Sexagesima: The Word Accomplishes What God Purposes

Lessons: Isaiah 55:10-13, Hebrews 4:9-13, Luke 8:4-15
Hymns: 587, 589, 577, 586, 921

      Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

      Last week we heard the inspired words of St. Paul as he wrote to the Corinthians. In his letter, he explained that God was not well pleased with the Israelites and scattered their bodies in the wilderness. The reason is they grumbled against God, rejected Him, worshiped false gods, and doubted God’s promise that He would bring them safely to the Promised Land after He had mercifully and miraculously delivered them out of Egypt through the Ten Plagues and crossing the Red Sea on dry ground. In essence, they neither trusted God nor were they grateful for the deliverance they received.

      Earlier, they proved to be faithful believers. They performed the first Passover with exacting precision. They heard the Ten Commandments and the Book of the Covenant and said they will do them. They constructed the holy sanctuary—the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Testimony—in accordance with God’s will.

      After having done all this, many fell away. They were like the seed fallen among the thorns, to use our Lord’s Parable of the Sower. Yet some fell on good ground. Many still entered the Promised Land. God mercifully preserved these people and His promise to send our Savior Jesus through them. The Word did not return void but accomplished what God pleased.

      We can draw a lot of parallels between then and now. Like the Israelites who witness the events at Mt. Sinai and later fell away, today many are falling into this same tragedy. Some don’t even realize it. They feel they can remain a Christian and yet oppose certain teachings of God’s Word or refrain from receiving God’s gifts. That’s how it also went for the Israelites. And God showed them they were wrong.

      Our society is losing her way. Even before COVID, Church attendance was plummeting across our country. Cohabitation and acceptance of pornography and homosexual acts is continuing its rise. Some celebrate abortion. Increasingly, those who consider themselves Christian no longer accept Christ as the only way to salvation, they deny the miracles recorded in the Bible, and reject the Bible’s teaching concerning Creation.

      Things are not looking good in our country as she loses her moral foundation. Things are not looking good in our area as so many homes are broken, and so many choose to stay home on Sunday mornings.

      Why is this all coming about? Are we doing something wrong? Please take to heart these words by Martin Luther: Let us remember our former misery, and the darkness in which we dwelt. Germany, I am sure, has never before heard so much of God’s word as it is hearing today; certainly we read nothing of it in history. If we let it just slip by without thanks and honor, I fear we shall suffer a still more dreadful darkness and plague. O my beloved Germans, buy while the market is at your door; gather in the harvest while there is sunshine and fair weather; make use of God’s grace and word while it is there! For you should know that God’s word and grace is like a passing shower of rain which does not return where it has once been. It has been with the Jews, but when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have nothing. Paul brought it to the Greeks; but again when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have the Turk. Rome and the Latins also had it; but when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have the pope. And you Germans need not think that you will have it forever, for ingratitude and contempt will not make it stay. Therefore, seize it and hold it fast, whoever can; for lazy hands are bound to have a lean year. (LW 45:352)

      Do you see the problem Luther identifies? Ingratitude. When people are unthankful, God says, “Fine, I will move my Gospel to a place and people who will want it.” As Luther points out, that has happened in many places. It happened to the Israelites. We now see that it has happened throughout Europe, where church attendance rates are now in the single digits. And it looks like the passing shower is moving away from America. This will continue as long as people remain ungrateful and take for granted the blessings of eternal life and salvation given freely by our Savior, Jesus Christ.

      Ingratitude manifests itself in many ways. At its core is unbelief, for if a person truly believes, he will always remain thankful for the blessings God has granted to him. But ingratitude can be manifested when those who profess to be Christian do not regularly attend church, skip out on receiving the Sacrament, or do not sacrificially give back to God through their offerings of time, talent, and treasures.

      How can people be unthankful when God sent Jesus to become our

sin, when we have been saved from eternal condemnation, and when God now hold us in high esteem as His dear children?

      Look at who we are in Christ! Look at what we have in Christ! We are forgiven of all our sin. We have peace with God. Eternal life is ours! Because of how merciful God has been toward us, we should be thrilled to have the privilege of gathering in His house and hearing of His mercies!

      In the same way, the Israelites should have been thrilled to know they were entering the Promised Land. They should have been pleased with God’s deliverance. Yet, they accused Moses of leading them into the wilderness to die, they made false gods, and they grumbled.

      What began their exodus and their journey to the Promised Land was the Passover. Several times as Moses told the people what to do to celebrate this new ceremony called the Passover, Moses used the phrase, “the Lord’s Passover.” It was not the people’s passover. It was the Lord’s Passover.

      Because it is the Lord’s Passover, we can learn a few things about it. First, God is the one who established it. God is the one who gave it meaning. God is the one who set the rules concerning it. And God is the one who delivered the Israelites through it.

      If the Israelites had violated God’s word on even the smallest detail, they would not have benefited from the Passover. Instead, they would have suffered the same punishment as the Egyptians. The firstborn would have been killed in each family that did not follow God’s Word.

      Now put yourself in the shoes of the Israelites for a moment. How easy would you have found it to listen to everything Moses said and do it? If you knew that performing the Passover would grant you freedom, would you do it? Or would you doubt that such a thing is possible?

      It’s easy to say, “Oh, yes, I would do everything Moses said.” That’s because we have hindsight 20/20 vision.

      But let’s think about it a little more. If you knew that God accomplished what He pleases through His Word, what would you do with that Word? If you knew that God grants life and salvation through His Word, what would you do? What would you do if you knew that if you refused to believe some tenets of God’s Word, then you could be on the path of relinquishing your free gift of salvation?

      You see, God the Holy Spirit comes to you through His Word and saves you. He does not wish to deal with you apart from His Word and Sacraments. Today, there are countless individuals who desire to go to Heaven, but do not desire to listen to or follow God’s Word. They can be likened to a person who wanted to put his own interpretation on the Passover. If someone would have done that with the Passover, death would have entered the home.

      Just as it was the Lord’s Passover, today it is God’s Word and God has given us the Lord’s Supper. This means God determines what is true. He determines what is good and right. He decides doctrine. We have no bargaining chips in the matter. This is good, for it means that we never have to wonder what truth is. If we hear one preacher saying this and another supposed minister of the Word saying that, we don’t need to get all philosophical and wonder who is right; instead we turn to the Scriptures and listen to what is written by God there.

      The same is true with the Sacraments. God instituted Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These are wonderful gifts of grace. God the Holy Spirit uses them to work faith in us. And so, when God teaches us to bless our children by baptizing them, we do so. And when God teaches us to refrain from communing those outside of our fellowship, we refrain. After all, it is God’s Word. It is the Lord’s Supper.

      We take God’s Word to heart. The Bible has been written for our learning and for our salvation. God does not give you His Word in order to oppress you. He gives you His Word to save you. He is even the Word made flesh. For Christ came into this fallen world to redeem you from sin and grant you eternal life. In His Baptism, He became your sin. On the cross He served as your Substitute. He suffered God’s wrath—He suffered Hell—He was forsaken by the Father, for He bore your sin in His body. Shedding His blood, He made the ransom payment necessary to release you from your sin. Rising from the grave, He is the victor and grants you the victory.

      How can you benefit from what Jesus did for you on the cross? You benefit by hearing His Word, holding it fast in an honest and good heart. His Word has had free course in this congregation for 101 years. His Word is accomplishing what pleases Him today in your hearing. You are saved by hearing the Gospel of Christ. So, come, listen, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest His Word. Through His Word, you are forgiven of your countless sins and declared acceptable to be a member of God’s kingdom. His Word is accomplishing what He pleases. Amen.

      The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen