Sermon for January 1, 2012

Number 6:22-27 (Circumcision and Name of Jesus—Series B)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

January 1, 2012

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


Our text this morning is the Old Testament Lesson from Numbers 6:

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”

They are the words we hear week after week after week.  They are the words that, for some, signal, “It’s finally over.  It’s almost time to go home.”  But these words are not just filler.  They are not mere ritual.  These words are more than a prayer or a wish.  By His most holy name, the Benediction bestows God’s blessing on His people for the rest of the week.

“Benediction” is from the Latin word which means “blessing.”  In Numbers 6, the Lord gives Moses instructions for Aaron and his sons, the priests for the people of Israel, “This is how you are to put my name on the people of Israel so that I will bless them.”  Following the directives of Numbers 6, the pastor speaks the Trinitarian blessing on the congregation.  The last word of the liturgy comes from God, who hosted the service of Word and Sacrament for His people.  But at that point in the service, are we still listening?  Are we focused on receiving God’s Word of blessing for the week ahead or are we busy doing other things?

What could possibly distract us from hearing and receiving God’s blessing?  Since the service is almost over we can use the time of the Benediction to get our coats on and gather our things so we can be one of the first out the door as soon as the final hymn is over.  Or, we can use the time of the Benediction to flip through the hymnal to find the closing hymn.  Or, we can use the time for the Benediction to plan our next move—will we go out to breakfast or lunch, stop at the store on the way home, or work on that project when we get home?

Let’s face it, there are a lot of things that can and do distract us from hearing and receiving God’s final Word of blessing.  And there is no one happier about that than the devil himself.  He absolutely does not want God to bless us.  He does not want God’s name to be put on us in any way, shape, or form.  The devil uses the weakness of our human flesh to tempt us to lose our focus on the things of God as His Divine Service concludes with His final Word of blessing.  Perhaps the temptation sounds something like this, “Look, you’ve been a good boy or girl.  You got up out of your nice warm bed.  You got the kids ready.  You loaded the family in the car and you made it to church.  You sat through the service, you listened to what you were supposed to listen to, and you said what you were supposed to say.  You did your little church ritual and now it’s almost over.  Tune out; you’ve put in your time.”

The devil wants to make worship a drudgery.  He wants to make worship something that’s all about what you do and how well you do it.  “If you put in the time, you’ll be fine,” is the devil’s motto.  Just show up and put yourself in the pew and you are good to go.  Why fuss with the liturgy and the hymns and listening to a preacher?  Sit in the pew and zone out or plan your day or whatever—even sleep, that’s what the sermon’s for anyway.  The devil does not want us to receive God’s blessing because the devil knows that, from start to finish, what happens here on a Sunday morning is all about God blessing His people!

The Invocation—In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit—reminds us that God first put His name on each of us at our Baptism.  We gather in God’s name in order to hear from Him in His Word and to receive what He desires to give us when we come together in His name.  Then God gives us the first blessing of the day—the forgiveness of sins won for us by Jesus on the cross.  Again, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit the pastor speaks the words of God’s forgiveness as if God Himself were speaking.  So we truly receive the gift, the blessing, of the forgiveness of sins!  (Do you think the devil wants you to pay attention and hear those words and receive that blessing?)

In the Service of the Word God speaks to us again the Holy Spirit inspired words of Scripture.  Through His read and preached Word, God blesses His people with His Word of Law that shows us our sins and our need for a Savior.  And He also blesses us with His Word of Gospel that gives us our Savior Jesus and His forgiveness of sins and eternal life!  (More blessings that the devil doesn’t want us to have!)

In the Service of the Sacrament our Savior Himself comes to be truly present among us with His Body and Blood.  The God who put His name on us in Baptism and gave us faith in Christ and the forgiveness of sins through the washing of water, the God who comes and speaks His word of forgiveness to us in Absolution, the God who speaks His Word of Good News of the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting in His Son Jesus, is the God who comes to us personally in the Sacrament of Holy Communion.  Jesus comes to us with His Body and Blood in, with, and under the bread and the wine.  He comes to bless us with the forgiveness of sins, life, salvation, and the strengthening of our Christian faith and trust in Him as our Lord and Savior.  (All blessings that the devil hates for us to receive!)

Finally, God has one more gift for us before we leave His house, His blessing for the week ahead.

The Lord bless you and keep you.

The blessing comes from God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit Himself.  He will keep watch over you as a Good Shepherd watches over and cares for His flock.  God will defend His Church and preserve it.  In a world ruined by sin, the Lord keeps us from harm and helps you and me to endure the troubles that come into our life.  He keeps us faithful to Him and when we die He will take us from this sorrowful world to Himself in heaven safe and sound.

The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.

The face of God is God Himself turned toward us, not in wrath or anger over our sins, but with love, life, and goodness.  God doesn’t look upon us in condemnation because Jesus died on the cross and rose again to save us from our sins and to win our forgiveness.  Therefore, for the sake of Jesus Christ, God is gracious to us.  Without charge He gives to us the forgiveness Jesus won for us.  He gives to us everlasting life without pay.  Freely He puts His name on us in Baptism and forgives our sins and makes us His children.  Freely God gives us to eat and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus for forgiveness, life, and salvation.  It is by grace you are saved through faith.  This is the grace of God’s blessing .

The Lord look upon you with favor and give you peace. 

God looks at us with mercy and grace and favors us with His salvation in Jesus Christ.  The end result is peace, the sum of all the good which God sets and prepares for His people.  We are not God’s enemies.  We are His forgiven and beloved children.  We bear His name and He blesses us with forgiveness and life because of His great love for us in Jesus.

In the Divine Service, God is blessing us.  From Invocation to Benediction, God is gifting us His good things, none of which the devil wants us to receive.  But God has overcome Satan with the victory of His Son Jesus Christ.  He has placed His name on us and blessed us with His Holy Spirit.  He enables us to stay focused from beginning to blessing and receive all that the Lord has in store for us as we gather around His Word and Sacrament.

In this new year of our Lord 2012, resolve to focus on His blessing each week and receive it with thanks and praise.  Be filled with the Lord’s blessings of forgiveness, life, and salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.  So shall the Lord continually put His name upon you and bless you!  Amen.

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