Thursday, September 13, 2007

C, Pent 16 Proper 19 - Luke 15:1-10 "Seeking the Lost"

Luke 15:1-10 NIV

1 Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

8 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? 9 And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”


Last week we heard, from Jeremiah eighteen, about the potter and the clay; and how he sought to form something beautiful out of it with his hands. However, anyone who knows anything about clay will tell you it can be the most hideous stuff at times.

A worker once sought to dig his way down to a water main which had started to leak. He assumed it wouldn’t be a difficult job to dig the hole so a plumber could come and make the necessary repairs. But little did he know that the ground below his feet was clay.

Clay might be a very good product to work with on the potter’s wheel, but in its natural environment it’s one of the most difficult and stubborn elements to move. When clay is dry its qualities are more like rock; when it’s wet its sticky stuff which is still not easily moved.

And that’s what the worker found out. The simple job of moving the soaked soil, was a painstaking nightmare. As he dug, he needed to use tremendous force to get the sticky clay onto the shovel, and when he went to tip it off the shovel into the wheelbarrow, turning the shovel upside down, the clay stubbornly just stuck there. He had to bang the shovel against the wheelbarrow and even pick it off with his fingers. After three hours he had only dug two barrow fulls of clay, and gained three blisters on each hand. Clay can be made into beautiful pots on the potter’s wheel but its terribly stubborn stuff in its original environment.

Last week we also heard in Luke’s Gospel, at the end of chapter fourteen in verse twenty-six and twenty-seven, Jesus say, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

Then at the end of that gospel reading we hear about salt, another natural element from the ground. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. “Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.” (Luke 14:34-35)

Like clay, salt can be a great product. It can be used in many applications to make food taste, or to preserve it and other things. But any farmer who has salt in his soil, will distress over the salinity destroying the productivity of the land being farmed. Salt, like clay, can be the best of products; but then again it can also be very unproductive too.

Jesus came to work amongst God’s chosen people. A people who snubbed his sincerity and continually chose to chase after other things! Perhaps, these people — the disciples, the Pharisees, the tax collectors — all of them sinners — were more like sticky stubborn clay, or salty soil in need of refining. In fact, when Jesus says these harsh words… If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple, …he is showing the reality of our fruitless productivity in saving ourselves or doing anything, apart from what he chooses to do through us.

Like clay or salty soil, the people of Jesus’ day couldn’t do anything by themselves. We are the same! Unless someone comes and does something to us, we can’t do much either. In hearing his word Jesus exposes the inability of humanity’s true reality. If we, who are like clay or salt, think we can come to Jesus and bear the reality of who we are, and therefore hate ourselves and those from whom we came, we cannot be a disciple. We cannot come; no person has the power to follow. Like clay or salty soil, we can’t do anything good by ourselves.

So Jesus draws a line in the sand. In fact, he draws a line in the hard clay of our humanity; he draws a line in the salinity of the sinful soil, into which he breathes the breath of life. God the Son shows the sticky stubborn reality of our unrefined natural humanity. We are clay; we cannot mould ourselves into beautiful pottery. We are saline soil; we can neither separate our salt from our soil, nor become tasty or productive. That’s just how it is! Jesus calls those who have ears to hear this harsh reality and believe it.

But the realities don’t stop there. If they did we would be doomed to death for eternity. We must continue to hear what Jesus says in the next chapter, and so on, right through to the climax of the gospel at Jesus’ death and resurrection.

In the next chapter, chapter fifteen, there are three parables; the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son (who we know as the prodigal son). These chapters talk about those who can’t choose to follow or come to Jesus. These three parables speak about you and me. We are “the lost” in need of a Saviour who continually seeks us out.

Chapter fifteen begins, ‘Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:1-2)

Here the worker of grace, Jesus Christ, comes to the clay and the saline soil, but some of the same, who don’t realise they’re the same, grumble, “This worker comes and sticks with “that” unfit soil, and he does his pottery with “that” useless clay.” But all the while they had forgotten the reality of their own unproductive salinity and selfish stickiness.

So the Pharisees, the sinners, the disciples, and the followers of Jesus are told by Jesus, there is only one cross, there is only one Saviour, who can search out the lost. Jesus is that One! He separates us all from himself with the law, so it is he, and he alone, who seeks us out. Lest we think somehow God can be fooled into not seeing our sin through our own efforts, making him out to be a liar by coercing salvation out of him some other way.

