“A Discerning Mind - A Hearing Heart”
1 Kings 3: 4-15, Luke 2: 40, 46-50
Rev. David Brockhouse
*This sermon was in part inspired by a sermon written by Rev. Jason Zirbal, Grace Lutheran Church, Greenwood, Ark. 2016
How many of you have made New Year’s Resolutions? If your track record for keeping resolutions is on average with most people, it might be time to take a different approach. Maybe this is a turning point. It is, after all a new decade. I think that’s what I’ll will do.
This year I resolve to be greedier, meaner, and nastier than ever. I resolve to drink more margaritas, eat more fried foods, watch more TV, give longer sermons (1 to 2 hours), cut down on Bible study and Confirmation classes, save less, spend more, spend less time at the church, devote all my time to taking care of me, and make this the laziest, least productive year ever! If all goes as planned, I’ll be flat-broke and everyone I care about will be long gone.
Finally! Resolutions I can keep! I hope you sense the sarcasm here. I’m not serious about those resolutions. People do, though, make resolutions this time of year with every intention of improving oneself. We resolve to do less of the bad and more of the good. It’s a new year; a clean slate. What better way to start the new year off than with a new and improved you?
That being said, many Christians make resolutions for a new, improved version of the self. Even if it isn’t making the typical resolutions involving diets and exercise, we resolve to read our Bibles more, attend more Bible studies, volunteer more, give more. We resolve to be far more faithful and far less sinful. What’s wrong with that? Nothing. That’s a good start.
I hope you would recognize sin staring back at you in the mirror and you would want to do something about it. I hope you would want to bring about positive, faithful change in your life. That’s part of what true repentance is: turning away from sin less, sin no more. But where is the focus on all these resolutions -the outlandish ones and the good and faithful ones?
Even the good and faithful repentant resolutions focus on the self. “Of course they do, Pastor. They’re my resolutions. I can’t improve others. I can only worry about myself. I can only affect change in me.” You’re right. But what about God? These resolutions, as good as they are, are concerned only with “my will? What about God’s will? How many of you say the Lord’s prayer daily? What is the third petition of the prayer? “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Luther wrote: “The good and gracious will of God is done even without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also.”
What are we saying with that petition? That meaning? Those words: ”But we pray in this petition that it may be done among us also.” (you, me, the congregation) Are we not praying that “it” – God’s Will… may be done…not just my will, or yours, my resolutions or yours, but God’s will - “THY WILL BE DONE” – Where? HERE. How? AMONG “US.” And who is “us” in the church? Think about that. Think about where you are among the “us” in God’s church.
I miss the blue paraments. I will miss the Christmas music that ends today. The Chrismons which so elegantly adorn the Christmas trees, will be taken down and stored for the next 330 days. Christmas gives way to the new year. Nothing, it seems, remains for long in the church.
I pray that one thing will remain not only in view but in practice: the joyfulness, kindness and loving spirit of this church that brings people together from all walks of life; visitors from afar, members from many backgrounds to worship as one body - with Christian love, good-heartedness, and mutual respect – as our Lord modeled and expects US (the body) to imitate.
That’s one picture of the church. A beautiful picture: one worth framing, following, admiring up close and personal. There’s another picture of the church. It presents itself in a much different manner. It’s a picture of a nervous undercurrent, of background noise that, left unchecked, uproots God’s will It’s a paint-by-number picture where many “artists” with brushes may, with good intention, place more emphasis on their view than God’s view. Many Churches strive to uphold the image of the first picture while dismissing or ignoring the realities of the infusion of the second picture into the canvas of the church.
As our church begins its 94th year of ministry, it is my heartfelt desire that we might see clearly with common vision and, with the aid of “hearing hearts” and “discerning minds,” embrace the opportunities and challenges that exist in the walk of faith that binds us as one in Christ. We are the “Us” God addresses with His will that should be “done among us.”
the OT and Gospel lesson for today map out for the many what it means to be one body in Christ. It’s about trust; not in our will, not in what we want or believe is needed in God’s house, but trusting in God above all things. God knows the right way for all things to happen so that they benefit all those who love Him and hold fast to Him in repentant faith and trust.
