Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sermon: Wednesday of Trinity 1

28 May 2008 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA
Text: Gen 15:1-6

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

“The Word of the Lord came to Abram…” This is the same Word of God by which all things were made. This is the same Word of God that forgives us all our sins. This is the same Word of God that does not return void.

And, this is the same Word of God who was with God and who was God in the beginning, the Word made flesh, the Word that takes ordinary bread and ordinary wine and makes them the incarnate Word in flesh and blood.

This Word of God was given to Abram in an extraordinary way – by a vision. And yet, unlike modern supposed “visions” that preachers and authors of bestselling books claim to have, this vision did not promise a prosperity gospel, a name it an claim it theology of glory, or the authority for Abram to engage in promiscuous behavior with his followers. This vision, though it contained a promise, did not promise immediate material rewards to Abram – but rather the long term benefit of descendants and a nation to be born from his heirs. There was no “vision” to induce other people to send Abram money or to make people commit immoral acts with Abram for the sake of his ego or pleasure. Indeed, this vision is not the sort that causes books to fly off the shelf or would make Abram a sought-after guest on Oprah.

A lot of people today claim to have “visions” – and it is interesting how many of these “visions” have nothing to do with the forgiveness of sins, nothing to do with God’s grand plan to “make all things new,” nothing to do with our Lord Jesus Christ and His ministry to liberate mankind from death and the devil.

But let’s take a look at Abram’s vision. God certainly promised him very real, concrete things. God entered into a covenant with Abram and promised to provide him with a son – and through that son, another Son would come into the world. God was promising to do the impossible – to take an old man and wife, a broken-down parody of Adam and Eve, whose sinful, mortal bodies were well past the age of procreation – and make them a great nation, a nation out of which the Messiah would come.

Thus, the Word of the Lord according to the vision of Abram was centered on Christ. The Word pointed forward to the Word. The Word given in spirit to Abram points to the Word made flesh in the form of Abram’s descendant.

The whole point of this vision, this Word of God, in fact the whole point of the entire Word of God in Scripture is summed up in the last verse of our Old Testament lesson: “And he [Abraham] believed in the LORD, and He [the Lord] accounted it to him [Abraham] for righteousness.”

It all boils down to this: Abram believes in the Lord, and this belief is accounted to Abram as righteousness. There is no greater summation of the Christian faith, of the Bible, of the Gospel itself than this one sentence only fifteen chapters into the first book of Moses.

Abram’s faith was accounted as righteousness.

The word we translate as “accounted” is sometimes translated as “credited” or “considered.” Abram (whose name was to be changed to Abraham) was a righteous man, to be rewarded as a righteous man, as a perfect man – not by works, but by being “credited” with righteousness through his belief in the Lord. Abraham was saved by grace through faith, faith in Jesus, extended on credit to him two thousand years before his Descendant and Savior was to be born.

This, dear friends, is the Word of God. This is the constant refrain and drumbeat of Scripture. This Word, a Word of belief, of credit, and of righteousness, is given as a gift to them that believe. And this is by far a greater treasure than all the material wealth in all the world. For this is the treasure stored up in heaven, the participation, the communion of the believer to the God who has created him, and who has re-created him anew.

And notice that this Word of God has free reign. It is not bound by space and time. For Abram, and all Old Testament believers have salvation the same way we do after our Lord’s resurrection, because we have faith in the Lord, and are credited with righteousness. The saving power of the Word of God is not limited to those living in the years A.D., but permeates the entire time and space continuum of the universe.

For this is the nature of faith. Faith is knowledge not rooted in what can be seen or measured. Faith is belief in a promise, even though we may never see the fulfillment of that promise in this life. Just as we have faith that our Savior is coming again at the end of time to save us and bring us to everlasting life, Abram could look forward with the eyes of faith to when the Lord’s covenant with him would be fulfilled, even finding fulfillment in an unknown Descendant. It doesn’t matter that Abram had no specific knowledge, for he wasn’t saved by “knowledge,” but rather by his faith. He is not saved by a “message,” but rather by a Word.

And this Word is the same Word we hear today, dear brothers and sisters. For this Word took flesh. This Word was crucified, died, and was raised to life again. This Word paid for our sins, and this Word defeated him who sought to silence the Word and shut the creative and redemptive mouth of God. This Word is given to us in holy absolution, though given meekly by a pastor’s mouth. For the power of the word is not in how well it is spoken, but in its divine origin. And this Word is given to us again and again, as we take the Lord’s Supper, the Word made incarnate in space and time, in bread and wine, in body and blood, given and shed for us, for the forgiveness of sins.

And indeed, we believe in our Lord, in His Word, and this belief, this faith, is accounted to us for righteousness, both now, and unto the end of the age. Amen.

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

1 comment:

kuniklo said...

Nice Gospel but ...hmm.. where exactly is the "law" -- you know the part where where "God hates us and wants to kill us"? I'm afraid Walther wouldn't approve.