St. Peter's Lutheran Church Chester Springs: Sunday Sermon

St. Peter's Lutheran Church: Sunday Sermon

Pastor Ronald Wesemann

Sunday, June 23, 2013††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† †††† Lectionary 12, Proper 7

Pentecost 5†††††††††††††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Isaiah 65:1-9

1I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask,

††††††††††† to be found by those who did not seek me.

††††††††††† I said, "Here I am, here I am,"

††††††††††† to a nation that did not call on my name.

2I held out my hands all day long

††††††††††† to a rebellious people,

††††††††††† who walk in a way that is not good,

††††††††††† following their own devices;

3a people who provoke me

††††††††††† to my face continually,

††††††††††† sacrificing in gardens

††††††††††† and offering incense on bricks;

4who sit inside tombs,

††††††††††† and spend the night in secret places;

††††††††††† who eat swine's flesh,

††††††††††† with broth of abominable things in their vessels;

5who say, "Keep to yourself,

††††††††††† do not come near me, for I am too holy for you."

††††††††††† These are a smoke in my nostrils,

††††††††††† a fire that burns all day long.

6See, it is written before me:

††††††††††† I will not keep silent, but I will repay;

††††††††††† I will indeed repay into their laps

7their iniquities and their ancestors' iniquities together, says the LORD;

††††††††††† because they offered incense on the mountains

††††††††††† and reviled me on the hills,

††††††††††† I will measure into their laps

††††††††††† full payment for their actions.

8Thus says the LORD:

††††††††††† As the wine is found in the cluster,

††††††††††† and they say, "Do not destroy it,

††††††††††† for there is a blessing in it,"

††††††††††† so I will do for my servants' sake,

††††††††††† and not destroy them all.

9I will bring forth descendants from Jacob,

††††††††††† and from Judah inheritors of my mountains;

††††††††††† my chosen shall inherit it,

††††††††††† and my servants shall settle there.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

My daughter is a teacher and in her classroom, she offers information and guidance; she does this with the hope that her students will listen to what she says, and that listening they will learn and so possibly have greater opportunities in their futures. But not all of her students listen to her; some of her students refuse to learn and others do only enough to get through the class. As someone who has done some teaching, myself I would guess that most teachers experience this kind of frustration.

It is not just teachers; Isaiah, as a prophet of God, who proclaimed the Word of God, helps us to see a similar frustration as voiced by God. When Godís people were crying for help in Egypt, God had answered their prayers, freeing them from slavery and God had brought them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land and God made them his special people; God had then given them victory after victory against their enemies and had given them prosperity and good harvests. But, by the time of Isaiah, it had become as though the, so called People of God, did not even know God. Still God held out his hands all day long to a rebellious people, a people who did not seek God out or call on him. God was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask, to be found by those who did not seek him. He said (to them), "Here I am, here I am," But they did not call on Godís name. God held out his hands to a people who provoked God and then this people, instead of calling on God in their times of need or calling on God to give thanks and praise for all that they had, they called upon gods that did not even exist. God was frustrated with this so called ďPeople of GodĒ and God was prepared to punish this people for their sins, which were many and great. Still God held back his punishment and sent Isaiah to them to give them just one more chance. Such is the patience and love of God.

Sadly the People of God did not return to faithfulness, and eventually God did punish Israel and Judah, the two nations organized under the name of God. He allowed Assyria and Babylon to overtake the People of God and to conquer their nations and destroy their cities and even tear down the walls of the Temple; and during these conquests many of Godís people were killed and many of the strongest and most talented citizens of the People of God, those who survived, were taken off into bondage. It would be more than 70 years before Israelís and Judahís people would be freed to return to their homeland, Godís Promised Land, and only then would they be permitted to rebuild their cities and the Temple.

Five or six hundred years later and more than 2000 years ago, God changed the way that he relates to those who are faithful and unfaithful alike. (You see) God decided to send to us Jesus.††† And God now accepts the fact that we cannot always help but to sin; God (because of Jesus) forgives us our sins and God no longer promises to punish us for our sins. Now, when God sends to us pastors and prophets and teachers and evangelists and bishops to preach his Word and to show the way of Jesus, and to offer advice and guidance, he is no longer doing so, holding the threat of punishment over our heads, if we do not change our ways. And even knowing the amazing love and forgiveness of God in Jesus, we more often than not do not listen.

So I, like all those who have spoken for God before me, when I stand up here and preach the words given me by God through the Holy Spirit occasionally suffer a similar frustration to that experienced by the preachers and prophets of long ago, watching Godís Word of love and forgiveness and service fall upon deaf ears and if not deaf ears fall upon those who with good intentions do not give their all to accomplish Godís will.

Honestly, it can be very frustrating and yet, it seems that, God has gifted many of his spokesmen with a sense of reality; I realize that while Church members want to follow the way of Christ, church members are generally not as committed to the ministry of Jesus Christ as might be needed for the Church to do all that God is calling it to do; I understand that the demands of the world come into play; God has imprinted on his spokesmen the knowledge that sin cannot be fully eliminated but that through Jesus there is forgiveness. In our world today, soccer, baseball, football and hockey coaches will inevitably schedule practices, tournaments and regular games at times that will conflict with Church services and events (yes, even on Sunday mornings). Financial obligations, including luxury and entertainment costs, are very often going to take precedence over Church offerings and Church needs. Family events, vacations and other activities will not always take into account church schedules. This is the way of the world.

But we, as a Church, should not allow such realities to keep us from scheduling event and services and activities of ministry. And the good news is, that we here at St. Peterís donít; this past week is a great example of this, as summer began and vacations started, we overcame many of these realities; we found enough men to rearrange the Church sanctuary for the Wesley Bell Ringers, who we then brought into our sanctuary for a concert; somehow we found enough families to host 40 some Bell Ringers and their chaperones, we found room in our budget to offer the hospitality of our Church to them with a meal and we brought 73 people into our Church to hear a wonderful concert. And this we did in the same week in which we prepared and delivered meals, each day, for St. Maryís Shelter, and some of our members met in the Church kitchen to make cookies for the fathers for Fatherís Day, and electricians and other workers were digging trenches, moving our wires from a poll underground and then removing the pole. A group of men, then, also put our sanctuary back together so that we could worship here today.

During a week like this, with such wonderful results, I can almost forget the frustration that sometimes accompanies preaching and working in ministry. During a week like this I can easily believe that we as a congregation can do such things as fulfill the financial demands of the budget we approved in November. During a week like this I can dream of new ways that we can offer the love of Jesus Christ in word and deed. During such a week I can believe that maybe, you the congregation, will listen to the sermons the Holy Spirit has put into my mouth; and so maybe the frustrations I struggle with will go away. Finally I can believe that maybe we, together as a congregation can truly become the People of God, the Body of Christ, as Jesus wants us to be.

What do you think? We are already there in name and in some parts; are you willing, with me to truly live as the Body of Christ?