Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sermon: Wednesday of Gaudete (Advent 3)

16 December 2009 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Zeph 3:14-20

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

One of the nice things about being a Christian is that we are time travelers. Or more accurately, time doesn’t really matter to us. Tonight, we heard a preacher’s words reach forward through 27 centuries of time, thanks to the Holy Spirit and the prophetic Word of God. Zephaniah has good news for us on this the week in the church year known as “Gaudete” – that is, “rejoice!”

The prophet called the people of Israel to repent, and then called them to rejoice.

“Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion, shout, O Israel!”

You can hear the joy resounding from the prophet, even though we are half a world away and speak a language that didn’t even exist when Zephaniah was imploring the people of God to “rejoice and exult with all your heart!”

For the good news Zephaniah has for us is that we have overcome all of our enemies – or more accurately, “The Lord has taken away judgments against you; He has cleared away your enemies.” The oldest enemies faced by mankind: sin, death, and the devil, have all been conquered. For as the holy prophet preaches: “The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst.”

Dear brothers and sisters, did you hear the good news? “The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst.” He is among us. He is here. He is Emmanuel – God with us!

He is not a billion light years away rooting for us from afar. He does not merely fill our remembrance. Our Lord, who is also our King, our God, who is also a Man – is among us. He comes to us not only in the manger, but in the Word. He is in our midst not only on the cross, but also in the Holy Sacrament of His body and blood, which like the Word of the prophet, transcends space and time to be with us in space and time.

He is indeed “in your midst.”

And listen to the promise given by Zephaniah to the people of God: “You shall never again fear evil. On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: “Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. The Lord is in your midst.”

How sad it is that we do grow discouraged. How unnecessary for us to worry and fret! The Lord our God is in our midst, and what’s more, He is “a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing.”

Our Savior rejoices over us, His beloved bride. He is not angry at us, but is filled with gladness, for we have been redeemed and restored from the exile of our sinfulness and cleansed from our guilt. We are not the only ones who rejoice this week of Gaudete, dear friends, but our Blessed Lord Himself rejoices with us and for us.

If these holy words resounded in our hearts and minds, how foolish it would be for us to be disturbed by anything, disquieted by anyone, or molested by any evil spirit. And even though the Church is harried and harassed, mistreated and scorned, persecuted and maligned – our Lord and King promises that she “will no longer suffer reproach.” She shall be vindicated in the fullness of time, and “at that time,” says the Lord, “I will deal with all your oppressors.” He Himself will vindicate us by from our reproach by refusing to vindicate Himself in His greatest moment of reproach. For our Lord and King has dealt with our oppressors by dying for us and by defeating the devil on our behalf.

And even though the Church be wounded and cast aside, the Lord promises: “I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth.”

As remarkable as it may seem, the frail and feeble Church of God, small in number, dwindling to a remnant, treated by the world as a foolish maid, will be seated upon the throne next to her King, beloved, vindicated, and “praised among all the peoples of the earth.”

And this vindication, this redemption, this reversal in fortune will have no end! For once again, to us Christians, time is no longer a factor. We live in time, but we are redeemed in eternity. We wait in this fallen world in our broken bodies, crying out for renewal, and our waiting is not in vain. But we wait in expectation and joy for the fullness of time when Zephaniah’s prophecy is fulfilled. We can rejoice because the coming of our King is as certain and sure of His presence in our midst.

He is coming, and yet He has come, and He is here. He came as:
Light of Light, O Sole Begotten
Radiance of the Father’s face,
Word made flesh, who lived among us
Full of truth and full of grace.

He comes to us today as we sing:
Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.

And we pray for His return:

Come, Thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art,
Dear desire of ev’ry nation,
Joy of ev’ry longing heart.

For indeed, in Word and Sacrament, in the promise and mercy of God, we are time travelers. Time doesn’t really matter to us, for we cling to a timeless Truth and an eternity that transcends all time. “Rejoice,” says the prophet to our fathers in the past, to us in the present, and extending unto all the saints for all eternity, “Rejoice and exult with all your heart!” Amen.

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

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