Isaiah 63:16b-17; 64:1-8
1 Corinthians 1:3-9
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
With a raise of hands, how many of you are Soldiers or Veterans? Thank you for your service. Now keep your hand up if you’ve had to conduct night guard. You may put your hands down. It’s boring isn’t it? You weren’t kept awake because of something that was indeed happening. You were awake because of the potential of something happening. Now as night guards, I can assume you weren’t night shift people who only worked during the night, but your typical soldier who works throughout the day, was slotted that night to be on guard only to work the following day without any sleep. There is a potential, but you don’t know if anything would happen that night. In fact, the night might be so boring that would wish something entertaining would happen that would help keep you awake but not hinder your duty. Anything, maybe even a firefight again ambushing enemies, or a visible casual stroller who is acting suspicious, or the dropping of bombs. Anything to counter the dull wait. And as you wait, your eyes starts to get droopy and every other minute you startle awake. The struggle of staying awake during what may seem an uneventful night is real.
I don’t know anyone who likes to be put on night watch, anyone who works also during the day that is. I certainly don’t like it, but it is necessary. Why? Because you never know what
might happen. Thus who cares if you don’t like it, the absolute necessity outweighs the lack of convenience. Thus stay awake, be on guard.
During the time of the Israel Kings, the Babylonian Captivity, and the post captivity, when Jerusalem was rebuilt, Israel was at an indefinite stage of wake. They had faith in the promises God provided for them, the coming mighty King. Some, most, did not understand how this king would appear, but they had hope that he would. They knew not when, nor how, nor where per se. But to those who opened Scripture, and were blessed with the Holy Spirit, had their eyes opened to the reality that Christ was coming and that Christ is here. But even during the days when Jesus walked the earth, many were blinded to the truth and could not fathom Jesus had arrived. They were in slumber.
In the past, Israel waited and suffered long for the coming king. They knew he would come, thus they were ever expecting and anticipating his arrival. They were awake. But out of misinterpretation and lackadaisicalness, eventually many in Israel fell asleep.
The Lord Comes, stay awake for you do not know when he will come, stay on guard! Not everyone can stay on guard. It is like sitting up in a watch tower through the middle of the night, and the moment before the sky shifts from black to blue you fall asleep and miss the coming Sun. So too, the coming Son of Man caught many off guard for before the sky shifted colors towards the darker shades of blue too many had already fallen asleep.
But to those who did stay awake, they saw the shifting blue hues in the sky, the advent of a new day approach, the coming of the rising son, the coming of the Son of Man, Son of God. Angels preached and sang and gave warnings. Wise men had revelations and marched across countries to see the birthed king. A star was place above Bethlehem. Those who awaited long, finally witnessed proof that the Lord was coming, for they never fell asleep, they were on guard, expecting, anticipating, and their patience was finally answered. No need to wait, the Lord is coming.
Now for us today, Christmas is coming but is not quite here yet. So least we fall asleep and forget Christmas, missing the Day of our Lord’s birth, let’s do that which will definitely keep us awake. But first, let’s be honest, we the culture we currently live in, with Christmas music blaring right after All Saints Day, even though Christmas hasn’t even arrived yet, is it even possible to miss it? It’s more likely you will fall asleep during my sermons than miss Christmas. So what do I have prepared? Chimes! Every Advent Sunday I thought it would be a good idea for us to play some advent and Christmas music together using some noisy chimes. At least this way you won’t fall asleep during the end of my sermons… [hand out chimes, 1 or 2 to each, play several carols].
