Monday, August 16, 2010

Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost

The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
Jeremiah 23:16-29
Bror Erickson

Thus says the Lord of hosts: “do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They say continually to those who despise the word of the Lord, ‘It shall be well with you’ ; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, No disaster shall come upon you.”

Powerful words. It is what we want to do. We would like to listen to “prophets” that would fill us with vain hopes, and bless the desires of our own hearts. We are not that different from the Israelites to whom Jeremiah spoke the word of God.
We like false prophets. Sometimes we even ask our pastor to be one. Sometimes your pastor wants to be one. He is a sinner like you, and he can’t help but feel a hypocrite at times admonishing others concerning their sin. He needs a pastor himself to do that unthankful job for him, to admonish him concerning his sin. Because it needs to be done. Sinners need to hear law. And the best of us Christians are still sinners.
No, by false prophets I don’t mean those who blatantly call themselves prophets, and control the politics of Utah. I don’t think very many of us here today are all that tempted to listen to their monotone addresses. That isn’t the issue here.
I could go on about men with picture perfect smiles groomed for television selling fantasy books about how to get rich, have the perfect family, or otherwise have your best life now. But I’ll just say beware of that. There is a life to come, we do die in this world. And with that in mind I don’t want my best life now. I don’t want this to be my best life.
But I’m going to go home here, to the heart. That is where God goes. This is the essence of a false prophet, one who listens to his own heart, one who listens to the hearts of others, and does not listen to God’s heart. It is a rather tough thing not to listen to one’s own heart, or to the hearts of others.
It is a rather tough thing for me to practice to closed communion for instance. I struggle with that one. I pour over it in my head and in my heart constantly asking if I am doing the right thing. And sometimes I think to myself, “let them drink to their own judgment, what do you care?” But then I do care, I care because God cares.
I may not be a prophet in the sense that I get direct revelation from God. But I do pay attention to his word and listen. Not an easy thing to do. God’s word has a way of cutting you open, showing things about yourself you would rather not see.
It think about couples, my heart goes out to them, mislead by the world, perpetuating their problems, amplifying them by moving in together. It is the way of the world. Not the way of God. I’m absolutely heart broken at ties fro women who find themselves trapped in a relationship they can’t seem to get out of.
And here is where us pastors so often run into our people wanting us to be false prophets, to turn a blind eye and say there is nothing wrong with that. To forgive the sin, no. they don’t want us to forgive the sin. They want us to condone it. Forgiving would require that there was repentance, perhaps even a desire to change the situation.
And how often I have watched parents choose peace in the family over peace with God, knowing that to go with Christ on this one would mean turning father against son, mother against daughter in law, dividing a house, three against two and two against three as Christ warns us in the gospel lesson.
The world would have us make peace with it. The world would have us follow our own hearts. It seduces us. Just the other day I talked with a man who thought we were born with the essence of Christianity in our heart. But he thought Christianity was merely about right and wrong. If we just follow our hearts he says, in the same breath condemning Mormons for doing the same. But no. faith comes through hearing. We can only know Christ when we hear of him. Our hearts cannot lead us to Christ. They cannot lead us to the cross. They can only lead us into sin, and more sin, on account of which God’s anger cannot turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intents of his heart.

“The anger of the Lord will not turn back until he executed and accomplished the intents of his heart in the latter days you will understand it.”

God is rightly angered at our sin. God is rightly angered at your sin. You know what sins those are. Some of them seem so harmless. The anger of the Lord will not turn back. That doesn’t sound pleasant. Today we don’t think of God as being angry, as having anger. We project God as being a happy go lucky guy, an easy going grandpa. This is reflected in the worship styles of so many churches around us. I’ve been told I’m to formal now by a not a few people who have visited. Sorry I just take God and his word a bit serious, and I find little in the Bible to support the idea that he is happy go lucky. His anger will not turn back. His anger must be satiated. His anger must accomplish the intents of his heart.
Has your heart ever been angry? What has been your reaction to a child’s disobedience? What has been your reaction to someone’s affront to your character? What has been your reaction when you see others abused? Has your first reaction been to forgive? Have you not spanked your child for lying? Yelled at them for disobeying? Grounded them for breaking your rules? Were you justified in your anger? Were you justified in your anger when your spouse betrayed you and divorced? Were you justified in your anger when your business partner double crossed you? Were you justified in your anger, that is did you have sufficient reason to be angry?
Then how about God? Is he not justified in being angry at your sin? Is he not justified for being angry with you for not listening? Is he not justified in being angry with you for trying to take his place and decide what is right and what is wrong for you in your life? Should he not be taken seriously? Perhaps a bit more seriously than the lead singer of a bar band playing folk music? But we don’t want God to be angry with us. And lucky for us, God doesn’t want to be angry with us either.
Only in the latter days will we understand this clearly, that God’s anger will not be turned back. The latter days. The latter days we are now in. If you want to understand this clearly than look to that which ushered in the latter days. We know we are in the latter days. Peter tells us this in Acts chapter two. He rightly points that the out pouring of the Holy spirit upon all flesh, is a sign that we are in the last days. But what brought that about if it was not Christ and his cross, His death and resurrection.
“The anger of the Lord will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intents of his heart.”
Brothers, sisters. His anger has been turned back. His anger has been turned back because the intents of his angry heart, and his loving heart have been executed and accomplished. His anger has been turned back. It wasn’t as easy as saying: “forget it, I take myself to seriously.” Perhaps we can do that. Not God. But the intents of his heart were executed and accomplished on the cross. When we look there we understand more clearly. It is there that his anger is turned back. Because it is there that God reconciles himself in Jesus Christ, to the world, that we might have peace with him, no longer counting our trespasses before him. It is there that the intents of his heart are executed and accomplished. It is there that his anger is absorbed in the death of His son, who takes responsibility for our sin. And it is from there that we gain understanding, and begin to see clearly the devastation of our sin, and yet also the mercy of God who comes to forgive, who comes to take away your sin and forgive you lest you be destroyed by it.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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