Monday, December 3, 2018

Sermon Dec. 1-2, 2018 First Sunday in Advent

Title: The Lord is our righteousness!

Text: Jer. 33:14-16

14 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’

41st President George H. W. Bush passed away Friday November 30, 2018 at the age of 94. Only 4 years ago he was skydiving. Much comes to mind when thinking about this president. My brother was in the Navy and stationed in the gulf on the USS Ranger and in the first wave of planes sent in. Many emotions come to mind. One thought also comes to mind and that is of a healthy, elderly ex-president that in the last years of his life was confined to a wheelchair.

In 1846 former president John Quincy Adams suffered a stroke. Although he returned to Congress the following year, his health was clearly failing. Daniel Webster described his last meeting with Adams: He said, "Someone, a friend of his, came in and made particular inquiry of his health. Adams answered, 'I inhabit a weak, frail, decayed tenement; battered by the winds and broken in upon by the storms, and from all I can learn, the landlord does not intend to repair.'"
Today in the Word, April 11, 1992.

In dealing with the battering winds:

[Jesus] awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Mark 4:39

We also struggle with the trials and storms of this life knowing that the day is coming when the Righteous One, Jesus Christ, returns in glory for His bride, the church; and for that we wait. We also prepare during this Advent season to welcome the babe in the manger who came to fulfill all righteousness and is … our righteousness!

Jeremiah’s text for today also brings with it the Lord’s promise of restoration; both the restoration of the divided kingdom as well as the fullness of restoration. Previously the Lord had said:

10 “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. Jer. 29:10

And now says:

15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. Jer. 29:15

Justice and righteousness!

God will both condemn sin … and forgive and set free.

Bill Kreuger and I went to an active shooter training for places of worship put on by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department. In the training one Rabbi asked how we should deal with the fact that we are open to strangers, want to be welcoming, and look to reach those with the word of God; to be kind and to teach.

The Lieutenant answered, “That’s a tough question: You want to be kind, and helpful and we as the Police want them up against the wall, hands up, and want to see their hands! I would say … you need to be somewhere in the middle.”

Both Just and Righteous.

Jeremiah had a tough job. As the court prophet for King Zedekiah he brought God’s word to the King. At times God’s word through Jeremiah could proclaim blessing and joy and at other times it could proclaim judgment and sorrow.

Judah was in bad shape. They had been falling away from God and His word and trusting in their own righteousness. Even Zedekiah’s name in Hebrew means “Just” and “Righteous,” though he was anything but.

David was anointed to be King and called by God as one after God’s own heart.

But King Zedekiah was hearing judgment from God through Jeremiah’s proclamation and it was only a matter of time before God’s judgment would come, and it came in the form of King Nebuchadnezzar and the entire Babylonian Army, who carried the entire nation away into exile.

So what do you do if you’re the King and you don’t like what God’s word says? You continue to trust in your own righteousness, and your own reason and understanding and lock God’s prophet up in the prison of the palace so you don’t have to hear it.

It’s what Zedekiah did, and at times it’s what we do.

But the joy that our lesson today proclaims … and the blessing we wait in anticipation for this Advent season is:

The Lord is our righteousness!

Don’t you too at times shut up God’s word in your own prison of indifference or rejection? When God’s word condemns my sin, it is often easier to reject the truth God’s word points out than to turn in repentance, asking for forgiveness and receiving the forgiveness and absolution God so desires to give you and for you to hear.

For Zedekiah the judgment of God would come through the Babylonian Army. Where might your judgment come from? For you and for me and through the ages, the Army that many times caries us away is found in our own wisdom, understanding and reason. What God’s word says, and that which we can’t understand or wrap our arms around, we often reject as foolish or only intended for a certain place and at a certain time.

We set ourselves up as God’s judge - and determine what is and what is not relevant to me.

Our society, or Kingdom if you will, is being judged by God’s word. The truth is we are falling short as a nation. We are all going our own way, as Israel did in the Book of Judges, having everyman doing what was right in his own eyes so that only a generation or two later … they neither knew the Lord or what He had done for them. -Book of Judges Chapter 2, 18, 21

How or when we get carried away into our own exile as a nation remains to be seen. But, understanding and reason is a constant battleground.

As Martin Luther stated in one of his Table Talks:

He said:

“Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but—more frequently than not—struggles against [God’s] divine Word, treating with contempt all that [comes] from God.”

—Martin Luther, Table Talks in 1569.

But even though we fall short there is still reason to rejoice because:
The Lord is our righteousness! 

In those days, as also today, God’s word brought judgment and blessing and for those who needed to hear, just as we need to hear, listen:

14 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15 In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.

The promise of a savior, Christ the Lord, would spring forth from the righteous branch of King David. He, Jesus, would execute justice, fulfilling at the cross God’s work of redeeming mankind from sin and the works of the Law which cause many to stumble and fall short, trusting in their own works and own righteousness but you … are FREE!

By the power of the Holy Spirit you have been brought to faith and trust in a foreign righteousness, one outside yourself, and by that same Spirit you cling to Christ and the eternal hope for which He came.

The Lord is our righteousness! 

16 In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

He is our righteousness indeed! He has come for you and as we wait in joyful anticipation this Advent season for the coming of the babe in the manger … which is Christ the Lord, we know that He came for you and me.

But how, you might say, can I know and be sure that he came for me?

By faith through baptism and the preaching of the gospel, God has called you to believe and be His child.

Or as the Apostle Paul put it in Rom 10:9-10 that we discussed in our Men’s Breakfast Bible Study:

9 That, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Simple faith and trust in Christ.

10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

In Christ the promise of righteousness is fulfilled for you!

The Lord is our righteousness … that we might become the righteousness of God!

And now just as President George H.W. Bush has left the tent of this earthly existence for his eternal rest we too, in the tent of this physical life see it continue to fade away.

But, Christ has come in the flesh … in Jesus Christ our Lord and savior, who having redeemed you from sin, death and the power of the Devil now clothes you with His righteousness now and forever more.

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

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