Archive for November 29th, 2015

The King’s City: Safe and Secure

Sunday, November 29th, 2015

Advent 1-C, November 29th, 2015
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

Where do you consider home?  Is it where you live now’ or maybe it’s where you grew up? Sometimes that’s not an easy question to answer.  In this ever mobile society we live in, everything seems to be changing; things keep us moving, and that can cause us to feel unstable and even restless. In our virtual world of the Internet, space and time seem to be both expanded and compressed in a confusing and dazzling, and sometimes dizzying, way.

But we all want and need a place we can call home. Here’s a news flash: Sociologists have come to the remarkable conclusion that a safe and stable home has an enormous positive effect on child development—who would have thought! If your like me, you can think back on your childhood memories of home with mixed feelings of comfort and conflict, and maybe even remember that fateful moment when you were determined to run away from home— and only getting a block or two away before the rights and liberties of independence gave way to the certainties and securities of a place called home.

This is a universal truth; it touches all cultures in all time and places. We don’t know a lot about the emotions of home life in Bible times, but we do know that family, land, house and home  were an anchor in life where being “on the road” was no less dangerous than in our day and age.

The “home” that engages us in our Old Testament lesson today is really even greater than our traditional family home—it is the home of a whole country, a nation, a people.

In our Advent lessons this year from the Old Testament prophets, we will listen and learn about God’s kingdom, and God’s king, and what it meant to be the people of God in his kingdom.

In the days of the Old Testament prophets, the kingdom of God on earth was under the human leadership of Davidic Kings; kings that were from the lineage of David. A king had his palace, as well as the temple, in his capital city, which became the focal point and even identity of his rule and reign.

For our spiritual ancestors in the Old Testament, that was, of course, Jerusalem, or, in light of the future home in paradise that it symbolized, Zion. In fact, Zion was the citadel of God’s “palace” or His physical dwelling place in the midst of his people, within the temple.  The kings and the people often had to be reminded of a truth they often conveniently forgot; God’s Temple was right “next door” to the King’s palace, and the palace was to find it’s worth and importance from the Temple, and not the other way around.

In the time of the prophet Jeremiah, the time of our text today (Jeremiah 33:14–16), both the king and the temple were being threatened and under siege by the Babylonians and their king Nebuchadnezzar.

There was a good and godly reason for this, and Jeremiah had made it clear to all: both king and people had forsaken their God; they had forsaken God’s way and were following the ways and the religious practices of the world. They had also assumed that if they did just enough to keep the temple worship going, bringing sacrifices and offerings, then God would be kept happy, even appeased, and then through their service, they assumed that they had earned God’s protection. After all, he was their God, and they were his people.

If there had been an international press corps back then, the siege of Jerusalem would have been reported as just another act of aggression and expansion by the dominant world power at that time. In the eyes of the prophet, priests, and some of the people this was clearly God’s righteous judgment on the sins of his people. But in the eyes of the king and most of the people, this seemed to be an unfair action by a God who should have been saving them, not destroying them.

But Jeremiah stood up to the false prophets, who “prophesied peace when there was no peace,” and he stood up to the king, who refused to believe either that the city would fall or that this was God’s just judgment against him, his leadership, and the sins of all.

Here is something worth noticing for we faithful witnesses living in this contemporary world: Jeremiah’s faithfulness to God earned him only scorn and derision; he was punished and then put in prison. So much for the life of a faithful prophet!  But, Jeremiah through faith, saw the bigger picture. Yes he knew God’s judgment, but he also knew that this was part of a larger plan, not to destroy and kill, but to restore and make alive. And so, as is always the case, a faithful saint must always speak as God speaks.

Right in the middle of this message of judgment came another message that spoke of God’s forgiving love, his everlasting love and His commitment to His people. Yes, God would punish them, with “tough love”. Yes, their sin had to be punished. Yes, Jerusalem, the “home” of king and people, would be lost, and they would be refuges in exile, but that was not the end of the story.

You see, God had a future and a hope for them.

In fact, just as the siege of Jerusalem was underway, Jeremiah even bought a field; at God’s direction, he invested in real estate — just to demonstrate his conviction that God was committed to this land and to bringing the people back to it.

God saw a future for both the king and the city, and he described them both in the same way: In those days (those days to come, when God would fulfill his promises once for all) and at that time (yes, at God’s “right time,” not ours), I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it (Jerusalem) will be called: Yahweh (God) is our (only source of) righteousness.

Dear saints, have you been away from home too long? If so, you know the feeling that creeps into your heart, don’t you? It can be rough out there; sometimes it can even be rough at home. But deep inside, we long for a home that is safe and sound, where we are loved, saved, and dwell securely.  Imagine how the folks from Jerusalem felt the first morning they woke up in Babylon! They weren’t on an exotic vacation to see the Hanging Gardens; they were in exile, far from home.

Yet for them, and for us, God has provided a place, right here on earth, in space and time, where He calls us home.

It’s a place much greater than any capital city of the world. It’s even greater than the most loving and safe home we’ve ever lived in or dreamed of living in. It’s a place where true peace and justice, righteousness and salvation are to be found, to be given, to be shared. It is completely dependent on God, not on us, or on our efforts even to make the world a better, a safer, place.

You see, back then in the time of Jeremiah, God promised a King and an eternal city that only He could create. Yes, the king and city that his people had messed up had to be destroyed, but God found a way to punish sin and yet save His people. He promised a new and supremely better King, of the house and lineage of David, but not just another David. He promised a new and better City, which would be called righteous. But note where the righteousness, justice, truth and peace are found: Yahweh (God) is our righteousness.

Back then in the time of Jesus, there was one born of the house and lineage of David, to be a new and greater David, David’s son, yes, but also David’s Lord. And He came also to provide the new and greater temple and city, where God would dwell on earth in the midst of his people.

By now, I hope you see, right now, in these days of Advent preparation, we can celebrate, right here, right now, that we have a home. A city, if you will, a place to call home, where God is with us with an everlasting love. Call it church, call it our faith family, call it the Body of Christ, where both King and city come together in one person and in one place, where His cross, His Word sprinkled with water, His body and blood are here for us to forgive, renew, and empower us to be the place where God dwells in our world, in our time and space, for all who perceive a need to be a part of this King, this city, this house, and this home.

Where do you live? Where do you call home? Where is a place for safety, security, salvation and life for you? Perhaps you’ve found your home right here in this little church we call Trinity; a place where you and your family gather around the message of a true and righteous King who offers a real place to live in comfort, hope and security.  A place where by God’s design, you continually hear the story of how your God through His Son Jesus Christ works through His Word and Sacraments to bring you faith in this home right now and eternal life in your home to come in paradise.

With all we will do in the weeks ahead, with overfilled schedules both at home and running around, today we remember the anchor of our lives, our home with God in Jesus, in this place where he cares for us with forgiveness and life!  May this message continue to bring peace for today and hope for tomorrow.  In Jesus name… Amen.