Tuesday, January 31, 2017

God's wisdom. . . your blessing. . .

Sermon for Pentecost 4A, preached by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich on Sunday, January 29, 2017.

We consider ourselves to be pretty smart.  Collectively, we humans have a vast amount of knowledge, of wisdom.  We think clearly and rationally about things (or at least we like to think that we do).  Together, there’s no problem we can’t fix...well, except for one...and that’s God.  I don’t mean to say that God is a problem.  The problem is that we can’t know God on our own.  Our smarts, our knowledge, our wisdom, they’re nothing when it comes to knowing God because to know Him is to have faith in Christ Jesus and His cross.  But these things are foolish to the world.

I.    We’re pretty smart, there’s no doubt about that.  Just look at all the impressive things we’ve been able to do.  Cars and planes; phones that are essentially supercomputers in our pockets.  Doctors have developed medicines and vaccines that treat and even cure deadly diseases.  All of this has been accomplished through reason, knowledge, and wisdom.

Our wisdom and reason are gifts from God, and we confess this in the Creed.  When we say “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth,”what we’re saying is “I believe that God has made me, that He’s given me my body, soul, and reason.” These things are good gifts and we thank the Lord everyday for them.  But, even though our reason is a gift, we can’t use it to know God.  In the third article when we say “I believe in the Holy Spirit,”what we’re actually saying is “I can not by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him.” But why?  Why can’t we believe in Christ and know God based on our wisdom and reason if they’re gifts from Him?  Because we’re sinners and our wisdom is fallen.

Our wisdom is tainted by our sin.  It’s turned inwards, looking only at our thoughts and feelings, looking at what we see around us instead of looking towards God and His Word.  In our postmodern world that says truth is always only our opinion, we set ourselves up as the deciders of truth.  We look deep within ourselves to define the truth of our own reality.  And this is the problem.  In our sinfulness we set ourselves up in God’s place.  In sin, we make ourselves the all knowing one who knows good and evil, the one who knows how to fix the problem of sin.

So, what does our fallen wisdom tell us is the solution?  Good works, large offerings, being in church every Sunday?  Whatever it is, the solution can’t be Christ and the cross, because that’s foolishness, or at least that’s what the world wants you to believe.  Paul says, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God”(1Co 1:18).  The message of Christ crucified is a foolish message to the world because Christ died.  How can He be the solution to sin, how can He be the Savior of the whole world if He died a criminal’s death?  This is why the Jewish leaders mocked Jesus on the cross, and this is why the Greeks mocked Christians.  No one wants a God and Savior who dies.  Instead, we want a powerful and spectacular Savior, one who only does extraordinary things.

But thanks be to God that according to His wisdom God sent His Son to be our Savior, to be weak and to die on the cross, because this is exactly what we need.  Christ and His cross is the only solution for the problem of sin.  According to justice, sin must be paid for, and the only one who could make this payment is the sinless Christ Jesus.

In Micah, we hear the prophet rhetorically asking what God’s people should bring to the Lord in offering and sacrifice.  “Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”(Mi 6:7).  This is exactly what God did for you.  There’s nothing you can offer or sacrifice to God to pay for your sin.  You can’t fix this problem...only God can.  God gave you His only Son to die on the cross, to take the punishment of sin, so that you would be released from it’s guilt.  This is God’s wisdom, and in this wisdom you’re blessed.

II.    In our Gospel today we hear the familiar words of the Beatitudes.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are those who mourn; blessed are the meek; blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; blessed are the merciful; blessed are the pure in heart; blessed are the peacemakers; blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’sake”(Mt 5:1-10).

 Jesus calls all of these people blessed.  But they don’t seem to be very blessed according to our fallen sinful worldly wisdom.  People who are blessed are the opposite.  They’re the ones who have an upbeat spirit, always happy, never depressed.  They’re the ones who have no reason to mourn.  They’re the strong, the ones who show no mercy and get want they want.  They’re the ones who never suffer any hardship or persecution.  They’re the ones living their best life now.  It’s crazy for us to consider someone blessed who’s poor in spirit, who’s mourning, who’s persecuted.  We look at them and we pity them because they appear weak and unhappy.  These people aren’t blessed, they’re in need...but this is exactly why they’re blessed.  These people are blessed because their need has been fulfilled.  They’ve received everything they need in Christ and His cross.

You’re are blessed because your need has been fulfilled by Christ.  Jesus’Beatitudes weren’t spoken to worldly people, they were spoken to His disciples, people who followed Him and trusted in Him for salvation.  Jesus’disciples are blessed, His believers are blessed, you’re blessed because you know your Savior and receive His salvation.  And this isn’t according to your wisdom, but according to God’s.  You know your Savior because you’ve been given faith in Christ by the Holy Spirit.

When we say “I believe in the Holy Spirit”we are saying “I can not by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him.” But this isn’t the end of our confession.  When we say, “I believe in the Holy Spirit,”we’re also saying that “the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” You believe in Jesus Christ, You know God your merciful Father, because the Holy Spirit has given you faith.  Through the hearing of God’s Word that proclaims Christ Jesus our Savior, through the Sacrament of Baptism where God’s Word is joined to that water, you’ve received faith.  You know Christ your Lord, and the Holy Spirit keeps you in this godly wisdom as you continue to hear God’s Word and receive His Sacrament.

The wisdom of the world says the cross of Christ is foolish.  The wisdom of the world says the “people”of the Beatitudes aren’t blessed.  The world says you’re not blessed because you’re a Christian, but you are blessed.  Through the wisdom of God you and all the faithful are blessed in Christ Jesus because He gives you what you need, forgiveness and life everlasting.  His cross fixes the problem of sin.  No matter what your situation is, you’re blessed because of your Savior, and in faith, you continued to be blessed receiving His forgiveness, life, righteousness, and the joy of heaven.  In Jesus’name...Amen.

1 comment:

John Joseph Flanagan said...

Best point of this sermon..."our wisdom is tainted by sin." Very true indeed. This is why our wisdom requires we inject it with a strong dose of humility.