S-1368-3SAP/C 6/5/2013 Hymns: (O) #451; (S) #447; L.S. #332; #307; (C) #52
Texts: 1 Kings 17:17-24; Galatians 1:11-24; Luke 7:11-17
Theme: “Power at our Disposal!” (1 Corinthians 1:18-24)
Question: “How powerful are you?” Armour, SD
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for Armed Forces’ Sunday is from the Epistle lesson: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
INTRODUCTION: In Nomine Iesu.
Saints in Christ, my credentials for preaching for Armed Forces’ Sunday are slim. As a life-long civilian, I have never known what it is like to wear the proud uniforms of the Army, Marines, Navy or the Air Force. The only uniform that I have ever worn is that of the scouts. I wore it proudly and served many years.
Today, I am not here to talk about my scout’s experience, but about the faithful men and women of every military branch who have served and who will serve in the future. To those of you who have served this great nation, I am grateful for your service and we as God’s people salute you. And for those of you who will serve in the future, we pray God’s blessings upon you and your family.
Today, we observe Armed Forces’ Sunday. On this day that we pray for and give thanks for the military might that is ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice to handle any hostility, we also rejoice in another power that is at our disposal 24/7/365. This power is God’s gift to help us fight the battle of faith and remain standing. And this power is the cross that changes lives and people and nations.
The text for our reflection and meditation is from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Church at Corinth: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” Yes, there is power in that cross: Power to heal, forgive and bring peace, power to open the eyes of the blind, power to raise dead hearts, power to cause sinners to come to Jesus and bow before Him; and power to help us see that the message of the cross is indeed foolishness to the world.
Our nation has one of the most powerful military in the world. We have power to protect our security and American citizens anywhere. We have Special Forces, Elite Teams from our Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines who train for very important missions, like the one that took out Osama Bin Laden. In fact, there are standing plans in place right now that will allow for us to insert a mighty military force within hours anywhere on the planet! Indeed, we have many powerful armaments with a wide variety of force. The power of this force is indeed formidable! Aircraft carriers, B1 bombers, Raptors, Torpedoes and Drones. The military uses their power to send drones, shoot missiles, drop bombs. This power is one that can destroy any force that would seek to work harm to America or its friends. But no matter how powerful we are, we can’t win all of the wars, nor defeat every enemy that means us harm. No matter how many powerful weapons we have, they can’t always protect us from every harm.
However, there is a greater power that we have at our disposal. It is the power of the Gospel that St. Paul speaks about in the text. This is the power that is above every power, this is the power that has changed the sinner to be a child of the heavenly Father. This is the power of the cross and the empty tomb. And we should never be ashamed of this power, as Paul reminds us in Romans: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (1:16).
This is the power that is at our disposal—the Gospel at work in our lives. This is the power that changes Gentiles and Greeks alike. This is the power that destroys the enemy and opens the gates of heaven for us. Military might can only destroy and kill. The Power of the Gospel can kill and make alive! And when the Gospel makes you alive, that life lasts forever. The Gospel has the power to make an enemy a brother and bring peace to the ones in the midst of hostility and anger. PAUSE.
Just as our Commander in Chief has the power to send boots to the ground, or a Drone to destroy enemy combatant, so does our Heavenly Father has the power to destroy and put to death every enemy of ours. He sent the ultimate power dawned in human flesh as an infant. Though He appeared weak lying in a manger, yet He had power at His disposal to stem the tide of evil.
This is the glorious news for Christians to hear the message of hope and reconciliation through the power of the Gospel. His message to us is the power that our loving Heavenly Father has projected on a universal scale for all of humanity. This is the power that is found in Christ our Savior who died in our place. This is the power that destroyed the enemy Satan. This is the power that helps us overcome sin when we are tempted. This is the power that helps us see our need for a Savior.
Jesus Christ who is the Lord of the Armies of heaven projects His power both of grace and of judgment. In Christ Jesus, His love has targeted our human depravity and He has delivered to fallen man grace and upon grace; but at the same time, He has delivered the blow of death and defeat and destruction to Satan in a most astounding and unusual manner. The Father didn’t use a drone, which is an unmanned aircraft. No, this was a manned mission that involved real flesh and blood. The Father sent His Son to the cross to be crucified in our place. What looks like weakness and foolishness to the world is now the ultimate triumph of the human race. Christ crucified and resurrected is the power projection of God the Father. It is the crowning achievement of our salvation and the surpassing wisdom of God.
Today, on Armed Forces Sunday, we thank the Lord for the brave young men and women who defend our freedom at every cost. We support them with our prayers and in every manner that is possible. We want to do this, to help bring an end to the hostilities around the world; so that the wars in Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan are not repeated.
All of this is reason enough to mark Armed Forces’ Day. But there is one more word to be said. Although there has always been in the Christian Church an honourable strand of tradition that is pacifist by belief and principle, most Christians have always believed that evil must be confronted, resisted and defeated. ‘Be sober-minded; be watchful”, warned St Peter in his First Epistle, ‘Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world’ (1 Peter 5:8-9).
This battle against evil is one of the great motifs of the Christian story. But we live in an age in which the big stories are seldom told, the big picture seldom seen. The posh word for the forces which shape and mould the thinking of today is Post-Modernism, which (very briefly) believes that there is no big story worth telling, or big picture worth seeing. All that matters is me and my story, and you and your story. So all the old standards and values, rules and responsibilities, are devalued.
But you and I have a story to tell: A beautiful story—that the God of heaven the mighty, powerful and gracious Father has come to our aid. He sent His Son Jesus to do battle in our place. And the arena for this battle was on a tiny hill just outside of Jerusalem. The armaments were not Drones, B1 Bombers, Missiles or bullets; no they were soldiers, crown of thorns, hammer, nails and wooden beam in the shape of a cross. On it the battle raged for six full hours and then death came and the Lord of the Armies gave up His Spirit and was laid to rest in a borrowed tomb.
Satan and all his evil forces were dancing and celebrating in the victory parade. They were giving each other high five and laughing at the defeat of the Lord of the Armies of heaven. But that was Friday, and Sunday is coming. Sunday morning the One who was defeated and placed on a cold slap returned to life and all of the enemies took flight. And now, we, the Christians can sing the victory Hymn. “Stand up, stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross; lift high his royal banner, it must not suffer loss. From victory unto victory his army shall he lead, till every foe is vanquished, and Christ is Lord indeed” (TLH 451: v1).
Today, we thank God for those who fight for us, every soldier from every branch, but above all for the Eternal Soldier Jesus Christ who gives us the power to live with Him forever; because of His victory. Amen.
Now the peace...
SOLI DEO GLORIA