Thursday, January 8, 2015

“The Care, Concern, and Compassion of God” (Mark 1:4)

S-1460 2SIA/3B 12/07/2014 Hymns: (O) #61; (S) #63; (C) # 56

Texts: Isaiah 40:1-11; 2 Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8

Theme: “The Care, Concern, and Compassion of God” (Mark 1:4)

Question: “How do you demonstrate that you care?”

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia. The text for 2nd Sunday in Advent is from the Gospel Lesson: John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mark 1:4).

Children of the heavenly Father, for a few moments I want you to imagine that you are standing on the banks of the Jordan River. In your mind’s eye I want you to see the sea of humanity coming out to the wilderness to hear this unusual preacher whose garments are made of camel’s hair. As you stand on the shores of the Jordan, see the care and concern each person is carrying upon their faces, in their hearts and bodies. Some came because they were burdened by the Roman authority, others came because of the sorrow and suffering they endure daily, and still others came because they were concerned about sin and wanted the gift of forgiveness. They were looking for someone who could care for them, concerned about them and show them compassion.

As you have noticed on the last page of your bulletin the image that says: “Compassion is a verb!” And indeed it is! Few years back the Secretary of our Synod and the former SD District President, the Rev. Dr. Ray Hartwig was our missionary speaker. During his visit he told of his time in Russia (3 months). While he and his wife (Tamara) were there, they noticed the need and the poverty of the people. To show they cared for them, they would peel the potatoes very thick and place it in a bag and put it in the garbage and the people would come and get them and utilize them. They did this because they cared for their neighbor.

However, there is no greater love and compassion in action than in the work of God alone who proves Himself time and again as a Lord who is intimately caring, concerned and compassionate about saving us from our sin-earned destiny. It begins in the text before us today. During these Advent days we see this care demonstrated, carried out and fulfilled in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Advent gathers God’s people in visions of His love for us and all creation.

This God is concerned about our well being both physically and even more importantly spiritually, that He sent John the Baptizer to call sinners to repentance. John came into the wilderness to speak words of hope and help. He called sinners to repent and be baptized to receive God’s gift of forgiveness. The voice of the booming prophet was clear! Time is of the essence! Today is the day to turn hearts to God and turn your life around. Don’t wait till tomorrow, today God is calling you from the pit of despair to lift you up and give you a new life, life forever with Him. PAUSE.

Likewise, today, the pastor stands in the pulpit and calls into the wilderness of sin to all who would hear his voice. He calls his hearers to repentance and offers the Holy washing of baptism to receive God’s forgiveness and all the blessings He has in store for sinners. The pastor stands in the pulpit just as John did in the Jordan calling sinners to his voice, and turn from the life of sin and death to receive life and salvation.

Out there (point outside the church) is the wilderness. Out there is death. Out there is pain and suffering and sorrow. When we come in here we bring that stain of sin and stench of death into this Holy Place. But here in this place we hear the voice of the faithful Shepherd, Jesus Christ. The Babe of Bethlehem, Your Shepherd, is coming. He is coming for you in a way that undoes all of the sin and death of the wilderness. He cares for you with every fiber of His being, even giving that being over to death in your place! He will care for you as a member of His flock. We can NEVER exhaust this care! It is here for you today!

This is the comfort John brings to our ears today. With these warning and exhorting words of the text, we pray that we would hear this blessed invitation because we know God is concerned about our souls and demonstrate His compassion by sending John the Baptizer.

This text from the Gospel is intimately connected with Isaiah’s prophecy (O.T. lesson) in God bringing comfort to those who are burdened by sin and gives them forgiveness and eternal life. The compassion is shown both in word and deed! Through the voice of Isaiah we hear the blessed news of hope and peace God offers: “Comfort, comfort My people, says Your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” (Is. 40:1-2).

Yes, indeed, God is caring, concerned and compassionate towards us—His beloved people. He has comforted us not only in sending John the Baptizer, but the One John the Baptizer spoke about saying: “…After me comes He who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mk. 1:7b-8). John whose name means (Graced by God) shows us in Jesus the care, concern and compassion He offers.

God through the sending of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, the Babe of Bethlehem to this sin-soiled and sin-stained earth has accomplished the cleansing of our souls through the shedding of His innocent blood, poured out on Calvary’s cross. Through His glorious resurrection we have the comfort and peace that He earned for us because He paid double for our sins.

Beloved children of the Lord, today, hear and take to heart the Words of Jesus, whose Gospel message reaches down to us each new day with this invitation: “Give Me your sins. That’s what I came for. Give Me those daily sins. Give Me those almost forgotten ones and those always remembered ones. Give them to Me because I have the strength to take care of them. Indeed, on Calvary’s cross I already have taken care of them—all of them and now I give you comfort as you continue to wonder in this wilderness we call earth.” PAUSE.

As we stand on the banks of the Jordan with John and others, may we look at the sea of humanity and see their suffering, pain and sorrow and extend to them the voice of God who brings comfort even today. This week (12/5/14) I received this e-mail message. (Names have been changed to protect the people)

“Dearest pastor Nour, God is good. I find I Have to stay in Az. The pain in my body is too intense in the Midwest for any longer than a month at a time...Tom is still back home. It’s best for he is financially insecure. And just takes it out on me. I find much comfort in Starks Book of Prayer; the prayers of pain and suffering. Suffering is what brings us closer to Jesus. But the struggle of the flesh is intense. There is a level of suffering that makes me scream, “How long?” Intense suffering brings weariness. Also leading to longing for its ending. I have nothing and everything in Christ at the same time. Strange, mysterious God of salvation!! Then these patches of blue sky come as drops of mercy. And strength to Praise Almighty God returns. The Holy Spirit’s power to be Grateful that Jesus did All for me returns. Kinda like a circle. My children lay heavy on my heart. Like all Christian mothers. Another intense pain. God is God I am not. Then the relief of Gods promises...I love my church. O my, what a relief and blessing to worship I am happy when I can make it to church. Sometimes I have to miss because pain is too great. I love to hear u on KFUO. I miss u. Tears well in my eyes. U see I have never had a loving family. They are alcoholics. Mean and biting. My Grandma and aunt were my saving Grace. They are now seeing Jesus’ face.... U are one of my patches of Blue!! God Bless u pastor Nour. In Jesus’ Care. Joy.

Beloved in Christ, as you stand by the Jordan River today, you can hear the pain and suffering of the Joys of this world... You know your own wilderness. You know your own pain, suffering and affliction. You know what kind of sorrow consumes you. Yes, you do. Like Joy in our story, you reach out to Christ and cry out “How long, O Lord?”

Yet, as Joy finds hope, comfort and care in the arms of Jesus—her Savior so can you. John the Baptizer calls us to repentance and to follow the One who is coming after Him. By the grace of God we have been brought here to this place—a hospital for the sick to receive the care, concern over us and the compassion of God demonstrated in the humble birth of the Savior of Mankind, Jesus Christ.

Because of His care, concern for us and compassion, we behold His cross with visions of love and peace. We see the gift of communion as the medicine for our sick souls and are comforted by the forgiveness offered. What a glorious day this is for us. Here today, we learn how much God the Father cares for us, concerned about us and showers us with His unending compassion. Amen and Amen.

Now the peace…

Soli Deo Gloria

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