A Sermon for Series A 3rd Sunday in Advent 2016 “Picking and Choosing”

Old Testament Lesson  Isaiah 35:1-10

Second Lesson  James 5:7-11

Gospel Lesson  Matthew 11:2-15

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 35:1-10]

Did you see the signs of climate change in the Old Testament lesson today?  Clearly there were signs of rising ocean levels in the time of Isaiah.  He saw waters break forth in the wilderness, burning sand became a pool, thirsty ground became springs of water, grasslands became marshes; and he saw the people following a highway to higher ground, to the mountains, following the “Way of Holiness” as the “ransomed return and come to mount Zion.”

But we’re still here, and although ocean levels have risen, very little of the world’s geography has changed.  Maybe Isaiah was wrong; or maybe we don’t always interpret the data correctly.  Maybe the current model of our world is flawed, forcing scientists to pick and choose what facts to believe, trusting the ones that support our theories and ignoring the ones that don’t.  Maybe we pick the theorists that make the most sensational predictions and choose to call those who point to the other less supportive facts eccentric, or unscientific, or glory hounds looking for the limelight.

So many people listen to the warnings about climate change and believe, even though we can’t see it happening.  Oh, people say they see it happening, but they can’t really connect the data they point to with the phenomena they say is happening.  They can’t directly link the cause and the effect.  How many of us have reviewed the data?  How many of us could even understand the data; and yet many of us accept it as truth … because the experts tell us it’s true.

Now I’m not trying to convince you that climate change is a hoax; and I’m not trying to convince you to believe in it either.  What I’m struggling with is this:  People do pick and choose what they’re willing to believe.  I’m not talking about truths you can solidly point to with proof beyond a shadow of a doubt, saying it’s fact; I’m talking about, in one case choosing to believe something without proof, and in another case choosing to deny something that has proof; something that’s recorded in history; not something that’s an interpretation of history, but something that’s recorded there as fact.

Isaiah tells us that when the Messiah comes we’ll know him because he’ll give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and speech to the mute.  He’ll make the lame walk and cleanse lepers.  He’ll even cast out demons.  The historical gospels, the ones we call ‘synoptic,’ which means “the common view,” tell us of the miracles of Jesus.  He healed the sick and cast out demons; as a result of his miraculous touch, the blind saw, the deaf heard, the lame walked, and lepers had their rotting flesh restored, purified, cleansed as white as snow.

Both Matthew and Luke tell us that before he was born, angels told Jesus’ parents to give him a name that proclaimed his mission to the world.  The angels told them to name him Jesus; because Jesus means: he will save his people from their sins.  Gabriel even told Mary her son would be called the Son of the Most High.  She would be the mother of God!  That was the ‘common view.’  That’s what’s recorded in history.

It’s all right here, in the Bible; so why do so many choose not to believe?  We accept the signs of climate change even though they can’t be connected to the theory that grounds itself in them; but we won’t accept Jesus as God’s own Son despite the well documented facts that the Bible chronicles for us.  With climate change you get a sophisticated hypothesis that can’t be proved.  Tons of data are thrown at it; but the link, the connection between theory and data, can’t be made.  There are too many variables.

In the words of Isaiah you get plain and simple proclamation of God’s Word; prophecy, not theory, and 400 years later you have the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, the fulfillment of God’s Word, in the person of Jesus Christ; tons of data are there linking Jesus directly to Old Testament prophecy, not just in Isaiah, but in the entire Old Testament.  In Jesus, every promise of God was fulfilled.

And yet so many choose not to believe.  Sin is so powerful; it blinds the heart and closes the mind to hearing the truth.  If it were not for God and his almighty, steadfast love for us we would be lost forever; but God doesn’t deny us even though we deny him.  He keeps coming to us, strengthening our weak hands, making firm the feeble knees; saying to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not!”

God keeps coming to us, and he never stops until he accomplishes what’s good and right.  We’re blind to him, but through his holy Word, his Spirit makes us see.  Our minds are closed, but his baptismal waters wash away the sin and grime that clog the pathways to our minds and we hear him again.  We’re lame, but his precious body and blood restore strength to our weakened souls and we walk with him again.

He places us on the Way of Holiness and his gentle guiding touch keeps us there.  He sends us on our way, assuring us of safe passage all the way home; all the way to our true home, our heavenly home.  We call itour home’ even now, because Christ Jesus has made us members of his family.  He’s adopted us, paying the price of adoption with his life on the cross.

That’s why he came, to conquer sin and death and to release us from their bondage; to make us his own so that we could be where he is eternally.  We walk with him hand-in-hand even now, as we walk in the Way of Holiness.  We’re in his care right now, but there are many he longs to hold in his hands who still refuse to listen to the truth.

There are many who pick and choose; picking the theories of man without proof, but choosing to deny the truth of Christ saying there is no proof.  God is their God too; and he waits for them to be ready to be placed on the Way.  His Spirit waits for just the right time and place to reveal the truth to them; but without God’s word, without the truth being proclaimed to them, there’s no way for God’s miracles to be done in them; no restoration of sight, no opening of their minds.

As we march in holy procession along the holy highway, safe in the presence of God, safe even though we’re surrounded by the fears and dangers of this world; we must not forget that God’s gift of miraculous healing wasn’t given to us simply to free us; but to make us his feet, his hands, and his voice in the world.  We’ve been freed for freedom sake.  We’ve been freed to bring glory to God through the sharing of his love with our neighbors, proclaiming the truth in love.

The truth may not be as easy to receive as warnings about climate change; but it’s the truth none the less.  The people will listen, because even though they’re blind and deaf and lame, what God brings them is what they need the most.  God’s word brings healing, global healing; as the water of life flows out from Christ; healing the sin sick, making the unclean clean, forgiving sin and making all things new.

The proof is there. The signs are recorded.  They let us know that our Savior has come.  And here’s the truly amazing thing: Once our hearts and minds are opened by God this truth is suddenly clear.  We don’t need to pick and choose; in fact we can’t pick and choose, because the truth of our salvation in Christ is a gift from God.

Amen.

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Huelle