Saturday, November 8, 2014
The lament that leads to life. . .
In the Name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The last time I stood here in this pulpit, David Scaer was a young man and I was a boy. I am not sure how Dr. Scaer feels today but I feel very much the youth, standing where so many giants have stood, to speak God’s Word to such a crowd of faithful servants of Christ and those preparing for His service. Then, on top of it all, I was given as the text, Lamentations 2:12-17!
Jesus had something to say about complaint and misery and lament: “...to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,
“‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ (Matthew 11:16-17 ESV)
We sang a dirge and you did not mourn. But who would sing a dirge in seminary, or at least this seminary? Who here admits the lament of despair? Whose voice has admitted out loud the hopelessness or fear within?
But that is exactly the point. All of us have sung the dirge and given voice to the lament within. For some it is merely a litany of complaint that life is not fair, that God is not fair. For others it is the somber confession that our ruin is as vast as the sea. How it wounds us to admit that no one can restore us – not even ourselves!
The prophets have been sent forth in every generation and in this school of the prophets they are readied to be sent forth still. Today six more will receive their calls. But even prophets can get lost in the terrors of rejection and in the desire to be loved. Those who have not exposed the iniquity of the people and have proposed false and empty dreams in place of the Word of the Lord that endures forever.
All the world loves it when the people of God betray their sinfulness, when they surrender their bodies to temptation and their hearts to iniquity. All the world loves it when the high and mighty fall lower than the low. “Is this the city called the perfection of beauty? Is this the city that was the joy of all the earth?”
Look around you. The world is an evil place. You have enemies. The enemies of God and His Gospel are hidden at every twist and turn of life. They have no need to make relative the eternal truth or raise doubt about the historicity of Adam or the resurrection of Jesus. All they need to do is point to you, the beloved of the Lord whose thoughts, words, and deeds have tarnished the shine of God’s glory, whose willfulness has refused correction whose desire has reigned over truth, whose self-interest has been chosen over neighbor, and whose hearts have chosen the moment over eternity. Even God seems to have left you without pity for He has made your enemy rejoice over you and turned you into the victim of your foes.
Every prophet’s weakness is his desire to be loved, admired, respected, and liked. Take that to heart those whom we send today and those waiting for their day. None of us wants to speak what hearers do not want to hear. The lament of Jeremiah speaks judgment against the sinner but even more to the prophets who spoke peace when there was no peace and left God’s people without comfort and without healing. They did not expose sin and they did not proclaim guilt and therefore they left the people without hope or comfort, exposed to the judgment of God.
Only God can restore His fallen people. The faithful preaching of the prophet leads the people to see the judgment of God against them and to admit in repentance “The Lord has done what He purposed. The Lord gave. The Lord has taken away. And the faithful say: Blessed be the name of the Lord!” Only God can restore His fallen people. That is the message of the faithful preacher. And this He has done in His Son.
Read past the text and you find: “But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases ; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” The same Lord who lays bare the festering soul filled with sin cuts to kill what is already dead and to give new life where there was only death. The same Lord who speaks in righteous judgment against His people’s sin clothes them with a righteousness that is not there own. The same Lord who brought destruction can rebuild His broken people and raise them to heights they cannot ever imagine, so great is that which He has prepared for those who love Him.
Read past the text and you find: “Why should a man complain about the punishment of his sins? . . We have transgressed. . . we have rebelled. . .” There is no comfort in comfortable lies; comfort comes only from the truth. But we are not left without hope. For He who has condemned us has the power to restore us. Because “the Lord will not cast off forever. Though He cause grief, He will have compassion, according to the abundance of His steadfast love. . . Let us test this promise, let us examine our ways in repentance, and let us return to the Lord, lifting high our hearts and hands.”
If you hear, repent and believe the Gospel. If you speak, dare to speak the truth of sin and the power of the death that gives life to the dead. If you study, study to show yourself approved, so that you may be found a faithful prophet for God’s people who may lead them to the true comfort of Jesus Christ and Him crucified and the truth healing of His blood.
And then let us rejoice. Do not forget to rejoice. Rejoice and give thanks and raise the song of hope.
This dirge is a confession, this lament the voice of repentance, this threat of destruction has a purpose. It brings redemption to those who deserve nothing, it brings hope to a people who have run out of hope in themselves or this world, and it brings life to those who live in the shadow of death. This redemption has a face, this hope a name, and this life a voice – Jesus Christ. God has not given us the justice we think we need but the mercy for which we dare not ask and cannot hope. He has given us the mercy that saves us through the redemption which is ours in Christ Jesus. Let this be the voice that ushers forth from those who are sent in His name. And if it is, God will not fail us. Not then. Not now. Not ever.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen
You may watch a video of the sermon and the calls given to the six here.
OR if that link is problematic, try this one.