Philippians 2:1-4, 14-18 – Pentecost 16
You may perhaps remember that about a year or two ago, there were a couple of well publicized filibuster attempts in the U.S. Senate. Both of the more infamous attempts lasted several hours, and depending on your point of view, were either a colossal waste of time, or were strategic efforts to get one’s point across, and hopefully affect change.
Neither attempt was particularly successful, outside of the attention it garnered from the national media toward the speakers, which may in fact have been the point all along.
But there is something amusing about the filibuster: it is nothing more than the attempt to fill the air with words. Not all the words have to be connected to the topic directly, just closely enough so that they might achieve the goal of preventing other words from being spoken or heard.
And in our world today, it may often feel like we are being filibustered ourselves; for there is no shortage of words to fill the air.
Words of hatred directed at believers fill the air. These words of hatred come from both those far from us, and from those who are close to us. The Christian faith is one that inspires others to great acts of violence, all in the name of promoting one false god or another.
Words of anger directed at countries and lifestyles are spoken constantly. The life of freedom does not come without its critics, and those critics speak loudly from their own corners of society.
But not all words are spoken through the megaphone of television and the internet. Words fill the air around us, speaking individually into our ears, and wondering what the life of a baptized child of God really means to you, and why should you even care.
And so words of lies are whispered into your ears. Lies about God, lies about you, lies about those around you; whatever the lie may be, it is spoken, all in an effort to turn you away from the one true God, who called you in the waters of Baptism.
Words of lust are spewed at us from all angles. Words and pictures go hand and hand many days, and they are all aimed at drawing you into sinful actions, that Satan can point to in an effort to cause you to doubt the words of forgiveness.
Words of deception and false accusation are heard in all corners of life. They are spoken at a distance, and slowly move forward; words that cause you to question the sincerity and integrity of those you thought were friends and family. These words cause you to question whether or not you can kneel at the rail and receive Christ’s gifts in fellowship as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Do you see what Satan aims to do?
He aims to filibuster your daily life. He aims to fill your life with so many words of lies and deceptions and sins and confusion, that you cannot hear any other words. Satan aims to cause you to look around and have so many words surrounding you that there is nowhere for you to turn and get relief. So many words that fill the air, that it does not matter if a word of truth is spoken or not, because you will not hear it or recognize it compared to all the other words that surround it.
The aim of a filibuster is to prevent any other actions from occurring; and if done properly, shutting down the entire system until the issue at hand is dealt with in a way that the speaker approves of.
Well with the filibuster of Satan, his goal is to get you to curse God. His goal is to cause you to doubt God’s Word, if you can even hear it at all. His goal is to leave you looking around, not being able to distinguish one word from another, and ultimately believing none of them.
A filibuster aims to fill the air with many words, none of them having any meaning at all, yet all accomplishing the goal of preventing other words from being spoken.
Satan works in volume; and in so many ways, volume wins.
And yet, on this Creation Weekend, we look to creation for our hope.
It is perhaps most mind-boggling that in Genesis 1, when God creates the heavens and the earth, there is a shortage of words spoken; certainly far less than one would assume needed to create the vast and expansive universe that we are familiar with.
And yet, the words are simple and clear and concise. Let there be light, and there was light. Let it be so, and it was so. Let it be, and it was.
God speaks a few words, and the whole creation comes into being.
God does not fill the air with long rambling speeches, nor does He record massive monologues about the wonder and splendor of what He creates; He merely speaks a few words, and it is so.
And again at the cross, when Christ hangs dying for the sins of the world, and prepares to claim His victory over Satan, there is again an absence of many words, leaving us instead with one word in Greek and three in English: It is finished.
It should not surprise us then, when we see this today. God does not fill the air with words that go on seemingly forever; He merely speaks a few short and simple words, and these words convey great power and great blessing to those who hear them and believe.
Baptism now saves you.
Your sins are forgiven.
The body of Christ given for you; the blood of Christ shed for you.
Receive the gift of eternal life.
Are these words great and profound? No, the words themselves are simple and ordinary; and yet, these words convey the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. These words drown out all of the other words that so fill the air, and leave them aside. These words that Baptism saves, your sins are forgiven, and the body and blood of Christ for you are spoken again and again and again; and each time they are spoken, they accomplish the same task as before and the same task that they will accomplish next.
They give to you the full assurance that whatever else you may have heard, whatever else the devil may have told you, whatever else you may pick up from the unfiltered air around you; there is one Word that overcomes all the rest; the Word made flesh Jesus Christ, who comes to you in the water, word, bread and wine; the Word made flesh Jesus Christ, who is present at creation, who suffers and dies on the cross, who comes to you today in His gifts; who has prepared a place for you in Paradise.
The Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, silences all the other words around you. The shouts of hatred, the fits of anger, the whispers of lust, the screams of accusations are all muted by the power of the one word, Jesus Christ. For Christ is the one word that conquers and collapses the entire kingdom of sin, death and the devil.
For at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
The Word made flesh silences all the other words around you. The Word made flesh speaks to you a Word of forgiveness, life and salvation. The Word made flesh comes to you in the water, the Word, and in the bread and wine. The Word made flesh announces to you that by virtue of your confession of words that Jesus is Lord, you will receive the promised inheritance of eternal life.
The filibuster of Satan loses. The long stammering speeches in support of sin and the worldly ways they chase after are forgotten. The words that desired to lead you astray are muted.
The Word made flesh in Jesus Christ, who stood at creation and said it was very good; who hung on the cross and declared that it was finished; who now stands eternal and declares that you are His. That is the one word that stands above all the other words, for the word of Jesus is the word that saves.