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, August 27, 2017
Comfort in Righteousness - August 27, 2017 - Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 16) - Text: Isaiah 51:1-6
So, what is your claim to fame? I guess some people would say, what is your testimony? Or what is your testimonial? Personally, my testimony is that I was conceived and born in sin. Every inclination of my heart is evil all the time. I am constantly breaking God’s commandments. I break them in thought, in word and in deed. Thanks be to God that He has paid for and offers forgiveness to me. So, my testimony is that I am a child of God. God put His name on me at my baptism. He put faith in my heart. He gave me forgiveness of sins. He wrote my name in the book of life. He claimed me as His child. I guess I am just a regular person.
Before we get to our text for this morning, I want to take a quick look at the other lessons. In the Epistle lesson, Paul’s letter to the Romans, Paul writes about the mystery of God. Paul reminds us of God’s great love for us, including the fact that God created all things out of nothing, Adam and Eve spoiled what God created, God promised and sent a Savior, and really we have nothing to offer our Lord except what He has first given to us. How unsearchable, how un-understandable is God’s great love for us, His sinful creatures.
In the Gospel lesson we have the account of Jesus discussing with His disciples who people thought He was. Peter, not of Himself, but being lead by the Father, tells us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, that is Jesus is both God and man who came to fulfill the promises and prophecies of God.
In our text, Isaiah speaks the word of the Lord to the faithless and unbelieving Israel. He gives them the example of Abraham. We pick up at verse two, “2Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who bore you; for he was but one when I called him, that I might bless him and multiply him (v. 2). Israel is pointed to childless Abraham who only had a promise. Here we are reminded that Old Testament salvation was based on the same thing that New Testament salvation is based, that is faith, faith in the coming Messiah. Abraham did not have any children, but he believed God’s promise that he would have a child.
To Abraham and Sarah God gave the gift of a son. Isaac was indeed a miracle given by God. Remember, both Abraham and Sarah were up in the years, both really beyond child bearing years, yet, that did not stop God from fulfilling His promise and giving them a child.
The fact that God keeps His promises gives us a look at God’s righteousness. As we look at that history of the children of Israel we see that it was a history of ups and downs. God chose Israel. God promised to make them a great nation. God did everything for them and yet, time and again they rebelled against Him. They rejected Him. They rejected His covenant. When they rebelled the Lord allowed for them to be disciplined until they returned to faith and the cycle of falling away, being disciplined, coming back to faith, and again falling away continued. Yet we see God’s mercy in His continual call to them to repent.
Picking up at verse three we hear God’s Word of comfort. “3For the Lord comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song” (v. 3). God’s promises brought hope and encouragement especially during down times. These words of Isaiah are especially important to us today as we have these same words to encourage us during our own down times, even if our down times are caused by our own actions and are times the Lord may be disciplining us as well.
Finally, in our text we have God’s word of salvation. We pick up at verse four, “4Give attention to me, my people, and give ear to me, my nation; for a law will go out from me, and I will set my justice for a light to the peoples. 5My righteousness draws near, my salvation has gone out, and my arms will judge the peoples; the coastlands hope for me, and for my arm they wait” (v. 4, 5). Again, we see God’s continual favor on His people. Continually God promised restoration to His people. This happened time and again as we just said.
The ultimate restoration for Israel was not simply restoration for Israel, but was the restoration first promised in the Garden of Eden, the restoration first promised before there was a Jew and Gentile, when there was only Adam and Eve and that first promise of restoration was a promise for sins to be forgiven by the price for sin being paid for by the Messiah.
So, let us get to the what does this mean? I believe we need the constant reminder that God’s promise of salvation was first given in the Garden of Eden, and it was given to all people. It is only as we keep this in mind and fully understand this first promise and especially when and to whom it is given that the rest of God’s Word will fall into place. Understanding the when, the where and the to whom helps us to keep from falling into other false teachings that are prevalent in our world today especially concerning dispensationalism, millenialism and many other isms which would have us believe that God has more than one covenant with His people, or that unbelievers will get a second chance and so forth. God made one covenant and it was a covenant of grace based on what He would do for all people.
As history unfolded, the line of fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation was narrowed through Abraham. Out of all people, God chose Abraham. This had nothing to do with Abraham or his goodness or faithfulness or anything. As a matter of fact we are told of Abraham’s idolatry in that he had to put his idols away to do the Lord’s bidding. This calling by God simply had to do with the fact that God chose him. Again as history unfolded we see this promise being passed down from generation to generation.
