The testing of Abraham is one of those texts that honestly a 21st century American preacher doesn’t feel qualified to preach. But there is so much in it that is for our good. The types of Christ are clear, but what I wanted to concentrate on in this sermon were two things: the trial or test and offering up a trial to God or drawing near to Him. The trial doesn’t tell God anything about us that he didn’t know. The trial tells us what God already knows about us. And it gives us the chance to draw near to God. This sermon, through Abraham’s experience, attempts to understand what that mean and how we can be prepared for the day of trial.
What is the power of the resurrection? That is the question I was asking myself. And there are a bunch of answers, but this text gives us two clear ones. The peace of God which Jesus comes and brings to every disciple. And the power of the Word to bring joy to hearts. The world gives peace as cessation of conflict. The world thinks of joy as happiness or earthly delight. These are temporal things easily lost. But the resurrection brings eternal peace. And eternal peace wells up in joy. The power of the resurrection brings eternal things in the midst of temporal strife.
This is a tough passage to preach on. In part because Jesus just repeats himself. He knows he has things to say, but it is like the only language he has is modern English. Until Pentecost, or until after the little while, none of it will really make sense to Aramaic Peter. For me it forces a meditation on sorrow and joy and the appropriate time we can expect them. When Jesus uses ‘a little while’ the immediate meaning is clear to us – after the Supper until Easter Morning. But Jesus connects ‘a little while’ to the eschatological – the time between the advents. For a little while we lament, and that little while is now. But we also have the same joy that cannot be taken away as those disciples – He’s risen. What we do not yet have is our completion, our final sanctification.
So, now, we share in the cross, or we share in nothing. We also share in the resurrection, while we groan for our new birth as true humans.
Recording notes: 1. The recording chip fell out of my suit pocket, so this is a re-recording. 2. The hymn references in the sermon is LSB 756 Why Should Cross and Trial Grieve Me. I’m sorry I lost the recording because this is one of those deep hymns. Gerhardt does a better job of the sermon than I do. The tune it is paired with I find touching as well. Here is another recording of it.
Luke tells us a couple of things at the start of his gospel. One is the format, he’s telling a specific type of history, a diagasis which the dictionary defines as an orderly narrative. The second thing he tells us is that the eyewitnesses have delivered these stories to him and he’s compiling them. (Luke 1:1-4). It is not provable, but it has long been the supposition that Mary herself was the source for Luke’s first four chapters. (If you look closely at Acts there is probably even a time when Luke with Paul is in Jerusalem at the same time as Mary with John.) The repetition of the phrase “and his mother treasured up these things in her heart” is often taken as the textual signal of the source.
As with most saints, their reality is more interesting and human that the sanitized stories the church often tells. I think that goes in spades with Mary. Mary often gets transformed, like Jesus, into this meek and mild creature. That isn’t the story she tells, or the psalm she sings. These are full throated paeans of joy from someone who has had their dreams of conventional happiness shattered, but replaced with joy in the presence of God and his plan. And that is what this sermon attempts to explore, the source of joy in contrast to happiness. It winds through Dickens as an example of a surprising juxtaposition, but keeps Mary front and center. Joy in the presence of God.
Music Note: I’ve left in our opening hymn, Hark the Glad Sound LSB 349. This is one of the hymns I want at my funeral. The gates of brass before him burst, the iron fetters yield. Sin, death and the power of the devil give way before Christ. I’ve also left in one of the Magnificats or Songs of Mary that we sang today. Mary’s psalm has inspired some of the great hymns of the church as well as the standard chants in Vespers (West) or Matins (East). My Soul Rejoices LSB 933 is a modern text dating from 1991 paired with an older beautiful tune reflecting a little of the plain chant tradition. (I understand the need of publishing houses and hymn writers to have copyright, but it sure makes the sharing of the hymn experience difficult. I almost makes one favor older songs just because they are public domain.) I think both of these reflect the joy of the day even in the midst of Advent waiting and watchfulness.
The response of the slave who was given 1 talent is remarkably relevant. He ends up saying three things.
1) He knows his master to be a hard man
2) The master will reap where he doesn’t sow
3) The master will gather where he doesn’t scatter
This sermon hazards an interpretation of those three things for our day. The first is a claim to know God. The second and third involve the claims of universalism, not my job and not enough given to accomplish.
The gospel response to all of these is “You know this, do you?” Jesus is the revealed God that we do know and instead of being a hard man he is the icon of love. He does sow abundantly through Word and Sacrament. And part of how He does that is scattering his people in the midst of the world.
Instead of the false beliefs that so much of today’s church is involved in, we would be better to recognize the gifts that have been given to us and get about the job we have been invited to join. That job isn’t always easy. It is a call to the cross. But Jesus endured the cross for the joy set before him. Likewise we have the joy set before us.
