Grace, mercy, and peace be yours from God, our Father, and from
our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Brothers and sisters in Christ, the text for
this morning comes from the Gospel reading.
The temptation is very much there to take this text and turn
it into a fire and brimstone sermon with the arms wailing and the words
flailing and loudness abounding in order to bring and make a point about
repentance, because that’s exactly what John the Baptist did out in the
wilderness, looking almost, to some, silly and foolish.
So intriguing is John the Baptist’s lifestyle that many
Christians have decided to emulate it at various stages in the world’s history
of self-deprivation or asceticism. Walking away from the world and all of its
allurements to set up a new life somewhere else in order to get closer to God.
There were disciples that followed John throughout the
wilderness, as there were who followed Elijah hundreds of years before him.
There have always been religious people who remove themselves from the world to
draw nearer to God, and from the looks of our congregation, none of y’all are
doing that. And that’s okay. But the point being very clearly is still
nevertheless the great need to repent.
John the Baptist’s message was for you and for me to wrestle
with sin, the sin that beats within our bosom, the sin that weaves its tangled
webs of guilt and shame within our mind and conscience, the sin that causes us
to second-guess ourselves as we lay in bed, trying to fall asleep, the sin that
we justify and grow angry if someone were to point it out in our lives,
becoming adamantly denying that we are that way; the sin that has caused
arguments among your family; the sin that has caused arguments between you as
husbands and wives and between parents and children and their parents. That’s
the sin about which John proclaimed to repent.
Now the idea behind asceticism or removal of oneself from
this world is to draw nearer to God because you have no longer or are around
the things that cause you or lead you into temptation or tempting things. The
problem is, you’re still living with them inside of this thing called your
mind, because memories don’t fade always, unfortunately.
Luther took that ascetic life when he became an Augustinian
monk. And Tetzel….no, not Tetzel….but his good friend told him, “If you can pray
the Lord’s Prayer thoroughly without thinking of any other thoughts while
you’re praying the Lord’s Prayer, then you truly have arrived spiritually.” So
Luther would attempt to pray the Lord’s Prayer perfectly without his mind
wandering, without his mind thinking of other things, with his mind fully
focused upon the words that he is praying. And he never could.
Open up your hymnal to page 324. Some of you may know this;
some of you may not. It’s kind of a beautiful thing that we have in our hymnal
and that is the Small Catechism. And on page 324, the left-hand column, is the
second petition, which we’ve prayed since we were very little and small. “Thy
kingdom come.” So I ask you, brothers and sisters, “Thy kingdom come”, what
does this mean?
[Congregation:] “The kingdom of God certainly comes by
itself without our prayers, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us
In other words, God’s kingdom is not bound by our ability to
pray correctly, “Thy kingdom come,” which is a good thing, but a scary thing,
as well, because we know not sometimes when His kingdom is going to come or
we’re not listening or paying attention.
So how does God’s kingdom come, brother and sisters?
[Congregation:] “God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father
gives us His Holy Spirit so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead
Godly lives here in time and there in eternity.”
When your mommy and daddy brought you to the font to be
baptized, the Holy Spirit came upon you. You became a believer. You were
brought from death to life. You who could not speak the Lord’s name in
sincerity could speak it. You who could not trust upon a God whom you could
not see or prove trusted in God even though you could not explain it to your
mother or father who brought you.
God’s kingdom came to you and from that moment forward, you
have from henceforth become the most hated enemy of Satan and all of his
angels, because you now are no longer in darkness but in the light. You now are
no longer subliminally being led down the pathway to hell and instead
triumphantly and joyfully moving on toward heaven in faith.
But it’s more than that because you have to live that faith
out in this world because faith isn’t contained on a document. It isn’t a
written point. It is a living thing that’s within your bosom that’s waging war
constantly with this world and everything around which you live, but mostly
within yourself, it wages war. You know that battle. You have fought that
battle, and you grow weary of fighting that battle at times. But that battle
is what you must fight daily.
To grow weary of fighting that battle is normal. To give up
fighting that battle is damnable. Hence why Luther penned those words to lead
a Godly life here in time. Peter said, if you wish to lead a Godly life, you
will be persecuted. It will be difficult. His writing in this morning’s epistle
reading, if we know that this is the end time, if we know that God’s kingdom
could come upon us and He could come again in glory to judge the living and the
dead. What kind of people ought we be?
