26th Sunday after Pentecost

26th Sunday after Pentecost

November 13, 2016

Malachi 4:1-6

“Keep On Keeping On”

Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our living Savior Jesus. The basis for the sermon is the First Lesson read from the final prophet, final book, and final verses of the Old Testament – Malachi 4:1-6.

My dear friends,

It has been my experience in life that the winner is not always the one in the lead. In fact, many times the eventual winner trailed at some point or another. Momentum can turn on a dime, and that is part of the reason why we love the drama of sports. I have seen and played on teams who win in the final seconds and others who lose in those same seconds. In November 2013 alone college football saw 2 wild finishes: Auburn returned a 108-yard missed field goal to beat then #1 Alabama 34-28 and Nebraska beat Northwestern on a last-play 51 yard Hail Mary pass to win 27-24. And so the lesson from sports becomes a lesson for life: never give up because there can always be a come-back victory.

The prophet Malachi was the last of the Old Testament prophets. He lived and did God’s work around 450 BC. He served at a time when Israel had returned from the exile to rebuild the temple and Jerusalem. And while this urban development was new, it was the “same old story” for the Israelites; they had again “fallen” in their faith. Temple worship had become corrupt and people had fallen into a “faith apathy” so to speak. The wicked were prosperous; the righteous were being trampled on. The people wanted to know why they should keep on keeping on being faithful to God’s Word. The wicked had plenty of money, they seemed to have all the political and religious power, they made and enforced the rules. The faithful of Malachi’s day were not sure what the point was of being faithful to God if He was going to allow the wicked to prosper and the faithful to get the short end of the stick all the time. Wouldn’t it be easier to dump the “old-fashioned” ways of God and join in the way of the rest of the world? Huh.

In a very real way, but in a very different time, the same problem continues in our modern world and even in our own Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. Today in the LCMS and in our faith-filled lives we too wonder why do we have to keep on keeping on? Why is it that the other churches seem to have all the people and all the big campuses and all the money (only our perception)? Maybe if we were more like them we’d have more young families and even a Sunday School. Wouldn’t we be better – wouldn’t we do better – as a church if we got rid of our closed communion practice or changed our stance on sexuality/marriage? Wouldn’t we get more members if we dumped all that “old fashioned” liturgy and get a praise band up in here? What’s the point of keeping on if it seems like we’re getting nowhere?! Huh.

And maybe you feel the same way in your personal or professional life. Maybe if we just cut a few corners here and there – “you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs” – and didn’t act so pious and “holy” all the time then maybe we’d get ahead or get that promotion/bid or maybe the boss would notice us if we worked on more Sundays rather than going to church. Or maybe you should just “give it a rest” and stop bugging your kids about their addictive, destructive behaviors, and about going to church and getting their infants baptized and kids in Sunday School/Confirmation. Why keep on keeping on? It’s not getting us anywhere! Huh.

Malachi had an answer for the people of then and for us today and it is a powerful message. Verse 1 reminds us “For behold, the day is coming…when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze…so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.” Whoa! This is a serious threat! The arrogant, the wicked, all unbelievers will be burned to mere stubble and not even root or branch will remain. No branch means no life left and no root means that there is total death with no hope for renewal; no chance for a comeback!

God promised that the wicked would be trampled down (Mai 4:3) and, believe it or not, that promise had been made good! In fact, this promise was made way back in Genesis 3:15: (God said to Satan) “And I will put enmity{strife} between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush (trample) your head, and you will strike his heel” (NIV). This was the work of Jesus Christ. Satan struck His heel at the cross, but Jesus crushed the head of Satan by defeating death itself along with sin by His innocent suffering, death, and resurrection. The victory of the cross is ours by faith in our risen Savior. The victory of the cross means our sins are forgiven.

You believe in and celebrate Christmas and Easter, right? Those events happened SO THAT the Day of the Lord would come! On that day the wicked will be destroyed forever, and the righteous will enjoy the warmth and peace and healing that only our loving God can provide for eternity! We don’t want to see the wicked perish, though, and that motivates us to faithfully remain who we are without selling out, to reach out to a lost world, to preach Christ crucified so that the wicked would repent and believe in Jesus before it’s too late.    My wife thinks this is crazy, but I watch recorded football games even when I know the outcome. Wanna know the beauty of that? When bad things happen to my team, I don’t care because I know that, in the end, my team wins. The minor defeats along the way don’t matter because I already know the final victorious outcome. See where I’m going with this? Yes, bad things will happen to us and to other believers in life. We will get sick, we will suffer, and yes we will die. But those who have been saved by the baptismal waters of our Lord never – NEVER – give up or lose heart because we aren’t “losing” or “behind;” the race has already been won; victory is already a done-deal as displayed at the cross and empty grave. By faith we are already the victors…WE WIN! What we do is keep on keeping on faithfully moving towards that glorious finish line.