strengthen us in our faith, to remind us of our forgiveness, earned for us and given to us by Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross, and His Word and Sacraments remind us of the gift and promise of eternal salvation with Him in heaven.
As we journey through this life, we may see what we think are set backs and failures, but God’s Word never fails. God knows what is best for us in our life even when it might not look like that is so because we cannot see it. There may be times when we think we know what is best for ourselves and when God allows things to go not the way we want or think they should go, then at those times of difficulty we may think God’s Word has failed. It is at these times that we need to remind ourselves of God’s Word immediately preceding our text, verses eight and nine, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (55:8-9). God has promised and He accomplishes the fact that His Word never fails. We might not see what good God has in mind, and this lack of vision may be especially true when we are in the middle of a difficult situation, but we can know for certain that God will work all things out for the best, for those who are called according to His purposes.
The last two verses of our text invite us to believe the truth of God’s Word and to look forward to the joy that will be ours in heaven, the joy of paradise restored. Just as Adam and Eve destroyed the perfection of Eden, so Jesus came and restores all things so that heaven is a place of eternal perfection.
Our Gospel reading for this morning is a beautiful application of Isaiah’s prophecy in our text. In Jesus’ parable of the Sower and seed we see that God is the sower and that what He sows is His Word. When His Word is not listened to or read, but is neglected, refused and rejected, it eventually dies off. In the same way, when we neglect, refuse and reject God’s Word we can eventually lose our faith.
When God’s Word is sown on fertile soil, that is when we listen to and strive, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to live according to God’s Word, then His Word takes root, springs up and bears abundant fruit in our hearts and lives. This listening, taking root, springing up and bearing abundant fruit is our prayer each and every Sunday as well as each and every day, that is that the Lord will work through His Word so that His Word might take root in your lives, spring up, and bear abundant fruit. And we add that this work might be done to the praise and glory of Jesus name.
For whatever reason, God has chosen to come to us today through means. He comes to us through the means of grace, that is through the means of His Word as well as through the means of confession and absolution as well as His Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. God has chosen to come to us through these ordinary earthly means, water, wine, bread and word and through these ordinary means He has given to come to us to give to us and bring us to faith, to strengthen us in that faith which He gives, to remind us that we have already been forgiven, to remind us that we have the gift of heaven, that we have the promise of eternal life and salvation. God comes to us in His Word and Sacraments on a daily basis to give us His good gifts and blessings. The usual way we are given His good gifts and blessings is through the means which He has chosen to give them, His means of grace, His Word and Sacraments.
When we neglect to be given God’s many good gifts and blessings, when we refuse, reject and resist His Word and His sacraments, He cannot give us His gifts. Without His gifts we are lost and condemned creatures. Without His gifts we have no future, we have nothing for which to hope. Without His gifts we have only ourselves in which to hope and if you have ever tried to hope in yourself you know that is not much for which to hope. When we depend on ourselves we fail. We even fall into despair. God is not just an answer to all that goes on in life, He is the only answer to make sense out of life.
God tells us that His Word never fails. His Word never fails because He is the one who has given us His Word. We fail, but God never fails. The exciting news is that even when we fail, even when we neglect God’s Word, even when we have fallen as far away from our Lord as far as we think we can fall, He is always right there, looking for us, working to bring us back into His fold. What has God done for you lately? He has given you each new day, because without Him you would not have any new days. He daily rains down His gifts of health and strength and daily food. He daily gives us all that we need to support this body and life, including clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and home, wife and children and all that we need to support this body and life. He gives us gifts talents and abilities as well us our jobs and the ability to work to make a living. He gives us our most important needs, our spiritual blessings, forgiveness of sins, faith, strengthening of faith, life, eternal life and salvation. He gives us His Word and Sacraments through which He comes to us with His good gifts and blessings. And the list can go on and on. God gives and gives and gives and we are given to. So to simplify matters we might just say, everything that we have spiritually as well as physically, emotionally and mentally, everything we have is a gift from God.
Daily we carry on a conversation with God. God speaks to us each and every day of our lives. He speaks to us through His Word. We speak back to Him in prayer. It is when we are in the Word and the Word, Jesus Christ, is in us that we know that God’s Word will accomplish what He sent it to do, give, strengthen and keep us in faith. I pray that the Lord will continue to open your hearts and minds so that you will hear His Word and so that Word might take root, spring up, and bear abundant fruit in your lives, to the praise and glory of His Holy Name. And as always our response then is, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.