Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wednesday of Advent 2

Sermon on Malachi 4:1-6
For Lamb of God Lutheran Church, Pleasant Prairie, WI
December 9, 2009 (Wednesday of the Second Week in Advent)

The great and awesome day of the Lord will burn like an oven and set the arrogant and the evildoers ablaze. But for those who fear His name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in His wings. This past Sunday I mentioned how perverse it sounds that we are supposed to rejoice and lift up our heads when we see and hear about the wars and diseases and disasters that remind us that the Day of the Lord is coming. The Old Testament lesson shows us that same sharp contrast focusing on the Day of the Lord itself. That which is a cause for horror and despair for those who are not in Christ, is a cause for joy and profound relief for those who are in Him.

But who is this Elijah character mentioned here? Jesus identifies this as a reference to John the Baptizer, the last and greatest of the Old Testament prophets. But John was, in earthly terms, Jesus’ cousin, and his ministry overlapped Jesus’ ministry, close to two thousand years ago. His purpose was to prepare the way of the Lord in His earthly ministry. But Malachi makes it sound like he’s preparing the way for the end of the world and the final day of judgment, which to our time-bound human way of reasoning, doesn’t make any sense at all.

The key is found in Malachi’s description of what John will do. He will “turn hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers.” The separation between human beings, even members of the same family, is yet another tragic result of the fall of humanity into sin, along with the diseases and disasters mentioned elsewhere. Separations and disorders, leading to utter destruction and chaos, are symptoms and results of the first and ultimate separation caused by Adam’s transgression in the garden. The crown of creation, mankind, was separated from his creator. That’s where things started to fall apart, and the wars and disasters we see around us, and the hatreds and failures to forgive we see even among us, are all consequences of that fundamental separation. John’s job, according to Malachi, is to fix that. It is, in the words of the New Testament, to preach repentance and baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

But ultimately it’s not John who can do that. He can preach it, but the reconciliation that needs to happen is not just between human fathers and human children, but between our true Father and His true children. Only when the breach caused by sin is healed, can the hearts of fathers be turned to their children and the children to their fathers. Only if God forgives us, can we forgive each other. And that is the sense in which we are to remember the laws and statutes given through Moses. The summary of the Law is to love God with all our heart, and love our neighbors as ourselves. But even that, God has to initiate. We can’t heal the breach, we can only love each other if He first loves us. The separation is too great otherwise.

And so, in order for God the Father to turn His heart to us, He takes the separation, the division, the destruction, into Himself. His heart is turned away from His own Son. “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” is what David prophesies that His ultimate Son will say on the cross. The separations that plague us, the separations which will ultimately destroy this old world itself, are taken into the Godhead. And you can’t permanently separate the members of the Holy Trinity from each other. The separation is put to death. “It is finished.” God has unilaterally declared peace, and he proclaims this peace every time the Gospel is preached. And through it the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of the children to turn them back to their Father who loves them for the sake of their Brother, Jesus Christ. The destruction of the old world, like the destruction of Jesus Himself on the cross, is undone with the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, the first-fruits of the new creation where the Sun of Righteousness is our life, our joy, and our salvation. We died with Him, we rose with Him, and we partake of Him. The Sun of Righteousness will dawn on us on that last day, not with judgment, but with peace. Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

No comments:

Post a Comment