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, Christmas is coming and we wait with much anticipation all of the glory and joy that comes with the celebration of the Birth of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Help us to stay on guard and to keep awake, so that when your glory is revealed we do not miss it but see it in all its grandeur. In your most holy name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen
“Cyrus the Anointed”
Grace and peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
Several weeks ago I went to a bible study located in Port Clinton. This group was reading the story of Joseph son of Jacob, found in Genesis. During this particular study, we were reading the part when the Pharaoh appointed Joseph as his right hand man. Joseph had just deciphered the Pharaoh’s dream, and the Pharaoh decided to believe Joseph. While we were conducting this class I realized something. This Pharaoh was not a God-fearing man, he was not a Hebrew, yet God blessed him. How you might say? Well first, God revealed to the Pharaoh through his dreams of the seven years of bountifulness and the seven years of famine. God revealed this to him, God blessed pharaoh with these dreams. But the next is even more stunning. Pharaoh, a man who knew not the God of Abraham, said this, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” and to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are” (Genesis 43:38-39). How could the Pharaoh say this if not through the blessing of God?
On this day, we celebrate All Saints Day. This day is to recognize primarily all the saints who came before us, but to also celebrate all the saints who are here and yet to come, for through Christ we are all in union with the saints, but who are the saints? Do we not believe that though we are all sinners, through Christ we are all saints? This is most certainly true, for as Christians we are all sinners and saints. A saint is not a saint because of what they do. A saint does what they do because they are first a saint, and we are all saints not because of our actions but because of the grace of God. Therefore, on this day we celebrate alongside all who have been sanctified through Christ. We celebrate because through Jesus, we are and will always be in union with each other. This does not mean merely with Christians, but with all who have been sanctified through Christ. For did not the dead rose from the grave after Jesus died? They did, for Scripture tells us that after Jesus died the saints in the grave rose from the dead (Matthew 27:52-53).
Those who came before Jesus and died never got the opportunity to know Christ, so how could they have been saints? It is because Christ died on the cross for all of humanity, not merely for those who came after Him. Thus those who died before Jesus, who accepted Jesus, are most definitely saints, for through Christ they are saints. I would imagine that one of those who rose from the dead was the pharaoh found in Genesis, the pharaoh who was truly blessed by God.
Another person who was truly blessed by God was Cyrus, King of the Persians, which is now Iran. After Israel and Judah was sacked for their wicked ways and placed under Babylonian captivity as slaves once again, but as slaves to the Babylonians instead of the Egyptians, eventually there came a king who, through the grace of God, decided to free the Hebrews. He not only freed them, but he also fully funded the rebuilding of their nation, Israel, which was orchestrated by the prophets Ezra and Nehemiah. Cyrus was no Jew, but God still accounted this gentile as one of his anointed. In our first reading of Isaiah, it reads, “Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus,” and again, “For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me. I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me.” Cyrus did not know of God, but God still used him as an instrument for the sake of His people. And He didn’t just used Cyrus, but He blessed Cyrus, He anointed Cyrus. If Cyrus was anointed, then how could he, a gentile, not also be accounted as one of the saints?
Just like the Cyrus, there are many people throughout the Bible who, though not knowing God, was blessed by Him or guided by Him for the sake of His people. And after Jesus rose from the grave do you think these blessings from God to those who have the ability to affect God’s people ended? Far from it! God continued to guide the nations and bless various leaders all for the sake of His people. One example that pops in my head is Constantine.
During the early 4th century, He was one of four emperors who ruled the Tetrarchy of Rome, for at that time Rome was separated into four separate regions. During his rule, the four emperors decided that there needed to be one sole ruler, thus a civil war broke out to determine who would be the true Emperor of Rome. Yet something curious happened. Before Constantine entered the war, he and the Bishop of Rome, Eusebius, whom he was friendly with, had a dream. A new symbol was to be created and painted on every single shield. This symbol is the Xi Rho (pronounced “kie-row”) symbol, which looks like the capital P with an x on the bottom half. This symbol represents the first two Greek letters of the word Christ (Xpistos). We still use this symbol today, but Constantine, a gentile, ordered this symbol be painted. And on the first battle, with Bishop Eusebius present, Eusebius had a vision. In the clouds above the Soldiers bearing this new symbol, he saw the Cross above the Sun bearing the inscription, translated as “In this sign thou shall conquer.”
