Septuagesima Sunday Sermon
ďThe Almighty Power of Godís WordĒ
February 4, 2007
Jeremiah lived during a time
similar to our own. This
may seem strange since he lived over twenty six hundred years ago in a
land thousands of miles away with a different language and culture.
But there are certain things common to the nation of Judah in the
seventh century B.C. and the United States of America in the twenty
first century A. D. In
ancient Judah and in modern America most of the people are at least
nominally devoted to the religion set forth in the Holy Scriptures.
And in both countries this outward allegiance is quite thin
indeed. While the biblical
religion is given lip service, the real worship of the people is quite
different from their formal creed.
The worship of the gods of pleasure has the peopleís devotion.
In ancient Judah the gods and goddesses were deities devoted to
pleasure. Altars were built to them in the public square.
In our day the idolatry is less formal but the spirit of the
idolatrous worship is the same. What serves us is the standard for faith and life.
Our inner feelings become the judge for good and bad behavior.
What feels right is right. What
feels true is true. There
is no word from God to which we must be bound.
But God has a different idea. He sends Jeremiah to speak His word. Now ancient Judah was Godís covenant people and America
cannot make that claim. But
surely all Christians may lay claim to a special relationship with God.
God chooses His people and He graciously blesses them.
They donít deserve it. It
is an election of grace. It
is not a democratic election. Only
one vote is cast. It is
Godís. You cannot campaign for Godís vote. God does not look to see whether or not those He chooses are
worthy to be chosen. Worthiness
is out of the question. No
one deserves Godís grace. God
is gracious and thatís that.
elects His children. That
is, He chooses them. The
parable of the workers in the vineyard powerfully illustrates how
Godís choices donít conform to human standards.
But then God is God. He
doesnít consult us about what is right and fair.
He chooses to bless those who worked but an hour with the same
wages that He gives to those who bore the heat of the day.
Who can question Him? Does
He not have the right to do what He chooses with what belongs to Him?
Or shall we resent His generosity?
No, it is as Jesus said, ďSo the last will be first, and the
first last. For many are called, but few chosen.Ē
doctrine of election is a mystery too deep for anyone fully to grasp.
We simply take Godís word for it when He teaches this to us.
Attempts to explain divine election in a way that conforms to
human reason will inevitably lead to a distortion or even a denial of
this precious truth. God
loved His people from eternity. From
eternity He knew them, chose them, and made them heirs of salvation.
He did this for the sake of Jesus Christ His dear Son.
Jesus was elected or chosen by God in eternity to be the Savior
of sinners. He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, as the
Revelation of St. John teaches. We
are elected in Christ.
doctrine of divine election assures us that Godís grace is not an
ďiffyĒ or uncertain thing. God
is not fickle. What He promised yesterday will be promised tomorrow.
He binds Himself to His word and this means that His word cannot
fail. God elected Jeremiah.
We read: ďThen the word of the LORD came to me, saying:
ĎBefore I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I
sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.íĒ
was a young man, perhaps twenty years old.
He wasnít qualified to speak Godís word to anyone.
He didnít have the native ability.
Besides, he didnít know what to say.
But God had chosen him. God
knew him, that is, he chose him. God
sanctified him, that is, He set him apart for a holy purpose.
God ordained him, that is, He placed him into the public
preaching office. And when
did God do all this? He did
it before Jeremiah was even born.
choosing Jeremiah to be a prophet God formed him in his motherís womb. When a child is born it is Godís doing. Children are not accidents.
They are never unwanted.
same God who formed Jeremiah in his motherís womb, who set him apart
to be a prophet even before he was born is the God who promised to be
with him and to give him the words he needed to speak.
Listen once more to what God said to Jeremiah when He called him
to be a prophet: ďYou shall go to all to whom I send you, and whatever
I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of their faces, for I
am with you to deliver you.Ē
What God commands the prophet to say is what the prophet says. Thereís nothing and nobody to be afraid of. If God tells you to say it God will protect you in the saying of it. The word that you speak is far more powerful than those who will oppose it. You say what God gives you to say and it is done as surely as God gave it to you to say. Listen to how Jeremiah describes it:
the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to
me: ďBehold, I have put My words in your mouth. See, I have this day
set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out and to pull
down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant.Ē
God put His words in Jeremiahís mouth He gave to Jeremiah power over
nations and kingdoms. Thatís
the power of the word. Has
any nation in the history of the world opposed Godís word and survived
as a nation? God said to
Abraham nearly four thousand years ago:
I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.Ē (Genesis 12:2-3)
the nations of the earth have been blessed in Jesus Christ, the promised
Savior, descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God promised
through the prophets. Those
who belong to Christ are the elect of Godís grace.
They are the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints,
elected in Christ Jesus before the creation of the world.
The nations will rise and fall.
Godís word will build and Godís word will destroy.
Godís word will not fail.
It cannot fail because it is the inherent power of God Himself.
So God said to Jeremiah. So
it must be.
St. Peter writes:
Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because ďAll flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever.Ē Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:23-25)
Jeremiah didnít look like
much. He was just a kid. As it turned out, he would preach for many years.
They called him the weeping prophet because he had to witness the
destruction of Godís holy nation.
The reforms of the great king Josiah were short lived.
The corruption was too deep.
The people didnít care for the truth.
They didnít want God to say anything to them.
They were quite willing to accept every good thing God gave but
they werenít willing to honor Him by listening to what He had to say
and taking it to heart.
It was a day very much like
our own. People think that
theyíre doing God a favor to go to church and then it doesnít matter
much what the church stands for as long as there is a religious
sentiment that acknowledges a higher power.
And when Godís word clearly exposes sin that people donít
want exposed they refuse to listen. Godís clear and authoritative words of law that define what
is right and wrong for all people are dismissed as a preacherís
opinion. The blood of Jesus
shed for sinners is ignored because there are no sinners anymore.
How can there be real sinners without real sin?
Where is the sin if there is no law to condemn it?
And as the religiously self-indulgent congratulate themselves on
their so called ďspiritualityĒ the word of God is silenced and those
who faithfully preach it are scorned.
But this is nothing new.
We can understand Jeremiahís fear to confront the false
prophets of the false religions of his day.
Jeremiah taught an exclusive message that positively angers
people and human nature hasnít changed over the years.
We preach the same exclusive message.
It is that Godís word is true and all men are liars.
It is that what God says matters more than anyoneís religious
feelings. It is that God
has the right to be gracious to whom He chooses and nobody has the right
to judge Him for it. If God
wants to treat someone who has done no good deeds at all with the same
generosity as He treats those whose good deeds require them to bear
burden after burden, well, God can do as He pleases.
And what He pleases to do is
to come to people like Jeremiah. No,
not all are gifted to prophesy or to preach.
And not all are called by God to do so.
But every single Christian is chosen by God.
Every single Christianís life is given by God to live.
And whether you are student or a mother or a truck driver or a
mechanic, a teacher or a preacher or a father, God has called you.
You say, I canít do what youíve given me to do.
Maybe not. But
consider. The word of God enables you to do what you cannot do.
When God speaks to you He makes all things new.
His words destroy and throw down, this is true.
His law doesnít assist you to find within yourself the answers
you need. His law kills you dead.
It reveals your selfishness, your greed, your lust, your hatred,
and everything dirty. It
throws you down to where you cannot get up.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus