Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Our waiting is directed by the Word of God to the Word made flesh...

Sermon Preached for Easter 7, the Sunday after the Ascension, 16 May 2010.

     Awkward moments are part and parcel of this life – the days when we known not what to say or do but feel like we ought to say or do something. In those awkward moments, silence can be deafening.  So it was for the disciples of Jesus.  Our Lord had ascended, the disciples were waiting upon the Lord, and while they waited they cleaned up the loose ends of Judas’ betrayal and death by electing someone to take his place within the Twelve.  In the meantime they waited.
    Waiting is also an awkward part of our lives.  But what do you do while you wait?  I guess that is why they have so many magazines in waiting rooms.  We fill our empty moments of waiting with what is familiar to us.  Where did the apostles turn in their time of waiting?  What was familiar to them?
    Just before Jesus ascended He opened the Scriptures to His disciples and taught them how the Son of Man was to suffer, die, and rise again, that forgiveness of sins be proclaimed in His name to all the ends of the earth.  By teaching His disciples in this way, Jesus turned the focus of their waiting to His Word, to Scripture.  Not some curiosity in Scripture but to the Scriptures as the Word that is unlocked by Christ, the Scriptures that lay out God’s plan of salvation, the Scriptures that show this promise kept in Christ, and the Scriptures that point us to Christ, the Word who fulfills its every word.
    As God’s people wait upon the Lord, their guide and hope is shaped by Scripture, the Word that spoke the promise fulfilled in Christ and the guide that leads us to the One who delivers hope to us sinners.  This is not some Simon says Word but the Word that is the power to do what it says, to bestow what it promises upon those who wait upon it.
    Jesus pinned His identity to that Word of promise proclaimed by the prophets.  He is the authentic Savior who alone keeps the promise given and kept alive in the ages.  How the true and only God is the One comes in flesh to fulfill the Word of the Lord.  The only Gospel which is genuine is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Either He is the keeper of every promise of Scripture or He is but an imposter, unworthy of our trust and powerless to grant us hope.
    When Jesus opened the Scripture to those disciples, He showed Himself as the One born of the Virgin, named Immanuel, the righteous One, who dies the one death big enough to overcome sin, who rises with the life big enough to raise all the dead.  This is what and who we encounter in Scripture.  God reveals Himself through His Son and the Son by the Spirit whom the Father has sent in His name.
    If Jesus has kept all the promise of Scripture, then we can trust Him for everything we need.  We learn Scripture because it makes Christ known to us, so that we can trust Christ... with the big hopes of our hearts and the little ones, with the urgent needs of our lives and long term ones, with the things that matter most to us and things that hardly matter.  Scripture is our focus not because it distracts us or fills the time of waiting, but because it points us to Him who fulfills time and delivers eternity to us time bound creatures.
    We generally start with little things and build up to the big ones – like a man and woman in their courtship seeking to know if he or she is the one or a child working up to the big request asked of the parent.  God works it all backwards.  He does not show Himself trustworthy in little things so that we might believe in the big, He begins with the greatest promise of all.  He keeps that from its fulness we might know we can trust Him for all things.
    You and I will spend much of our lives waiting upon the Lord.  We will not have explanations to reason our way through this time of waiting.  We will not see the face of Jesus with our physical eyes to guide us through this time of waiting.  But what we do have is His Word, the Word that reveals Jesus Christ and delivers to us what it, what He, promises.  That is why we are people of the Word.
    As we wait upon the Lord we face one critical question: Has Christ fulfilled the Scriptures?  If this promise is kept, then we can trust Him for everything else in our lives.  If this one BIG promise is kept, then what reason do we have to doubt Him for the little things of our lives.  Here on earth we start with little promises and build up to the big ones.  Scripture shows us another way.  The big promise that Christ has kept becomes the courage for us to believe that we are not alone, we are not without consolation, we are not so lost as to be beyond the reach of His grace...
    So in your lives of waiting, do not stand staring into the sky, do not gaze off into space waiting for hope to drop into your lap, do not try God out with a little thing here and there to see if He is dependable.  Instead turn to His Word, to the promise given by the Father and kept by His Son, and revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.  Focus on the Scripture fulfilled in Christ, look to the cross and empty tomb and hear the bidding of the Spirit: “if Christ can do all this, can He not be trusted now, for this trouble, for this trial, for this need, for this sin, for this death, for that hope, for this dream?”
    Our time of waiting we cannot escape.  We need not a diversion or a distraction but the Word that does what it says, the Christ who fulfills the Scriptures and delivers to us what we need most of all but cannot win or earn for ourselves.  When this is our focus, our waiting will not be aimless but pregnant with purpose and power to be steadfast in faith and courageous in witness and bold in mission.  Amen.

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