Finally, at just the right time we see God’s promise being fulfilled. God’s promise was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus was born, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, conceived by the Holy Spirit and true man, born of the human woman. Thus, Jesus was born perfect and holy. He lived perfectly. He was tempted beyond what we might think or imagine and yet He never sinned. Instead, He took our sins, all our sins, upon Himself and suffered, paying the price for our sins, shedding His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death He paid the price, the cost which was eternal spiritual death. He did this because of His great love for us.
God’s ultimate fulfillment is when Christ returns to judge. And so we wait. We wait with eager anticipation. We wait living lives of faith so that others see the hope that we have so that they ask and we are ready to give an answer for the hope that we have. Christ will return, or we will go to Him, either way, we will ultimately stand before Jesus as our judge.
This morning we also ask, how is this done? As Christians, we live lives and our lives are lives of ups and downs, sins and sins forgiven. Sometimes we sin without thinking about it, that simply is our nature. Sometimes we sin while thinking about it, that is deliberate sin. Too often we fail to recognize that we are actually enemies of God and tools of Satan as we sin. Sometimes we may suffer some physical punishment for our sin, but not always. Yet our Lord continues to call us to repentance. And so our lives are lives of ups and downs.
Especially during our down times we have God’s Word and His Sacraments which bring us hope. God’s Word does what it says. As we read God’s Word, as we make use of the sacraments, remembering our baptism, partaking of the Lord’s body and blood in His Holy Meal, as we confess our sins and hear His most beautiful and precious word, “Your sins are forgiven,” that Word and those sacraments give exactly what they say, forgiveness of sins. And forgiveness is so important. Remember, without forgiveness we remain in our sins and our only hope would be despair. But with forgiveness there is life and salvation.
And so we look forward in hope, which for us as Christians is not an uncertain wish washy hope, but a certainty, a definite. Hope is not for something we see, for who hopes for what he already has. Hope is what is not seen, in particular, our hope is for eternal life with Jesus in heaven. This is our hope and our confidence. Remember, by faith in Jesus we have forgiveness of sins and with forgiveness is life and salvation. And this is a present reality. Heaven is ours now. We will have to wait until the Lord returns or until we pass on to get into heaven which is what is our hope, but it is ours now.
What great love our Lord has for us, beyond our imagination and understanding. As we are reminded in all our lessons for this morning, our salvation is not dependent on ourselves. I would suggest that our culture makes it so difficult for us to understand and accept this truth. So often we are told by our culture and we actually focus on ourselves and what we think we must and can do. We get our focus confused and in the wrong direction. We have a cross at the front of our church so that as we come into divine service we can get our focus and direction oriented in the right way. We always focus on Jesus. Just Jesus. As Isaiah encourages us in the last verse of our text, “6Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner; but my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed” (v. 6).
I do not believe this world will continue on forever. I do believe we are living in the last days, as it were, just as Jesus’ birth ushered in the last days. I do believe that even if the Lord does not come during my life time, I will go to Him, either way, I will stand before Him. I also believe that there are many people who do not know the Lord, and there are many who know Him, but every Sunday refuse and reject Him, of course I do not mean on this particular Sunday when many simply cannot make it because of weather conditions, but on any given Sunday there are many who are able to be here yet refuse and reject Him. We can sit and navel gaze and bemoan this fact, or we can, with the Lord’s help of course, live lives of faith, encouraging and uplifting others, inviting them to come and hear God’s Word so they too may be a part of His kingdom. My prayer is that we will harken to Paul’s Words and take comfort in Isaiah’s word this morning. I pray we may use the gifts that God has given to each one of us and take comfort in the fact that it is not ours to do otherwise, but it is the Lord who works and gives faith when and where He pleases. And then we thank the Lord for His gift of faith to us and we pray that He would continue to work through us in this place so that we might be the people He would have us to be, encouraging each other, building each other up, inviting the foreigners and outsider to be a part of His kingdom, that is that we might be about the business of strengthening the faith of our own members, extending God’s kingdom in this place and above all, giving praise and glory to His Holy Name. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Sunday, August 20, 2017
My Salvation Is Close at Hand - August 20, 2017 - Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 15) - Text: Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” Perhaps you have heard that sentiment before. The purpose of such sentiments is to get us to look at our lives, to see how we might be better people and perhaps even better Christians. It is a nice sentiment. I hope what you noticed about such a sentiment, as well as similar sentiments, it is a law statement. We know it is law, because it is asking us to do something. I could add other sentimental statements, or pious platitudes such as, “If you knew you were going to die in a month would you do anything different?” and of course I would have to follow that up with the law question, “Then why aren’t you?” The sentiment and the result are the same. The fact of the matter is, and this should not be a surprise to hear, we are conceived and born in sin, every inclination of our heart is evil all the time, we are continually at odds with our Lord and if we seriously and honestly looked at our lives we would be able to see how true this is. Thanks be to God that our Lord continues to be our Lord and continues to give us His many good gifts and blessings. Our Lord continues to be a gracious God as we see in our text.
