O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
What have you come here to see?
What have you come here to see?
Based on Matt. 11:2-15
Preached on December 15, 2013
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Dear baptized, especially God's newest, young Sam, What have you come here to see?
A fortune teller? Someone who will tell you what you want to hear or what you might expect to hear?
Or perhaps an entertainer? One who amazes you with talent, wardrobe, and special effects to take your mind off your troubles and take you to some sort of fantasy?
"What did you go out into the wilderness to see?" Jesus asks in our text, "A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses."
What have you come here to see? Preaching on Psalm 111:2, Luther writes:
"God showers people with rich and wonderful blessings. But how ungrateful and blind people are! They don't recognize these blessings as amazing miracles from God, so they don't admire them, give thanks for them, or act happy about them. However, if a clown can walk a tightrope or train monkeys, people are ready to admire and praise him for it."
That psalm he speaks of says: "Spectacular are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them."
What have you come here to see? For what the Lord does is spectacular. [If only you could see it.] But you can't.
Instead, what you see offends that Old Adam in you, that human pride. And no, I don't mean the war this world wages on Christmas - the commercialization, secularization and political correctness of the Winter Holiday Season – because the Old Adam in all of us is bedazzled and enticed by the things that appeal to the flesh.
No, I don't mean the scene of a crude manger in a dirty stall where the teen-age mother of our Lord who conceived out of wedlock trundles off the back of a flea ridden donkey. Because we make that scene sparkle and look pretty. We decorate our living rooms and sanctuaries with that offensive picture. Oh, that filthy barnyard makes us smile.
No, I don't even mean the great evil the Lord allows to go on in this world without wielding the winnowing fork and setting those sinners ABLAZE! with the fires of Judgment Day. This is not the offense I speak of.
What I mean is this-Word & Sacrament. An unimpressive figure leading you in worship--preaching the forgiveness of sins, pouring water on a child's head and giving you a morsel of bread and a sip of wine. Is this what I've come here to see? Is this the spectacular work of the Lord?
It sure doesn't look spectacular. And perhaps this is what prompted John the Baptizer's question in our text: "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?" Is this it Jesus? Is this what I've come here to see?
It is hard to fathom such a question coming from the one who was sent to prepare His way. From the one who had said,
"Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. This is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God."
From the one who had leapt in his mother's womb in the presence of Mary while this Son of God was yet in her womb.
But John was a sinner just like us. And at this moment he was in prison, only days away from losing his head. Perhaps he needed to hear it again. That his true Head, His Savior, had come into the world. That Christ still promised Him eternal life, despite what his eyes might see.
For we see throughout God's Word that every prophet and apostle had moments of weakness, moments of doubt. St. Paul goes so far as to admit:
"[I, too, am] of the flesh, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing."
Beloved, you are sinners too. Troubled by weakness and doubt. You need to hear the same thing as John and Paul and everyone in the flesh. Even if you know the message, and speak it to others, the message is still for you. God still sends a messenger to preach His good news to you, because the baptized of God walk by faith, not by sight. They live by the promises they hear, not by the things they see with their eyes. For seeing is open to interpretation, everybody sees differently, so the Lord sends a messenger to tell you what the right interpretation is, "for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit."
Yes, your sins are forgiven. God declares it from heaven. Yes, you are washed in His Word and His Name. You are His own child. Yes, the body and blood of the One who hung from a cross will be placed into your mouth and purify you from all _______.
Pay no attention to the world and its constant need for hype, entertainment and emotional highs - or at least leave it out there in the world and let the Church and her messenger speak to your soul. What you hear during Advent will astonish and delight your ears and hearts of faith. For what you hear is the deeper truth, a truth hidden in the simple means God has chosen.
What have you come in to see? Someone who will tell you whatever you want to hear? Someone to entertain you and get you in the mood for Christmas? "Repent! The kingdom of heaven is at hand."
Whatever you came in to see, whatever you may have thought you wanted, whatever friends, neighbors, the world, or even the mega church up the road might tell you you're missing: here in the Divine Service is where the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by the One who is here doing these things in water, Word, and wine.
Dear baptized of God, "you walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7)." Behold! The Son of God is here, and He is forgiving you all your sins and raising you to eternal life--in the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Rev. Cameron Schnarr