I preached at out Circuit Winkel yesterday; here is the sermon.
Read Exodus 19:1-9
The month of May brings the promise of a quieter schedule waiting just around the corner. No more confirmation classes to teach; no more programs to attend; Bible studies slow down for a while, and there are far fewer meetings.
How do you plan to spend this new found free time?
I have contemplated this for a while now myself; and have come up with quite the impressive list of summer projects if I do say so myself: I will read Harrison’s translation of Church and Ministry; I will finish writing the Bible study that I have come up with; I will work on and see if there is potential for another study I have in mind; and at home I will work on a collection that I have not paid much attention to since I started seminary.
Quite the ambitious list if I do say so myself; and I am sure you have your own projects planned for the summer, both personal and church related, reflecting your own ideas and dreams; whether it is to read a book, write a paper, plant a garden, or just plain get a head start before activities pick up again in the Fall.
But when we gather in September for Winkel, and try to impress both each other and the new pastor at Westfall with our many summer accomplishments, how many of those that were just mentioned will be on the list?
Yes, the months of June, July and August are full of potential for what might happen; but when September rolls around, and everything begins again, what are the odds that at least one of those projects is not yet done? Perhaps with no noticeable change from where it stands today?
It would be great to read Church and Ministry, but the reality is that it took me a long time to read the new translation of Law and Gospel, so why would I breeze through Church and Ministry?
It would be nice to get that Bible study written, or that other project explored; but sometimes there are baseball games on television that would also be great to watch.
As for that collection that has not been touched in almost ten years; well, would it really hurt it if it went untouched for one more year?
All of a sudden, that once ambitious list of things that I planned to do, is just that, an ambitious list of things planned, but not accomplished.
The promise of things ‘I will do’ is soon replaced by the excuses of ‘well, I was going to, but then something else came up’.
You can almost imagine a similar situation in our reading from Exodus. The words of the Israelites ring loud and clear: ‘All that the Lord has spoken, we will do’.
There are no loopholes there, no parsing the words to mean different things: the Lord is about to give the Ten Commandments in chapter 20, and the promise is given that if the people follow what the Lord has commanded, they will be blessed as God’s treasured possession; and without even hearing what the Commandments are the people boldly promise ‘All that the Lord has spoken, we will do it’.
And yet, we know quite differently. Like those many projects that are planned, but may never be touched, the intentions may be very good, but the follow through is not always so easy.
The Israelites promise to keep the Commandments that the Lord is about to give, but soon discover that the power of temptation is strong to chase after false gods, to pursue sins of the flesh, to desire that which has not been given to them; and those temptations lure them away from those good intentions, into the darkness of looking back and seeing that you never even made an effort to accomplish the good that you had set out to do. The Commandments will barely be warm in the hands of Moses before the people are bowing down to worship the golden calf.
The failure of the people of Israel; our own failure to keep the Law, no matter how good our intentions may be, requires another promise from God. A promise that your salvation is not based on your keeping promises, but that your salvation is based on the Lord keeping His promise of what He will do in sending a Savior.
The Lord sees the failure of His people of all times and places to keep both the Law given at Mt. Sinai, and to keep the laws made since; and so He promises that He will send a Savior on your behalf, and He does.
He promises that this Savior will accomplish and fulfill all those promises that you have broken on your behalf; and He does. He promises that this Savior will do all that which you cannot do on your own; and He does. He promises that this Savior will die and rise in your place, so that you might have a place in heaven; and He does.
Jesus keeps the promise of the Israelites and of all people to remain faithful to God, even unto death. And He does this in your place, so that the keeping of that promise is for your benefit.
He promised that He would rescue you from the enemies of sin, death and the devil; and He has done it. He has promised that He will return and take you to live and reign with Him for eternity, and He will do that as well.
In the meantime, it would be nice to get some of those summer projects completed; the Church on earth may not benefit, but it would certainly be a personal benefit, and maybe even a point of personal pride and accomplishment.
But even if my projects do not get completed, even if your projects do not get completed; know that once and for all that your salvation has been secured for all times by Christ our Savior. And in the end that is what ultimately matters more than anything else: that the salvation which you could not complete on your own, has been completed by Christ your Savior.