Why would God want to find us, anyway? Because we are precious to him! We are, lost but loved lambs, hidden but valued coins, wayward prodigal children loved by our Heavenly Father. He comes looking for us so he might find us and shape us into beautiful pots; so he might refine us into salt with which he can flavour other lost souls in the world.

So we persevere in hearing his word so the Holy Spirit can continue exposing Christ living in us, and save us from eternal death. This is our greater reality, our true baptismal reality, our ever-present hidden reality, despite the very true dying visible human reality of our sinful inability to walk perfectly as Christ walked, and bear the cross that he bore.

Therefore, endure in Christ; continue to allow your ears to receive his word. Although you and I are stubborn and sticky clay, let him form you with his word. Let the word refine you in faith, continually taking out the impurities. Let the Holy Spirit bring you into church, the place where forgiving, infilling, and feeding happens in Christ. The place of re-creation …the place of refining …the place for believers receiving eternal life.

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:15-17)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

C,Pent 15 Proper 18

Hi folks! You might have notice today that I have not posted a sermon. This has been due to our parish having a weekend together, and I was able to sit with my wife and kids and sabbath in God's forgiveness and filling with the gospel. However I did lead a bible study on Saturday 8/09/07 on picking hymns/songs in worship. I have included it below. Next week 16/09/07 a sermon will be posted, then I will be on annual leave (Praise the Lord!) until October. My next sermon will be posted for the 14th of October, 20th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 23. Sorry for the inconvience to the lay readers out there. But I need a rest! God bless Friarpuk The following study is a hotch potch from myself, Logia, and things I heard from Daniel Preus at Marburg Queensland in July 2007

What decisions to make over choosing songs and hymns for God’s Divine Service to us.


“Pastor, couldn’t we sing In the Garden at one of our worship services? It’s a real favourite that many of us have had since we were little.” “Pastor, couldn’t we let our young people write their own special creed for the service?” “Pastor, couldn’t we have our favourite Willie Nelson song sung at our wedding?” “Pastor, couldn’t we celebrate National Fast for the Hungry Sunday? It’s a wonderful group that I belong to and they have sent me a special worship service and prayer to be used next month.”

How does a pastor handle requests for extraordinary worship experiences? More than that, how does one evaluate the hymns, songs, and services which are used by Christians as they are gathered for the word of God?

Is it merely a matter of personal taste or is there something more?

Some members feel frustrated when their pastor turns down a request for a special worship service, song, or hymn. They don’t understand why the pastor is being so hard-headed and stubborn in refusing to allow certain hymns or worship material from various special-interest groups for festive services. Perhaps, they might think, it is his personality: The pastor is just a closed-minded, behind-the-times, ultra-conservative party-pooper, or even too Lutheran.

Perhaps. But there may be another explanation. It may be that the pastor is not just evaluating such requests by a different taste in music, but by an altogether different standard. As long as this standard remains invisible to those to whom the pastor is speaking, however, the people may think that the pastor is denying their requests merely on the basis of his personal whims and fancies.

While pastors ought to have been trained to have a keen eye for yeast and wolves, it may not be so easy to get the people to see them. And if people don’t see them, they may see their pastor as fighting against shadows and mythical ogres.

Unseen enemies, however, are not necessarily unreal enemies. It may be extremely difficult for members to believe a pastor’s cautions, especially when they “don’t see anything wrong with it,” or “don’t see how it would hurt anything.” Yet, by God’s grace, they may be led to trust their pastor as one who lovingly knows best—who is faithful to the word of God and has a sharp eye for what would be dangerous to them.

So what hidden things are pastors and God’s sheep called to watch out for?

Galatians 5:9 “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”

Matthew 7:15 Jesus tells us — “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”

1 Timothy 4:16 Paul speaking to young pastor Timothy — Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

I remember taking my car to visit a member who was an auto-body specialist. With just a glance, he could see where the body of the car had been worked on—and where it was still dented. I looked and asked, “Where? I don’t see it!” Carefully, he showed me where to stand and what to look for. Sure enough: Those imperfections leapt out at me. He had a keen eye for imperfections. A pastor, too, is supposed to have a keen eye for the imperfections of beliefs which could prove hazardous to the faith of the people he serves— even if they don’t see it themselves. As the Spirit gathers, enlightens and sanctifies through the word preached and taught, they are shown where to stand and taught what to look for to make the invisible standards become visible so that yeast and wolves may be recognized for what they are.

