YOUR BLESSING FOR HARD TIMES
WE are all fortunate to be here this morning. Generally people who come to church come for the right reason. There is no societal expectation as there was at an earlier time in our history. Today if people are here, it is to receive the blessing God’s Word imparts; not just the benediction as we leave, but the Word of God, which from start to finish, constitutes our gathering together. But even if some still come for the wrong reason we are all fortunate to be here because we all need God’s blessing. And wherever the Gospel is preached in its truth and purity, and the sacraments administered in accordance with Christ’s command, God’s blessings for us in Christ abound.
Now it is a fact that we all need what this benediction gives, and it is the apex of arrogance to think that we can cruise through life and conquer every enemy by our own devices. It is a fallacy to think that all power and ability resides within us, that life will be pleasant for as far as the eye can see, and that death is so distant a specter that we need not even think about it, but that’s the way many think today. People – in a giant step back towards the pagan darkness that enveloped this land before the Gospel came – consider that the earth and the environment are the font of every blessing. They look, too, to the endless array of goods and services that the economy produces and rejoice to find a solution to every problem, a joy for every sorrow, a pill to still every ill; and if all else fails people – again taking a giant step backwards, and with complete disregard for history – trust that the government is the problem-solver of last resort.
God’s Old Testament people needed His blessing to get them through a very bad time. Two years before the Lord instituted this blessing, God’s people had escaped the slavery of Egypt. They shuttered at the magnitude of God’s wrath as he visited the 10 plagues on Egypt. They trembled as the angel of death went house to house, field to field, barn to barn, killing the first born son of every man and animal in Egypt, and the howls of despair that spread across the land would not soon leave their ears. Though they were protected by the blood of the Lamb painted on their door, which was a prophecy of the blood of Christ shed on the cross and painted on us in baptism, such wholesale death and despair affected them deeply. They would not soon forget the goodness nor the severity of God; neither should we. (Rom. 11:33)
No sooner had they left the relative security of Egypt than they found themselves in the Arabian wilderness, a place so hostile to life that only the wildest and fiercest of animals dwelled there. There the Lord formally took a census of the people and organized them into military divisions. There He had them build a portable church called the Tent of Meeting, one so theologically elaborate that it would put many modern sanctuaries to shame. He also assigned divisions of labor to each part of the Levites, the priestly family. He gave them laws to follow, set up a judicial system and expected them to live there for the next 38 years trusting that He would provide them with all they needed to thrive in this inhospitable wilderness. We could safely say that God’s people needed every scintilla of grace that God
was willing to give them, and so do we!
While our situation may not be as desperate as those of the church in the wilderness, they are bad enough, and if you are paying attention you know that hard times are coming to the whole world, and to America as well. No longer will this once favored land be exempt from the hopelessness that plagues much of the planet. Poverty, despair and desperation have been growing for a long time on our shores, and now are ripe for the picking. Life will become infinitely more complicated for us all. How all that plays out we shall see. Your pastor has no crystal ball.
But there is one thing that any pastor can promise, namely, that the trials sponsored by the devil, the world and flesh will become more and more difficult to withstand. While a disciplined person can get a world class education for the cost of an internet connection; or a motivated person can use modern technology to carve out a handsome living; a person can also become depraved with internet pornography so that he is a danger to everyone around him, like the crazed demoniac in Mark chapter five, who lived in cemeteries, and who though he was alive, was dead, until Jesus blessed him! Until Jesus restored him to his right mind!
We fall prey to many sins besides. We judge ourselves superior to others; we are busybodies always ready to help others pull the speck from our brother’s eye, while ignoring the beam that is lodged in our own. And even when we come to our senses, confess our sins, receive absolution and resolve to put our hope in God, the wait for His mercy seems too long; and it feels as if nothing that God promises can be compared to the sufferings of this present time, but O, how wrong we are because St. Paul says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us." Jesus is that glory. He is the Word of God made flesh, who blesses us with every spiritual blessing. He is the one who was crucified for our sins, and raised again for our justification. He is the one who blesses the sons of Adam and the sons of Aaron with victory over death and the devil. He is the one who “keeps” us, that is to say protects and defends us against all danger to body and soul.
In Christ we see the face of God smiling upon us, a countenance that like “the light of the sun is sweet and pleasant for the eyes to behold” (Eccles. 11:7); a smiling face, full of grace that in spite of our many sins and failures, still loves us and sends the rays of His mercy into our hearts to cleanse them, calm them and to soothe them with the sure promise of His goodness and mercy.
Yes, Jesus is the Word of God made flesh, the Word that blesses us, the Word that lifts up His countenance upon us and gives us peace, which is the sum of all good which God sets and prepares and establishes for His people, not just for the hour we spend together here in His House, communing with Him in flesh and blood, but by means of this benediction, all the good we experience here goes with us and accompanies us at all times and in all places. Christ is your brother, you are safe. Amen.
Rev. Dean Kavouras