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BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz

Aug 7, 2016  SERMON ARCHIVE

Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, AMEN

The text for our meditation today is the Epistle Lesson for this 12th Sunday after Pentecost, Hebrews 11:1-16. There we read:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

We begin in the name of Jesus, AMEN

Today’s Epistle from Hebrews 11 describes a raft of people who lived by faith: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah. Were this Epistle to have gone farther into the chapter, you would have heard that, you would have heard other names as well: "Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah… David and Samuel and the prophets."

These all lived by faith. Even more than that, as you heard today, "These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar."

In today’s Epistle, God your heavenly Father wants you to exercise patience toward Him, in the same way that He faithfully exercises patience toward you. Your patience toward God is not the same form as His patience toward you, but God requires and demands your patience nevertheless.

Stained Glass Baptism Window

Your heavenly Father shows patience toward you in the form of forgiveness: No matter what you have done, no matter how habitual your sins are, God faithfully forgives you. Every time God the Father looks at you, He sees you continually covered in the blood of His Christ, "the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world."

The Lord your God allows you to return and return and return and He does not grow weary or impatient with your repentance. Thus it is written, "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love" (Psalm 103:8). Forgiveness is the form and substance of God’s patience toward you.

Faith is the form and substance of your patience toward God. Where God’s patience toward you takes the form of forgiveness, your patience toward God takes the form of faith. As God said in today’s Epistle, "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."

That may seem like a strange way of speaking, to say that you must exercise patience toward God. To be sure, you do not need to be patient with God for the same reasons He needs to be patient with you! You need God’s patience because "you daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment," as you learned to say it from the Small Catechism.

You need God’s patience because "there is nothing good in you, that is, in your sinful flesh" (Romans 7:18), as St. Paul so painstakingly explained to the Romans. You need your God and Father to be patient toward you because of all that you could never make yourselves to be.

God your heavenly Father requires patience from you for all the opposite reasons: not because He is sinful, but because He is faithful; not because He is weak, but because He is strong. God requires your patience—the patience called faith—because God’s wisdom far exceeds all of your wisdom piled together.

But perhaps the greatest reason why you must be patient toward God is this: God has absolutely no desire to give you your best life right here and right now. That is exactly the point of today’s Epistle: God does NOT wish to give you your best life here and now.

Today’s Epistle tells the story of several people who did not receive from God the things they wanted. The people in today’s Epistle, and many more like them, "all died in faith, not having receive the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar." In other words, God required each of these people patience—the patience of faith.

Are you greater than Abraham? More blessed than Sarah? By what right do you expect different treatment from God than what they received? They "considered Him faithful who had promised." Abel, Enoch, Noah, "Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah… David and Samuel and the prophets."

These all lived by faith. Even more, "these all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar." Why should you expect instant gratification and immediate fulfillment of your every whim and desire?

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

You feel worn out, right? Trust me when I tell you that I feel worn out, too. (My brain feels like a gear with teeth ground off.) You feel you are near a breaking point, and you cannot take much more. Whether you want to hear this or not, you are WRONG about that feeling.

God has promised you; He has sworn on an oath, "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it" (1 Corinthians 10:13).

When Sarah heard a comparable promise from God, "she considered Him faithful who had promised." You are Sarah’s sons and daughters; you have been baptized into Sarah’s faith. Imitate your mother. Patiently consider Him faithful who has promised you.

Again, God has said, "The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials" (2 Peter 2:9). Your father Abraham believed such a promise as this, and Abraham lived patiently under such a promise as this.

Thus it is written in today’s Epistle, "by faith Abraham went to live in the land of promise, as in foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise." Like Isaac and Jacob, you also have been made "heirs of the same promise." You and I are living proof that God has indeed raised up from stones children for Abraham (Matthew 3:9). Share Abraham’s patience toward God. Live in Abraham’s faith.

When you feel worn out, return to God’s promises. When you feel as though you cannot take any more, "consider Him faithful who had promised." When you’ve had enough, when you can’t go on, when you feel as though all is lost, "lift up your heads, for your redemption is drawing near" (Luke 21:28).

Pray with the psalmist, "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation."

Keep placing your feet into the footprints of Abraham and Sarah, Abel and Enoch, Noah, "Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah… David and Samuel and the prophets" (Hebrews 11:32): These all lived patiently toward God. They all lived by faith. "These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar."

God did not want any of these people to have their best life now. God wanted them to live as "… strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. .. They desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city."

God did not want any of these people to have their best life now, and He does not want for you to have your best life now, either. He wants you to live patiently, "desiring a better country, that is, a heavenly one."

He wants you to remember, Christ Is Risen.

Luther Rose

 

Christ Is Risen
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