Getting to our text, our Lord gives us the whole lot, both the law and the gospel. Verse one reads, “1Thus says the Lord: ‘Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed’” (v. 1). Our Lord begins by giving us the law, telling us that we are to maintain justice and do what is right. As sinners in a sin filled world we realize that for us to attempt to do this by ourselves is an impossibility. The Lord knows that this is a task we cannot perform which is why He does not stop with this command, but continues with the second part of the verse, giving us His gospel message.
Our Lord presents us with the Gospel by telling us, “for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed.” Keeping this statement in its context we realize that this statement is being made to the children of Israel and that this is the promise that the Messiah will come to save them. The Lord’s salvation is the Messiah, namely Jesus Christ. This statement is not meant just for the Israelites, it is meant for us today. We have seen the salvation of the Lord. We have seen His righteousness, but we continue to look forward to His second revelation, when the Messiah will return on the last day to take us to be with Himself in heaven.
Our text picks up at verse six with the Lord including foreigners in His covenant. We read, “6‘And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant— 7these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. 8The Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered’” (v. 6-8). This is good news for us because we are the foreigners. We are the foreigners who will serve Him, who will love the name of the LORD, who will keep the Sabbath, who will hold fast to His covenant. We will do these things, not in and of ourselves, but because the Lord will work these good works in us. We will do these things, not to earn our salvation, but as a response of active obedience for our salvation which He has earned for us.
And because He works these good works in us He will bring us to His holy mountain and give us joy in His house of prayer. He will make our burnt offerings and sacrifices acceptable on His altar, in other words He will make our good works acceptable to Himself. He will gather still others besides us meaning that those who are included in His covenant will be a great number.
So we get to the question we ask about every text, what does this mean? What does this mean to us as a church, as a congregation? What does this mean to me personally? This means that we continually remind ourselves of what God has done; what we cannot do; what God works in and through us; and what we gain.
We remember what God has done. Obviously to remember all that God has done would take several days, even years. With that said, it is important to remember what God has done. What He has done here at St. Matthew Lutheran church as a congregation as well as what He has done in our own lives. As a congregation He granted that people got together and saw the need to begin a Christian church. He has granted our church over 100 years even 117 years of being a church. He has granted us a place to worship as well as the continued freedom to worship. We are especially thankful as we are reminded that He has given us both the talents and abilities as well as the means to continue to be His church and his people in this place. He has given us this building in which we worship Him in divine service. Personally we remember and are ever so thankful that He has given us our very lives, at conception. He has given us new life through our baptism which we daily remember and through which we are daily strengthened. We remember that He gives us His Holy Precious Word as well as His true body and blood in His Holy Supper. We remember that He gives us the greatest and most wonderful gift of forgiveness as we confess our sins and hear His most precious words of forgiveness. His Word reminds us of all the prophecies which He has given and how Jesus fulfilled all those prophecies.
As I sat down thinking about what God has done for us I began to think about Dr. Martin Luther’s explanations to the articles of the Apostles’ Creed. Immediately I began type out his words, then I thought, maybe I should not take so much from Dr. Luther and I almost erased what I had typed. Then I thought a second time. Why not use Dr. Luther’s words? When I am through preaching you will go home and maybe, just maybe, you will say to yourself, what were those words Pastor Bogs was saying that said how much God has done for me. Then I thought, if I give you Dr. Luther’s words you can go home and if you have them memorized or if you remember them from your own conformation, or of you have forgotten them, then you look them up in your catechism and constantly be reminded of all that God has done for you.
With that in mind let us listen to Dr. Luther’s words as he reminds us so well what God has done for us in His explanations to the first and second article of the Apostles’ Creed. He says, “I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him. I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.”