Eventually Constantine won the Civil War with little casualties to his own under armed forces and through his reign established the Holy Roman Empire. Later on his death bed, with his friend Eusebius present, he confessed his faith and converted to Christianity.
God has truly blessed many leaders throughout history, and through the death of Jesus he has anointed and sanctified many whom He directed for the sake of His people. And even today we wish that God continues to guide the nations, blessing all the leaders on earth for the sake of His people. Here in America, we the church pray that God blesses our local leaders, our governors, our judges, our legislators, and most especially our President. We do this not because we agree with their political stance, lest we stop praying for political leaders because we disagree with them, but because we wish for God to guide them for our own sake.
We wish that God would bless our leaders the same way he blessed Constantine, the Pharaoh in Genesis, and Cyrus; directing them so that they may fulfill God’s intent. But what is God’s intent regarding government? Within the Church we believe there are three Holy Estates, the family, the Church, and Government. Focusing on the latter two, the Church’s main goal with regards to the Government is to make sure it is and remains to be Holy. This includes getting politically involved so that our faith would have a strong influence on Government. The Government’s main goal with regards to the Church is to protect the Church. The Government is not the Church, but, through the intent of God, it is commanded and blessed with the directive to protect first and foremost the Church. Thus we pray, that God guides our leaders with his Spirit so that they may lead with wisdom, justice, kindness, and with faith.
Thus, as Election Day comes, let’s make a promise. Regardless of who wins, after Jan 20th we will pray for our President. Not because we like him or agree with him, but because we desire God to guide him for the sake of the Church, to guide him like He guided Constantine, the first Christian Emperor of Rome, to guide him like He guided Pharaoh, who appointed Joseph as his right hand man, to guide him like He guided Cyrus the Anointed who freed the Hebrews from Babylonian captivity and helped rebuild Israel. We don’t have to agree on who we like as President, but let us agree on this as American Christians, our desire for God to bless our President, to bless America, and to bless the Church.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, you are the source of all blessings and the one who sanctifies all. We ask that you continue to extend your blessing to all leaders on earth for the sake of the Church and her people, and to also give us the humility to not be blinded by our politics but to continue to pray for our leaders. In your most holy name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
Today is an incredibly special day, for today we celebrate the Confirmation of Arleigh Dackermann, and following this sermon and hymn we will proceed with her Affirmation of Baptism. Thus, I would like to give a message to Arleigh.
On April 2nd, 2006, you were baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Through Baptism, you have been blessed with the faith in God and were received into the fold of the heavenly family of God, received into the Body of Christ. Through Baptism, an act of God and not of Man, through water and the Word, you have been truly blessed, for you were washed of your sins which originates from original sin, broken free from the chains of slavery under Satan, and was provided the promise of salvation and a seat at the heavenly kingdom’s feast, a promise that can never be broken, a promise that is gifted to you, a promise that was given through the death of Jesus Christ.
Now through Baptism, the family of God promised to help raise you within the Church united with your parents. They have looked over you, taught you, and guarded you. It is said, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and for us that village is the family of God. We have watched you, an infant in Christ, grow in faith, and as we looked over you, we taught you through Catechism; teaching the faith so that you may come to understand scripture, the creeds, the Lord’s prayers, the Ten Commandments, as well as the sacraments. The Small Catechism was taught to you so that you may understand this faith which you have received through Baptism, so that you may understand what Baptism is, and so you may understand and have faith in the promises that God provided to you through your Baptism.
And as the Church taught you, they saw you grow in maturity in your faith, coming to understand your faith. As they saw your maturity in Christ growing, they had confidence that you understood the true presence of Christ in the Bread and the Wine of Communion. Through their confidence, they invited you to the table to receive with the Church your first Communion. Through Communion, or the Eucharist, and through your faith in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, you received the sustenance necessary to retain your faith. For Communion is our Daily Bread necessary to fuel or faith in Christ, to nourish not only or Body but to also nourish our aching souls which without Christ would surely fail in retaining faith in Christ. Communion is a gift that is received through faith, for without faith, communion is not communion. Thus, once your teachers and parents and congregation saw you were ready to receive, that you believed, they gladly invited you to the table to receive your Daily Bread.
And now, as a member of the Body of Christ through Baptism, and one who is nourished through Communion, matured through Catechism, you come forward to affirm your faith, to affirm your faith which comes through Baptism, thus affirming your Baptism. For this is what Confirmation is, it is the Affirmation of your Baptism, a declaration, a confession, that you understand your Baptism and your faith which comes from Baptism. On this day you will renounce the Devil, proclaim the Creeds, and profess your faith in Jesus Christ and in all his promises.
So a little quiz… Oh, I know, not another quiz! It’s all right; this isn’t a quiz with trick questions. In your Catechism, you learned of the Sacraments. How many are there? Two. What are they? Baptism and Communion. But where is Confirmation? Is it still a sacred act ordered by God? Yes. But is it a Sacrament? No, for in order to be Sacrament, in accordance with Catholic teaching, it needs to have the power to save or retain faith, of which Confirmation does not do. Does this mean that Confirmation is not important? Far from it, it is still a sacred act. End of Quiz.
So what does that make Confirmation? Confirmation is not Baptism, which many confuse them to be the same and thus wait for people to affirm their faith to perform Baptism, not understanding that Confirmation is in reality the affirming of your faith which you received through Baptism. Whereas Baptism is an act of God, Confirmation is an act of Man. In Baptism, God externally gives you faith. In Confirmation, you acknowledge this faith within you which was externally given to you first from God. This acknowledgement and understanding is deeply important for the sake of holding fast onto our own faith.
In Jesus’ parable he talks about the rocky and good soil. There is the pathway and the thorn infested soil, but for the sake of this sermon I want to talk about the rocky and good soil. In the rocky soil, the plant grows fast, but because it does not develop deep roots it withers away just as fast. Yet, in the good soil, deep roots grow, and because the plant has deep roots it is capable of weathering any storm and not wither away from the beating sun. The main difference between the two is the deepness and strength of their roots. So what are these roots? What do these roots represent? These roots represent your understanding, your discipleship, the strength of your faith, and the ability to discern your faith. The difference between the two soils is that the first is not properly discipled and, because they are not, when the world beats them off side the head with a myriad of trials and temptations and awful things such as persecution, the one with weak roots loses their faith and crumbles under the weight of the world. But the soil that is good, where roots are deep and strong, no matter what the world throws at them, they are capable of defending their own faith.
This is why Catechism is so important and why we cherish Confirmation, for through catechism and discipleship you are lead towards maturity in your own faith, and through this maturity you have been lead towards affirming your faith which you received first through Baptism. But it should be noted, your journey has not ended. We are all in need of continual catechism, our discipleship in our Lord has never ended, and our faith in Him could always go a little deeper.
Arleigh, for your confirmation you have provided a verse from Isaiah 40:31, “They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” As you walk in the light of the Lord, walk in faith, faith in the promises provided for you through Baptism, walk with abundant patience in Christ. Don’t be like the rocky soil whose plant grows impatiently and withers away, but be like the plant in the good soil which through patience grows deep roots, roots that will never allow the plant to die. Wait on the Lord, and keep on reflecting on Him, so that your faith in the Lord is continually renewed and given the strength and vigor to not only weather any storm but to also be mounted on eagle’s wings, to never go weary, and never faint or falter. Rely on the Lord always, have patience on Him, deepen your roots through continuous discipleship and catechism, and know this, the Living Lord, who died for your sake and has risen for your sake, will always be with you.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, we ask that you continue to bless Arleigh with your Spirit, protecting her faith, and encouraging her to not only profess and affirm her faith, but to continue to deepen her faith in you the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.