Friday, April 3, 2020

Who speaks for God?

Sermon for Judica, Lent 5, in the historic series, preached on Monday and Tuesday, March 30-31, 2020.

Who speaks for God?  This is the challenge of a people who struggle to make sense of a pandemic and the promise of God.  Some have recently suggested that the voice of Christian faith is of little or no hope.  Who speaks for God?  That was the question behind the Pharisees.  They were suspicious of prophets who spoke “Thus saith the Lord.”  They were protectors of the status quo in which uncertainty was their ally and a voice who purports to speak with the authority of God is the enemy.

Along comes Jesus and you have something worse than a voice that says they speak for God.  Jesus is saying He IS God.  No prophet would have said, “Before Abraham was, I am.”  Only the one who is without beginning and end, the Alpha and the Omega, could make such a statement.  But the miracle is that this is the same Jesus who has a birthday in time.  No wonder the Pharisees were confused.  But in their confusion they sought not to hear or understand or believe but to reject and remove the blasphemer.  They sought to kill Jesus.

Over and over Jesus says it and it is missed.  We know better and still we miss it.  “I AM” is not some casual phrase but Jesus is claiming to be the same God who spoke and all things came to be, the same God who met Moses in the burning bush, and the same God who promised to be His people’s Savior.  Jesus says it to the crowd of misfit soldiers who come for Him on Maundy Thursday:  “Whom do you seek?  Jesus of Nazareth.  I AM He.”  Jesus says it before Caiaphas.  “Are You the Son of God, then?  You say I AM.” 

Here it is much the same.  “Before Abraham was, I AM.”  They had the stones in their hand.  But now is not the time.  The Great I AM must choose the moment and who will yield the verdict of death and this was not the right moment.   But it was for this moment that Abraham looked in faith to God who had promised him heirs as many as the sand on the shore.  It was for this moment that Abraham raised the knife to kill Isaac.  It was for this moment that Abraham believed the Lord and his faith was counted him as righteousness.

And now it comes to you.  The world is in an uproar.  Blasphemers still judge the Son of God a liar.  There are still those who insist that religion is a crutch and the Gospel a myth.  There are still those who speak for God on Facebook and social media as if the claim to authority is the same of having it for real.  But do not be deceived.  God is not mocked.

Only one voice speaks for God.  This is the voice of the Savior who is our great I AM, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and end. He is our one and only hope.  Only one voice speaks for God.  This is the voice of mercy not judgment and the voice of compassion not condemnation.  Christ is the voice and His death and resurrection proves His is the authentic voice and He is the only Savior.

Only one voice speaks for God.  This is the voice of absolution to a people who live in terror and guilt for their sins.  Christ is this voice and He speaks so that our sins may be forgiven.

Only one voice speaks for God.  This is the voice of comfort to a people living in terror of the unknown, in fear of the future, and in weakness before a pandemic seemingly out of control.  Christ is this voice and He insists that His is the power to give hope to the despairing and courage to the faint.  We who stand in Christ on the sure foundation of the great I AM will not and cannot be moved.

Abraham did not live to see it with his eyes but saw it by faith.  We have seen it and read it and rejoice in it.  It was expedient that one die for the many – not as a scapegoat but the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  It was God’s wisdom and plan that His Son come in flesh and blood to cover us with His righteousness and to offer Himself as the perfect atoning sacrifice for our sins.  It is this glory that beckons us to God’s house in days of fear and it is this glory that addresses us as God’s own children by baptism and faith.  It is this glory that speaks as the living God to a people faced with death all around them and it is this glory that feeds us heavenly bread and the cup of salvation.  Abraham longed to see this day with his own eyes and we are called to rejoice in this Gospel now.

We mourn for our sins and we regret that we are so easily captive to fear and we confess that we have blasphemed by speaking in God’s place something other than the Word of the Lord.  But God has not come in His power and glory to judge and condemn us.  He has come to save and redeem us.  Our hearts of stone now beat with the warmth of the Spirit in us.  Our blind eyes now see with the perfect vision of faith.  Our lame limbs now run to the arms of Him who loved us more than death.  Our fearful hearts now sigh with relief that we are not alone, not without hope, and not marked for death anymore.

Abraham longed to be where you are, a child of God washed in baptism, knowing the Scriptures as promise kept and prophecy fulfilled, and receiving the very body and blood of Jesus as your true and eternal food.

Do you remember the women who called out to Jesus on His way to the cross, “His blood be on us and on our children.”  They were willing to wear the blood of Christ because they thought they were doing to the right thing in ridding the world of a false voice who speaks in God's name.  But we say those very same words in faith, rejoicing to wear the blood of Christ who alone speaks for God the glorious message of forgiveness, life, and salvation.  My friends, there is power in the blood.  It is the blood of Christ that cleanses us from all sin.  It is the voice in the blood that declares us justified and forgiven.  It is the hope in the blood that says because He lives, we live.  Amen.

1 comment:

John Joseph Flanagan said...

A very good sermon indeed. Soli Deo Gloria