We remember what God has done, but we also remember what we cannot do. Again, Dr. Martin Luther said it so well in his explanation to the third article of the Apostles’ Creed when he said, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason our strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.”
In and of ourselves we can do no good thing. In and of ourselves we can only do the evil that is born in us. We cannot keep God’s Word. We cannot keep His commandments. We cannot do all the things that He would have us to do. We cannot even respond to all the good things that He has done and continues to do for us. As a matter of fact, apart from our Lord all we can do is rebel against Him as His enemies and we do this on a daily basis, breaking not one or two, but all the commandments.
Knowing that we can do no good thing in and of ourselves we are moved to remember what God works in and through us. It is God who works a renewing of our faith. It is God who works a renewing of our commitment to being in the Word. It is God who works in us the response to come to His House of worship. It is God who works in us a response to make regular and diligent use of His means of grace, those means through which He comes to give us the good gifts and blessings He has to give to us. Any and all good works that we do we do because it is God working in and through us.
When we stop and think about it, it is rather amazing and to use the language from God’s Word, it is rather a mystery. None of us was here when this congregation began. Soon we will pass away and yet this congregation will continue on. This is not our church. This is not our congregation. As a matter of fact, if you look at the history of this congregation, it has gone through some tough times, mostly because of the attacks of Satan, working through those who have tried to undo what God has done. That the devil is working so hard might give us a little confidence that we are doing something right, because you know the devil is not going to waste his time on something he already has.
Because God works good works in and through us, we gain all the gifts which He has promised to us. Because of God’s good works, namely because of His work of sending His only Son, Jesus Christ, to live for us, living perfectly as we cannot, and then taking our sins upon Himself and paying the price for our sins, by shedding His holy precious blood, because of Jesus, we gain eternal life with Him in heaven.
“1Thus says the Lord: ‘Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed’” (56:1). With the help of the Holy Spirit we respond by working to maintain justice and doing what is right. We respond, with His help to be the people He would have us to be in this place. And with the help of the Holy Spirit we pray that in this place God’s Word may continue to be proclaimed in all its truth and purity. We pray that the Holy Spirit may use us as His congregation for the extending of His kingdom, for the strengthening of His people and for the praise and glory of His Holy Name. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Monday, August 14, 2017
So, your grown up and you’re off to college. You’re ready to become an individual who thinks for yourself, wonderful. The temptation and challenge ahead of you is to not be fooled into a false intellectual independence. What I mean is that you may think you are becoming independent in your thinking by giving up the thinking, the moral and ethical values of your parents, those values on which you were raised, and deciding for yourself what are your moral and ethical values. Beware! What tends to happen is that you become deceived by those who would espouse another moral, ethical value than you were taught so that you have simply traded one intellectual thinking for another, a foreign one. In plan terms, you will be tempted to give up what your parents have taught for what your professor would have you think with his encouragement that he wants you to be a free independent thinker.
But, does your professor truly want you to be an independent thinker? More often than not he or she simply wants you to be one of his or her disciples regurgitating what they think and then telling you only then are you truly a free thinker. And unfortunately most of these professors have never actually had to live in the real world that you and your parents live in so they really have no clue about the affect of their ideas.
So, does your professor truly want you to be an independent thinker? I would suggest not and I might suggest a way to actually find out if they do want you to think for yourself. Beware that this suggestion might get you kicked out of class or given a bad grade, so perhaps it might best be done in as anonymous way as possible, like placing a note on the professors desk without them knowing. The note might say something like this: Dear Prof. As a members of this class we are wondering if you truly want us to be free thinkers? Will we be made fun of and called name, even down graded and ejected from class if we disagree with you or question any of your teaching? Or would you rather we simply regurgitate what you well us and keep quite in order to pass? Please give us an answer and an honest answer so we may know how to proceed in class.
Your professors response and answer or lack of answer should give you some insight into whether or not you are expected, encouraged, or discouraged in being a free thinker.
Having known people in the college teaching profession, and having read evaluations of professors it is well noted that most professors do not want any disagreement or contentiousness from the students. They simply want their students to speak and mimic them. Which brings me back to my original concern, that of your intellectual independence. Might I remind you that there are always people who think like you and who think different from you. You are never truly independent of everyone else when it comes to thinking, thus I would encourage you, do not give up the way in which your parents taught you. They live in the world. They know right from wrong. They are the ones who got you this far in life. Do not give up what they taught because you think you will be more intelligent if you speak like your professor rather than your parents, even if your parents are not professors or Doctors, they are life experienced, real world thinkers.
