Thursday, December 11, 2008

Advent 2 Midweek Sermon -- Psalm 50:1-15 (LSB Advent 2H)

December 10, 2008 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church - Mechanicsburg, PA

“Our God comes; He does not keep silence; before Him is a devouring fire, around Him a mighty tempest. He calls to the heavens above and to the earth, that He may judge His people.”

So what will it be like when the Lord God speaks as a judge, when “He speaks and summons the earth”? The Psalmist tells us: “The heavens declare His righteousness, for God Himself is judge.” The Christ says: “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world.” Because it knows its futility, the cosmos tells of its Creator’s righteousness: “[It] groans in expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.”

But the real judgment will be against humanity. So the prophet Malachi says: “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.” The prophet echoes the Psalmist’s words about “a devouring fire, around [the Lord] a mighty tempest.” And the last thing you want to be is Ablaze! For what the Almighty God consumes is taken completely.

However, you heard that the Lord God does not limit His indictment to those who are clearly arrogant and practitioners of evil. The Lord God speaks in the psalm: “Hear, O My people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God.” For what reason does the Lord testify against His people, those whom He had delivered? “Not for your sacrifices . . . for they are continually before Me.” He does not criticize them for their ritual acts of piety, but for the lack of faith that should be accompanying them.

The lack of true belief is what condemns. And that is a sin which is most serious, for it brings into doubt the identity of the Lord God. It makes Him out to be a liar and deceiver. Unbelief can be seen in actions, as with the arrogant who think themselves to be righteous by their own deeds or with the evildoers who do not think that the Lord God can issue a law or enforce it. But it is most egregious when the people whom the Lord God has chosen believe that their status is an entitlement or something they have achieved.

Haughtiness, pride, and delusions of grandeur: these receive the Lord God’s criticism. That is what stands behind His words: “I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. For every beast of the field is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is Mine.” To claim ownership of the things of the earth and to think that you deign to show generosity to the Lord God by your offerings—that you do Him a favor—will bring His indictment against you, especially on the Day of Judgment.

But when your hearts are right, when they lay claim to the righteousness of God that He graciously offers as a gift, you will receive His mercy. The Lord God is pleased when you recognize and take ownership of your futility and helplessness and turn to Him. So He speaks in the psalm: “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” There is a turn of heart to be seen, a repentance: no claim to your own righteousness, but a throwing-yourself-at-the-feet-of-Christ who has given Himself for your redemption.

To turn your heart, the Lord God sends His prophets: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” The turning of hearts to the Lord God and His ways is what spares you from condemnation in the Day of Judgment. It also keeps you from being caught unawares. For Christ says: “Watch yourself lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap.”

The fate of destruction should be avoided by you. And it will, if you have your hearts and minds and souls set on what the Lord God has done for you. For those who have the works of Christ on their minds, on their lips, and in their hearts, there is everlasting life to come on the Day of the Lord. The Day of Judgment comes, but as you have heard before: “The King will say to those on His right: ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father and inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’”

So you have likewise heard this day. The Lord God will say: “Gather to Me My faithful ones, who made a covenant with Me by sacrifice!” And on that day of gathering, it will be good for those who have believed their own sinfulness and in the forgiveness that only the Lord God mercifully provides. For the Psalmist says: “The Mighty One, God the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.” But you also have the divine promise about the Day of Judgment: “But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.”

Know that when that day comes, your promised kingdom of God is near.” For it has been made so for all those who have been chosen to share in the mercy of God, for those who have been humbled by Him and lifted up again. May it be so for you who “call upon [the Lord] in the day of trouble; [He] will deliver you, and you will glorify [Him].”

T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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