Sunday, November 18, 2007

“A Blaze for the Stubble, the Sun of Righteousness for the Redeemed

SERMON for the 25th Sunday after PENTECOST: November 18, 2007

A blaze is a consuming fire -- just ask anyone who was in So Cal 4 weeks

ago when a series of wildfires consumed 780 square miles, killed 10, injured more than 100 firefighters, destroyed more than 2000 homes and displaced upwards of 1 million people – including no few of the very rich including star athletes and entertainers.

A blaze is a consuming fire -- just ask another rich man, the one from our Gospel lesson some 3 weeks earlier than the fires, who asked Lazarus for but a drop of water to relieve his torment.

A blaze is a consuming fire -- just ask the prophet of our Lord, Malachi:
"For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings." Malachi 4:1-2a

A blaze, though it be a consuming fire to the stubble of this sinful world and those who do not believe in Christ and abide in His Word, it cannot touch those who are kept with the Son of God, or separate them from Him:
[Because they would not worship nor even recognize his god] Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath, and his facial expression was altered toward Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. He answered by giving orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. And he commanded certain valiant warriors who {were} in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, in order to cast {them} into the furnace of blazing fire. Then these men were tied up in their trousers, their coats, their caps and their {other} clothes, and were cast into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire. For this reason, because the king's command {was} urgent and the furnace had been made extremely hot, the flame of the fire slew those men who carried up Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. But these three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, fell into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire {still} tied up.
Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he responded and said to his high officials, "Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?"
They answered and said to the king, "Certainly, O king."
He answered and said, "Look! I see four men loosed {and} walking
{about} in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of {the} gods!"
Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, "Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!" Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire.
And the satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king's high officials gathered around {and} saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire {even} come upon them. Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king's command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore, I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way." (Daniel 3:19-29, NAS)

Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, we should have nothing to do with those who worship other gods, no matter what peer pressure or political correctness is brought to bear upon us. No matter how much we love our neighbors, countrymen, and even our own families – it is better to be hated by them than to worship and pray with them and pretend as if invoking the precious name of Jesus alongside their Christless worship and prayers cold possibly unite the Son of God with those who despise Him and His baptism and separate themselves from His salvation and church.

Like He did with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, our Lord sends His angel to deliver you -- His chosen people who abide in His Word alone -- from the blaze that would destroy you: the blaze of the devil’s jealousy, the blaze of the world’s lust, the blaze of your own passion, the blaze of the end times.

Like He did with the three men in the blazing inferno of the furnace, our Lord keeps you with His Son in the midst of the fire without harm. As we confess in the Third Article of the Creed: "the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way he calls gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.

Dear people of God, fear not the blaze of earthly flames, nor the blazing jealousy and anger of the evil one. May the Lord give you peace even as we see the end times fast approaching, for "... when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." Luke 21:28

So we pray, "Come Lord Jesus," "Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven," and "deliver us from evil."

And to those who ask it is given, to those who seek His kingdom and His righteousness, the blazing flames of hell cannot prevail.

A blaze is for the unbelieving stubble of this world, but for you that blaze is the sun of righteousness risen with healing in his wings. So rejoice dear people of God, because your redemption draws near – here and now in the waters of baptism, the preaching of His Word and, the Holy Supper of the very body and blood of the Son of God-- to forgive you all of your sins, to shelter you from the blaze to come, and to give you eternal life – in the name of the Father and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

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