Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost


Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (A – Proper 10)

July 10, 2011
Text: Is. 55:10-13; Matt. 13:1-9, 18-23

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12; ESV). The Prophet Isaiah proclaims to us this morning that the Word of the Lord is so powerful and effective that it never returns to God without accomplishing that which He purposes and succeeding in the thing for which He sent it (Is. 55:10-11). It is 100% effective. When God speaks, His Word accomplishes what He says. God speaks: “Let there be light,” and there is light (Gen. 1:3). God speaks the whole creation into existence by His Word. God preserves the whole creation by His Word. By His Word God creates a people for His own possession, the holy Christian Church. By His Word, God brings you into His Church, to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. By His Word, the Lord preserves His people in peace. God speaks His holy Name over you in Baptism, and you are His own child. God speaks His holy Absolution through His called and ordained servant, and all your sins are forgiven. God speaks in Scripture and preaching and liturgy, and you are brought to a deeper knowledge of Him and of His will, your faith is strengthened, and you are enabled to live your Christian life in the world. God speaks, and bread and wine are now the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. When God speaks, His Word accomplishes what He says. The Word of the Lord is performative. He speaks and it is done. Powerful stuff, the Word. Living and active, indeed!

The Word of God is like the rain and the snow that come down from heaven, says the LORD through the Prophet Isaiah. Before the rain and snow return to heaven as vapor, they water the earth, so that it brings forth fruit-bearing plants, “giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater” (Is. 55:10). This is how God provides our daily bread. But of course, “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deut. 8:3; cf. Matt. 4:4). The Word of God is like the rain that brings forth vegetation. The Word rains down in Scripture and preaching and Sacrament and it does not return to the Lord without watering the hearts of the hearers and, wherever the Holy Spirit pleases, bringing forth faith in Jesus Christ, and the fruits of faith, namely, love and good works. Thus preaching is never in vain. Your confession of Christ in your daily life and vocation is never in vain. Likewise, it is never in vain when you come to church or attend Bible class or Sunday School. It is never in vain when you read the Scriptures. You have here God’s sure and certain promise: His Word will always accomplish what He purposes and succeed in the thing for which He sent it.

The Word is living and active, and 100% effective. And of course, it’s all we’ve been given as the Church of Jesus Christ to be the rule and norm of our doctrine and life. The Church lives by the Word of the Lord. Everything else perishes. “‘All flesh is like grass and its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.’ And this word is the good news that was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:24-25). The Word of the Lord abides. It is inspired by God, breathed into the writers, the apostles and prophets, by the Holy Spirit, so that it is absolutely trustworthy, inerrant, God’s pure Word. St. Paul writes, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). Likewise, St. Peter writes that we have “the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:19-21). Thus the Holy Spirit is the divine Author behind all the various authors of the books of the Bible. This is God’s own Word to us. No wonder it is so effective. This is why the Church does not question or deny any part of God’s Word, but simply believes it and confesses it. This is why we rely on the Word of God alone to teach us the way of salvation, namely, Jesus Christ our Savior. And this is why we rely on the Word of God alone, not the whims of society or the scruples of political correctness, to show us what is good and God pleasing, and what is sinful and an abomination before the Lord. This is why the Word alone can grow the Church, and not our clever man-made gimmicks. Gimmicks may bring people through the front door, but gimmicks cannot bring people to faith. The Holy Spirit brings sinners to faith in Christ their Savior through the Word. It’s the only way. And since the Church is nothing less than holy believers in Jesus Christ, the Word alone can grow the Church. The Church lives by the Word, and we sing with King David: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105).

But there is a truth even more glorious about the Word of God. That is, the Word of God is not just words spoken or words on a page, though it is that. Most importantly, the Word of God is God Himself, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Son of God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14). The Word was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. The Word became a Man for us men and for our salvation. The Word through whom all things were created when God spoke, is now flesh and blood, one with His creation. He came down from heaven, and He does not return to the Father empty. He accomplishes the purpose of God, and succeeds in the thing for which the Father sent Him. The Father sends the Son to suffer and die for the sins of the whole world. The Father sends the Son to make atonement for your sins. The Father sends the Son to rescue you from death and hell. The Son accomplishes the purpose of God when He suffers physical torture, hell (which is the forsakenness of God), and death on the cross. For you. In your place. That you may be saved and have eternal life with God. And He was successful in accomplishing your salvation. Therefore God raised Him from the dead, the firstfruits of them that sleep. God raised Him from the dead and exalted Him to His right hand, to rule all things for His Church. And yet He is not gone. He still comes to us, the Word made flesh, in His Word. And He comes in the flesh, with His true body and blood in the Supper. Wherever there is Baptism and Absolution and Scripture and Preaching and the Lord’s Supper going on, there is Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, accomplishing the will of His Father, applying to you the benefits of His cross and death and forgiving all your sins. He is the Gardener, driving away the evil one who seeks to pluck the seed of God’s Word from you, removing the stones and weeding out the thorns, and tilling the soil of your heart to make it into good soil where the Word can take deep root and grow and sprout into saving faith, fruitful with love and every good work.

Indeed, the Word made flesh undoes the very curse of Eden. Remember the curse? In the sin of Adam and Eve, all creation was subjected to futility and now groans as in the pains of childbirth, awaiting the new creation (Rom. 8:20-22). Man has to work the earth by the sweat of his brow for his daily bread, struggling with thorns and thistles until he returns to dust in death (Gen. 3:18-19). But look at what happens in our text when the Word comes down from heaven (Is. 55:12-13). You shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace. Not toil. Not enmity. Not death. Joy and peace. And creation? It no longer groans. The very mountains break forth into singing and the trees of the field clap their hands in praise of what the Savior has done. And the thorns and the thistles? Gone! Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress. Instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle. By a tree, the serpent once led mankind into sin and death. But by the tree of the cross, the serpent has been defeated, and mankind restored along with all creation. The Word ushers us back into the Garden of Eden! You get a foretaste of it every time you eat and drink the fruits of His cross, beloved. For His cross is the tree of life. And one day, Eden will be revealed in all its glory, even more glorious than before, as creation is fully restored to perfection. And you will walk with God and see Him face-to-face and live. You will live because of His wounds, which you will see with your own eyes. Because the Word of God has accomplished His purpose and succeeded in the thing for which He sent it. The Word of God has redeemed you and restored you as God’s own child. God has spoken, and His Word does what He says. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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