6th Sunday after Pentecost (Prop 10 – A)
July 12, 2020
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Old Testament text from Isaiah, which was read a few minutes ago.
When I was a kid I swore I would never say to my kids what my parents said to me: “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!” “You better wipe that look off your face!” “Because I said so.” That one made you angry, didn’t it? “Can I… No… Why… Because I said so”. Children think they’re entitled to a reason, but as I learned when I became a parent, you don’t owe your children an explanation and “Because I said so” is a perfectly acceptable answer. It’s not just parents who say, “Because I said so”, God also says it on occasion. When God says it though, it’s not necessarily, a no answer. Sometimes when God says, “Because I said so” it’s a reason to celebrate.
When parents say “Because I said so” they’re talking about their answer. When God says, “Because I said so” He’s talking about what He’s done. Do you see the difference? Let me explain. Isaiah was written to the Jewish exiles in Babylon and it was a depressing time because they were far from home. God though tells them to celebrate because He’s already made plans to bring them home. He already set in motion what He said He was going to do. By saying it, He did it. The exiles could celebrate not just because they would be returning to Judah. They could rejoice because God promised the Savior would be born in Judah; that’s why they were going back, so that God could show them that His Word was true. In uncertain times they could rely on His Word. In uncertain times we too can rely on His Word. What in this life is stable? Very little, right? Our health is fickle. Life can end sooner rather than later. Jobs can be lost. Economies can crash. You can’t trust anything in this world because everything fades away. The only thing we can trust is the Word of the Lord, which endures forever! His Word is faithful and true, the one solid thing in a world of unstable ground and those who are unfaithful to their words.
In the verses right before the Old Testament reading, God says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Now, we often use those verses to try to explain the unexplainable things that God does; that He knows better than we do how things should go. And that’s true, but if we go back a couple of more verses, we get a different perspective. Isaiah says, “Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” Did you catch the change? God has a plan, His thoughts aren’t your thoughts, He ways aren’t your ways when it comes to your salvation! That’s the purpose of His Word!
Our thoughts tell us that we have to earn God’s forgiveness. If I start acting like a better person, maybe God will forgive me. My way is to bear grudges and refuse to forgive, so God must do the same thing. My thoughts tell me I’m scum of the earth, if I think that, God must also. I would be mean to someone if I wanted to punish them, so obviously God’s punishing me with the sufferings in my life. We think these things; maybe not constantly, but at times, right? We let our thoughts and our ways paint a picture of God that’s horribly wrong. God’s thoughts and ways aren’t ours, so He’s nothing like us! He forgives you! He loves you! He’s with you! As Saint Paul said in the Epistle, “You have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” He hears your cry before you say a thing because He says He does. Before the words “forgive me” cross your lips, He already has. And how can you be sure of that? Because He says so!
And nowhere is God’s faithful Word seen more vividly than in Jesus Christ. Saint John writes, “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.” The Word of God, His Son, through whom all things were created, put on human flesh and blood to be the visible Word of God to reveal to all people how God feels towards them. Not anger, not vengeance, not ambivalence. Love! A love that is so deep He became a living, breathing human being for you. The Word so faithful that it suffered and died for you! The all-powerful Word seemed to be powerless on the cross. The Word who promised He was the Son of God and had power over death and the grave appeared to have lied, horribly. Those who mocked him had their suspicions confirmed and those who followed Him, cried in despair. All looked lost, but God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and God’s ways aren’t our ways.
So even in His last words, His Word was faithful and true. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”. Isn’t just a request for forgiveness, it is forgiveness. Their sin of crucifying the Word was forgiven! By dying in unbelief they didn’t receive the benefit of being forgiven, but that doesn’t mean the Word isn’t true. For when Jesus said, “It is finished!” It was finished! The price to be paid for forgiveness was paid. And as the rain and snow water the earth to bring about growth, the Word of God watered the ground with His blood to bring you life! That was His purpose! The Word’s death and resurrection are God’s ultimate purpose for His children. And when Christ comes to us in the waters of Baptism, we receive the gift of faith for eternal life and the effect of his Word in our lives that keeps on going until we take our last breath.
In his book, Isaiah says, “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” The people, and all of creation, would celebrate when their exile was over and the people returned to Judah. Your exile, your slavery to sin, is over. God promised to free you and He did. His Word never lies. His Word can’t lie. Where His Word is, there things happen. What He says, happens. So rejoice! Rejoice for your sins are forgiven! Rejoice you’ve been watered by the blood of the Word! Rejoice that you are God’s purpose!
When God says, “Because I said so” there are no sweeter words. Parents mean, “No!” God means “Yes!” Parents mean “I’m not talking about this anymore.” God means, “I have so much more to say!” And what more does He have to say? You are forgiven, freed, and your exile is over. He said these words and sent the Word to make them come true. In an unstable world, in a time of uncertainty, in a time in which nothing seems true, hold fast to His Word! Hold fast because it is faithful, it is true, it will endure forever, and it’s all these things because God says so.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen