S-1165 01/24/09 3SAC/3C (O) #1; (S) #285; L.S. ##473; #296; #315; (C) #52
Texts: Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a, Luke 4:16-30
Theme: “Longing To HEAR!!!” (Nehemiah 8:1-3).
Question: “Do you remember the last time you were longing to hear some news”
SOLI DEO GLORIA, Armour, SD
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for our Third Sunday after Epiphany is from the O.T. Lesson: “And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law” (Nehemiah 8:1-3).
Introduction: In Nomine IESU
People of God, chosen and beloved a couple is in love, but are separated by miles. There is a longing, a deep longing to hear a word from the other. The man sits by his computer longing to receive a message via the internet or to hear the phone ringing. And when that phone or message comes there is smile on his face, his heart is filled with happiness and he is joyful… A family is sitting in the hospital waiting room. Their father is having a quadruple by-pass heart surgery. As the moments tick away ever so slowly, they sit at the edge of their seats longing to hear word from the doctor that their father is going to be ok... 12 days ago, Haiti was struck by a terrible earth quake. Among the missing are six American students who had traveled to Haiti to conduct humanitarian work. They were staying at Port-au-Prince’s Hotel Montana. But ever since the terrible tragedy the parents have been longing to hear a word that their children are alive or their bodies have been found.
One of the parents Len Gengel, Father of Brittany Gengel said, “This is a nightmare. This is a living nightmare!” Appearing on the “Bill O’ Reilly Show” and “Today” Show pleaded saying: “As parents of people that are buried in that rubble, we need troops at that hotel. I have pleaded with [President Obama], father to father, to please get troops to the Hotel Montana.”
In these three different situations people were longing to hear something. The lover longed to hear his lover’s voice; the family longed to hear the doctor’s report about their father; and the parents of the missing Americans Longed to hear a word, any word about the condition of their children.
Certainly, we all know what it means to wait longingly for someone we love or something we desire. Because we are humans and are connected to those we love, we want to know of their condition and long to hear word from them and about them.
Today’s text speaks of such longing. Not a longing of lovers, the outcome of surgery, or missing children in earthquake, though they are important, this text conveys a longing that is so much greater than those who long for their lovers, news on a surgery or the missing children in an earthquake. Our text speaks of longing to hear the Word of God.
In this portion of God’s Word, we meet Ezra the Priest on the Seventh month (which is the New Year) gathering all of God’s people men and women by the Water Gate and begins to read to them the Word of the Law. These people have gathered here having come back from exile with Nehemiah the cup bearer of the King of Persia. They had been taken captives and exiled from their homeland for years.
But now they have returned to the Promised Land. Upon their return they found Jerusalem and the temple destroyed. At the urging of Nehemiah and many prayers to the God of Israel, they began to rebuild the walls. After 52 days of hard work, the walls of Jerusalem were built and the people gathered and asked Ezra to bring the book out and read it to them.
Ezra, the Priest, with great joy begins the reading. These men and women stood silently from early morning till Midday hearing the Word of the Living God of Israel. They were very attentive to the Word. They didn’t complain, they didn’t look at their watches, they didn’t try to rush to head home, but stood for hours longing to hear the news about their compassionate and gracious God—the Father of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. PAUSE.
Isn’t wonderful to read of men and women who long to hear the Word of God? Wouldn’t be wonderful that in our churches today the people of God would stand at attention to hear the Word without looking at their watches? Wouldn’t be wonderful if we would remember the third Commandment and take it to heart? Yes, it would. As a Pastor, I would love to know that the people of God don’t get tired of hearing that which brings about healing and forgiveness and joy and peace. As a carrier of God’s Good News, I would love to know that His redeemed people cherish and long to hear that word anew.
Dr. Billy Graham once called the Missouri Synod “The Sleeping Giant.” Because we have the truth and teach the truth but our people don’t know much of the truth found in Scripture. Another person—the Monk from Germany, Dr. Martin Luther taught the people as he wrote in the Small Catechism regarding the third Commandment saying: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” WDTM? “We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it.” PAUSE.
Can you honestly say “that you long to hear the Word, study the Word and know the Word?” Can you sincerely say “that you long to be in God’s house often so that you may rejoice at the preaching of His Word?” Can you truly say, “I love hearing the Word and don’t mind it if I stay in His house from early morning till midday.” But the truth of the matter is that is not the case.
We have lost the joy of longing to hear the Word. We get upset if the Word is preached too long because we have either a place to go, or the Vikings are going to be on and we want to make sure we are home in time. We are not happy if we have to be here more minutes than we had planned on. Would we feel the same way if we would regularly recall that the very Word that we are gathered to listen to is the same Word Made Flesh? Would we be this impatient if Jesus were here in our midst? HE IS!
Beloved in Christ, today the Lord God of Israel and ours invites us again to hear His Word with great joy. He bids us to long to hear that message just like the lover desires to hear his sweetheart’s voice, the children the outcome of their dad’s surgery and the parents’ long to hear a word about their missing children.
This is why we are here today. Because we the exiled by sin, have returned to our Jerusalem, not to build the walls but to be built up, not with mortar and bricks, but with the Living Word, that flows from Jesus’ lips. For after all that is why He came. He came because He longed to restore us to the perfect relationship He had with our ancestors in the Garden of Eden.
For the Word is read and explained as Jesus is in the Nazareth Synagogue. What tore the hearts of the returning exiles tore the hearts of the Nazareth congregation - first, among the exiles to repentance, then among those who “knew Him?” to a hardening of the heart. Jesus was found in the Words of Moses and in the Words of Isaiah and in the lips of Jesus. The Word of God gives life for it gives us Him who is life - even Jesus. The hard hearts of His detractors here in Nazareth at the start of His ministry are the reason He came - for all who have been exiled from heaven, all who are indeed strangers in a strange land. He died for those who rejected Him as much as for the eager ears and hearts who were commanded to consecrate the fast—and rejoice. That Word that was read by Ezra was read by Jesus - with the same result - it revealed Him to be the Only Savior. It is always and in all ways, about Jesus and His love for the lost world of sinners.
Today is a good day. For here in this place we hear the voice of Him who loved us, sweeter than a sweetheart’s voice. Here the author of life comforts all who are going through difficulties such as surgeries and walking through the valley of the shadow of death—including missing children. Here in this place you see once again with eyes of faith the gracious and compassionate God who gave His life for all people so that He may bring them back from the exiled land to the Promised Land of heaven.
Beloved in Christ, today the Word is taught and preached among you. And we who know the depth of our sin and how far we have been exiled, long to hear that our sins are forgiven. We long to hear that we are the chosen people of God. We long to hear that we are the Baptized, redeemed, forgiven, blood-bought and heaven-bound. Oh, my beloved, know for certain that Jesus longed to be with you. He longed for that so much that He offered His body to be put to death on the cross so that He might bring us to the fold once again and have peace with Him.
What a joy for the lover to hear the voice of his sweetheart. What a blessing for the children to hear that their father is going to be ok. What a miracle it would be if the parents of the missing Americans would hear that their children are alive. But how much more Critical is it for us, today, to hear of the longing that Jesus desires to have us with Him in heaven forever. Praise God with me today for He has filled our every longing by the Gift of the sweet hope of forgiveness and the resurrection. Amen.
Now the peace…