Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Hungry. . .

Sermon for All Saints (Observed) preached on Sunday, November 6, 2016.

I don’t know about you but I am always hungry.  Most of us are.  We bare finish one meal or snack before we are prowling for more.  That’s why the Halloween candy is already gone.  We want new and different, familiar and comfortable.  It’s the same for things other than food.  At Christmas,  surveying the mess of ribbon and wrapping, we wonder, “what else is there?”  We finish one thrill seeking adventure and wonder, “when will then next one come?”  More fun, more food, more time, more money – boy, are we hungry!

God made us hungry.  God made us to be satisfied with the things of God.  But it did not last.  Though God made all things good, we despaired of His goodness and went our own way. Sin entered the world and death through sin but we are still hungry. The problem is we satisfy our hunger in things other than God, things other than holiness, things other than righteousness.

God made us hungry but sin turned that hunger away from God and kept us from being satisfied.  We thought the longing inside could be fulfilled if we just found enough pleasure, enough food, enough drink, enough work, enough leisure, enough hobbies, enough sex, enough life. . .  You name it and people have tried it to answer to the hunger within.  But instead of feeling satisfied, we have been left more hungry.  Instead of finding contentment, we are unsatisfied.  That is sin’s curse in life – to want what does not satisfy and to be left only more hungry in exchange.

It gets worse.  For in that hunger for the good things of life and for life itself, death has passed to all people – young and old.  We are the walking dead – dead in trespasses and sin in life and dead eternally unless God does something to save us.  So God sent forth the Law to hold our hunger in check lest our sin consume us and He sent forth the prophets with the promise of a Savior who would direct our hunger where we would find peace, contentment, and satisfaction.

Christ felt this hunger as He became one with us -- the hunger for easy joy, a quick fix, a downhill path to achieving all our hopes and dreams.  From His temptation to the final prayers in Gethsemane, He was tested.  But He directed it back to God where this hunger and longing could be filled.  Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. To bestow mercy, God had to draw near to us and in Christ we were drawn near to Him.  He eased our fears and taught us where the longing within might be fulfilled.  This is His gift as surely as the mercy that forgives our sins and the grace that teaches our hearts to believe.  This is the Spirit’s work – to lead the hungry to Him who is the Bread of Life forevermore.

Awakening faith within us, we learned to trust God’s Word and promise.  We learned by the power of the Spirit that God’s words were not empty nor were His promises just words.  God was in Christ teaching us that He is trustworthy and true, the only One who can satisfy our hunger and give to our longing rest.

This is the power of grace that forgives our sins and gives us the new birth of our lost lives in baptism.  But there is more.  Jesus has taught us to learn to love righteousness and to seek to be holy as He is holy.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied. 

We do not become saints because we love righteousness; we love righteousness because God has made us His saints in baptism.  He has directed us where the longing ends and the hunger is filled.  We live new lives of  righteousness, peace, and joy. 

On this day when we remember the saints, we know what it means to be a saint, a sinner whom God has redeemed in Christ and taught to love righteousness and to trust in God for all things.  Washed in the blood of the Lamb, we cannot find peace or comfort in the world.  We belong to the Lord.  He is our peace.

Our hunger is not merely for what God gives – forgiveness, life, and salvation, but for the life of holiness and righteousness that is the fruit of this baptismal new life.  We do nothing to contribute to our salvation but we live differently as the saved who belong to the Lord by baptism and faith.  We seek to be holy as He is holy, we love righteousness, and we strive to become the new people He has declared us to be.

The saints old and storied or the new saints confirmed last week and baptized two weeks before them are together washed in the blood of the Lamb, feed upon the flesh of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and directed by the voice of the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. 

Blessed are the hungry for God and for His righteousness.  Theirs is the Kingdom, theirs is the comfort to end all sorrows, theirs is the earth in life and heaven in death, they are called the sons and daughters of God, and they shall survive persecution, all sorts and kinds of lies told about them, and evils done to them.  They rejoice and are glad.  Their focus is on Christ their righteousness and their goal is to be righteous in Him, to live holy, pure, and good lives, filled with the good works that glorify God.

The saints of God do not stop being hungry.  They hunger for the things that satisfy, the things that belong to their new life as the baptized, for God and His Kingdom.  Sometimes we think that this is all there is – sinning, regretting that sin, and going to church to be forgiven.  There is much more.  We do not simply live with regrets; we seek to be holy and we strive to be the people God has declared us to be.

Today we recall the saints of God – saints big and small who share one characteristic – by the power of the Spirit their hearts hunger for God, their minds for His Word, and their lives for His work.  It is not that they stopped being hungry.  They learned to hunger for the things of God.  This is where they worked out their salvation with fear and trembling.  This is how we do the same.  Christianity does not put the period after forgiveness.  The forgiven seek and strive to be holy as He is holy. 

The hunger for the things of this life will never be satisfied.  Only the hunger and thirst for the things of God, for His kingdom and His righteousness finds its answer, its contentment, and its satisfaction.  You will always be hungry and never be filled until your hunger is satisfied here, in this Word and this altar, where you are filled with Christ.    

Saints are not better people than we are.  Saints are those in whom the Spirit has planted faith and directed their hunger to Christ.  There in forgiveness we are released from our past and their in righteousness we embrace the shape of our new life.  We amend our sinful lives and seek to be holy, righteous, and good people.  Though we Lutherans are more comfortable on the turn of justification, the justified live new lives in which the goal and purpose of our lives is righteousness and the good works that testify to our faith and glorify God.

Hunger is not the problem.  Where that hunger leads us is the problem.  Having been baptized into Christ, let us walk in Christ, seeking the Kingdom of God and the things of the Kingdom with our whole heart, voice, and strength.  And God promises, dear friends, then and only then will our hunger be satisfied, our thirst quenched, our longing met, our lives find peace and contentment.

Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, seek after these things. . . for this is the Spirit’s work, this is God’s doing, this is what it means to walk in Christ, and this will not disappoint you.  Amen.

No comments: