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Sermon for September 16, 2018, Series on the Apostles’ Creed

The Apostles’ Creed: A Sermon Series (Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost)

First Article: “Our Preserver”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

September 16, 2018

 

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

          We continue this morning with the First Article of the Creed as our text: “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” Last week, our focus was on God the Father as our Creator and we as His creatures. He has given us all that we have and see before our eyes. What’s more, God is our Father in heaven who, through the gift of His Son, Jesus, has restored us to a right relationship to Himself and to other people. We are new creations in Christ who are able to love God and our neighbors as our Father first loved us in Jesus.

          Now, does this mean that God is simply resting in the distant heavens, unconcerned about His creation? Certainly not! “He daily preserves and defends us against all evil and misfortune.”[1] As we read in Psalm 5:11, “But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you” (Ps. 5:11 ESV). God our heavenly Father is constantly and actively present with all things He has made. He keeps and sustains, directs and governs them, for “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28a ESV). Truly, God “directs all sorts of danger and disaster away from us. We confess that He does all this out of pure love and goodness, without our merit, as a kind Father. He cares for us so that no evil falls upon us.”[2]

The Biblical teaching that the Triune God continuously sustains all things He has made is called “Preservation.” We see this throughout His Holy Word. God controls the laws of nature. “We have seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, because God so wills it (Gen. 8:22). He makes the sun to rise on the evil and the just (Matt. 5:45) and gives rain from heaven and fruitful seasons (Acts 14:17).”[3] The Lord governs the nations of the world as can be seen from the history of Israel, Assyria, Babylon, and so on. He orders the lives of individuals as we know from the accounts of Abraham, Moses, David, and others.

And, what so many find hard to comprehend because it is, God also controls the evil in the world. At times, God allows evil to happen and permits people to walk in their own wicked ways. In Psalm 81, God says, “I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels” (Ps. 81:12 ESV). Paul echoes this in Romans 1:24, “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves” (Rom. 1:24 ESV). At other times, however, God breaks up evil counsel and the wicked intentions of people. He hinders and frustrates their wicked purpose. All this He does according to His good and gracious will, a will that is very much beyond our understanding, and yet, it is nevertheless true that He defends us against all

danger and guards and protects us from all evil (Small Catechism).

          Take a look at the words of Psalm 31 that make up the Introit for this Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost. “But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors! Make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love!” (Ps. 31:14-16 ESV). That is the voice of faith and trust in the God who is the Creator and Preserver. The Psalmist doesn’t say he understands why things are the way they are, but confesses, “I trust you, Lord. You are my God. You are my Creator. I am your creature and I know you love and care for me no matter what because you are my heavenly Father.”  Can you and I have that same trust in the very same God and Father?

          Our Creator and Preserver God provides everything that we need for this body and life: food and drink to give us energy, health, and joy; clothing and shoes for protection and modesty; house and home for shelter, security, and hospitality; family and friends to help us bear one another’s burdens; work and livelihood, too. God uses His entire creation in caring for us. That includes His holy angels, parents, government, land, weather, and animals.[4] “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28 ESV). But things happen in this life. People lose their jobs. Houses and possessions are lost in storms, earthquakes, landslides, floods, and fires. Disease strikes us and those we love. There is violence all around us. Can will still rely on God the Father to take care of us with all this evil and suffering and misfortune?         Along with the Psalmist, we really can, because God the Father Almighty is our Creator and Preserver.

          Our Synod’s brand-new update of the Small Catechism with Explanation really speaks the Biblical truth so well on this very point.

                        Our first parents (prompted by the devil) brought evil and suffering into the world by rebelling against God. Sinful activity continues to cause tremendous suffering throughout the world. . . . God punished human rebellion by cursing the earth: even though the earth sustains life, God’s judgment is also evident (storms, pests, earthquakes, diseases, and so forth). . . . Therefore, we need to repent of our sin, trust God’s promise of forgiveness in Christ, care for those who suffer, and pray for God’s restoration of all things when Christ comes again.