What makes deception so deceptive is that one always thinks he or she is doing the right thing, when actually in error. That’s what deception is!

The following is an attempt to make the pastor’s scriptural evaluations visible. Demonstrate these means to the people and then let them evaluate their request on the basis of this standard. It may be that they will resist this method and any other because the desires of the heart can often outweigh a clear exposition of the themes of grace in Christ. Nothing short of the Spirit’s working through the means of grace can change that. At the very least, however, people may come to see that the pastor does have a standard that he follows—it’s not just a matter of personal tastes, or even religious rules. They may still accuse him of being a stick-in-the-mud, but at least he’s a stick-in-the-mud with clearly recognizable criteria.

Some guiding thoughts and questions along the way might be helpful.

Consider the following… that worship songs/hymns say something within the parameters of proclamation, praise, and confession:

1) Does the song/hymn proclaim, praise, and confess the Triune God?

2) Does this song/hymn proclaim and confess the issue of sin and our sinful condition?

Is the reality of sin and its deadly consequences adequately expressed or is our utter helplessness ignored or down played?

Does the text express our total inability to come to Christ or come to him? Or is some of our ability attributed to us?

3) Does this song/hymn proclaim and praise God for the forgiveness of sin in Christ Jesus?

Does the text present Jesus as a saviour dying for sinners or is Jesus just presented as some kind of companion or example?

4) Does the song/hymn proclaim, praise, and confess God’s work through the means of grace within the church?

Does the song/hymn encourage rest or Sabbath in the way Jesus has given us to receive the work of his death at the cross and resurrection from the grave? Is endurance in congregation worship encouraged?

5) Does the song/hymn properly proclaim and distinguish between the Law and the Gospel?

The law commands what man is obligated to do. It always condemns and accuses us sharply by showing our failures and inabilities. The gospel pronounces what God has done in Jesus Christ and continues to do through his presence in word and sacrament.

How is the Lord bringing about his work among us? Who is doing the verbs? If the subject of most of the verbs is man, then the material probably originates from a Reformed-Evangelical view of sanctification and is not appropriate for use among us.

6) Does the singing of the hymn/song encourage community singing, or individual concert style singing? How many persons present are required to make the song/hymn function properly?

As a person in the pew am I encouraged to sing too, so that others might hear about God? Or are my sung words more of a private conversation between me and God, perhaps telling God how good he is? What are the little words in the hymn/song addressed toward? (e.g. I, me, we, us, you, your, our, he, him). Does the tune make the hymn/song too hard to sing — to quick, to loud, to complex, to confusing. Is the song/hymn offensive? (Not necessarily bad if it is!) Why is it offensive? (A better question! This is where we learn about ourselves and God’s intention towards us as individuals within a community).

Theology of Glory versus Theology of the Cross

The theology of glory is terribly one-sided and unbalanced. It tends to look only at the beautiful and sweet things of creation and ignore the harsh and heavy aspects of life. It tends to fulfil the Marxist dictum of religion as the opiate of the people—it makes people feel good by thinking good thoughts. It can also see suffering as though it were sinful—as though people are faithless who aren’t always living a happy, joyful, triumphant, and victorious life.

The theology of the cross sees God’s beauty and glory in the despised, rejected and scorned things of this world for Christ’s sake (Is 53). It even may consider the beautiful things of life as garbage when they are not in service to the gospel in Christ (Phil 3:8). The cross is scandalous to those who are seeking to make the world a better place to live. The Christian does not expect glorious living as the cross is borne and as the flesh is crucified daily, but the heart is buoyant, calling to mind what Christ has accomplished on his cross even as that is sealed to the Christian in Baptism and communicated to the Christian in Holy Communion.

Questions to ask of the song/hymn: Are words like “praise,” “glorious,” “amazing,” “wondrous,” “beauty,” or “sweet” used over abundantly? Are they used to heighten a person’s emotional level to a fevered religious pitch? Are they treated as being attainable ideals to be constantly maintained in a Christian’s life? Is success treated as the blessing of God while suffering and hardship are regarded as the abandonment of God? Is it real, or to maintain this pitch on an everyday basis, do I have to pretend, or am I going to stop short exhausted and depressed?

