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Believing God’s Promises for Us, Sermon for Lent II, February 21, 2016

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Second Sunday in Lent, February 21st 2016 Christ Lutheran Church

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 Psalm 27 Phil. 3:17-4:1 Luke 13:31-35

Believing God’s Promises for Us

There are some churches where they refuse to speak about the cross. They only want to be upbeat. Some believers in St. Paul’s day were enemies of the cross of Christ. I believe it was those who wanted the followers of Christ to be circumcised and follow the whole Jewish law. We call them the Judaizers. I believe they thought they would then avoid Roman persecution and the shaky alliance that the Jews had with Caesar and the Roman Empire. They did not want that shaky agreement to be undone so they could still flourish. The Jews had a niche, but now the Christians also refused to worship the emperor and that would open Roman hostility afresh. Paul weeps over them – they were choosing material values over allowing God to really rule them. They had their minds set on earthly things and wanted to forget their citizenship in the kingdom of heaven. They had to ignore that citizenship if they were going to get along and play the game required by this world.

In rejecting the cross, they were no longer setting their hearts on our Savior and the long journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land. They refused be bodies of humiliation, but to follow Christ we have to experience that humiliation in order that Christ can glorify our bodies. Look at how Abraham was humiliated and now he is gloried as the father of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

The context of our reading this morning is that the herders of Abraham’s nephew, Lot, and his own herders began to fight. Abraham said the Lot, “We’re kindred, so let’s not fight, but separate. If you take the land on the left, I’ll take that on the right. If you choose the land on the right, I’ll go to the left.” Now the land on the left was fertile and very desirable, while it was a baron, desert on the right. Lot chose the fertile land and Abraham was left with the sorry choice.

Then in our lesson, God says to Abram: “Don’t worry. Your descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky. Abram, as he is still called here, believed God but protested, “Sarah and I don’t even have a child. How can that be?” But Abram trusted God, who had ruled his life since he had called him out of Ur in Chaldea to become a stranger in a strange land. With Lot, he got the short end of the stick, but with God he got the promise, leading to the Son of Promise, who was not really Isaac, but Jesus Christ.

When Abram went into his sorry portion, the first thing he did was build an altar by the Oaks of Mamre. Now we get a description about how the old covenant was cut. The story takes us way back deep into ancient history when there were no electric lights, before there were oil lanterns, before there were candles, when people used torches to light up their caves and to see in the darkness. And cutting a covenant in those days was done by cutting a sacrificial animal in half. And Abram cut a heifer, a female goat, and a ram in half, but not the birds. And driving the vultures away all day, Abram finally got dead tired and fell asleep. In his vision a terrifying darkness covers him and he sees God like a smoking fire pot and a torch passing between the halves of the sacrificed animals. The fire was inside the pot. It must have been used to light the torches and may have been a symbol of sustainability. In this primordial time, humans were just beginning to control this energy better. Think of the Greek myth of Prometheus stealing fire from the gods. And in that fire through Abraham, God made the old covenant with believers and assured them the Promised Land, where God would be their God and they would be God’s people.

Now Israel might have been a possession of Rome, but Jesus came to declare that the kingdom of heaven was near at hand. It was really a possession of God. But Jesus loved the Romans, Samaritans, and foreigners, as well as the Jews. And he traveled through Galilee and Judea driving out demons and curing the sick, and on the third day, even though he would be crucified, he would rise up from the dead. Because he set his face to Jerusalem and proclaimed that Jerusalem belonged to God. So Herod, that fox, was not going to thwart the work of God and God’s plan of salvation. Herod might have been the king enthroned by Rome, but he was a fox in the chicken coop.

Jesus compares God to a mother hen spreading her wings so all her chicks can be warmed, sheltered, and protected by her body under the feathers of the mother hen.

We had chickens at home and just about the sweetest thing was to see the little heads of the chicks pop out through her feathers because they were curious to see what was going on.

But like St. Paul weeps over those who won’t stand their ground with Christ, Jesus weeps over Jerusalem. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” he exclaims, the city that kills the prophets and those who are sent to it! God will leave it to you, because you refuse to let God rule over you and gather you in. Jesus spread his arms wide, to do so, but they nailed them to the cross. We nailed him to the cross.

So we also invite the new Abraham, Jesus Christ, who is greater than Abraham and who came before him, because he said, “Before Abraham was, I am.” He is the Savior sent to us from the realm of heaven, to make the new covenant with us, because he wrote it with his blood. And we may be a humble body here, but our bodies will be conformed to his for we are the glorious body of Christ. Because we open our hearts, deny ourselves, and follow after declaring, “Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord” – which we do in each Sunday morning service.

Because we have this new covenant made by Jesus Christ, we receive God’s promises for our lives. And God keeps these promises, because Jesus as a man of his word can be trusted. It is through him that the Father in heaven keeps all the divine promises made to us. We become God’s joy, God’s crown. It may not look that way. Look at old father Abraham. He got to be 100 and was as good as dead, but still believed that Sarah, who was beyond child-bearing would yet and still bear the child of promise. So you and I have only to believe. Appearances deceive us. Conditions may be completely opposite and adverse, but we believe in God’s Word.

These appearances and conditions place us in the utter darkness that Abraham experienced. Even the realities we are in can speak against the promises of God. But God will overcome those realities that we are up against, with his promised new realities for us. So we keep on keeping on, because the way Abraham was so intimate with God and the way Jesus called God Abba Daddy or papa, so we too are God’s beloved, God’s children, on the rise in glorious bodies as we await the fulfillment of God’s promises to us. A few years ago I wrote a song about these lessons. I wanted to translate a German children’s song, Weisst Du Viefiel Sternlein Stehen an dem Blauen Himmelzelt? But it came out a completely different. It turned out Dixieland with a driving beat. Mark and I will sing it and then perhaps you can try it.

           You Can’t Count the Stars

                Genesis 15:5 Philippians 4:1 Judges 5:31

               You can’t count the stars and

You can’t count the blessings.

God has in store for you

and God’s promises are true.

You have not heard

          God’s holy Word,

          if you don’t believe God loves you.

Longs for you his crown!

Love for you made him come down.

The cross is the direction

Of Christ’s holy resurrection.

Don’t be its enemy.

Let Jesus set you free.

You can’t count the stars and

You can’t count the blessings.

God has in store for you

and God’s promises are true.

God’s friends become

          Just like the Son,

Rising in all its splendor.

Rise and shine!

          It’s wake-up time.

                             Trust God and surrender!

                        The love of God, so rich and pure.

                        It’s the only thing, of which we’re sure.

                        I long for you, my joy my crown,

                        To raise you up, is why Christ came down.

               For Ruth, Bob, and Alice O. March 8, 1998 from my Worship Song Book of December 29th 2010 with 12 songs: To order this song book write peterdkrey@gmail.com

Written by peterkrey

February 24, 2016 at 11:48 am

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