Give thanks to God for your parents, for their values, for their love and for instilling in you what is mete, right and salutary.
Sunday, August 6, 2017
He Has Endowed You with Splendor - August 6, 2017 - Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 13) - Text: Isaiah 55:1-5
Many of you got up this morning, as you do on most mornings; you took a shower, brushed your teeth, maybe you shaved, some of you put on make-up; you got up and got dressed; you got yourself ready to come to church, to worship, to divine service to be given the gifts the Lord has to give. We might say that you prepared yourself with as much outward beauty as you humanly could because you wanted to look your best when you came to the divine service of your Lord. Although it may not be as noticeable today as it is at Christmas and Easter, we do prepare ourselves, at least externally, when we come to divine service at our Lord’s house. Today we will be talking about being glorified and the difference between outward glory and inward glory.
Our text is a part of God’s invitation through Isaiah for the Israelites to come and take part in the Lord’s salvation. The time of our text is when the Israelites were in exile. The Israelites owned nothing and owed tribute for everything. They were a people without a country. They had nothing. Here in our text Isaiah offers the Israelites the prophecy that they will return from exile. He is giving them hope for the future. We can relate well to the Israelites, because we too are in exile in this world. We can relate to the popular hymn, “I’m but a stranger here, heaven is my home.” We are strangers in this world. We own nothing and we owe all that we have to the Lord. We are living in exile here until we reach our permanent home in heaven.
The hope for the future that Isaiah gives is that the Israelites will no longer have to pay tribute. Their hope for the future is that they will be able to buy and eat without money or cost. Isaiah’s reference is, of course, to a spiritual eating and drinking. God’s salvation is without cost to us. What is behind this hopeful future is the prophecy which Isaiah spoke in chapter fifty-three. The cost for God’s salvation was paid for by the suffering servant, the Messiah, namely Jesus Christ and His suffering and death on the cross. Jesus paid the cost, the price for our sins, so that salvation costs us nothing.
Getting into our text, verse one reads, “1Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Is. 55:1). Here we have the invitation and notice that this invitation is to all who are thirsty and this thirst does not mean a physical thirst. Spiritual thirst is what is important, is what is most important. The Apostle Peter reiterates this in one of his epistles when he says, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). In the same way that you cannot force a person who is not hungry or thirsty to eat or drink, neither can you force a person who wants nothing to do with God to read His Word, to attend Bible Class and Divine Service, to have personal and family devotions and so forth. So, is Isaiah’s invitation to us? Isaiah’s invitation is to us if we are thirsty. How do we know if we are thirsty? We know we are thirsty, spiritually thirsty, if we have a desire to be in God’s Word. We are thirsty if we are eager to come to divine service, if we are eager to read and study His Word, if we are eager and desire to confess our sins and hear God’s Word of forgiveness, if we are eager and desire to come to the Lord’s Table to eat His body and drink His blood for the forgiveness of sins. On the other hand, we are not thirsty if we can easily find excuses as to why we do not have the time to be in His Word, to come to divine service and Bible class, to make use of the means of grace. We are not thirsty if we can easily find other things to do, other places to be, and truly do not desire to be where and when the gifts of God are given out. Let us be honest folks, the excuse that we do not have time is just that, an excuse. We find time or make time to do all the things we want to do, why cannot we find or make the time to be in God’s Word, except that we do not want to be in His Word. As we have said before, it is a matter of priorities. We make the time to do what is important to us.
Going on in verse two we read, “2Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food” (Is. 55:2). What is “not bread” and “what does not satisfy” are in reference to the things of this world. This almost sounds like a stewardship statement. On what are you spending your money? Are you spending your money on the things of this world, trying to make yourself happy in this world? or are you buying and eating what is good and in what your soul delights? In other words, are you spending your money on the things of this world in an attempt to make yourself happy? Things like your house or even a second home in which to vacation; a boat; an overwhelmingly consuming hobby, one that takes all your time, energy and finances? Are you spending your money on the things of this world in an attempt to make yourself happy and wondering why you are still unhappy? And so you double your spending thinking these things will make you happy and still wonder why they do not? The alternative our text suggests is to listen to the Lord, to eat what is good and to delight in His riches. In other words, the way to satisfy yourself is not in the things of this world, but to delight in the spiritual blessings of the Lord which are given and received through His Word and Sacraments.
