Advent 3, 2018
The Epistle – 1 Corinthians 4:1-5
The Gospel – St. Matthew 11:2-10
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
To put into perspective or to put into context all that we have heard this morning in Scripture reading, we have to first recall what the Advent Season is all about.
We are first reminded, again, in the last Sunday of Trinity Season that it is a time to be stirred up.
Stirred up in spirit through the Gospel. …stirred up in heart for Christ
…stirred up in will…to bear the fruit of good works, that our Lord has promised to work through us.
Advent 1 then, tells us, linking it with the previous exhortation that we are to put off the works of darkness. Put on the armor of light.
We are no longer to be partnered with others who walk in impure ways.
Paul says that we were once darkness, but now we are light….therefore, we are to walk as children of light in the Lord…discerning what the will of the Lord is for us moment by moment.
And instead of partaking in the unfruitful works of darkness, we are rather to expose them.
In other words, we are to be imitators of Christ and of God. We are to walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…so that we and our works might be at all times a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
In Advent 2, the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures were highlighted as an invaluable and indispensable part of our faith.
The entire life of the Christian is discerned and taught by the Word of God.
The entire world around us is to be understood and interpreted through the Word of God.
Our thoughts, words and deeds are all to be guided and directed by…and conformed to… the Word of God.
And therefore, we are able to live lives in anticipation of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ because we have the assurance of the Words of God given to us to read, mark and digest.
Today, in the third Sunday in Advent, with all of the aforementioned in mind we should be looking to see how these passages continue the same pattern that we have been given for the last 3 weeks.
The prayer today, setting the theme was that just as John the Baptist prepared the way for Christ, the ministers of the Gospel are to do likewise today.
Not only in Advent but all year round, the minsters of the Gospel are to preach and teach the Word of God to the people of God…. and to faithfully administer the Holy Sacraments to the people of God.
…so that they may be fully equipped…so that they may prepare their hearts for the coming of the Lord and to live in light of their Justification in the meantime…to the glory of God.
In the Epistle, Paul begins today by saying, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”
This is the Apostolic Ministry that is handed down by the laying on of hands to the ministers of God, even down to today.
The Ministers of God are stewards of the mysteries…meaning they are tasked with administering the sacraments of God and preaching the Word of God.
And in the Gospel, we are introduced again to John the Baptist, this time later on in his life…imprisoned.
He sends some of his followers to Jesus to get for them and for himself…confirmation of the mission and ministry of Jesus.
Jesus sends them back to John with examples of what He is doing…assuring them (and John) that what is happening is certainly the fulfilling of what the Prophets predicted would happen. The blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk.
These are all the signs of the work of God and the coming to pass of what was spoken by the Prophets.
Many Jews in the first century thought that the authentic prophets had all died out.
But here we
have these things, placed in order for a specific reason, the book of
Malachi…the last book of the Old Testament…the fulfilling and linking of Old
Covenant with New with John as that link.
The Prophet Malachi wrote, speaking for God, “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.” (ESV)
Malachi was exactly right. God sent a messenger…John the Baptist, ahead of Christ to announce His coming and arrival. …
…to prepare the people…to prepare their hearts to accept Him upon His arrival.
But Jesus then turns to the crowds and gives them some instruction on just how important John the Baptist was.
When you all went out into the wilderness to see John, what exactly were you going out to see…what were you going for when you sought out John?
Jesus is telling them in question form…you went out for a reason. Why did you go out? You went out because of the words of the Prophet John.
You wanted to hear the Words of God from the Prophet John.
Did you go out to see a reed shaken by the wind? A man whose doctrine is uncertain? A message that is muddled? No, you went out to hear John because you believed what he had to say.
Did you go out expecting to see a man dressed like a king? No. You knew John’s message was true despite the crude clothing and appearance.
No, you went out to see a Prophet. Well, I tell you, this man John is more than a Prophet. …he is bigger or more important than other Prophets in this regard….he came to announce my arrival.
