Samuel G. Beltz

August 18, 2011

Sermon:  Isaiah 51, Romans 11-12, Matthew 16

                Do you remember Abraham and Sara?  Do you remember their story?  God promised them that they would be the father and mother of a great nation that could not be counted.  Out of two very old people who thought that they were done a ready to die God made the nation of Israel.

            Isaiah is telling Israel their story again.  God is about to destroy Israel because of their unfaithfulness, but there is a remnant.  Within Israel there are still people who fear, love, and trust in God.  God is speaking through Isaiah to tell those people to remember.  “Remember what I did even through Abraham and Sara.  Remember that Rock that you were hewn out of.”

            Do you remember Peter?  He confesses Jesus to be the Christ but then betrays Jesus.  Did you hear what Jesus tells him?  Jesus says to him, you are Peter and upon this Rock I will build my church. 

            I am not too sure if Jesus is hear speaking of Peter as the Rock, or if Jesus is calling himself the Rock, or if it is the words of Peter which are the Rock, because Jesus does tell Peter that what he has confessed is of the Father and not men.  I think it is helpful if we think of all three.  Upon Jesus, Peter, and Peter’s godly confession the Church will be built.

            Remember the Rock upon which you are built—Jesus Christ.  He came as a little child.  Isaiah tells us that there was nothing about him that was attractive.  In-fact, he was despised and considered cursed.  And yet even through him God worked amazingly. 

            Remember the Rock upon which you are built—Peter.  I do not think we remember the lives and faith of the saints as we ought.  Remember Peter and all the apostles.  They were fishermen and tax collectors.  They were men of low esteem and no great talent, wisdom, or promise.  But through them, and even through Peter, God worked to build his church.

            Remember the Rock upon which you are built—the Confession of Peter.  How insignificant this confession seems.  It did not really seem to do any great work for Peter and the Apostles back then, and sometimes today it seems rather unimpressive.  Do you remember this parable from Matthew 13?

 

“He put another parable before them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field.  It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’”

Yes, there are many times when the Kingdom of Heaven seems frail and weak and the King seems unfaithful to his promises.  This is perhaps the greatest point of tension we are currently experiencing here at St. John.  Perhaps many of you feel like the gates of hell are overcoming you.  I have heard many of you, and seen your thoughts in motion.  You are concerned for the life of this congregation.  You are worried about its size, you are worried about what this place looks like, you are worried it will not be financially solvent and that it will go bankrupt, you are worried it will die because there are no youth, you are worried that the identity of this congregation will remain a mystery to the larger community.  I think many of these fears and worries are legitimate because they might actually happen.  Because of their reality we fear that God has somehow forgotten us, that he has abandoned us, that we are left alone to defend ourselves from the world and death.  We are left in the very same place the author of Psalm 77 was when he wrote:

 3 I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
   I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.[b]
4 You kept my eyes from closing;
   I was too troubled to speak.
5 I thought about the former days,
   the years of long ago;
6 I remembered my songs in the night.
   My heart meditated and my spirit asked:

 7 “Will the Lord reject forever?
   Will he never show his favor again?
8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
   Has his promise failed for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?
   Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

Your fears are legitimate.  This congregation might never be as large as it once was.  We might never have a large youth program, we might never have a beautiful building, we might be financially secure or we might go bankrupt.  We might never have any identity in Oskaloosa.  All you fears are legitimate to be sure and they all just might happen (Pause), but remember Abraham and Sara. 

God promised them parenthood, and gave them Isaac.  Out of Isaac came Jacob and from Jacob came all the tribes of Israel.  Remember Israel, God sent them into captivity but promised to bring them out.  So he went into Egypt, Babylon, and Assyria and brought his people home.  He then sent his Son to make all things righteous, and when all Israel rejected him and nailed him to a cross, even as Jesus lie dead in a tomb, God was faithful to his promise and raised Jesus from the dead.  All authority in heaven and on Earth is His, and he handed the keys of His Kingdom to Peter and the Apostles.

Dear people today we hear again, even despite your fears that somehow God has abandoned you and left you alone to figure out how to survive, He is here.  He is here molding you into the body of Christ.  He has not abandoned you or left you.  He is here so I am here.  And I, by virtue of my office, as a called and ordained Servant of the Word, announce the Grace of God unto all of you!  However, if that is not enough for you…

(Face the altar with waiting Bread and Wine)

            When I consider this, I can barely speak.

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