We live and practice our faith in very divisive, demeaning and discouraging times. And the many that make up the body of Christ in the church are not immune to any of these malicious and devilish schemes. Many people are genuinely seeking God, seeking Jesus, in all the wrong places or in misguided ways that reflect their ways not God’s.
Even Jesus’ parents were looking in the wrong places, seeking out Jesus from their view. “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s holy house?” (Lk. 2: 49) Look at Solomon. His father, David, said, “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in His ways and keeping His statutes, His commandments, ,His rules, and His testimony.” What does Solomon do? Does he take charge? Rule the kingdom the way he thinks it should be run? When the Lord came to Solomon in a dream and said, “Ask what I shall give you.” Solomon humbly replied, “I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in… Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil.” (1 kings 3:9)
Solomon didn’t resolve to rely on his thoughts and ways. He sought to have the wisdom to discern God’s will. Even Jesus, facing his parents at the temple, didn’t resolve to do His own will. “I must be in my Father’s house.” Luke writes, “the child [Jesus] grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon Him.” It was the Father’s will that Jesus be in His Father’s house.
Solomon and Jesus trusted that the heavenly Father knew what He was doing. That’s the picture to look at as we begin a new year by God’s grace. Here is God’s will for you, His wrath against sin and His unconditional love for you. Here is Christ’s obedience to His Father’s will.
This is God’s plan for your salvation - God’s answer to your death sentence of sin. He kills His own Son so that you can have the gift of life. Jesus Christ knew this plan full well. Good Friday was not a surprise. Jesus prayed, “Not My will, but Thy will be done,”… Then He obeyed.
We are well-aware of how life in this fallen world works. Nothing ever seems to go as planned. If only we were in charge, right? If only people did what we wanted; what we thought was best. But…they don’t, and this year won’t be any different. Not everything will go as planned. Accolades will be given to people you think don’t deserve them. People who are deserving will not be celebrated, and you will wonder if God knows the great injustices taking place. Leaders—me included—will stumble and let you down. There will be no shortage of opinions, complaints and gossiping. “Why me, Lord? What have I done to deserve this?!” Your will won’t be done. Just like last year and every year since the fall into sin in the Garden of Eden.
Here is your Father’s good and gracious will for you and for all people. Here is the joy and contentment that can only be known in the humility and wisdom of saving faith. Understand this, though: You can’t resolve to get this joy or contentment. More willpower and resoluteness isn’t going to cut it or make it happen. It’s a gift from God; a free, unmerited gift that He wants nothing more than for you to have, to know, and to share with all those in your life especially as one body.
This is God’s will, plan and purpose for you—for your peace, joy and salvation. The way of the Christian is the way of Christ; a way that led to a cross. Despite hardships, failures, and crosses we bear in life, this is God’s plan of salvation working in us and through us according to His timeline, even though His plan, His timing, may at times cause pain and suffering at the hands of a world that stands in opposition to God’s plan.
We Christians are called to live and proclaim the Gospel promise of God in our daily lives, remembering whose timeline and whose plan we’re dealing with: God’s not ours. God’s plan of salvation is not a resolution that may or may not come to fruition. It is a promise God’s plan is eternal, unchanging, already accomplished in the person of Jesus Christ. It is finished!
Remain humbly faithful to God’s Word and Will in all that you say, think, and do, and in the way you act and treat others who also make up the body of Christ in the church. Let God Himself take care of bringing His plan to fruition in His fullness of time. May God grant you the grace, perseverance, and patience to endure all this fallen and sinful world has to throw at you in this new year as you live out this day, and every day, as one who is completely redeemed in the blood of Jesus Christ.
May this Gospel truth be your faith and your confession, your joy, your contentment, your contribution as part of the many who are bound together as one body in Christ. Jesus Amen.
Mount Olive Lutheran Church (LCMS)- Second Sunday after Christmas – January 5, 2020