Continuing on in verse three we read, “3Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David ” (Is. 55:3). God has made an everlasting covenant to all who believe in Him. His covenant is that He is our God and we are His people. He has chosen us to be His people and He has sent His “sure love” which He promised through “David” who is Jesus to seal and fulfill His covenant with us.
In verse four we read,“4Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples” (Is. 55:4). Jesus is our leader and commander. Jesus is the witness that God has accomplished what He said. Jesus is the witness who paid the cost for us to come, buy, eat and drink. Literally, Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross paid for our salvation.
Finally verse five reads, “5Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you” (Is. 55:5). We are the nations that “you do not know.” We did not know the Lord, but the Holy Spirit has worked through His Word and Sacraments to call us to faith, to strengthen us in our faith and to keep us in our faith.
Our Gospel reading for this morning reminds us, again, that Jesus is truly human and truly God. We see His humanity in His care and concern for the people. We see His divinity in His power over the things of this world, including and especially in our reading, that He blessed the fish and loaves so that they multiplied and were able to feed over five thousand people, perhaps, including women and children, over 15, 000 people. In our Epistle lesson Paul emulates Christ in his care and concern for his people, the children of Israel. Paul says he would give his life to save his people. Paul’s bottom line, if you will, in the epistle lesson is the fact and the reminder that one is a child of Abraham, not by birth, not by flesh, not by DNA, but by faith. As we have talked about in Bible class time and again, the covenant the Lord made, back in the Garden of Eden, first to Adam and Eve, was not a covenant of flesh, but a covenant of grace. The Lord did not make two covenants, one with Israel and one with Christians. The Lord made one covenant and that covenant is a covenant of grace and faith. In other words, it is not what is on the outside that counts, not one’s DNA, but what is on the inside, faith in one’s heart, faith not in self but in Jesus.
If you have ever followed the history of the children of Israel, and we have been doing that in Bible Class, I contend that their history looks a lot like our history as a Christian America. Of course, at this point in our history, we are not that much of a Christian America and that is exactly the point. Just as Israel at one time, were God’s people, yet they gave up their covenant with the Lord, so at one point much or even most of America was a Christian land, but too many have given up their faith to follow the culture of this country and the world, rather than to follow the God of Holy Scripture. As we talked about last week and before, our problems all go back to the Garden of Eden and Adam and Eve’s sin. Their sin has been genetically passed down to us today. We are conceived and born in sin. Our every inclination is to sin. It is this sin which separates us from God. The price for sin was set in the Garden of Eden, the price for sin is death, physical death and worse eternal spiritual death. Thanks be to God that the price has been paid. Jesus paid the price for our sin by suffering the punishment for us, in our place, so that forgiveness costs us nothing, because Jesus paid the price.
As you may remember I began by talking about how we get ourselves ready to come to the divine service of our Lord, how we clean ourselves up and put on our finest for the Lord. Every Sunday morning, and maybe even every day we decorate our bodies, the outside shell of ourselves. The problem is that while we may be decorating our outsides, we still have the same cruddy inside. Although we are Christians and our sins have been forgiven, we remain at the same time sinner and saint. So, we may look good on the outside, but we are still sinners on the inside and there is no way that we can ever change that fact. We can change our appearance on the outside; we can change what others see, but we cannot change our inside. It is God alone who can change our inside. It is God alone who redecorates our inside with glory, and that is what is truly glory.
The invitation that Isaiah presented to the children of Israel from the Lord is the same invitation that our Lord offers us today through His Word and Sacraments. The invitation is for us to come, to buy and to eat, without cost. The invitation is to throw off the things of this world, the outward adornments, which do not satisfy and to put on the glory of our Lord, the true glory which He freely gives. We do this by being in God’s Word, by reading our Bibles, by having personal and family devotions, by attending Bible Class and divine service, by remembering our Baptism and how through our Baptism we were made God’s children, by confessing our sins, all our sins and by hearing His most beautiful and precious words of forgiveness, and by partaking in His Sacraments, especially by partaking in His true Body and true Blood, in, with and under the bread and wine in His Holy Meal. Indeed, it is through these very means that our Lord comes to us and gives to us all the good gifts and blessings He has to give. God freely gives and we are given to. So let me continue to encourage you, rejoice, then, and be given the gifts the Lord has to give. Rejoice, and know that the Lord has endowed you with glory, for Jesus’ sake, and to Him be the glory. Amen.