If we know that it’s true, that it could happen, then how do
you find yourself? Repentant? Or mildly entertained? Convinced of such truth?
Or merely seeing it as something to intellectually toy with?
Repent, brothers and sisters, for your lives do not shine
forth the name that you bear as God’s baptized child.
Repent, brothers and sisters, for you know inside of your
mind and in your conscience your words have not befitted and loved other people
and your actions have not always shown forth love and forgiveness, but
remembrance of being wronged, of how your pride was wounded by someone else.
Yes, brothers and sisters, God’s kingdom comes to you and to
me but His kingdom comes right now. We don’t have to wait for it to come. It’s
coming to you as I speak. As a sinful human being with imperfect words
articulates the faith, God’s kingdom is coming to you. As bread stamped into
little hosts and wine poured from a glass from inside the sacristy, God’s
kingdom comes to you in that bread and wine by His promise. And how ought we
to be as God’s children then? Indeed, how do we find our minds and our hearts
most of the time?
When God sent Elijah to prepare the people for the horrific
wilderness journeying to Babylon and Iraq for that seventy years of captivity,
he tried to prepare them by telling them, “Repent.” Do not allow this thing to
come upon your life and embitter you, driving you away from God, depressing you
and denying that God’s grace is sufficient enough to forgive you or allow you
to merely say it’s the chance and roll of the die of your life. What can you
Elijah proclaimed those words so that people would see God’s
hand in this world and, more importantly, in their soul’s salvation. John the
Baptist was no different with his desire to proclaim those same words. You
could regale me with incident after incident of where you could see that God
did this in your life, and in God allowing it to come upon your life, you have
many choices. Becoming bitter with it, which is to give into Satan’s desire
and your own flesh. Despairing of it that what can be done, and again, giving
into Satan and your own fleshly desires. Or repent. But God willing, God
should not have to keep allowing things in our lives to push us to repentance.
However, He does wish to save your soul.
Repent, brothers and sisters, and come back to the one who
has double satisfaction for your sins. Double, Isaiah the prophet said. He
wished the people to be comforted. The same prophet wishes those people to be
comforted with forgiveness. That though they will be moved away from their
home and exiled to Babylon, God has forgiveness for them. Though there are
many things in your life that you may not be able to explain and though there
may be things in your life that you stubbornly, like I do, hold onto in
thinking that we’re right, as if “rightness” matters in God’s sight, but
forgiveness and repentance matters in God’s sight.
Hence, why John the Baptist was in that wilderness,
reminding people that this is the wilderness in which we live, and yet, what
are we tempted to do but to build things around us to make this wilderness
experience more comfortable. There’s nothing wrong with comfort. What’s wrong
is when we begin to think in those terms as the purpose of our existence in
this life. God is using you and all that is good and wrong with you at the
self-same time that He has built up and that you and I continually tear down.
He wishes to use the entire package of you to reach other people, and He’s
doing it already. But you and I still need to repent because this world does hearken
unto us and our flesh does desire comfort. True comfort is not to be found in
this place nor in this time, but comfort….the comfort about which Isaiah
proclaimed and of which Jesus fulfilled, John the Baptist’s proclamation….is
comfort for sins.
It’s a lot easier for a hungry man to go to sleep hungry
than it is for a sinner struggling with their sin. It’s a lot easier for
someone who has a physical malady to find comfort and relief than it is for
someone who is wrestling with their past. Hence, the comfort that only can
come from sins being forgiven and double, Isaiah said, for what we’ve done.
The wounds that sin has wrought in your and my life are not visible to the eye,
but their scar runs deep and their hampering is regular and ongoing, isn’t it?
But the comfort that God proclaims to us is also invisible, because the promise
can’t be seen or touched, but it can be eaten and drank, and it can be heard.
It is yours for the reception. And it is yours to take comfort in. And it is
yours to find peace and comfort, that your mind and this world and Satan may
not win the day’s battle.
God’s kingdom come among us, O Lord, come and bring us
Yourself and peace and comfort with it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your
hearts and your minds on Christ Jesus to life everlasting.