Natural Revelation versus Special Revelation.

Natural revelation tells us some things about God, but it is woefully incomplete. We cannot be certain of how God is toward us by looking at the world around us. We can be too easily confused by trying to interpret the signs of the times. Dependence on natural revelation subtly introduces itself where there is a predominance of talking about God without specific reference to Jesus Christ. While we acknowledge Jesus to be true God and true man, it is possible to fall into a generic way of talking about God which loses touch with the incarnate Christ, God for us. Generic God-talk leads to speculation about his invisible qualities which lead us into uncertainties.

To speak of God merely by his attributes without being centred in the grace which is revealed to us only in Christ, we can get a god who does things directly to us apart from the God who instituted the means of grace as the word made flesh. Special revelation makes known through the Word and Spirit what is otherwise unavailable and unachievable to mortal eyes and minds (1 Cor 2:14).

Questions to ask of the song/hymn: How is it that we find out how God is toward us? How are we assured and comforted? Is it by looking at the things of creation or is it by seeing him in Christ alone? Where is Jesus in the hymn’s speaking about God? Is He merely a moral teacher or a helper?

There are some inherent dangers and shortcomings we must be aware of when choosing hymns/songs.

Not all hymns and songs in our resources will do well against these criteria. Not every hymn/song has to be the best hymn/song ever written! Not every hymn/song will fit all six criteria, perhaps two or three? Balance is always a goal, extremes are never the objective!

Our choices might suggest a misguided religiosity wherein emotions are seen as something to be neutered or that appreciation of the beauties of God’s creation is materialistic adulteration of pure spirituality. Such positions are wholeheartedly rejected. The reservation arises when emotions, beauty, praise and glory attempt to accomplish what can be achieved by Christ’s divinely instituted means alone. Great joy and hope will flow from the singing of hymns and songs, so too will great sorrow and contrition. Emotions will flow from our proclamation, praise, and confession, but they are not the cause or focus of our proclamation, praise, and confession of Christ and his means of Grace.

The intent of clearly discerning what hymns/songs to choose is simply that we might more readily recognize the hymns and liturgies which extol the means of grace and the theology of the cross most clearly. The gift for displaying this Christ-centeredness is what has made the hymns of Luther, Gerhardt, Franzmann and others so dear to our hearts. They speak Christ into us rather than falling subject to the inept or soppy.

“Sir, we would see Jesus,” the Greeks said to Philip (Jn 12:21). So we say to those who would select hymns and liturgies: “Sir, we would see Jesus—not as One who moves our emotions nor as One whom we can make beautiful by our own imaginations, but One who is really present in his word and grace, who forgives us, renews us, and draws us to himself without our effort or merit.”

Song and Hymnody in Scripture and Christian Worship

Discuss the function of the following Hymns/Songs recorded in God’s Word. Look also at the context in which they came to be (what is recorded in the verses/chapters beforehand).

Exodus 15:1-21; Deuteronomy 31:30 – 32:41 (31:19-22); Judges 5:1-31; 2 Samuel 22:1-51 (Ps 18); Psalms 22-23, 40, 46, 51; Ecclesiastes 7:4-5; Isaiah 12:2-6; Matthew 26:30; Luke 1:46-55, 1:67-79; 2:13-14; Acts 16:25; 1 Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 5:1-2, 6-7, 19-21; Philippians 2:6-11; Colossians 3:16-17; Revelation 5:9, 14:1-3, 15:2-5. (Texts in italics are more about hymns/songs rather than actual songs/hymns.

How do these biblical songs/hymns and scriptural statements about singing stand up under the six point criteria above?

So let’s examine our favourite hymns and songs. What do you notice? Are you surprised at your examination?


There are plenty of songs and hymns out there. There is no doubt that music stirs our deepest emotions. However, this emotion is not the criteria for choosing songs/hymns in worship. A basic question could be asked of everything we choose, “Where is God in this, and what is he seeking to do?”

There is nothing wrong with listening to popular Christian songs. Some are, in fact, quite good in their content and sound. But just because this might be so, doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to function in the context of confessional sacramental worship.