Why do some of us experience more suffering and misfortune than others? In some cases, we bring the suffering upon ourselves as a consequence of our sins. . . . In many cases, we do not know why God allows some to suffer more than others. Those reasons remain hidden to God, whose purposes are often beyond our understanding, just as those who saw Jesus suffer were not at the time aware of God’s great and loving purpose behind the cross.[5]

          The Old Testament lesson today from Isaiah 50 points us to the Christ and His cross. In this Third Servant Song, the Servant of Yahweh laments the suffering and pain inflicted against Him. The Servant of Yahweh listens to God’s Word and obeys it perfectly. He doesn’t rebel against the Father in sin, and yet He is afflicted and suffers violence and rejection. “The Lord [Yahweh] has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward. I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.” In spite of it all, the Suffering Servant of the Lord is confident of Yahweh’s help and closeness. “But the Lord [Yahweh] helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame” (Isa. 50:4-7 ESV).

          When you and I have those moments when we are unable to see God’s fatherly preservation in our lives because we are blinded by sin and its consequences, the hurt, the fear, the pain, and the evil, we look to the Suffering Servant Himself, the very Son of God, Jesus Christ. For you, for me, and for all people, Jesus set His face like flint to go to Jerusalem to accomplish God’s will for reconciling all sinners to the Father and for preserving our lives with forgiveness and life eternal. For Jesus, the Son of God, the Son of Man, what He endured was “tougher than nails. Because in addition to the nails, there was scourging, mocking, spitting, beating, slapping, sweating, and bleeding. . . . his disciple’s kiss of betrayal, his friends running for cover, his countrymen clamoring for his death, and even the temporary abandonment by his Father while he hung on the cross.”[6]

          “Look. The sky is dark. Two criminals, one on his right and one on his left, are slowly dying. There he is, in the middle, taking a deep breath and speaking his last word. John records it:. . . ‘it is finished’ (Jn 19:30). The veil is rent. The blood is poured. The curse is removed. The sacrifice is complete. Death is defeated. And paradise is restored. . . . For us, it means a Father’s welcome, a Shepherd’s embrace, and a Friend’s infinite love. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ prove that though it was tougher than nails, he finished—for us.”[7]

          In Jesus, you can be sure that you have God’s “fatherly heart and His surpassing love toward” you. “For God does not allow evil to have the final word. He daily brings forth new life in the midst of and in spite of all the sin and death in the world.”[8] For Jesus has the last word, “It is finished.” He took all of our sufferings into Himself and, by His death, overcame our suffering and death. In His resurrection, Jesus gives eternal life to all who trust in Him, even to those who are suffering.

          Be confident, then, that God your Father is working out all things for His gracious purposes and for the well-being of His Church, even though we can’t always see it. Trust in the promises of the Gospel Word—forgiveness of sins and eternal life are yours. Not anything in all of this fallen creation will be able to separate you from the Lord of God your Father that is yours in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:39). In the face of sin and suffering, death and pain, hurt and uncertainty, you can be sure of God’s fatherly, divine goodness and mercy to you in Jesus. Rooted in God’s Word, the Gospel of our Savior sustains and preserves you day by day through the power of God the Holy Spirit. For you have been entrusted into the nail-pierced hands of Jesus, the Father’s Servant-Son. He is the ultimate proof of the Father’s continual love and care for you. Amen.

[1] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 400.

[2] Ibid., 400.

[3] Edward W.A. Koehler, A Summary of Christian Doctrine (St. Louis: Concordia, 1952), 43.

[4] Martin Luther, Small Catechism with Explanation (St. Louis: Concordia, 2017), 148-149.

[5] Ibid., 150-151.

[6] R. Reed Lessing, Isaiah 40-50 (St. Louis: Concordia, 2011), 524.

[7] Ibid., 524.

[8] Martin Luther, Small Catechism with Explanation (St. Louis: Concordia, 2017), 152.


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