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, February 3, 2019
I Knew You - February 3, 2019 - Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: Jeremiah 1:4-10 [17-19]
If you walked into an ice cream parlor and ordered a scoop of ice cream you might think it would be rather strange if the attendant gave you the ice cream in a bowl but did not give you a spoon with which to eat it. You might think it even more strange if the server asked you if you brought your own bowl, or simply asked you to stick out your hands. Of course, they do not give you ice cream in the first place, you have to purchase it and so certainly you would expect that for the price you would get the bowl and spoon as well.
When it comes to our God, we rejoice in the fact that we do not purchase any of the blessings He pours out on us. If we did purchase them they would no longer be gift and actually we know that the price is higher than we could pay anyway. The price for sin, the cost of forgiveness is death, physical human death. Blood had to be shed. With our God, when He gives us the gifts He has to give, He gives us all His gifts and even more. God gives us life, at conception. God gives us faith, forgiveness and new life, through His Word and Holy Baptism. He gives us forgiveness of sins through confession and His Words of absolution. God gives us strengthening of faith through His Word and through His Body and Blood in His Holy Meal. God gives us all the good gifts and blessings He has to give and so much more.
One great example of what a great, gift giving God we have is in our text for this morning. In our Old Testament reading we have the call of God to Jeremiah as a Prophet. God’s calling of Jeremiah is similar to His calling of us, at least in His calling us to life, to faith and to vocation. Our text begins by reminding us that God’s call to Jeremiah was even before He was conceived. We begin at verse four, “4Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 5“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (v. 4-5). Here again, we are reminded that even before we were conceived, even before the Lord began creating the world, He had us in mind!
God called Jeremiah, yet, in a way similar to Moses, Jeremiah protested. His first excuse was that he was too young. We pick up at verse six, “6Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth” (v. 6). God calls each of us to faith and He calls us to our vocations, that is He calls us to live our lives as living sacrifices so that others may see our good works and give glory to the Lord, yet how often do we protest that we cannot do what God calls us to do.
Although Jeremiah protested, God answered his protest. God told Jeremiah He would give him the words to speak. We pick up at verse seven, “7But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. 8Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.” 9Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. 10See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant” (v. 7-10). And so, God also gives us His authority to speak His Word in His name and He promises us that He will be with us to the end of the age and He will give us the words to speak so that it is not we who are speaking but it is He who is speaking through us.
Finally, God promised Jeremiah that He would give him protection and confidence. We pick up at verse seventeen, “17But you, dress yourself for work; arise, and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them. 18And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land. 19They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you” (v. 17-19) God’s promise to us is that He will never leave us nor forsake us.
Now, let us take a closer look at God’s gifts and calling for us. As you have heard me say time and again, God gives us life at conception. There really is no mystery as to when life begins or when a person is a human being. It does not matter what you call the pre-born child in the womb, whether you call it a zygote or a fetus, or any other name, because from the moment of conception it is a human being. It is not a cat or dog or mouse or horse, it is a human being. It has all the necessary DNA programing, all the necessary genetic information without anything needing to be added so that all that is needed is nutrition, nourishment and it grows bigger and bigger as a baby. And certainly we understand that at conception God gives us each an eternal soul.
As Christians, as believers in Jesus, we know, we believe that God even knew us from before He began creating. Remember, God does not live in time as we do. God lives in the eternal present so He is able to look through, what amounts to us, as time, and He is able and He does see us, even before He created us. And we know, we believe that He has called us to faith even before He began creating us.
Although God knows us, and calls us to faith even before He began creating, it is while we are in the womb and our mother attends Divine Service that we hear God’s Word and He works and gives us faith. Also, it is after we are born that God’s call is even more manifest to us and that call is through the external means of grace, especially the means of Holy Baptism. Remember, God’s usual way of dealing with us is not directly, but indirectly, not immediately, but mediately, through a mediator, through a means and in particularly through the means of grace; the Word of God, the Bible; confession and absolution; and the sacraments; Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. It is through these means that the Lord gives us the good gifts and blessings He has to give; faith, forgiveness and life, even eternal life.
God gives us life, at conception. God gives us new life, faith and forgiveness, even eternal life especially through Holy Baptism and God also calls us to vocation. It is through our vocation that we serve God by serving others. Whether we are married or single, a husband or a wife, an employer or employee, no matter what our vocation, we are to use our vocation not for self service but to serve others.
And we understand that as we are serving others in our vocation so, we are serving God. Remember, God does not need anything from us, as if we would have something to give to Him. He is the prime mover. He gives and we are given to. He gives life, faith, forgiveness. He also gives us gifts, talents and abilities as well as a job or career in which He gives us the privilege to serve Him by serving others.
Might I remind you again that we are all priests in the priesthood of all believers. The pastor is not a priest. He does not offer sacrifices. As Christians, as believers in Jesus we are His chosen people. We are a holy nation. We are a priesthood of believers and as priests we do offer sacrifices, that is we offer our lives as living sacrifices to the Lord.
God gives us life at conception. God calls us to and gives us faith through His means of grace and God calls us to our vocation. Finally, God calls some, not all, but some men into the office of Holy Ministry.
What does this mean? Have you ever made a promise that you could not keep? Or maybe the question should be, how often have we made promises we cannot keep? And certainly we have had promises made to us that have not been kept. Our problem is that we are conceived and born in sin, every inclination of our heart is evil all the time, and we cannot depend on ourselves. When we look inside ourselves we only find sin and disappointment. In order to be confident in our faith we must look outside ourselves, we must look to Christ and the cross, we must look to the Lord. And when we look to the Lord, when we rest on His promise we can be confident in our salvation. Because our salvation comes from outside us, because our salvation comes from God, who makes and keeps all His promises, we can be confident that we are saved.
The price for sin was set in the Garden of Eden and it was set at death, physical death, our bodies will die, and apart from Jesus and faith in Jesus, eternal spiritual death, our souls will be eternally separated from God. Because we are conceived and born in sin, we cannot pay our own debt. Only someone, who was perfect and holy, only someone who had never sinned had to pay our debt and that is what Jesus did. Thus, we can be confident in our forgiveness because it has been earned for us and it has been given to us and it comes to us from outside of us.
Finally, we can be confident in our future because it has been set, earned and given to us from outside of us by God. Remember, God does not need anything from us, rather He gives everything to us. And when God gives to us, He gives us the whole lot of His gifts and a whole lot more. It all begins and ends with the Lord. He gives life at conception. He gives new life through Holy Baptism. He gives forgiveness through confession and absolution. He gives forgiveness and participation in His life, death and resurrection through His Body and Blood in His Holy Supper, He gives, strengthens and keeps us in faith through His Holy Word. He gives and gives and gives and we are given to. All this gift giving is why our desire as Christians, more than anything else is to always be when and where His gifts are given out so that we might be given more and more.
I pray that God’s Word this morning is a Word of encouragement for you, both in your faith and in your faith walk. So, to encourage you, I want to leave you with God’s Word to Jeremiah, with one word changed, and as you hear His Word to Jeremiah, listen to the fact that this Word is to you as well. As God told Jeremiah, so He tells you, 5“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a [priest] to the nations.” “8Do not be afraid [of them,] for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.” “9Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, ‘Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.’” We, you and I, have God’s Word and promise which are sure and certain. My prayer for you is that you might be strengthened through His Word and always ready to respond giving an answer for the hope that you have in Christ. To Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.