July 22, 2018: 9th Sunday of Trinity

Let us pray: Dear Savior, we all long for peace and quietness. We all desire lengthy seasons of hope, joy, prosperity, and good health. We all want to be happy and content in life without worry and fear dominating our days. Lord, Your coming to earth ushered in such a time, a spiritual time of grace, if we but open our eyes to see it. You make it all possible through the gift of faith. So today, strengthen our faith because it is the best coping mechanism ever invented. Amen
TEXT: Jeremiah 23: 1-6, esp. 5-6
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
Sound and fury. Can you imagine a life without sound and fury? Probably not. It’s been pervasive almost since the dawn of creation—invading this world when the Fall into sin took place. It’s just that with more people, mass media, and instantaneous knee-jerk reactions to literally everything that occurs, sound and fury have gotten louder than ever before.
There’s one thing that always seems to accompany sound and fury. It’s blame-shifting, or pointing the accusing finger at someone else. “He did it! She did it! Not me!” In America today it seems the vast majority of sound and fury are directed towards political leaders. If I had a nickel for every variation of: “It’s all Donald Trump’s fault!” that has been uttered, I believe I’d been a billionaire!
The problem with finger pointing and blame-shifting is that it never addresses the source of human angst. That source being: our hearts. It’s much easier to blame someone else for life’s troubles than to blame yourself and take responsibility. It’s much easier to engage in sound and fury against perceived enemies than to face your own evil inclinations and then do something to alleviate them, or repent.
Jeremiah was a prophet of God who lived around the year 600 BC. The world of his day was also filled with sound and fury—much of it directed against him! Because you see, his job was to get people to look at their own sins and repent instead of engaging in blame-shifting and political intrigue. He was hated by most, as a result. First, the religious leaders hated him because he didn’t preach “success and prosperity” but “divine judgment.” He sought to warn the nation of political suicide because they had forsaken Godly worship in favor of “every man did what was right in his own sight.” Jeremiah castigated the religious leadership for worrying more about filling their pockets than their flock’s souls. Hypocrisy drives people away from God faster than anything else. And once sheep are confronted with hypocrisy from their shepherds they realize they’re on their own and they flounder.
But the political leaders hated him, too. Preaching personal responsibility is always a threat to politicians because it means you don’t need them as much as they would like. It diffuses their power. Likewise, if as Jeremiah did, you preach how their policies will lead to ruin for the nation and bring down God’s judgement, well, that just cannot be tolerated. So, they beat Jeremiah, they imprisoned him, and turned him into an outcast. Let’s just say: “Jeremiah had a tough life.”
But, God never leaves any of His people without the hope and comfort of faith—faith in God’s promise of salvation. And right here we have an absolutely lovely promise of such hope and comfort in the Messiah. “The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness.”
God’s kingdom on this earth is not a nation-state with fixed borders. No, His kingdom is the Holy Christian Church. It is comprised of sheep who hear the calming voice of the Good Shepherd, feel His loving touch and tender care, and happily give themselves over to His love. Right here, amidst superpower sound and fury between Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, with Israel caught in the middle—God’s little flock longed for such solace. This promise gave them hope in its eventual reality. And about 550 years later when Israel was under the hard jack-boot of Rome with no hope for freedom—God fulfilled this promise by sending His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was that little branch of David’s line. He was a King of surpassing wisdom in that He alone is the truth that sets souls free from the cancer of sin. He is the One Who always did what was just and right in the land. He called sin: sin. He called evil: evil. And then instead of leaving the finger of judgement pointed at us, He pointed it at Himself and suffered and died in our places on a bloody cross. And because of His work of salvation: we are saved and now the Church, God’s Israel, lives in the safety of the resurrection to eternal life! Yes, only Jesus is deserving of that title: “The Lord Our Righteousness.” He is! He alone has made us right with God.
Sound and fury. It certainly marked Jesus’ time on this earth. The whole nation was abuzz over Him and the fury of the mobs along with all the forces of evil in the universe was directed against Him. And yet, He never repaid evil with hatred. He repaid it with good—forgiving the people because they didn’t realize what they were doing. And down to this very day, Jesus still doesn’t engage in fury and finger-pointing, but in working quiet repentance within which then whispers back to the Lord: “God be merciful, to me, a sinner.” My friends, if you desire real respite from the sound and fury of modern life, listen for and to the voice of the Good Shepherd. His quiet love replaces finger-pointing with thankful humility. Yes, He alone leads us beside quiet waters and restores our soul….. Amen