Who is our enemy and rejoicing at their fall, Proper complaints about authority, Shadows & Reality
Praise Be to Christ – Lutheran Service Book 538
Note: When I get to 10 minutes I more or less cut it off. I actually want to keep it under 9 minutes, but the readings have been longer recently, and these are some deep passages. (If they are too long at 10 minutes, I’d love some feedback. Reading & recording isn’t the same as listening.) So, if you want to discuss them more please come to Thursday night bible study, St. Marks @ 7 PM, 2nd and 4th Thursdays of the month.
The Angelic Pronouncement
Text: Luke 2:10
And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. (Luk 2:10 ESV)
The people…which people? I hate to be a grammar scold on Christmas Eve – that’s like being the parent who gets to give the socks and underwear.
But it is not all the peoples. The angels’ pronouncement is not a multi-culturalist parade, at least not in a Disney, it’s a small world after-all, way. It is not all people – the angel choirs cannot be claimed to be universalists. The angel pronouncement is specific – the people. “Fear not and pay attention – I bring you good news of great joy – for all the people.” Who gets the good news? Who gets the joy?
To understand that requires looking at what the claim of Christmas is – what is the angels’ pronouncement?
Today, to you, has been born a Savior. This baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger is Christ the Lord.
Everything – of heaven and earth, visible and invisible – everything came about through this infant. In the beginning was the Word…through Him all things were made. This babe is the Lord.
Caesar is not the Lord. Great Caesar Augustus issued a decree for a census. And he had his purposes. His coffers needed funds. Support needed to be assured. The Cult of the Ceasar needed to be spread. But the Lord used Caesar to take the Holy Family to Bethlehem.
The regional ruler is not the Lord. Quirinius was governor of Syria and he carried out the census. The apparatus of the state – the smaller lord fulfilled their function – to bring the Lord to the town of prophesy.
The local ruler is not the Lord. Herod – “the great” – sought the child to kill it. One less Chirst. But the child escaped to Egypt – to be called out like Israel of Long ago.
The wise men of the age are not the lord. They saw the star and followed it. Giving homage to the new born king.
Even the heavens bowed down. That star rested over the spot where he lay. The heaven’s knew their Lord.
The creator of the stars of night – the Lord of everything – wrapped in cloths lying in a manger. The Lord chose the humble.
He was born of a virgin. Mary, 12 – 14, not yet wed, but pregnant. Trekking across the Judean countryside at the orders of gentiles, and taking up residence in the place of the animals. The Lord – not in the palace – but with the poor and oppressed.
He was announced to shepherds. There was no court waiting to greet him. No joyous celebration among men at the birth of a prince. No tables laden with food or games given to celebrate the day. Heralds were not sent throughout the land to the noble and grand. There were shepherds watching their flocks at night. And the angels appeared to them.
It’s no wonder that “he was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.”
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
Behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
The good news, the gospel, is that Jesus is Lord. Not any of those people that claim the title, but the humble infant. He came to the poor, the humble, the needy. He came in the midst of squalor. He came under oppression. He came under shame. He came to us. He came to sinners. The Lord of all chose to become incarnate amongst sinners. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. He came to us not as a conquering, vanquishing and damning Lord…but as Savior. His glory was not the glory of men and all those false lords. His glory is full of grace and truth.
No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground. He comes to make his blessings flow, far as the curse is found. He rules the world with truth and grace. He makes the nations prove, glories of His righteousness and the wonders of his love. The lords of this world demand tribute. The Lord comes with grace and love.
Behold I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people?
Which people? You. You who hear the proclamation of the Angels and take it to heart.
Jesus – this humble baby, born of the Virgin Mary – is the Lord. He sits on the eternal throne of His Father David. His reign will never end.
This light shines in the darkness.
All the people – receive it.
All the people – The Children of God – you Children of God – born not of natural descent but from God.
Receive the joy prepared for you this night.
O come all ye faithful. Come and behold him, born, the King of Angels. Amen.
I was struck by the like from Luke 24:41 about disbelief because of joy. The personal context was the birth of our third child – Ethan Isaiah. The main reflection of the sermon is the way that we often pit happiness against joy, or substitute happiness for joy. The true Christian birthright is joy. Joy in plenty and joy in sorrow. Joy is eternal while happiness is fleeting. That is because the resurrection of Jesus, standing there in the midst of the disciples, points at the fact that death does not have the last word. All promise does not end in dissipation. Instead they find completion in the Risen Lord. We may not always be happy. I am not happy that my house in St. Louis has not sold, but I am still joyful. Changing diapers I’m sure is not anyone’s idea of happiness, but it is a joy.