Monday, November 28, 2011

Sermon for 11/27/11 "Lacking Nothing"

SERMON “Lacking Nothing” Audio link (1 Cor. 1:3) Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s here. At long last, what we have been looking for in these past weeks, we have begun the new Church year. Advent has begun, the time for self-examination, the time for repentance, the time to look eagerly to the coming of Jesus Christ, the savior of the world. It is the time, not for celebration, but for humbling ourselves before the Lord, looking to his mercy and grace, and asking him to come and deliver us from our sin, for we see that our sin is always before us. At the start of the Church year we who are adult converts to Christ remember the start of our Christian walk, as the Lord convicted us of sin and called us to himself. And we can relate to the encouragement Paul gives to the new Christian community in Corinth. This Christian life, as we read in 1 Corinthians 1, is evidence of the grace of God given in Christ Jesus. But sometimes we wonder about this. Our lives in Christ don’t always seem full of the grace of God. We don’t always see beyond the thorns and thistles of life. Especially at this time of year, when we are surrounded by our culture’s version of joy – mechanized, electronic, well-marketed and beautifully packaged joy – we find ourselves deeply disappointed. Our merchandising culture would tell us that the day before yesterday started the most beautiful time of the year. It’s the time to get up altogether too early in the morning. It’s the time to fight crowds, sometimes literally fight them. It’s the time to try to grab those bargains which cost so much you break your budget. It’s the time to save so much money you can go bankrupt bringing all this love and joy to your family. It’s the time of year when wishing someone grace, peace, and the lasting cheer of Christ’s redemption won’t go far enough unless you have spent $29.95 for that “inexpensive” stocking stuffer. It’s the time of year that your family celebrates togetherness by running from one social engagement to another without stopping. It’s the time of year when you are faced with the fact that your beloved relatives who are no longer with you will not be with you at yet another family gathering. It’s the time of year when all your living relatives will gather, possibly out of obligation rather than joy. The packages that you spent too much to purchase and too much to wrap become objects of contention, the labor you put in to make everything beautiful is reduced to tatters in a matter of minutes, and everyone was so excited to see what was inside his own present that he couldn’t enjoy seeing others receive their presents. And if that’s all our culture can give us in the name of Christmas we may as well put it off and change our name to Bob Humbug. In the Church we have something a little different. We can see that our joy does not consist in the possessions we have. Our joy does not consist in the opportunities to buy something and spend months paying for it. Our joy does not consist in becoming impoverished once again. Rather, our joy is in Christ who has enriched us. He has given us his bounty. He has filled us with every good thing that we need. Does this mean we will be wealthy? Does it mean our bank accounts will be full? Not at all. That would be very nice, and we hope and pray that everyone will be healthy and prosperous, well supplied with money, food, clothing, shelter, and every good thing. Yet we will not always find ourselves enriched in the ways our accountant can measure. How has Jesus enriched us then? He has enriched us in speaking and in knowledge, confirming his testimony. We find that as Jesus’ testimony is confirmed we have all the spiritual gifts we need. We look to our Lord’s coming, his revelation of himself, as our great hope and joy. How does our Lord enrich our speaking? As God’s word dwells in our hearts and minds we find that we always have something to talk about, and it is God’s truth that we find on our tongues. We realize we can look to the promises of God and was are always ready to speak out. Does this seem unlikely? I know some of us think the Scripture is the last topic in the world we would be able to talk about. And with some people this is true. It’s very difficult to talk about God’s word with someone who has decided God doesn’t have anything worth saying. Yet among our family and friends who trust in the Lord we should always find that we can talk about the loving works of God. There should be no hesitancy there. Have you ever tried talking through a passage of Scripture? Maybe it’s a foreign idea to you. Here’s what I encourage you to do. Take the Bible reading schedule I print in the bulletin each week. And when you read from it, take one of the passages, maybe start with the Psalm or the New Testament reading, they are often easier to deal with, and tell yourself what God has said in your own words. Take the ideas he’s talking about in the Scripture and pray about those things. Pray specifically. Ask the Lord to help you understand what his desires are as well as what he has done for you, revealed at this place in the Scripture. As you practice that you will get better at it and you’ll be able to speak the word of God to all your situations. This brings us to the second way the apostle says the Lord has enriched us. He has enriched us in knowledge. This is shown as we understand the Word of God better. The more we read it the better we will understand how God has given us his Word, and that Word is the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. All the Bible is about Jesus. As we read the Bible carefully we see him on every page. This is part of knowing about our world. Knowing Jesus through the Bible gives us a perspective, a framework through which to view our world. As we look to our Lord and his mercy we see that he has given us all the gifts we need. We see gifts of people, like the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers Paul talks about in Ephesians. We see gifts like the elders and deacons we can read about in Scripture. We see gifts that are not so much bound up in individuals – gifts like the fruit of the Spirit, like prophecy, healing, administration, helps, gifts of charity, and various verbal and knowledge-based gifts. Above all we see that God has supplied all our need through Jesus Christ, who has come to dwell with us, fortifying us, strengthening us, guarding us in this position of forgiveness he has given us. This is what we need, then. We need Jesus. He is all we need. He is the one who sees to it that we will lack nothing. And he is the one whom God the Father has promised to send, the one we long for and call upon during the time of Advent, the one who will be revealed to us on Christmas, in less than a month. This Jesus is the one who comes to be born a perfect birth, without sin. This Jesus is the one who comes to live a perfect life on our behalf, a life of perfect fear, love, and trust in God. This is Jesus who has promised to give himself as an atonement for sin, taking our sin once and for all, upon himself, so we should not have to bear it any more. This is Jesus who did all he promised by dying on our behalf. This is Jesus, whose death broke the power of sin, defeating death itself. This is Jesus, the one we are not worthy even to follow, who has adopted us as his sons, heirs in his kingdom by faith in his name. And this is Jesus, the one before whom we can stand boldly, clothed in his righteousness, standing faultless before God the Father. We are lacking nothing. He who has Jesus has everything. Our Lord, keep us blameless to the end. Thank you for calling us into fellowship with your Son. Thank you for being the faithful God who loved us and gave yourself so we could have life, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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