A Sermon for the Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost

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Sermon audio for the Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost Year A, preached for Homecoming at Concordia Lutheran Church, China Grove, NC, September 24, 2017:

How many times, as a child, did you look in some dark hiding place for a friend while playing hide and seek, yet never see him? You suspected where he was hiding but it was only after spending enough time in the dark to allow your eyes to adjust that you saw some dim light reflecting off his cheek. After a long time in hiding, the cleverest kid even had to stick out a leg so that you noticed him.

We may suspect that God is hiding there, but we will never find him.

God is not one to be found in the nature of the world around us. We may suspect that he is hiding there, but we will never find him—nor are we able to reason our way to God. Yet, because he has revealed himself in his word, God may be “found.” His ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts. God is near when one takes the time to seek him in his own revelation of himself.

Though the things of this dark world would distract us, those who gaze on the beauty of the Lord, know his light and salvation. Troubling times come and go but the Lord shelters the believer during those times. Seek God’s face as Moses and David did; you will not be disappointed as he makes himself present to you—even while the world does its best to make you anxious.

The world did its best to make Paul anxious. Going to prison would make the best of us stress. It may be difficult to consider imprisonment as an advancement of the kingdom, as Paul did. We have a tough enough time thinking everything will be okay if we are not on Church Council next year, or our particular politician doesn’t get elected. Yet, while in jail, the apostle eagerly expected good things from God. Even if he should die, Paul knew God was in control of matters. He knew that God would get glory whether an apostle lived or died.

With such an example, we too know how to behave in difficult or anxious situations. We may be courageous in the face of whatever befalls us. We may stand firm no matter the shaky ground. We can strive for the gospel without fear of opposition. We may suffer for doing so, but this too is for the glory of God and the advancement of his kingdom. It is not too late to get started.

We have always done it this way—and “this way” means my way.

Here is a parable for those in congregations who think, “We have always done it this way—and “this way” means my way.”

Serving the kingdom of God is not something just for the old-timers. He calls people—young and old—in the last hour too. When he calls, those called must be faithful to respond but they are not alone in this responsibility. Those who have served the Lord for years, must be grateful for God’s wise choice when he calls newcomers into the work of his kingdom. Those called this year are as dear to the Lord as those he called years ago.

It is difficult for us to let go and let others. Yet, Isaiah has reminded us that God’s ways are above our ways; his thinking is beyond us. So, it is left for us to either whine or to trust when God calls someone else or someone different in these last hours. It is left to us to either stress and be anxious in difficult times—whether they be family, country, or church—or trust that God is in control and loves us. It remains for us to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, even in troubled times. It is our great privilege of faith, even when it seems as if God is hiding from us, to be able to see this God who has revealed himself in many and various ways by the prophets, but now in these last days has spoken to us by his Son.

Thanks be to God, that eternal life is the wage for those who believe in the Son the Father has revealed, whether early or late, whether in easy times or troubled times. May we strive together for the gospel, revealing him to those around us. May God bless Concordia Lutheran Church with many, many years of proclaiming the gospel.

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Mark

I am married to Susan (Allender). We have two daughters, two sons-in-law, two granddaughters, two cats, and a dog. I am a Lutheran pastor and write for Sola Publishing Company.

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