Let us pray: Dear Savior, how thankful we are that You are our God and that You don’t hide Yourself from us! How thankful we are that You came into our lives when You took on our flesh, also taking on our sins and guilt and suffering and dying for them on our cross. How thankful we are today that You still come into our reality in Your holy Word and in Your blessed sacraments to comfort and strengthen us in our weakness. May we always but always give You alone every scrap of glory! Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM OUR GOD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST!
TEXT: Acts 14: 8-18
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
He was born in 1879 and died about 6 months after I was born, in 1955. He won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921. He taught at Princeton for many years after immigrating to America from Germany. His name and his face are well-known to almost all Americans and people throughout the world. Indeed, if you asked the average person: “Who was the smartest person to live during the last 100 years, most would quickly respond: Albert Einstein. Of course, there is much more to his storied life. For one thing, he foresaw the coming of WWII—and got out of Germany in time to save his life. He abhorred the idea of mass warfare and in the early ‘30s co-authored a book against war with Sigmund Freud. Later, when the Nazi’s became stronger, he reluctantly agreed to help Robert Oppenheimer with his research on the atom bomb.
Einstein was and is admired by countless people today. Einstein, himself, admired a few people, too. One was the famous philosopher Spinoza. And after Einstein’s intense study of science and the universe, he deemed it foolish to ignore the reality of God. After all, someone had to be behind the intricate unity of science and nature. To him it was illogical to think otherwise. However, Einstein did not accept or embrace Christianity. His views on the subject are typically to the point when he wrote: “I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals Himself in the lawful harmony of the world, not in a God who concerns Himself with the fate and doings of mankind.” So, he rejected a personal God and a personal Savior in favor of a “god” who doesn’t care about us and doesn’t ever care to involve himself with our problems.—That is very sad, isn’t it?
During the first 100 years after Christ, another great man arose. He, too, went to the very best schools of the time. He, too, was wise beyond his years. He, too, made a lasting impact on human history. Although the Nobel Prize didn’t exist then, this man won an even greater prize—the crown of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ. His name is St. Paul and our lesson outlines an interesting event that occurred to him during his first missionary journey to modern day Turkey. As we examine this little story, you and I will also be taking a test, as it were.
THE SMARTER THAN EINSTEIN TEST
King David fathered a child far wiser than either Albert Einstein of St. Paul. That child’s name was Solomon. And in Psalm 14 David wrote: “The fool says in his heart, There is no God.” Contrary to some modern opinion, denying God’s existence doesn’t make you smart, wise, or knowledgeable. It makes you a fool. Even Einstein agreed with that in his writings. But once you accept the reality of a supernatural being who controls all things, you’re left with this question: “Exactly Who is that God and what’s He all about?”
Some, like Einstein, answer that God is an all-knowing being who set up a system of rules whereby the universe runs and then retreated somewhere to apparently twiddle his thumbs or take a long nap. These people expend all their time and energy immersing themselves in the form of God’s creation, buy they never seem to embrace the substance of it, the “why?” of it, or the essential nature of the God who created it. Others, like the superstitious, heathen people of Lystra content themselves with man-made ideas and concepts of God.—Maybe even more than one God, as we see in our text when they call Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes. This after Paul works a miracle by enabling a man born lame to suddenly walk. However, the Christian knows about God and knows exactly Who He really is, not from their own consciousness, but from God’s intrusion into their lives. Or, as St. John expressed it so eloquently, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and lived for a while among us.”
Compared to mortal humans, God is unknowable. That’s why it is only logical that God had to intrude into time and space and make Himself known to us. He has! And He did! And He does!
Obviously it would have been a great dishonor for Paul and Barnabas to allow these Lycoanians to sacrifice those two bulls to them. Whenever humans steal God’s honor, God is dishonored. But, Paul doesn’t do that. Instead, he lays before them The Smarter Than Einstein Test, in telling them all about God’s intrusion into our reality in order to make our lives more complete and to save our souls.
“Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”
Look around, what do you see? God’s wisdom and care for us is clearly seen in the seasons, the rain, the crops. He cares for us. He has compassion on us. And the highest form of His compassion is seen in Jesus Christ. For Christ did miracles far greater than merely healing a lame man. Christ was God’s eternal Son. Christ took on our flesh and blood. Christ became our Substitute for all sins. Christ died on a cross to take away the sins, the collective evil of the world. As Paul writes in Romans, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting men’s sins against them anymore.” And then to give us joy that doesn’t go away when the last loaf of bread is gone, Christ arose from our grave to give us a new life.—Life with Him! The certainty of heaven. Because God intruded into time and space, our time and space, we now know that nothing can separate us from His boundless love.
But, you say: “That was long ago, and what about now? Where’s God today?” Well, He’s not off twiddling His thumbs. He’s here! He’s here with His forgiveness and life-sustaining power right now! How? Where? In both His Word and His Sacraments! For that is where He promises us His eternal love and forgiving strength. You and I are not alone, helpless, and left to fend for ourselves. For as Jesus says of His Kingdom: “The kingdom of God is within you!” It is in your hearts through faith powered by the Word made flesh, fed by His true body and blood in holy communion, and nourished with the water of life in baptism.
For all his brainpower, Einstein was wrong when it came to understanding God. We have a compassionate Lord Who “numbers the very hairs of our head.” We have a loving God Who dirtied Himself to take away the filth of our sins. And we have a caring God Who hears every prayer from our hearts and answers them in and because of Christ! So, I guess my point is this: Every Christian is smarter than Einstein! Amen