A Sermon for Series A First Sunday in Advent 2016 “Just What We Need”

 

Old Testament Lesson  Isaiah 2:1-5

Second Lesson  Romans 13:11-14

Gospel Lesson  Matthew 21:1-11

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  The text for our meditation this day is the Old Testament lesson just read.  [Isaiah 2:1-5]

Isaiah was sent to the people of Judah and Jerusalem, warning them of their impending exile to Babylon and the destruction of Jerusalem and the cities of Judea.  But in the lesson today, he prophesies of a later time, a latter time, after exile when Jerusalem will be lifted up and everyone, from every nation will come … to them … wanting what they have; wanting to hear what God has to tell them.

Iaiah tells a people who have known only war, for decades, that war will stop and the implements of war will be retooled, becoming farming implements, implements to be used to plow and prune, to produce food for the people, to build up the people, not tear down the people, as war had done for generations.

It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains and shall be lifted up above the hills and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.

Isaiah was sent to the people to give them just what they needed.  Just what they needed at a time when they saw no hope.  He didn’t come to them telling them, “Don’t worry about tomorrow, nothing bad is going to happen to you.”  He didn’t come to speak falsely to them about the exile and destruction facing them; but he did give them hope.

And he did command them to repent and to return to God; to repent and submit their lives to their God so that he would see their sincere repentance and give them peace: For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.

This promise of God, this vision of the future, this proclamation of hope was just what they needed.  They’d turned away from God so completely that they’d even convinced themselves that what they did didn’t matter to God because he didn’t see or care.  They could sacrifice to other gods in the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem and it didn’t matter to him, they thought.  They could burn their sons and daughters as a sacrifice to false gods and it didn’t matter to him, they thought.  They could take advantage of the poor, the crippled, the ones unable to defend themselves, and it wouldn’t matter to him, they thought.

But it did matter, and now God sent Isaiah to warn them yet again that it did matter, that God did see what they did and God would not be mocked or laughed at as if he didn’t matter.  There would be destruction and death in Judea and Jerusalem; but some would be set apart, some who kept their trust in the Lord.  They’d be exiled, but the exile would take them away from the destruction.  The exile would save them; and one day God would bring their children home.

But, the most important promise Isaiah prophesied to the people was peace; peace that God would bring to the people by his Son; peace from war and rumors of war, peace from the war that raged within them, peace that only the forgiveness of their sins could bring them.  God would bring them peace.  God would bring them just what they needed.

And peace is just what we need today because we are a people that has known only war for decades.  We are a people who have turned away from God so completely that we don’t believe that he sees what we do or cares about what we do.  We sacrifice to other gods; to the gods of self-satisfaction and desire.

We sacrifice our children, giving them over to a society that calls good bad and bad good. Our children see us step aside letting society dictate right and wrong because we fear that if we stood up for our faith we’d be branded intolerant and bigoted.  They see our inaction and they see how little our faith means to us and they’re lost.  And, in our inaction, we take advantage of those who can’t defend themselves, the unborn and those facing end of life decisions.

We do these things so often, so automatically, it can only be because we don’t think God can see what we do; or maybe we think it doesn’t matter to him.  But it does matter, and now God sends Isaiah to warn us yet again that it does matter, that God does see what we do and God will not be mocked or laughed at as if he didn’t matter.

Isaiah calls us to repent and as we do he gives us what we need.  God sends his prophets to tear down and to build up again and today the most important promise Isaiah prophesies to us is peace; peace that God brings to his people by his Son; peace from war and rumors of war for sure, peace from the war that rages within us for sure, peace that only the forgiveness of our sins can bring.  God brings us peace.  God brings us just what we need.

God brings us just what we need through the New Testament witness of the Gospel of his Son. And on this First Sunday in Advent, the Season of the Coming One, we’re treated to a vision of Jesus, our Savior, riding into Jerusalem.  Although it’s the beginning of the Church Year, the beginning of our journey to the cross, we’re shown the beginning of the end … or so it seems; but this is just what we need to see!

We don’t want to see Jesus suffer and die, not now, not just as we’re preparing to celebrate his birth; we get enough of this suffering and dying during Holy Week, but this is just what we need to see, because without it, there’s nothing to see.

We need to watch as God exiles his Son from himself, abandons him, forsakes him so that those who believe in him can come back from exile and be with him forevermore.  That’s exactly what we need to see.  That’s exactly what we need!

And so today we don’t see what we want to see; we see what we need to see.  We don’t see a conquering hero on a great white steed, riding by and waving to the crowds of excited supporters.  We see a king humble and riding on a donkey with followers celebrating his arrival, but just as many, even more people, totally confused.  We hear: the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?”

We see God delivering his Son to a people so wrapped up in their own lives that they don’t even know who this is.  We see a topsy-turvy picture of believers and unbelievers, of those who stay smugly confirmed in their self-righteousness and those who are ready to return from their exile from God and to be his own dear children again.  Some things never change.

Today we prepare for the Coming One.  Today we begin our journey anew.  Today we flow to the mountain of the house of the Lord as he brings us his peace, the forgiveness of our sins as he gives us his very own body and blood, strengthening us and keeping us in the one true faith.  Today God brings us back from exile and gives us his peace; the peace of God that passes all understanding; God brings us just what we need.

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Huelle