S-1399 3SIA/A 12/15/2013 Hymns: (O) #66; (S) #352; (C) #68
Texts: Isaiah 35:1-10; James 5:7-11; Matthew 11:2-15
Theme: “A God on A Mission!” (Isaiah 35:3-4)
Question: “What’s your mission in Life?” Armour, SD
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the O.T. lesson: “Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, Your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you’” (Isaiah 35:3-4).
INTRODUCTION: In Nomine Iesu.
Beloved in the Lord, today as the third candle is lit on the Advent wreath; we are reminded again that Advent has us on a mission. Our mission, as directed by the calendar is taking us toward a renewed celebration of Advent, both first and second. We are ready to mark the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ even as we eagerly anticipate His return in glory at the end of time to bring to conclusion everything that He has done for us. This is a time of great excitement as we mark once again the earthly beginning of God’s Rescue Mission for Mankind!
But it is also vital that amid the excitement we need to recall just why it is that God has been on this mission to save us. We see in the earliest pages of the Bible how quickly and completely man’s fall was after God granted him stewardship of His perfect creation. From the Fall in Genesis 3 it quickly escalates to the point where our Lord is forced to say in Genesis 6 that “The heart of man is always evil” (v.5). But even here we see how God was already on a mission to save us. For even amid the earth-wide flood of Noah’s day, God was providing an Ark to save the remnant of the human race. This was to keep the line alive so that He might send a Redeemer who would buy back the ENTIRE human race!
It is important for us to note that God’s mission is not just a New Testament thing. Dr. Reed Lessing, in his commentary on Jonah says,“…[God’s] gracious love toward humanity extends all the way back to Genesis, beginning with the first Gospel promise, and forward through Malachi, then through Revelation” (CPH, p. 151). In fact the entire Bible is about this God on a mission to save humanity! PAUSE.
Today we hear one of the most distinct and prominent voices in that chorus of Old Testament missionaries. Today we hear Isaiah’s voice echo across the centuries to tell us about what God is going to do. Isaiah announces that God is on a mission to save His people from the punishment of sin that will come in the form of death and hell. Isaiah’s sweet voice of promise rings out Be strong; fear not! Behold, Your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you!
This is God’s mission! He is coming to save fallen humanity, including you! This has always been God’s mission. But this is more than just throwing you a life line or plucking you from danger. No, this salvation is so much more. In the Hebrew language, Isaiah uses a word for “save” that can literally be translated, “to make alive.” The salvation that Isaiah announces is one that will bring humanity, including YOU, back from death to life, & from darkness to light!
We desperately need this! Every one of us here today are no different than the people of Genesis 6. Our hearts are always and only evil. Sure we try and mask it with good deeds and right living. All of us here today, sitting in the pews and counting the days until Christmas, still battle this evil inside. It comes out in the form of gossip and envy, slander and deceit. Sure we dress up our evil in good suits and make-up, we claim that we are right and the person that we are sinning against deserves it, but under the perfume it is still the stench of sin and death.
Yet, in spite of all of this sin and death that we continually amass, even after our call to faith in the waters of Holy Baptism, the Mission of God to save humanity goes forward! For this reason, Isaiah’s words are not just for then but to us also today! On this Third Sunday in Advent, the prophet reminds you that God is on a mission! That mission, spelled out by the great prophet is this: “He will come to save! Yes, save YOU!” We still need saving because of our sin.
And that mission of Salvation goes forward! Through the ages there was the search for the Savior. The prophet Ezekiel relates this search by God among us, “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it; But I found none” (Ezek 22:23-31). No mere human being could do this saving! It would take a special rescuer.
This special rescuer is none other than Jesus! Advent reminds us that this Mission, planned for the ages, began by His entry into the world through Mary’s Virgin womb. This God on a Mission would be the One who would do all of the clear signs of Messiah that served as the answer to John the Baptizer’s question to Jesus of “are you the one?” (Mt. 11:2-3). Jesus pointed to the reality that the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. Jesus was then and still is now that God on a Mission! PAUSE.
God once saved humanity from a flood by the work of faithful Noah. This godly man spent 120 years building the Ark to save his family and some animals before the destructive deluge that God was sending upon the whole-wide world. For 120 years Noah gathered wood and worked on building the Ark. All along people mocked him, laughed at him and called him a fool for building a huge ship on a dry ground without any body of water near it.
By the grace of God, Noah continued to build the Ark and saved 8 souls and animals and repopulated the earth again. But even after this saving, mankind sinned again. And so it was for every rescue mission through the ages. We hear of characters like Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and David and others. The rescue they would bring to God’s people would be fleeting. That is because no mere man could rescue an entire creation!
So God sent another carpenter on a mission to save humanity—His Only Son, Jesus. For 3 ½ years this Carpenter worked, taught and showed the world His mission to save them. Much of it was done in the backwaters of Galilee. Amidst authoritative teaching and miraculous works He faithfully labored on this Mission on which the Father had sent Him. This mission was viewed with some faith, some skepticism and a growing rejection by those He came to save. But it was on a Friday afternoon that His mission that began so sweetly in the stable of Bethlehem was fully, completely and beautifully carried out. Upon the wooden beam of the cross Jesus was humiliated, laughed at and mocked but He remained obedient to the will of God. And upon that cross He gave up His life for you.
This is where the mission of rescue was different that Noah’s and Abraham’s and Moses’ and David’s. These were used by God for a time, but the work of their mission was undone by the continued sin of the people. But not this rescue mission of Jesus! On the third day He rose again. Through His Incarnation, death and resurrection, this obedient missionary saved not only 8 souls, but all who would believe in Him.
What an awesome God we have! He is never willing to walk away from the people He has promised to save! That is why He is still a God who is concerned about you! He is the One calling you to repentance and new life. He brings you again today into His presence to have the eyes of your eyes of faith restored. He brings you here again to make whole lives that are crippled by sin so that you might walk along with what Isaiah calls the Way of Holiness; in your life. He brings you here again and again so that your hearts burdened by guilt might leap like the deer. He brings you here so that you may once again feast on life in His Son, our Savior Jesus, the very God who has come on a Mission to save you!
Today, by the grace of God you and I are recipients of His grace and privileged to tell the world what this great Missionary has done for us—save us. Our Lord has been and continues to be on this mission in order for you to spend an eternity with Him. So as another candle is lit and our Advent preparation continues, by the Grace of God once again behold this God who comes for you! He comes to undo your sin and shame. He comes to crush your sin and death. He is on this mission FOR YOU! And because of this Mission our Advent anticipation can already know the joy promised by Isaiah: the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. It will. It already has! Amen!
Now the peace Of God…
SOLI DEO GLORIA