Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Sunday of the Fulfillment

"The Lord Who Sees is Just"

Malachi 3:13-18

November 20, 2016

After the last two weeks of news, I needed a little comic relief. It came from a headline that read, "Humans shortening the universe's life." I started laughing so hard, I thought I might cry. The planet Earth isn't even a speck in the great cosmos and these people are behaving like the medieval scholars who thought they were the very center of the solar system. Here's another on-going example of the "Chicken Little Syndrome" running amuck. Do you really think that we, hardly a drop in the great bucket of the universe, have the power to destroy it? Get a grip.

The Lord has made us caretakers and stewards of the earth. Of course, we have a mixed track record on that count. Instead of wringing our hands and worrying about things over which we have no control, perhaps we should be paying attention to things we can do. Yet, even when we try to do what is good and right, the results aren't always what we want. This world is an imperfect place. We will never be able to right all the wrongs, cure the ills or remedy all the injustices. We will never be able to make everyone be nice to each other.

This is the problem with falling for every panicky, alarmist headline we read. If we buy into all this hysteria, we over inflate our self-importance in the cosmic scheme of things. We can't make this a perfect, happy world. Peace and justice remain elusive. Here's a clue, it's just as elusive now as it was at the time of the prophet Malachi.

Read Text: Malachi 3:13-18. Your words have been arrogant against Me," says the Lord. "Yet you say, 'What have we spoken against You?' You have said, 'It is vain to serve God; and what profit is it that we have kept His charge, and that we have walked in mourning before the Lord of hosts? So, now we call the arrogant blessed; not only are the doers of wickedness built up but they also test God and escape.'"

"They will be Mine," says the Lord of hosts, "on the day that I prepare My own possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him." So, you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.

When the people returned from the Babylonian captivity, they had tough going. If they were envisioning the good life free of persecution, trouble and injustice, they were deeply disappointed. It seems the wicked prospered and the wealthy showed little concern for the poor. Where was God. Why weren't these problems being addressed? Surely, a couple of well-placed lightning bolts from heaven would be a step in the right direction.

The people began to complain that it didn't seem to benefit them to serve the Lord God. "What's the point?" We're trying to do good and those who do evil seem to be better off than we are. We struggle while they have it easy. We work hard and things seem to fall into their laps. We try to be honest but it doesn't seem to pay. Where's the justice in life?

We wonder how God can see the unbelievers put Him to the test, continue to prosper, and escape punishment. The prophet reminds us that God's justice is fair and He will not allow evil to go unpunished. The Lord will give the unbelievers over to their own silliness and arrogance. They'll get what's due. The Lord who sees is just.

The prophet assures the people that in the end, God's justice is not blind. The Lord will deliver His perfect justice. Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who esteem His name.

The Lord reassures us through the prophet, "They shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not do so."

Today we are celebrating the Sunday of Christ the King. It's also known as the Sunday of the Fulfillment. The Gospel reading is the judgment with the great separation of the sheep and the goats. Here is the final vindication for God's people. Although it seems that the Lord is slow to respond, God sees and hears those who serve Him.

What's the incentive for doing good? Why bother? The promises of heaven seem too remote and abstract to be an incentive. It doesn't seem to matter anyway. Nothing really seems to improve or get better. Why bother seeking to do good when it doesn't seem to make any difference?

Remember this. Goodness will never prevail if we stop trying to do good. What we do does matter? It matters now and it will make a difference forever. No, you will probably not be remembered in the history books. But, your good works precede you to the presence of the Lord. It doesn't matter if the world has forgotten when you hear the invitation of Jesus, "Come, beloved of My Father."

Jesus is our strength. He will give us the resolve we need to face evil. If we would sit back and let the evil in the world have its way, conditions here would be even worse. Evil seeks only to steal, kill and destroy. We are called to resist evil. The Lord gives His people of every generation the determination and ability to do what is good and right.

Because the Lord works in and through us, we touch the lives of those around us. Yes, there is an eternal reward. Yes, we know that we will live forever with the Lord. Yes, we know the evil will "get theirs" in the end. But, we're stuck in the "here and now." Whatever good we do now is important. The Lord helps us defend the defenseless, be strong for the weak, and build up that which is torn down. Even our smallest acts of kindness will have deep and lasting impacts that we may never know.

Although we live in a less than perfect world, Paul exhorts us to strive for the higher things as he reminds us, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." [Philip. 4:8]

Christ, our Lord, did not come to be served but to serve and be the servant of all. His obedience took Him to the cross. Through His death and resurrection, He opened the way of life to us. In Him we continue the life of showing compassion to a cold, hostile and uncaring world. We cannot do these things on our own. The Lord comes to us. He comes to us in the Word. He comes to us in the sacrament. He comes to strengthen and encourage us as we deal with life in the world and seek to do good to others. Amen, even so come Lord Jesus.


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