For those who couldn’t make it to church, here is the text of the sermon, and audio of the service. Hopefully, while you are forced to fast from the Lord’s Supper, you will be strengthened with every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
Where is God in all this? Many people could die; the economy might crash. The last couple of weeks call to mind Advent where we heard “On the earth distress of nations in perplexity… people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world.” Back in December those words were a warning for ancient people who were easily frightened because they didn’t know all the sciencey things we know now. We’ve been to the moon. We can predict the weather, look down from satellites. Check the road conditions – in Cheyenne, or Kazakhstan. We are all knowing, and all powerful. With the push of a button, we can blow it all up. Even the ancient gods were not given the powers that modern man has designed for himself.
And now, weeks later, we are isolated in our homes, afraid to even go to the market for food. We must risk our lives for a loaf of bread and jug of milk. How the mighty have fallen. More quaint words from a recent Gospel reading: “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil.” Our armor in which we trusted has been taken away. We sit helpless in our homes, praying for deliverance.
Where is God in all of this? We pray deliver us from evil. Can he deliver us? Will he deliver us?
It’s sometimes said that if you’re wondering where God is, it isn’t God that moved. That fits the story of Adam and Eve – God was walking in the garden in the cool of the day; Adam and Eve hid themselves. It wasn’t God who was hiding. Today in the Gospel reading God does hide himself from them. He hid himself and went out of the temple. A word of judgment against their unbelief and hardness of heart.
Where is God in all of this? Are we hiding from him? Or is he hiding himself from us?
Scripture says “with food and clothing we will be content.” We want so much more – except now, we’ll settle for daily bread and milk. The Lord has taken away the false god of wealth. It is powerless to feed us. We must rely on him each day. We have had our entertainments cancelled – sports is gone, movies, theatre, gone. Our false gods of the amusements, whether in the coliseum or the theatre – are taken away. A couple weeks ago, we had false gods aplenty. Now they have all fallen. Not one by one, but as a group. They have been cast down from their altars in a matter of only a couple of weeks.
Even the daily bread which our Lord gives is threatened. Family, which God created and blessed in the beginning is endangered. Church was something we can always do later. Now it is held in place by the thinnest of threads. All that is left for us is to go into our room, and pray that God will deliver us from evil. That He would withdraw his hand of judgment even now, and once again show us grace and mercy which we do not deserve.
We live in a world of “Did God really say? Maybe we can change scripture to suit our own needs in these technologically advanced days. We can change so many other things about nature – we can travel at insane speeds, we can extend the lifespan, we can build a better ark to survive the flood waters that are coming, we can even change the creation of man and woman to suit our fancy. We have built a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and we have made a name for ourselves. God has shown us how fragile it all is.
The Psalmist says “Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place—no plague come near your tent.” Quaint a few weeks ago, another relic of times past. Now we cry, “Lord give us this!”
The voice of Ash Wednesday calls out:
“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. Who knows whether he will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him, a grain offering and a drink offering for the LORD your God?
The people picked up stones to stone Jesus. Jesus does not leave because he is afraid to die. Jesus knows where it all leads – the agony and bloody death. He will die at their hands. But his hour had not yet come. Talk about the hiddenness of God’s glory. Jesus says the cross is the hour of glory. No one – no one – looked at Jesus on the cross and said “This is God accomplishing salvation as he has promised.” Not the women who stood weeping. Not the disciples hiding in fear and shame. Not the leaders who mocked, or Pilate who condemned him. There was one. The thief next to him. He alone was given to see redemption in the moment of Jesus death. No one was listening to him. If we want to talk about God hiding himself, we must talk about God hiding himself in mercy. Today Jesus promises, “those who keep My words will never see death.” What word are we to keep so that we can avoid death? The promise given in the Holy Supper – This is my body. This is my blood. Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. We must never doubt those words. We must never think we can do without them. In the Sacrament, the forgiveness won by Jesus is given to you so that you would not see death. It is the cure for all things that lead to death. And it will not fail. God hides his salvation in such simple things – things which the world even now says – do without. It doesn’t matter. Find your salvation in a bottle of hand sanitizer, not in the cup of your mystic supper. But we have been given to see the truth. Hand sanitizer, medications, technological marvels – they are powerless to save us. Death will still win over them in the end.
This is where death is undone. The body and blood of God, given and shed for you so that you would have life in place of death. This is why the church faces death without fear. Let the world panic over this world and its fading glories. As we heard in Advent – the panic means our redemption draws near. Jesus is about to return. As we sing in the great Reformation hymn, “Take they our life. Goods fame child and wife. Let these all be gone. They yet have nothing won. The kingdom ours remaineth.”
And that kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. The kingdom of our God, and of His Christ. And he shall reign forever and ever.
May God grant us repentant hearts, as we approach again the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. May He not hide Himself from us, or cast us out, but constantly renew us in Him, as He has promised in the words which institute His Holy Supper. May he deliver us from all evil, and may he grant unto our nation – and to all nations of the world repentance unto life.
In the name of our hidden Savior, Jesus Christ, who has been revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.