January 10, 2019

A Sermon for Each Part of Us

Baptism of Our Lord
KML Sunday

First Lesson:  1 Kings 17:8-16

Second Lesson:  Philippians 4:4-9

Gospel Lesson:  Matthew 6:31-34

Sermon Text:  Psalm 131:1-2


I hope this is clear, but every sermon preached here contains Law and Gospel. The Law shows us what God wants and where we’ve failed. The Gospel is all about Jesus’ work of paying for our sins and assuring us we’re forgiven. Law and Gospel – every week. We also often mention that there are two spiritual parts to each of us - sinner and saint, unbeliever and Christian. If I’d fall up here, both parts would act up. The sinner would mock, but the saint in you’d be concerned about me, help me out, and comfort me by saying something, “Happens to everyone at some point – don’t let it bother you.”

Put those two thoughts together. To whom are we speaking when we talk about God’s law? The sinner/unbeliever. To whom are we speaking when we talk about the Gospel?  The saint/Christian. With that in mind, we’re going to have two sermons. The 1st is based on the law, directed at the sinner in you. The 2nd is based on the Gospel, addressed to the Christian in you. Our goal is to focus on the battle constantly raging in us, and our need for God’s grace and God’s Word. 

Sermon #1 – read text. In a way, that sounds like a joke, right? Can any of us say those words define us on a daily basis? This text is about contentment, being satisfied with how things turn out or with what we do/don’t have. So, as you look at our society, do you see contentment or a constant clamoring for more, bigger, better? Aren’t we assaulted daily with messages about how much better life would be if we had this or could afford that? It’s a non-stop barrage. Have we, even as Christians, bought into that a little? Yes. None of us here can honestly say they’re perfectly content with hearts totally at rest. None can say we have calmed/quieted ourselves, that we’re perfectly satisfied, and we need nothing more.

Want proof? We are the richest country in the history of the WORLD, but we slip into thinking that a little more makes things a little better.  All of us have our needs met on a daily basis and a lot of our wants as well.  But others have more, better, and bigger, and we slip into envy. Though we are among the top % of richest people in the world, we complain because we are not 2%ers. We talk about unfairness and rights when we don’t get what we want. Far from calming/stilling ourselves, we almost like getting fired up so we can let all know the injustices we’ve had to face.

OK, but all that is a bit general. Fine. Get specific. Pick which applies to you. Would you be satisfied if you only had an iphone 7 or do you need a 9 or a 10?  Would you be content if you only had 5 changes of clothes so you have to wear some twice a week? Are you happy with your cramped home or are you annoyed about no space and daydreaming about how 1000 more square feet would fulfill a dream? Do you wish you looked like her instead of boring old you?  Do you focus on reaching his level so you could have that money, go those places? Do you wish your kids were more successful/athletic?  Do you long for more friends?  A better job?  And let’s just say the obvious one – do wish for gobs and gobs of cash?

No, it isn’t necessarily wrong to want some of these things, but… 1) Are we willing to compromise our beliefs and violate God’s law to get them?  And 2) if/when we don’t get these things, what is often our response? Anger. Frustration. Sadness.  Envy. On and on it goes.  Doesn’t sound like contentment?  Doesn’t sound like being still and calming ourselves, does it?  

But think about it from this perspective.  When it comes to what you need, what are you truly lacking?  NOTHING!  You have your life, food, clothing, shelter, and all the basics.  You have or can get a job to provide for yourself.  You have a brain to see you through life.  You have people – family or otherwise – there for you when you need them and even when you don’t.  We have a heaping helping of potatoes – the stuff we need - on our plate.  God has given that to all of us.  

But he hasn’t skimped on the gravy/extras either. We need food, but we have freezers/pantries filled with everything under the sun.  We need clothes, but most of us could go months not wearing the same thing.  We need shelter, but we live in what our grandparents would consider mansions. We need to communicate, but we can live our whole lives on a phone (sadly). We need money for bills, but we have enough to vacation on different continents, a luxury unheard of years ago.