You never know, the stick-in-the-mud pastor might just not seem so conservative, so Lutheran, or behind-the-times. Perhaps, he might seem more open-mined than first thought, even ecumenical, especially when he witnesses those he is called to pastor, trying to use sound Christ-centred criteria for choosing hymns and songs.

Good hymn/song selection in Lutheran worship will always be items that proclaim the truth about God and humanity, and therefore will be able to be sung by all confessional Christians who take seriously Jesus’ word… “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Finally we would all agree that the world is not getting better, that in fact it’s more and more getting worse. So why should the church bend more and more to the ways of the world in the way it conducts its worship, where God seeks to come and continue making us holy and less worldly?

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the cravings of the sinful person, the lust of one’s eyes and the boasting of what one has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the person who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

An Instrument for evaluating service material


I am the one doing most of the action in this hymn: my feelings, my thoughts, my personal sacrifice or dedication.


Christ is the one doing the action in this hymn, through his Holy Absolution, Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.


The hymn emphasizes a success, triumph, victory in this world which persons can experience if only they will practice Christianity with a strong personal faith and determination and obedience.


The hymn acknowledges that weakness and suffering are the crosses which are borne, not by personal strength, but by grace and the gift of faith which is confident in Christ despite external appearances of failure.


God is seen as being good or great in terms of his works and creation; God is beautiful and strong because his creation shows beauty and power. Friendliness, sharing and caring are the evidences of God’s grace and love.


One cannot look at beautiful rainbows and sunsets without also looking at devastating earthquakes and floods. God’s promises are not seen; they are believed by faith as spoken to us in his Holy Absolution, Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.


God does his working through quiet whispers in a person’s heart or mind. He moves people through life’s decisions by feelings and notions which are gained by contemplation as though walking through a garden.


God does his work via the Spirit’s bringing Christ through his Absolution, and Holy Communion. The God who is everywhere is incarnationally somewhere for his people in his Holy Absolution, Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.


The emphasis is on good feelings as evidence of salvation and a strong faith. A person is led to forget the cares of the world for a moment by a happy song. Rejoicing is the result of personal, repeatable and demonstrable life experiences.


One trusts in God’s mercy in Christ even when it doesn’t feel like He is present or active. All hell may be breaking loose with emotional or psychological suffering, but faith clings to what is promised, not what is seen or felt. Rejoicing is the result of trust in spite of personal experiences.


Founded on imaginary thoughts, wishes and desires of one’s personal dream world of what Christianity would be like if it were ideal. Hope is viewed in terms of wishful thinking.


Rooted in the historical revelation of God’s actions in Scripture and directing people to Christ’s presence in Holy Absolution, Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. Hope is understood as faithful trust.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

C, Pent 14 Proper 17 - Jeremiah 2:4-13 "Yesterday, Today, & Forever"

Jeremiah 2:4-13 Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, all you clans of the house of Israel. 5 This is what the Lord says:

“What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves. 6 They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness, through a land of deserts and rifts, a land of drought and darkness, a land where no one travels and no one lives?’ 7 I brought you into a fertile land to eat its fruit and rich produce. But you came and defiled my land and made my inheritance detestable. 8 The priests did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord?’ Those who deal with the law did not know me; the leaders rebelled against me. The prophets prophesied by Baal, following worthless idols.

9 “Therefore I bring charges against you again,” declares the Lord. “And I will bring charges against your children’s children. 10 Cross over to the coasts of Kittim and look, send to Kedar and observe closely; see if there has ever been anything like this: 11 Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols. 12 Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror,” declares the Lord. 13 “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

It may come as a surprise that the chosen people of God would be so silly, as to turn their backs on the graciousness of God. It might even surprise you more, that those largely responsible for this apostasy were the priests who became preoccupied with pampering the egos of the Israelites. They turned their backs on what God wanted, and therefore, failed in their office to seek God and lead God’s people with God’s counsel into God’s holy presence.

God had led the people out of Egypt, which was remembered for its cruelty, oppression, and slavery. He then led them through the Sinai wilderness for forty years, where one could remember that God provided all their needs despite being in a barren desolate place.

