Cruce Tectum

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

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lenten Midweek II


Lenten Midweek 2: This Is the Night the LORD Has Made[1]
February 27, 2013

Text: Amos 5:18 (ESV): “Woe to the ones who are longing for the day of the LORD!  What good is the day of the LORD for you?  It will be a day of darkness and not light.”

            The Nation of Israel believed that the Day of the LORD would be a Day of divine judgment and recompense against other nations, but not them.  They believed that the Day of the LORD would result in their triumph, their prosperity, their deliverance from all enemies.  So they longed for the Day of the LORD so that the other nations would get what’s coming to them, and Israel would be rewarded for their faithfulness. 
            Except that Israel had not been faithful.  They had received so much from the hand of the LORD.  To Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob the promises had been made, the promises of a great nation, a land flowing with milk and honey, and THE Promise that by the Seed of Abraham all the nations on earth would be blessed, for that Seed would be the Savior of the world.  So God preserved for Himself a nation.  He brought the children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt, through the Red Sea on dry ground, preserved them in the wilderness, gave them the Ten Commandments and the Torah through Moses, brought them into the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua, defeated their enemies before them, established the Kingdom.  On and on the list of blessings goes.  But it lulled the nation into a false sense of security.  They came to place their faith in their status as a favored nation rather than the Almighty God who pours out His grace freely, as an undeserved gift.  So the nation turned to other gods.  Never to the exclusion of YHWH, but in addition to YHWH.  More is better, right?  The nation began to neglect the poor, the widow, the orphan, the stranger among them, the very people they had been commanded to care for (Ex. 22:21-24).  Those who had been blessed materially neglected to do with their wealth what God had given it to them to do with, to care for their neighbor in need.  They had neglected justice.  They turned a deaf ear to the plight of those in distress.  And in all of this, they did not recognize their sin.  They did not repent, return to the LORD, or confess, but brashly went about business as usual believing the LORD to be on their side, waiting only for the final judgment of their enemies on that great and dreadful Day.  So the LORD issues a dire warning to the people through His Prophet, Amos.  Woe!  Woe to you who long for the Day of the LORD, who triumphantly sing, “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24).  This Day will not be good for you.  It will be a Day of darkness, and not light; it will be a Day of judgment, and not deliverance.  Repent.  And, of course, the LORD made good on His threat.  They Day turned to darkness as the nation of Assyria conquered Israel in 722 BC.
            It’s easy for us to stand in judgment against Israel of old.  How could they take the LORD’s salvation for granted?  How could they not recognize their guilt?  But what is true of Israel is also true of us.  It is true of us as a nation, this nation that we love, the United States of America.  God has poured out every blessing upon this nation.  We are the wealthiest nation in the world.  But we neglect the widow, the orphan, the stranger among us, the unborn child and the terminally ill.  We adulterate our worship, mixing the worship of the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with the worship of other gods for the sake of pluralism and being politically correct.  And this is true of us individually.  God has so richly blessed each one of us, not only materially, but spiritually, redeeming us by the blood of His Son Jesus, baptizing us into Christ, nourishing us with His Word and Supper.  God shines His saving light upon us.  But “We love the darkness of self-centered narcissism.  We live in the darkness of lies and half-truths, and we have an ongoing lust for more of the darkness that feeds our flesh.  The Prince of Darkness mocks our feeble discipleship, our failed relationships, and our fatal attractions” (Lessing).  What is the answer to all of this?
            The answer is not to try harder to walk in the light and resist the pull of the darkness.  The answer is not to try to appease God with burnt offerings or more money in the plate.  The answer does not lie within you.  There is only darkness there, within the recesses of your heart.  The answer, the only thing that will change anything, is Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, coming into the darkness and suffering it.  The answer is Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, taking on flesh and becoming one with us in our darkness, suffering at the hands of darkened sinners, you and me and all people, for darkened sinners, you and me and all people.  Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, “also knows the night of the Lord.  For three hours He hung on the cross in darkness, bled in the darkness, cried in the darkness, and thirsted in the darkness” (Lessing).  He did all this for widows and orphans and strangers, to reconcile them to the one true God.  He did all this for you.  He suffered the night that the LORD has made, the judgment against your sin, so that you could walk in the Day that the LORD has made, rejoice, and be glad in it… so that you could walk in the Light of the world, the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ.
            You see, the judgment stands against you just as it stood against Israel.  Except that the Lord Himself, Jesus Christ, takes that judgment upon Himself.  It’s not a matter of excusing you.  It’s matter of redeeming you.  And now you can look forward to the Day of the LORD, the Last Day, when our Lord returns, for “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).  The light that is Jesus Christ dispels all darkness, the darkness of sin, the darkness of death, the darkness of hell and the devil.  So now, in Christ, you are light in the Lord.  And you confidently pray: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.    


[1] The theme and many of the thoughts in this sermon are taken from R. Reed Lessing, Restore the Roar! (St. Louis: Concordia, 2012).

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