Monday, December 19, 2016

Sermon Dec. 3-4, 2016

Title: Rejoice, O Gentiles, the Savior comes!
Text: Romans 15:4-13

8 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles,
and sing to your name.”

10 And again it is said,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”

G.K. Chesterton writes in the Signs of the Times:
Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all. As long as matters are really hopeful, hope is mere flattery; it is only when everything is hopeless that hope is strength.
G.K. Chesterton, Signs of the Times, April 1993, p. 6. [edited]

And so it is in the story of self-made multi-millionaire Eugene Lang, who greatly changed the lives of a sixth-grade class in East Harlem [in 1981]. Mr. Lang had been asked to speak to a class of 61 sixth-graders. What could he say to inspire these students, most of whom would drop out of school [he was told]? He wondered how he could get these predominantly black and Hispanic children even to look at him. Scrapping his notes, he decided to speak to them from his heart. "Stay in school," he admonished, "and I'll help pay the college tuition for every one of you." At that moment the lives of these students changed. For the first time they had hope. Said one student, "I had something to look forward to, something waiting for me. It was a golden feeling." Nearly 90 percent of that class went on to graduate from high school and to college and to good and high paying jobs.

Parade Magazine.

4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Hope is strength – as has been said - when everything is hopeless. In the former days Paul speaks of hope in the one to come. The Old Testament reading in Isaiah points to this – this shoot from the stump of Jesse – a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.

Isaiah goes on to say:

2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

Jesus himself made this know in his hometown of Nazareth. As recounted in Luke Chapter 4 when he says:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty [or to free] those who are oppressed, Luke 4:18

With righteousness he shall judge the poor and decide with equity for the meek of the earth.

Christmas can be a dark time for many. Hope in the holidays nonexistent. It may be from a resent loss of a loved one or the remembrance of loved ones no longer around.


I was online this past weekend and on my Youtube page saw the link to my ordination video some short 4 years ago. I clicked on the beginning of the service and the processional hymn “Praise to the Lord the Almighty” began. As I watched I was taken by the faces of those no longer with us I saw … Orville and Joan Kitzman near the isle, Hilda Klein near the organ, my friend from my former business Donna Kyle sitting near the back of the church and my own dad Al Tkac, sitting up front. There of course were many more faces and I didn’t watch much too the service … I felt a sense of sadness and loss as we all do.

Brokenness in the family too can bring a sense of hopelessness for many. We see on TV joyful faces on the Hallmark Channel movies around the Christmas tree or at the family meal and know our lives are somewhat different than that – maybe not even happy or joyful at all.

Paul, in our epistle today, deals with trial and hope too. Trial – in that he was writing from prison, not a good place to be but, also a time for

8 For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9 and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.

Wonderful good news! God is truthful and his promises are fulfilled as he would have so. Both to those who were given the promise, through the patriarchs and also we who are a far off might to have that hope.

Those early Christians that Paul is writing to new that they were in the midst of trial, both as Jew and Gentile, Christian and Roman, faithful and faithless, and aware of false teachers and the pressures to return to their old ways – back to Judaism and keeping the law, or back to the sinful brokenness of darkness that Paul touched in our lesson last week.

But just as the students in the 6th grade classroom were ready to turn off the old man about to address them, hope sprang forth from Eugene Lang’s words. Something that they couldn’t have hoped for was now theirs!

So too Paul reminds his readers and us what had been written:

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles,
and sing to your name.”
10 And again it is said,
“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”
11 And again,
“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and let all the peoples extol [to praise highly and to glorify] him.”
12 And again Isaiah says,
“The root of Jesse will come,
even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in him will the Gentiles hope.”

Where is your hope placed? For some it is in the hope of their on making and in dark times – it is hope that can fade away. Is your hope in a happily ever after or a fairy tale? Because, we all know that life doesn’t promise you or me that. We are in this world though promised tribulation and we can all attest to that reality can’t we?

Is it a broken promise, or a lost job, a failed marriage or a life of hope that has turned sadly to illness and doubt?

God though does promise a gift, a savior and a means to know him. He has come as a child to redeem that which was lost and he sends the Comforter – the Holy Spirit - to make this known for you.

This knowledge, comfort and hope is found where you might expect it to be … in God’s word. The scriptures that God the Holy Spirit inspired Paul and others to write is here for you in the words of Holy Scripture. But it too is sung in the wonderful hymns based on those writings. It is proclaimed here for you to hear in readings and sermons based on these sacred texts and all by the working of the Holy Spirit is made to you who have been brought to faith in the root of Jesse which springs forth in our lives, understanding and faith.

Advent is hope because Advent points to Christ and in him when everything seems hopeless … he is our strength.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.

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