He came out to announce what Malachi announced 400 years earlier…that the Messiah would come.
And I am here.
Jesus commended John to the people because those who followed John rightly understood who he was and rightly embraced his message.
John was also a steward… as Paul was talking about ministers being stewards of God’s things and John was found faithful.
But we are going to bring in another Scripture passage this morning, because of the need for us to see how every Christian fits into a narrative like this.
Every Christian must be aware and awakened of the necessity we see in our day.
The Church in general and ours in particular will see challenges in the future. Therefore, we must be grounded in the Word of God and what it tells us so that we do not lose heart and so that we can see more clearly our duty as God’s people.
St. Peter writes in his first of two letters, these words, “…you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (ESV)
So, we are first backing off here from the the tight focus on the ministers proper in these passages this morning, St. Paul, John the Baptist…and we are broadening our scope to include all Christians as St. Peter does here.
Sproul - “Not only is Christ the stone that is living, elect, and precious in the sight of God, but also all who belong to Christ participate in His life as being ourselves living stones, chosen of God.”
But he goes on to say to all Christians, “you are a holy priesthood.”
This again is not to say that there is no distinction between clergy and laity.
The New Testament is very clear on the distinctions between the two.
He is saying to all, including the laity, that the Old Testament/Old Covenant priests offered sacrifices to God in the form of animal blood.
We in the New Covenant offer sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. Of adoration. Of love and devotion. Of gratefulness and appreciation.
So then, first as priests to God in this way, we all function in this capacity as sacrificing ourselves, our souls and bodies to God.
Peter says about the Priesthood of All Believers, that you all are a chosen race.
In fact, God told Moses to tell the people of Israel, Exodus 19:6
“…and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” An exact quote.
Just as God modeled His electing grace in the Old Covenant by calling out Israel as His chosen race, now in Christ, there is no Jew and Gentile, slave or free, male or female….all who are in Christ are one with and in Him.
But we are a chosen race. He chose us to be His. …He just chooses to create this holy race from all of the races of the earth now.
Peter says again, this time, “you are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.”
Here he is reiterating again the holiness of God’s people, bearing royalty because of being in Christ.
But here is the final part we are looking at. Peter says, all of this is so, “…that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness and into His marvelous light.”
There is work to do for all you Christians who are not just saints, but holy priests to God. You too, all have the privilege of proclaiming the great salvation of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.
You too are to proclaim and encourage and exhort people to turn from darkness and into His marvelous light.
This, again, of course is not to have each person fulfil the function of the ordained ministry, but it certainly, outside of that, calls each of you to proclaim by word and deed the great glories of God and His saving grace.
Calvin – “…behoves us to declare these virtues or excellencies (of God) not only by our tongue, but also by our whole life. This doctrine ought to be a subject of daily meditation, and it ought to be continually remembered by us, that all God’s blessings with which he favours us are intended for this end, that his glory may be proclaimed by us.”
This glory that we all are to show forth and proclaim can be seasonal as the Church lives in seasonal changes.
Right now, in Advent, we are anticipating the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. We show forth this season to others by telling them what the season means.
We show it by how we speak and how we live. We show it by letting people know what Advent time means…that God came into the word to forgive and save sinners…
…that each of us is a sinner, and by His grace…his free grace, He has given us life in the Son.
Christmas is another time of great opportunity to show forth Christ.
His birth is no secret. We can in so many ways share the birth story with others, telling them of the amazing condescending action of God in coming down, veiling His glory and coming to live as one of us…all in order to bring us to the Father.
God and sinner reconciled are the words of the hymn and the message of the season.
That is the message we as the, royal priesthood of God, are to proclaim.
And yet it’s not a seasonal thing. We are called to be ready to give a defense in season and out of season. Whenever the opportunity arises, we are to share the Gospel of Christ.
Let us then be up to the calling to all be a royal priesthood to God and in service to His Son. For all that He has done for each of us, does it not incline and indeed drive us to share this message with others.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.