“The Word of the Cross” – Part Two

The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany (A)

“The Word of the Cross” – Part Two

January 29, 2017

Sermon Text: Micah 6:1–8, 1 Corinthians 1:18–31, Matthew 5:1–12

 Peace be unto you from the One who is God incarnate, our Savior, Christ Jesus. Amen.

Dearly Beloved of the Lord,

It is deafening what we hear all around us. The chatter and the clatter have certainly reached epic proportions. And this involving so many people… some cheering, others jeering… some tearing up… others fed up… some outraged, some incensed, some emboldened, some bewildered, some worried and fearful… and in many cases, for the exact opposite reasons as others.

A lot of people talking, but few really listening… to others, each other, out of a sincere desire to know and really understand where another individual, a fellow human being is coming from.

A lot of people talking, but few listening and this, especially in regard to the Lord our God and what He is saying. Notice, that is not past tense, for I am not only referring to what God has said in the past, but here and now and what He will say in future, for however many days there is left here on earth.

The point being is that God’s Word is living and active… always applicable and apropos. It speaks to today, this hour and minute, and what is happening in our lives and yes, in the life of this, His Church, and also the life of this nation of ours and all the world… as long as there is this world.

The problem is, you and I are not going to hear Him, hear God, hear His Word… which is, and always will be, the “Word of the Cross”… above the chatter and the clatter… above others talking… above ourselves talking…

… above the pounding of our hearts and with our minds running a mile a minute until we quiet the same… calm the same, close the same to everything but the Lord and His Word… He who said, “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10)

I had a discussion the other day with someone about the importance of us knowing history, learning from history, lest it repeat itself and not in a good way. And it would be easy here to go off on a tangent and talk about the dismal state of Americans and especially our young who do not know history and what their lack of understanding is resulting in now and what it will mean… God help us… in the future.

But more importantly… of infinitely greater importance… is knowing the history of mankind from the only source that is completely unbiased, totally true and factual. And you know as well as I do what that is… God’s Word, Holy Scripture.

My friends, the greatest threat temporally and eternally to your life and mine, to your family’s, to your children and their children. The greatest threat to the visible church here on earth, to our Missouri Synod and this our beloved congregation. The greatest threat to our nation, our society and world… is ignorance of God’s Word… in toto or in part.

And yet, we see many doing nothing about it. We sadly see that not every member of this congregation and other Christian congregations worship the Lord every week or close to it. We see so many of our members not in Bible class and not involved in the reading of God’s Word… at all… let alone on a daily basis. We see parents who relegate their children’s Christian education and church involvement to the back seat, while worldly activities and social endeavors are front and center.

Case in point regarding one’s knowledge of Scripture and the important history it shares. How many of you know about or have read the Book of Micah? How many really heard what was said in our Old Testament lesson because it is exactly what we are talking about here as the Lord, through Micah, indicts the people of Israel for their ignorance and their forgetfulness… for forgetting the past and what He, the Lord their God, had done for them and how now the Israelites had grown weary in their worship and service to Him because they had other things on their hearts and minds… other things on their plate… on their agenda, don’t you know? Sound vaguely familiar?

And so, in this brief text, God reminds the people of four specific acts, divine acts, His loving acts in their history, namely: Their redemption from the Egyptians; the providing of godly leaders and role models such as Moses, Aaron and Miriam; their being protected from harm from such people as Balak, the King of Moab; and their entering the Promised land going from Shittim across the Jordan to Gilgal.

And this is followed by the words in our text, that you may know the saving acts of the Lord.” (Micah 6:5)

“That you, people of Israel, that you people of St. Paul’s, that you people of America and around the world may know the saving acts of the Lord.”

Because, here is the thing. If you know them… these amazing, saving acts and how they lead up to and reach their pinnacle on the cross and then flow from the same in numbers beyond counting… all of this, everything that is happening today or any day comes into perspective and crystal clarity… and yes, I am speaking about what is happening be it in our nation… in our congregation, church, synod and world.

It is all… everything found in Scripture from Genesis to Revelation is the “Word of the Cross”… how all of history led up to the cross… what happened on the cross… and what now is happening in light of the cross.

My friends, as Christians, we see everything happening through the lens of the cross… we hear everything being said, yes all the chatter and the clatter, processing the same through the message of the cross and with the mind of Christ… the heart of Christ.

And in so doing, we gain a unique perspective… a “Weltanschauung” or world view, life view, that is so different and so radical to the distorted views of the people of the world, the unregenerate… the unbeliever… the dear brother or sister who is still lost in sin and held captive in body, mind and soul by Satan.

A perfect example of this uniquely Christian perspective is found in our Gospel lesson. Talk about a radical message that our Lord delivered on that mountain! But if you look and listen carefully and take in each of our Lord’s statements… you soon realize that these are really “Words of the Cross.” All of these things, doing these things, enduring these things is simply our life lived out under the cross. It is who we are and what we do, by the grace of God.

Blessed are the poor in spirit… Blessed are those who mourn… Blessed are the meek… Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness… Blessed are the merciful… Blessed are the pure in heart… Blessed are the peacemakers… Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake… Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on Christ’s account. (Matthew 5:3-12)

These are not the things that the world pursues. On the contrary, they are the very reasons why the world and the people of the world mock us, make fun of us, mistreat us, mislabel and misjudge us… why they treat us so.

It is as Scripture says, “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)  And sadly, they are perishing eternally.

So many engaged in the chatter and the clatter of today where the Word of God, the Word of the Cross, is considered folly. It is foolishness and viewed as unloving and dangerous, a menace to society, when in fact it is its only hope… its only salvation… as it is ours.

The chatter and the clatter… the voices of the maddening crowd. Let it not be us. Let it never be us dear Lord. May we never add fuel to the fire kindled and fed by the lost and the erring, by the spiritually blind, the spiritually deaf and the spiritually dead.

Instead, in all boldness, yet in a quiet and peaceful way, with a humble heart and a spirit of true kindness and caring, let us speak the Word of the Cross… live the Word of the Cross… fervently share the message of the Cross which is first and foremost the message of forgiveness… the message of love and life in Christ Jesus. Let us never forget that.

And that is why we are here and keep coming here… why we are always in the Word and always focus on the cross… that we may never forget. Grant this Lord unto us all!  Amen.

May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.

“The Word of the Cross – Part Two”

1/29/17  The Rev. Mark H. Hein

St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL