Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | December 1, 2011

Sermon on Psalm 139:13-16 (Midweek Advent — First Article)

Look at what God knows, look at what God does

  • Order of Service: Meditation on the Creed (CWS, p72)
  • Lessons: Luke 1:1-25, Psalm 139:13-16
  • Hymns: 28, 430, 271:1, 260

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

Advent forces us – gently and rightly – to consider with what care God planned and saved the world.

It began thousands of years ago, in a garden, when God spoke to two condemned criminals and said, “Your Seed will crush Satan.”  That Seed God spoke of to men like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David.  His prophets talked about that Seed for centuries, telling the world, “Wait.  Hope.  Believe.  Be saved.”

It continued as God bent history to His will, moving pieces across His eternal chess board, causing the rise and fall of empires and nations: Assyrias, Babylons, Persias, Greeks, and Romans, so that one day all things would be just right.

And then He chose an obscure member of the Judean priesthood and his barren wife, this Zechariah and Elizabeth we read about tonight.  From them, Gabriel said, would come a son.  A son who would bring joy to his parents, but also to many:  because he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God (Luke 1:16, HCSB).  This child – John – will shout out in the desert, “He’s coming!  The Savior is coming!”

Then, from one obscure family in Jerusalem, the Lord goes to another even more obscure woman 70 miles north and says, “I’ve chosen you.”  “For what?” she asks.  “To be the mother of God.”  And with that word the Spirit conceived Christ in Mary’s womb.  The time had fully come.  God sent His Son.  Born of a woman, born under law.  And He redeemed those – us – under law.  By faith in Him, God makes us His sons.

I know, I know, tonight’s about the First Article of the Creed and I’ve drifted into the Second Article and talked about Jesus.  In the end, things always seem to end up at Jesus.  But that’s okay.  There’s good reason to start here tonight.  As I said, Advent helps us see God’s working and God’s plan.  Advent takes us through the ancient prophecies and their fulfillments in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ.  Using those $64,000 theological words, we remember God’s omniscience:  His complete and total knowledge, and not just knowledge in the present, but beforehand knowledge of all things, that allowed Him to work out this plan.  We remember God’s omnipotence, His almighty power that moved and shaped the course of history to bring about the birth of this one Child, this Jesus.

And yet we have to wonder if this happened today, would Jesus have been aborted?  Because even some Christians who confess the Second Article, have let go of the First Article, have let go of God the Father, the Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth.  Because God didn’t just use His omniscience and omnipotence, His knowledge and power, to work out the plan of salvation.  He uses it always, for everything.  Listen to David in Psalm 139: For it was you who created my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made.  Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well.  My bones were not hidden from you when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in your book and planned before a single one of them began (Ps. 139:13-16, HCSB).

God made you.  Not just in the Genesis 1 sense of creating the world or setting things in motion.  He made you, individual you.  He knit you together.  He formed you.  Head, shoulders, knees, and toes.  Eyes and ears and mouth and nose.  That’s God in action.  Not evolution.  Not chance.  Not genetic science.  God.  Even though sin corrupts this body, God still takes it and forms it.  God makes it.  Sin warps.  Sin debases.  Sin perverts.  Sin moves doctors to advocate murder and moms and dads to assassinate innocent children.

Before you were, God had you in mind.  God planned out your days, your weeks, your months, and your years.  Before they were, your days were written and planned.  Just as written and planned as the steps God took to bring forth Jesus into the world to save the world.  And we dare to wonder if God knows what’s going on.  We live as if we’re the ones making all the plans, charting all the courses.  Yes, God has given us certain amounts of freedom.  We are not bound to eat this cereal or marry that person against our will.  And yet, it all stands within God’s knowledge and power.

We’ll grant God that.  But then we take it away with the other hand.  By disobeying.  If God knows all, if God has and uses all power, if God forms and knits and sees and plans, then why do we continue to insist on disobeying Him?  Why do we not grant Him the power and authority that comes with being not only the Creator of heaven and earth, but also the Creator of me, Him the Potter, me the clay?  Why, when you step back and see that the laundry list of Luther’s first article explanation lays all around you as a treasure:  body, soul, eyes, ears, mind and abilities; clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, cattle, and all that you own, all that you need to keep your body and life.  And then God preserves you.  He guards you from all evil.  Doubt it not that without God and His angels you would not be where you are and how you are.

And still we disobey.  Still we don’t grant to God the thanks, praise, and love, as taught in the Ten Commandments, that belongs to a Father such as this.  Luther writes in the Large Catechism, For if we believed this teaching with the heart, we would also act according to it.  We would not strut about proudly, act defiantly, and boast as though we had life, riches, power, honor, and such, of ourselves.  We would not act as though others must fear and serve us, as is the practice of the wretched, perverse world.  The world is drowned in blindness and abuses all the good things and God’s gifts only for its own pride, greed, lust, and luxury.  It never once thinks about God, so as to thank Him or acknowledge Him as Lord and Creator.  This article ought to humble and terrify us all, if we believed it.  For we sin daily with eyes, ears, hands, body and soul, money and possessions, and with everything we have (Large Catechism, II:21-22).

What a sad irony that is, to use what God has given us to disobey God.  And so we impress this First Article upon our minds and remember:  All this God does only because He is my good and merciful Father in heaven, and not because I have earned or deserved it (Small Catechism, 1st Article).  There is the fatherly heart of your God.  For which we thank and praise, serve and obey.  The God Who knit you together.  The God Who made you who you are and gave you what you have.  The God Who knit together John.  The God Who knit together Jesus.  Who carefully preserved and provided for and protected Him.  Not because we earned or deserved it.  But because the words “good” and “merciful” define our Father in heaven, our Father Who wants us in heaven with Him.  And so, He provided the way.  He provided Christ, the Seed of the woman, the Son of Mary, the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only ours, but also for the sins of the whole world.  Look at what God the Father knows.  Look at what God the Father does.  This is most certainly true.  Amen. 

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