Monday, November 12, 2018

What are God's promises worth?

Sermon preached for Pentecost 25, Proper 27B, on Sunday, November 11, 2018, by the Rev. Daniel M. Ulrich.

    We judge the value of things in terms of dollars and cents.  The amount of money in our wallets and our bank accounts make a lot of decisions for us.  Should we upgrade to that new phone?  Check the bank balance.  Should we take that mini vacation?  Check the bank balance.  Should we increase our offering this week?  Double check the bank balance.  We look at price tags and costs, we look at what we have, and we ask ourselves, “Is it worth it?”  So, let me ask you, WHAT ARE GOD’S PROMISES WORTH? 
    God has given you many promises.  In the waters of Baptism He has promised that you’re His child, and that He is and will always be your Father, your heavenly Father that gives you life. 
This life is an earthly life.  None of us would be alive if it wasn’t for the Lord who knitted us together in our mother’s womb (Ps 139:13).  As our Father, He promises to care for us, to provide us with the things we need, our daily bread as Luther put it.  This is what Jesus talked about in His Sermon on the Mount when He said don’t be anxious about what we’ll eat and wear.  The Lord knows our needs and He’ll provide. 
We see this provision in a miraculous way in the OT reading.  During a great drought, the Lord sent Elijah to a widow in Zarephath to care for him.  Meeting this woman Elijah told her to make some food for him, but she explained that all she had was enough for her and her son’s last meal.  But then Elijah spoke the promise of the Lord, “Do not fear....The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain.” (1 Ki 1713, 14).  Hearing this promise, the woman responded in faith.  She gave all that she had, because that’s what the promises of God are worth. 
We see this same faith displayed by the widow in the Gospel reading.  Sitting across from the temple offering box Jesus watched as people brought their tithes and offerings to the Lord.  Those with a lot of money put in a lot.  But a poor widow came and put two small coins in, all that she had.  Seeing this Jesus said, “This poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing...For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had…” (Mk 12:43, 44).  Why would she do this?  Because that’s what the promises of God are worth.  This widow knew and trusted in the promise of God’s care, in His promise of life, not just her earthly life, but her everlasting life. 
God’s number one promise has always been everlasting life.  This is a promise to overcome sin and death.  This is a promise to defeat our great enemy Satan.  The everlasting life that God promises is the life that is lived in His presence, in peace and communion with Him, where there’s no longer pain and suffering, where there’s no need of any kind, no sickness and disease, no tears or mourning, no death.  What is this life worth?  It’s worth all that we have: all our money; all our time; even our very selves.
God’s promises are worth everything, but is that how we respond?   Do respond to the God’s promises with faith like the widows, giving everything, even out of our poverty?  Or, are we like those who only give out of our abundance? 
What’s our motivation in giving to the Lord?  How do we determine what we put in the plate to support the proclamation of His promises here on earth?  Do we look at our bank balance and what’s in our wallet?  Do we add up all our bills and the money we need for entertainment and then whatever extra we have from our paycheck, that’s what we put in the plate?  How do we decide how much time to give?  Do we give ourselves to work, sports, leisure, and other activities first and then if there’s any time left over and we’re not too tired we might consider coming to worship and Bible Study?  Does God get our leftovers, or does He get our first fruits, our very selves? 
The promises of God are worth everything, all that we have and more.  And with faith, that’s how we should respond to them.  God shouldn’t get our leftovers.  Think about that.  The very Creator of everything, your heavenly Father who’s given you life, you give Him your leftovers.  What’s that say about how you view Him; what you think about Him; what you believe about Him? 
God’s promises are worth our first fruits.  God’s promises are worth all that we have: our money, our time, and our very selves.  So with faith, that’s what we give.  We give these things because the promises of the Lord are worth that.  But we don’t give them to buy His promises.
    The widow of Zarephath and the widow at the temple didn’t give all they had to purchase God’s promises.  No, those promises came first; they were already spoken.  Their actions were faithful responses to what their heavenly Father promised.  And that’s what our giving to the Lord is. 
    We give back to the Lord in thanksgiving for what He’s given to us and in response to the promises He’s spoken to us.  Our tithes and offerings, our giving of time and our very selves, it’s not about planting financial seeds expecting God to give us a return on our investment.  It’s not about paying a down payment in order to reserve our spot in heaven.  No, we give all that we have because He’s already spoken those promises to us; because that’s what the promises of God are worth. 
    The promises of God, the promise of everlasting life with Him is worth everything.  It’s even worth God’s only begotten Son. 
    There is a price, a cost, associated with God’s promised everlasting life, but we can’t pay it.  Only God can, and He did, by giving His Son, Jesus Christ.  In order for God to give us the life He promises, He had to buy us back from our sin and death.  This cost couldn’t be paid with all the money in the world.  It had to be paid with blood, with the sacrifice of Christ.  Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, willingly, graciously, and mercifully gave up is life in exchange for yours.  God the Father gave all that He had for you, because that’s what His promise is worth.  His promise to save you from your sin and death and to give you everlasting life is worth His Son’s life, so He paid it.  That’s the depth of love your Father has for you. 
God’s promises are worth everything.  His promise of earthly life is worth all our time and money.  His promise of everlasting life is worth our very selves, and even more.  But we can’t buy this promise.  God doesn’t deliver on His promise because we met the cost.  We can’t.  God delivers on His promises because He has met the cost.  His promise of everlasting life is worth everything to Him, even His only begotten Son.  And this He has given, so that He might have you, so that you might have His everlasting life.  In Jesus’ name...Amen. 

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