April 3, 2022: 5th Sunday in Lent

Let us pray: Dear Savior, on this glorious day we have assembled to worship You.  And You have come into this earthly temple to honor, forgive, guide, and uplift us.  Lord, gauged by the eternal balance scale of true worth, we have and are receiving far more from You than we are giving You.  And yet, such is Your good pleasure.  Lord, You are simply amazing.  Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE GIVER OF EVERY GOOD AND PERFECT GIFT!

TEXT:  Jeremiah 31: 31-34

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

          Do you know exactly where the word: worship, comes from?  Well, let me tell you.  It is an old Anglo-Saxon word stemming from the root: worth, as in something has true value.  In Anglo-Saxon times it was “worth ship” which was later shortened to worship.  In other words, praising and honoring God has worth, real value, genuine riches.  It bestows a richness of body and especially soul upon those engaged in it.  Today, as we employ the ministry of Jeremiah as our backdrop, we’re going to see exactly why this is so.  For this lesson clearly explains:

WHY IS WORSHIP SO VALUABLE TO US TODAY?

I

          The prophet Jeremiah lived in tumultuous times.  He was born about 633 BC.  Israel was on the downward slide and spiritual apathy was the norm, much like America today.  At age 21 God called him to be His chief spokesman, or prophet, to an uncaring nation.  It was a tough, bumpy, hard ministry.  There were only a few faithful left.  The vast majority didn’t want to listen and didn’t care.  They enjoyed their leisure, put their trust in corrupt leaders, and viewed their security in how much money they could amass.  By age 25, 4 short years into Jeremiah’s ministry; the Babylonian king has beaten up the nation, pillaged the temple, and put a weak-willed puppet from the Jewish royal family on the throne.  For a while Jeremiah is a persona non grata and has to go into hiding.  But he continues his ministry. Some listen, some are saved, and then we arrive at the fateful year of 598 BC.  The seething, rebellious nation is crushed once again by the Babylonians and many are carted off into slavery to Babylon.  By the time Jeremiah is in his early 40’s and has been hunted, imprisoned, freed, captured, and will soon be deported to Babylon, as well, where he will later write the book of Lamentations.  It is right before all this that he pens the words of our lesson to the faithful who are seemingly without any hope or any help amid an evil, seething geo-political mess.

          He prophesies of a future time when God will eternally fix the troubles His people face in this earth.  Of course, that future time is the Messianic era of Jesus Christ.  “The time is coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.  (In short, all the people exposed to God’s promise.) It will not be like the covenant (agreement) I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,’ declares the Lord.”

          That first covenant was the giving of the Law and the 10 commandments on Sinai.  It was a two-way street: God promised blessing in all things of life, and they in turn promised to obey and keep God’s commandments in their thoughts, words, and by their actions.  The problem was: they broke their word to God.  They failed to value Him above all else. They failed to count Him as the most worthy possession they had on this earth.  In short, their worship of God stunk because everything came before Him.

II

          But God is good and gracious.  They turned their backs on Him, but He didn’t want to turn His back on them.  His love still flowed.  So, “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,’ declares the Lord.  ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts, I will be their God and they will be my people.  No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,’ declares the Lord.”   And now comes the rich, full meaning of exactly what all this “knowing” means: “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

          This new covenant, or new law, or new principle is none other than the Gospel.  It is known by all through faith.  Faith in the Author and Giver of God’s eternal forgiveness: Jesus Christ.  Question: how can a nation be blest, a family be blest, a husband and wife be blest by God Almighty?  Israel tried and failed.  Human efforts at achievement and success in life don’t impress God in the least.  They are never perfect.  They ebb and flow like the ocean tides depending on human whims and current human dilemmas. 

          God decided in pure love to give us another chance.  He decided to give us an immoveable Rock to hold onto that really wasn’t dependent upon us but upon Him alone.  And so here He promises, and later sent us the Savior, Jesus Christ.  Jesus came to earn rightness with God for us.  He came to forgive all sins with His suffering and death on the cross.  He came to blot out all our shameful deeds from God’s memory book—with His blood.  This awesome gift, this awesome truth, God wrote into the hearts and minds of His people.  It was inscribed within us at our baptism, is confirmed each Sunday during the worship service, is fed and strengthened by the Lord’s Supper, and is the reason, the only reason, we have worth and standing before God Almighty.  It is the source and the fuel behind all true worship of our King! 

          I must confess that sometimes I can commiserate with Jeremiah.  Our nation faces cultural, social, political and unfortunately religious upheaval.  People glom unto any and every new craze promoted by social media all for the purpose of trying to find genuine worth in their lives.  It seems everything is more important today than Christian worship.  It took destruction and downfall and deportation to awaken the people of Jeremiah’s time.  And every step of the way they had to dragged kicking and screaming toward their eventual repentance.  I hope it doesn’t come to that for America and I hope and pray it doesn’t come to that for any of you.  Meanwhile, like the Christians then, we’ll grab hold of this promise of Godly eternal deliverance in Jesus, value its worth above all else in life, and continue to honor Him every single week for honoring us with heavenly treasures.  For remember: It is God alone who forgives our wickedness and remembers our sins no more…in Jesus Christ.… Amen

THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH…      

Pastor Fox