Frankly, how dare we claim injustice! Or accuse God on not giving enough! Or fail to be content! Our grandparents would blush if they had our wealth, but we’re so obsessed with us/here/now, all we think about is how we don’t have all we want, that it isn’t fair, and that we have every right to complain. God says to give thanks in all circumstances. Do we always do that? Not nearly enough. We’re not the content, satisfied people God’s called us to be.  We are, in the psalmist’s words, proud/haughty. We arrogantly think we deserve more, and we’re not shy voicing discontentment. Shame on us.  Amen.

Sermon #2 – read text. Fellow believer, can you admit with me at times we are proud, haughty, and arrogant? That we’ve failed to be content? That envy easily overtakes our hearts? That whining often comes from our mouths instead of thanks?  And does that bother you as it bothers me? Do you, like me, feel ashamed because God’s given so much but still that voice inside says we’ll never have enough? Are you sorry, as I am, that at times we’ve concerned ourselves, as the psalm says, with “great matters, things to wonderful” for us, things like controlling the universe and the people in it, things best left to God? Since you’re a Christian, I know that’s true.  

So what comfort does God give? First, he fulfills our greatest need.  I know the other part of you doesn’t want to hear this, but you have a need much greater than food, water, or even air: forgiveness. We need it in a way we can’t even put into words. But, like we said, God always provides for the needs of his people.  It is no different with forgiveness except that fulfilling this need cost him a lot more than giving us a meal or some clothes to wear.

To bless us with forgiveness, God had to be content sending his Son to earth. To do what? His mission was to die to pay the price for our discontentment, whining, and complaining.  Someone had to pay for those sins. But instead of exacting a pound of our flesh, God accepted Jesus’ payment. Think it was easy for the Father to watch his perfect, sinless, innocent Son die? No.  But since he wasn’t content with the thought of losing us, he was content to send Jesus to the cross for us.

And praise him that we know the results.  Because a great matter that is too wonderful for us – the plan of salvation – we are loved. That will not change for all eternity.  We are family – adopted members who have a home. We are cared for.  Whatever our spiritual struggle is, we have God’s promise of peace and the assurance of his presence. And we have hope.  Yes, this world has as many downs as ups, but we know how things play out in the end – the ultimate up awaits – heaven.

Can a better phone, a bigger house, more money, or a better functioning family bring you anything close to this?  It can’t.  Reality is that without the truth of forgiveness, we couldn’t really enjoy any of those other things anyway.  The biggest hole would still need to be filled.  But that hole, that cross shaped, God shaped hole, has been filled.  We have our Savior.  We have our Lord.  We have his love.  We have it all.  Spiritually speaking, we are content.  We are satisfied.

And because we have that, we can be content in all those other areas we mentioned.  Would our Lord who took care of our biggest need forget about our daily, smaller needs?  Would he who showed the greatest love at the cross stop showing it in any other areas of our lives? Not at all! Now, will he give us all we want?  No, for his own reasons.  But can we trust that we will always have enough, and usually a lot more than enough?  Absolutely.

There is so much more to say on this, but I want to close with a few hymn verses.  I am content! My Jesus lives again, in whom my heart is pleased. He has fulfilled the law of God for me. God’s wrath he has appeased. Since he in death could perish never, I also shall not die forever. I am content! I am content! I am content! My Jesus is my head; His member I shall be. He bowed his head when on the cross he died with cries of agony. Now death is brought into subjection For me too by his resurrection. I am content! I am content! I am content! My Jesus is my light, my radiant sun of grace. His cheering rays beam blessings forth for all: sweet comfort, hope, and peace. This Easter sun has brought salvation, and everlasting exultation. I am content! I am content!

What the author does here is beautifully summarizes our mindset as believers.  We have our Jesus.  We have our faith.  We have all our needs met.  And we have God’s promise for the future.  What more do we need?  Nothing.  So what can we say at all times, regardless of the circumstances?  We can quote the psalmist and his beautiful words.  Or we could go the simpler route as the hymnist did.  “I am content! I am content!”  Amen.