S-1523 2SIA/3C 12/06/15Hymns: (O)#344; (S)#878; (C) #354,
Texts: Psalm 66:1-12; Malachi 3:1-7; Philippians 1:2-11; Luke 3:1-14
Theme: “A Changeless God” Malachi 2:4-7
Question: “Have you noticed any changes?” (12th Sermon at Trinity).
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text is the O.T. reading: “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’” (Malachi 2:4-7)
INTRODUCTION: In Nomine Iesu
Beautiful and beloved God’s Advent people, the Office Hymn we just sang Abide With Me has these words: “Change and decay in all around I see”. It doesn’t take an overactive imagination to see all of the changes that have taken place in our lifetime. There is no doubt that our world is changing at a pace that seems to get quicker each any every day.
Some change is good. With the advancements in technology it is nothing short of amazing what humanity can do. The Smartphone I carry in my pocket has hundreds of times more computing power than the first IBM desktop we owned. With this tiny tool, I can speak and see people all over the world in an instant…and you can get hold of me fast.
In the medical field procedures that once required drastic incisions and invasiveness, are now done with incisions less than a couple of inches long. Heart bypass surgeries are being performed on hearts that don’t have to be stopped! Farming has certainly changed. Today, we have 36, 48 and 54 row planters. They can get a lot done with fewer resources than ever before.
But as we know all too well, not all change is for the better. Sometimes the changes introduced are actually examples of the decay that we sang about in the hymn. Even with all of the computing power and communication ability of the internet, one of its leading items of commerce is pornography. This rampant electronic evil is a sign of decay. The radical redefinition of marriage and the family by a minority and give in to, by a public that is afraid to be called intolerant is a sign of decay.
Things that were once considered shameful, are now accepted and regarded as commonplace, and in some perverse way even celebrated. People hopping from one congregation to another all because they don’t like something the pastor once said when he was preaching the clear Word of God in its truth and purity is another sign of this decay. Signs of decay are all around us daily.
These changes cause us to question what is happening to our world. We feel out of place here in this changing world. So much has changed. Some for the better, most for the worst. If it were up to us, as we listen to the Old Testament prophets like Jeremiah last Sunday and Malachi today, this process of change and decay might just lead us to want to throw up our hands and toss in the towel. PAUSE.
Don’t be too quick to do that. It is important that we hear the Word of God that comes from the lips of Malachi; God’s Messenger. For I the Lord do not change. These words are indeed very comforting to you and me. In a world that is so filled with change, almost on a daily basis so that uncertainty breeds fear and unbelief, to know that the Lord does not change is an incredible piece of good news! The Lord is not like us. He is not fickle. He does not change His plans in midstream. There is no greater news for you and for me this Advent or any day for that matter except to hear of the changeless God in a changing world.
But what makes this proclamation of the un-changeability of the Lord even sweeter for you and me today is to know to whom these words were spoken. Last Sunday we heard the Prophet Jeremiah prophesy a restoration of Judah and Jerusalem even before the Babylonians had conquered them. This was such a message of Good News in the face of God’s wrath.
But that is where the changeless message of God given to Malachi is different and far more damaging. You see, Malachi is carrying the Lord’s message to those who had returned from Exile. They lived with the pain and grief of not having Jerusalem and the Temple. If anyone should have held fast to the statues and practices of the Lord, you would think that it would be these people of Judah.
But that was not the case at all. Things had changed with the people of Judah. Many abominable practices had not only crept in, they were being celebrated. In Judah in that day you could have sung the same words of Abide with Me. Change and decay was all around them. God’s people had changed from faithful to faithless. We see a laundry list of the promised judgment in our text. “Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.”
God’s messenger was going to come and pronounce judgment on those who had embraced change and decay. As God’s elect in the Church, we too should know better than the people of Judah did so many centuries ago. God is very explicit in His Word as to what it means to follow Him. It means regular times in God’s House, at His table and in His Word. It means eagerly going up to the house of the Lord, not just settling on some attendance once in a while. It means to freely forgive others as we in Christ have been forgiven. It means embracing the radical generosity of the Lord toward us in Jesus Christ at the Cross as it manifests itself in acts of radical generosity toward those around us. PAUSE.
Sadly, we too, are adversely affected by change and decay. The sinful flesh works in league with the devil and the world and that change and decay rots away at us. We hear of the change and decay in the world in regard to marriage and we see the statistics aren’t any better within the Church. We hear the Word of God presented in its truth and purity and it offends because it actually calls sin, what it is—SIN. The scandal of the cross, that Jesus had to die for me, strikes out at us who think we aren’t really that bad off, shakes our psyche and self–worth. This Change and decay isn’t just a minor issue among us in the Church, it is rampant!
Yet to you and me and all Judah, God’s Word of Promise remains secure. For I the Lord do not change. But this is no cheap grace. Therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed. From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. The sweet Gospel of this message is found in the fact that our unchanging God is in the business of changing you! This change is what we call repentance. The Lord Jesus through His Word highlights the decay in us. When we see this sinful decay in the full light of God’s Word, there comes the cry of faith. Faith cries out to our unchanging God. He doesn’t change His mind with us. If you and I were dealing with the change and decay in all others around us, our patience and mercy would have a limit. But not so with the Lord. This is our changeless God in a changing world. His grace and His mercy are indeed limitless. There is no change or decay in you that will cause the Lord to give up on you!
While this gracious Lord will not give up on you, He will also not give in to you. Return to Me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. This means that you and I can’t be okay or tolerant of the sin within us. It is this sin which authors the change and decay that separates us from God. To leave us here would be to leave us in judgment and death. And this would not do for God! This changeless God in a changing world calls us back to Him!
This Holy Spirit inspired call to repentance turns sinners like you and me away from the empty life of the fathers, toward the fully blessed life of OUR Father in Heaven through the Eternal Son—the Babe of Bethlehem. When His Word falls on you and fills your ears, it both kills you and makes you alive. It kills you as you are buried through baptism into Christ and it makes you alive in the sweet Gospel of a resurrected Christ. In this act you are changed by the Changeless Christ!
Just as John the Baptizer cleared the way for the Gospel that is Jesus, words like these from the prophet Malachi also call us to change. While this change is not our choice, it is essential. Without the change that is the call to faith in Word and Sacrament, we would be lost in decay and death. But it is the Changeless Christ who works this work in us. He did it when you were washed in Holy Baptism. He does it every day when the Lord calls you by the Holy Spirit to Return to Him. When we are so turned and returned, we know what Godly change is.
Judah never recovered from their fall. Their going through the motions of worship and sacrifice left them that way when Jesus actually arrived on the scene to save the world. You and I cannot get so entrapped with the change and decay that we, too, only go through the motions of worship and service. Today the Changeless God calls you to change again and again. And in this change you and I find life. Life now and life forever in our Changeless Lord Jesus! AMEN.
Now the peace…
SOLI DEO GLORIA