After this the Lord God led them into the land of milk and honey, Canaan, or what we know became Israel. There they dwelt on the fertile hills and flood plains surrounding the Jordan River. And as they dwelt in this place, God was there amongst them, coming down to be with his people, where he dwelt with them at Jerusalem’s temple after they atoned for their sins through the sacrifice of animals and the sprinkling of blood on the altar and in the Holy of Holies.

But Baal worship prominent in Canaan amongst the native Canaanites enticed the Israelites away from trusting the Lord. The fertility of the land which the Israelites enjoyed was dependant on their trust in God, and their blessings through the keeping of his law. Yet as they had done before many times in Egypt and in the Sinai wilderness, they turned away from the profound providence of God through ordinary things in their lives and sought their destiny in the extraordinary fertility worship of Baal.

In worshipping Baal they turned from God and sought to draw water from another spring. Turning from God was their first sin, and then turning to their own experiences and emotions was their second sin. They sought to appease Baal through cultic sexual practises so he might rain down his seed on the earth fertilising the feminine in an extraordinary climactic sensory explosion of experience. Worship for the Israelites had become no more than an exercise in entertaining the selfish greed of humanity as they turned away from God and turned the temple into a whore house of Baal.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that before long both priest and people had turned away from God in a bid to seek the extraordinary ejaculatory experiences in the hope that this prostitution would bless them with fertility in the soil and in the womb. But it’s no surprise that through their turning away from God toward this evil, their self-gratifying fertility worship had the opposite effect and the people became barren through sexually transmitted diseases and Baal proved to be most impotent of gods and the land became infertile.

Earlier God had said through Jeremiah, “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert, through a land not sown. 3 Israel was holy to the Lord, the first fruits of his harvest; all who devoured her were held guilty, and disaster overtook them”. (Jeremiah 2:2-3) Yet, as we’ve heard, Israel sought to sleep with a god guilty of delivering impotence and infertility. Israel has deviated into desecrating and defiling God’s holiness.

In Hebrews twelve verse eight; we hear that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. What is this sameness? Holiness! Jesus is holy yesterday, today, and forever. But parallel to this is humanity which carries the same nature yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Ever since creation and the fall, so often we seek deviations away from God and his holiness. We are lured into the deception of our experiential feelings and love, which promise much success and empowerment, but deliver little because they are useless and powerless.

Love without the foundation and truth of God’s word is flaccid and impotent. Feelings elevated to the status of faith, see us become pimps of powerlessness. The Holy Spirit was never sent to be a whore to our emotions, our feelings, and our pleasures! Like Baal these are false gods. They are only hookers which give hallucinations of holiness. But really they’re diseased deceptions covered with a thin veil of happiness; mirages in the haze of our sinful natures which dry up the minute we seek to quench our thirst. In turning away from God we can only ever dig water wells that become dry old hell holes of death.

However, we have Jesus Christ. He is God the Son, the word of God made flesh. He was there at creation with the Father and the Holy Spirit, he is here today, and he will remain forever. He with the Father and the Spirit have not changed, God is always the same. He is holy! He was there in our youth, together with the Father and the Spirit. The Triune God came to us and made us the first fruits of his harvest, sowing faith in our hearts, sprinkling us with the grace of his blood spilt at the cross, and giving us peace in the hope of one day dwelling with him in perfected holiness too. This is the place where all our needs will be quenched as we sit in the shade of his glory, for Jesus Christ is the tree of life, from him flows the waters of life.

So as the day draws near, to where our eternal thirst will be quenched forever, where we rest in the eternal presence of our Lord in paradise, we wait on our Lord God Almighty. Don’t be surprised as we wait that he faithfully comes to us. Don’t be surprised that you hear the word of his forgiveness for your sin; that your sins are actually real but are forgiven. Sing to the Lord for he is your strength. He walks with you and me through this life. Yes! Let him carry you through the wilderness of this world. Lie back in his arms and rest in his faithfulness and forgiveness. Open your mouth in faith, and let the Lord fill it.

Have faith in God, not in yourselves. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings, which love to attach themselves to your sinful nature. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, by Christ and his food of forgiveness and faith, so the old sinful self is continually drowned. In receiving God’s grace, we are being made holy, as we exchange our worthless idols for the glory of Christ crucified.

Lord — the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours — yesterday, today and forever, Amen.