Archive for the ‘Isaiah 52:7-10’ Category

Our God Reigns!

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

18th Sunday after Pentecost, October 3, 2009

A prepared sermon adapted and proclaimed by

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Click here for audio of this message

 

Today we celebrate Lutheran Women’s Missionary League Sunday using the theme from their convention earlier this year in Portland, Oregon: “Look to the Hills…God Reigns!”  Our Scripture texts – 2 of them – move our eyes and lift our senses to undefined hills and mountains. Now let’s put some definition to those hills and mountains by turning our mind’s eye to the Word of the Lord: Psalm 121:1-2 (NIV) I lift my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. Isaiah 52:7 (NIV) How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God Reigns.”  So let’s look to the Hills.  Why?  Because God Reigns!

 

Here in Southern California, we seem to always be suffering from what we feel is a lack of rain… a lack of water.  It’s easy to forget that technically we live in the “high desert” where water is always a short commodity.  But even here, God also blesses us with life-giving water-rain. As we receive the blessing of rain, we “praise God from whom all blessings flow,” in creative ways. In the Oregon Convention Center where the LWML met in June, there is a nine-acre roof. Those nine acres of rainfall that fall on that roof don’t go into the storm drains, instead they’ve created a Rain Garden that captures all the rain, which in turn is used to water the landscape surrounding the Convention Center.

 

At the Lady’s convention, it was suggested that everyone turn their umbrella upside down and catch the blessings while they were in Portland. And if they didn’t have an umbrella, they were told to simply open their hands to catch the blessings that flow down from their gracious creator!  Our God Reigns – He Reigns on us abundantly!  With upturned faces and upturned, expectant hands we receive the bountiful blessings which flow from the King of Kings, the Lord of Lord, Your God Reigns!

That majestic word “REIGN” doesn’t comes up in your day-to-day conversation very much—except for some teenagers who say things like “Hannah Montana reigns” or “the Jonas Brothers reign!” We just don’t use that word much anymore. Reign is the period of time during which kings and queens exercise their term of office. If someone is reigning then someone else is being led. Reign means someone else in charge. But what does it mean, when we say that “God Reigns?”  What do you think the original audience that heard about Isaiah’s vision thought when they heard “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news …GOD REIGNS”? It sure didn’t look like it! “God Reigns?—whatever!”  You see, they were captives – in Babylon – which is modern day Baghdad, Iraq. There were no hills or mountains in sight! They were there against their own will. They were hostages; captives who were forcefully exiled and deported to Babylon. They were trapped in virtually the hottest and flattest city in the Middle East.  But they could remember what the hills in their native land looked like before they were deported.  It would be wonderful news to know that someone else would soon reign over them! For Israel this was awesome news. They were in exile, and it seemed that their God had lost his power. Around them they saw only the temples and adornments of the false gods of the Babylonians.

Do you ever get that helpless feeling? There is so much that happens around us – there are other powers which look much greater and more powerful than we do as the church of Christ.  Christians are in the minority. Christians seem to be losing influence and often are publically ridiculed.  In the Pacific Northwest where the ladies’ convention was held, participants were told they were visiting the “None Zone.” What’s the “None Zone?” It’s the most popular religious preference checked off in a survey.  What is your religious preference? Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Lutheran, Other?  Religious preference? NONE!   NONE – the most popular choice there– hence it is called the “none zone.” The powerful, false gods, of our time and our society are worshipped there, but not in churches.  Groups gather in large buildings, but those buildings or stadiums or malls are not churches. Like Babylon, they live in a place where they seemingly are held captive. They need GOOD NEWS.  Well, we’ve got some good news for them…as impossible as it might seem, OUR GOD REIGNS!

 

The holy writer says, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news…” The captives couldn’t see the mountains that were over 100 miles away … Yet their faith’s eye could see them! They couldn’t see those blessed hills, but they could hear the message “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘God Reigns.’” (Isaiah 52) What a promise, even in the midst of despair. Their hope was refreshed in a desert of desertion and despair and so is our faith and the faith of our neighbors. We get to go home! Our God Reigns! That kind of good news comes from the hills all around us.

 

In Paul’s letter to the Romans – Paul was talking to people who knew something about politics, power, and reigning monarchs and Caesars. Using the power-words “God Reigns,” Paul speaks right to the heart, where God wishes to reign as your only Lord. The word “reign” is used four (4) times in the following bible passage – listen for reigning… Rom 5:17-21 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

 

Dear friends do you hear that good news?  You Reign…you reign with your conquering Savior, Jesus. …so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5: 17-21 NIV) Grace reigns! The Risen Jesus is now our reigning Lord and Savior.  If trespasses have been reigning in your life, Your God Reigns!  If debts have reigning in your life, Your God Reigns!  If sin has been reigning in your life, Your God Reigns!

 

In one of the more contemporary translations of the Lord’s Prayer, archaic language gives way to English the way we speak it today in America. Gone are the words “trespasses” and “debts.”  Instead, you find the real day to day word: SINS. “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Those words speak of the free gift of victory and good news. “Forgive us our sins….”  “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us…” The good news is yours. Shout it from the hill tops, how beautiful on the mountains are the feet that bring you that good news. Forgiveness is ours!

 

Friends, would you please take out your bulletin and look at the Logo on it.  See those hills, all decked out in Purple? I lift my eyes to the hills…My help comes from the Lord…Our Golden Creator;…Our Royal Purple Redeemer;…Our Green Growth Sanctifier.  Our awesome and reigning God dresses His creation in golden waves of grain, purple mountain majesty, and the green, green grass of home and growing faith. Gold, Purple, and Green – Look to the Hills friends, God Reigns.

 

Did you know that purple and gold are the official colors of the LWML?  Would you like to know why?  Well, according to the Southern Illinois Lutheran Woman’s Quarterly Supplement, October 1948, the Southern Illinois district was the first to adopt the colors, purple symbolizing royalty, and gold, symbolizing value and integrity. Shortly thereafter, the LWML Executive Board adopted purple and gold as their colors.  Here is the wording of actual motion: “Motion was made by Mrs. Emil Frank to recommend that the colors Purple and Gold as suggested in the Handbook, be adopted as the official League colors.  Action – Adopted.” That was 1951.  Those LWML ladies who dress in purple are following Him who was dressed in purple for us!

 

Jesus was mocked in purple, and crowned with thorns, mocked as royalty.  Mark 15:16-20 16 The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. 17 They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18 And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” 19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. (NIV)  Jesus decided to reign in love and sacrifice and not with might and power. It is your Jesus, who was mocked in purple and crowned with thorns that reigns for you today! Jesus, mocked in purple and crowned with thorns, gave Himself so that each of us can have the courage to wear purple for the rest of eternity, sons and daughters of the King!  Isaiah 52:7 says it with joy to captives and homesick people: “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God Reigns.”

 

Whose beautiful feet bring this message? Who brings good news? Who proclaims peace? Who brings good tidings? Who proclaims salvation? Who says, “God Reigns!”? It’s Jesus! How does Jesus do this?  By rising from the dead!  When Jesus Christ rose, he reigned! He reigned over sin, death, and the devil, and became our champion. Ever since, the church has been going to the ends of the earth, baptizing and making disciples.

 

The LWML mission is to help proclaim the saving message of the one with beautiful feet who washes away the sin of the whole world. With Word and Sacrament, with preaching and baptizing, believers have been his hands and feet, proclaiming his unconditional love by word and deed.  Acts 1:8 “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  From Jerusalem to Antioch to Rome, to Wittenberg, to Portland, to the Pacific Rim, to San Diego….even to Babylon’s Baghdad… all around the world, witnesses of the mighty acts of God, believe it themselves…and can’t help but be a league of missionaries.  Good news bubbles up and gets shared. In the book of Acts, in 30 short years, we find recorded 95 people by name in 54 cities, in 32 countries, and 9 Mediterranean Islands. It is said that they turned the world upside down, proclaiming the gift of Jesus.  All this from a Savior in a purple robe, a crown of thorns, seven words from the cross, and an empty tomb, an empty shelf, and an empty table that today holds the very body and blood of the resurrected one, Jesus.

 

The closest you’ll ever get to Jesus, this side of heaven, is in the miracle of the Word and the Sacrament. In Holy Communion we share the reality of Jesus Christ who proclaims the good news, peace, good tidings, and salvation. He reigns and His royal decree is that we share this feast of the Lord’s Supper when we are together in His Name. We can have the courage to wear His purple robe, now a robe of righteousness that he freely grants us in His love.

Our God is an awesome God…he reigns from heaven above… In every age, God performs the mighty acts of faith in life and action among us. We are built up, refreshed, and renewed with a sense of awe because our God reigns! The problem is, how do you teach old Christians new “awe?” Jesus knew then, and He knows now; He did it in the Sacrament of the Altar.  Luke 21:30 When he was at the table with them, he took break, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.”

 

May God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit work this miracle or awe and wonder in each of our hearts as we gather at His Holy table, eagerly expecting Jesus miraculous presence and power in our lives.  In Jesus name we ask this… AMEN!