Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sermon of 08 December 2010, Advent Evening Prayer

Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.

Isaiah 11:1-10 (ESV)  

Cookies, Trees, & Peace

Wednesday of Advent II, 08 December 2010
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

            A TV newsmagazine once showed a segment on how children responded to a very simple choice. “You can have one cookie now,” they were told, “or you can have two when I get back.” The adult then left the room and the cameras continued to roll to show what happened.
Some children grabbed the cookie and the experiment was basically over. Some children, obviously tempted, stood staring at the cookie, the tantalizing, tasty, ever-so-delicious can’t-live-without-it cookie. Many of them gave in.
Other children, however, found constructive things to do while they waited for the adult to return with the promised extra cookie. They got as far away from the cookie as possible. They played with toys. They danced or sang. They knew there was something better to come.

The prophet Isaiah would be able to relate to this experiment. The people of His nation grew impatient for the fulfillment of God’s promises, especially His sending of the Messiah, the promised Savior. They acted as if God didn’t exist or that He would never really act. They ran after gods that were not God. They trusted in men, or possessions, or themselves more than God. They ran after the cookie of this world rather than wait on the promises of God.
            Punishment was to come. The tree of Judah would be reduced to a stump by the nation of Assyria. But Assyria was merely an axe used by the Lord. Isaiah 6:13 says The holy seed is its stump. This 1st tree metaphor in Isaiah prepares us for the Old Testament lesson for this Second Sunday in Advent. Everything will be laid low, but there is hope for the future in a holy seed!

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
Jesse was King David’s father, so the people of Judah are symbolized by the father of their royal dynasty. The hymn, Oh, Come, Oh, Come Emmanuel makes use of this imagery in its fourth stanza: Oh, come, O Rod of Jesse’s stem, From ev’ry foe deliver them That trust your mighty pow’r to save; Bring them in vict’ry through the grave. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to you, O Israel! The hymn tells of a hopeful future.
Job was a man of sorrows, but he knew hope when he saw it in chapter 14. For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, that its shoots will not cease.
At least there’s hope for a tree. Isaiah, in our text points to hope in the midst of a seemingly hopeless situation of impending death, destruction, and judgment.
Let us learn what not to do, based upon the experience of Israel and Judah. Let us not run after the cookies of this world. The world cannot offer us true peace. The world can only give us temporary, fleeting immediate gratification. Material things in themselves are not bad, but the motives and the uses of them can be dangerous to salvation. Don’t be a tree blown to and fro by every fad, every craze, every wind of doctrine. Don’t be like Judah.
Instead, consider Psalm 1, a positive contrast to the faithless tree of Judah. Rooted in the forgiveness of sins and the waters of baptism, the faithful person is a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

            Isaiah continues by describing such a righteous tree, the Messiah himself.
2And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
The hope is a new king with the gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and the fear of the Lord. The new king will delight in this right relationship with the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear, 4but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. 5Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.
This is truly a king unlike any other king had by Israel, Judah, or the nations of the earth. He will judge not by appearance, but by the heart. (1 Sam 16:7) He will care for the poor, like those Isaiah chapter 1 talks about, the socially poor, the poor in Spirit, like Canaanite woman begging for bread, or the Centurion’s servant.
This is no figurehead king. This is no mere intellectual king. He is a Man of war.  He shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. We see evil punished here and throughout the Scriptures. This is a Preview of Judgment day, of the two-edged sword of the Word of God from Revelation 19:15. When this king smites His enemies, it is with a word of the Law.
Wearing something makes it a personal characteristic., as St. Paul makes clear with the armor of light in Romans 13 and the armor of God in Ephesians 6. The kings is girding His loins for battle. What is the goal of this war? Perfect peace.

6The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. 7The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
This is unheard of. Since the fall, the God we see revealed in nature is only one of the Law. There is no Gospel, no forgiveness to be found in creation. The sin of Eden spread to infect the whole earth. Animals kill other animals. Human beings are not invulnerable. Winter weather is deadly. Yet, we have described here, in Isaiah, polar opposites, bitter enemies at peace. A cat licking the dog’s fur. It’s something that boggles the mind.

8The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den.
Who is this little child playing with snakes? First we can read about the Old Testament King Josiah. Josiah was a rare good king, an eight-year-old king, who gives us a foretaste of He who would come. This little child is the Christ child, He who was born King of the Jews, sought after by King Herod and the Magi.
 Innocence, infants, are frolicking with serpents because of the victory won for us. It is Genesis 3 reverse. Romans 16 is fulfilled. Satan is crushed underfoot. The evil serpent is rendered helpless.

9They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
The mountain from last’s week’s Old Testament lesson, Isaiah 2, returns. This highest of all mountains is Jerusalem, Zion, here, where the Church is gathered there are these gifts, Now. We also wait for the great mountain that is heaven, the new Jerusalem.
Verse nine’s reference to knowledge ties us back to verse two. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of true knowledge. This is showing delight in a right, forgiven relationship with the Lord. That is peace. Therefore, the knowledge of the Lord brings perfect peace.          The perfect peace we have is because of the Prince of Peace, the coming king, He who was nailed to the cross as the King of the Jews. By royal proclamation, He declares you forgiven, holy people. Because of this King, we have peace with the King of the Universe. Because of that peace in our vertical relationship with God, we can then spread that peace in our horizontal relationships, with our neighbors, when we tell them about He who is the Prince of Peace.
            You see, God has not left us without a cookie. Remember the cookie experiment with the children? God not only promises us “cookies” in the life to come, but He gives us a feast of sweet forgiveness now. Instead of macaroon, chocolate chip, coconut, oatmeal raisin, and peanut butter, we are given Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, Holy Communion, and His Holy Word. It is through these sweet Gospel Gifts that God enables you to resist the temptation of the cookies of this world, poisonous cookies that take away our salvation and God’s promises of more to come. Hold fast. Remain faithful. And watch for the return of King Jesus at the end of time, a day of promise for all believers.
10In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.
Oh, come, O Rod of Jesse’s stem, From ev’ry foe deliver them That trust your mighty pow’r to save; Bring them in vict’ry through the grace. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel Shall come to you, O Israel!

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.