Sermon for Lenten Midweek 4 – March 17, 2021

+ Lenten Midweek 4 – March 17, 2021 +

Ezra 1:1-4

Beautiful Savior Lutheran

Milton, WA

 

“Exile and Return from Our Babylons”

 

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

 

There was a 2nd century heretic named Marcion. What does Marcion have to do with a Lenten sermon series on the Old Testament? Even more odd than his name – which isn’t Martian, but Marcion – was his even more odd, and false teaching that the God of the Old Testament was different than that of the new. For Marcion – and sadly many others – God is nothing more than a cantankerous hothead with a short fuse.

 

And yet, a closer look at the Scriptures reveals just the opposite. God is long-suffering, long-tempered. Quick to forgive. Slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, as the Psalms declare.

 

Now, it certainly is true that the Lord’s patience has a limit. There comes a point when the heavenly Father will, in fatherly love, discipline his children. A time when the Father will warn his children of the danger they are putting themselves in when they play with spiritual fire.

 

In a way, this is the story of much of the Old Testament. The Lord sending his children Israel prophet after prophet, all preaching variations on of the same sermon: Repent and turn away from your false idols and come back to the true God.

 

From Amos to Isaiah, Hosea to Jeremiah, they all foretold Israel’s coming death, but their hearers for the most part brush off and close their ears to the Lord’s messengers and his message. Worse yet, sometimes they would even kill the messenger. “Yea, yea, we’ve heard that message before Pastor Chicken Little, but the sky hasn’t fallen yet.”

 

But eventually it did. The might of the Babylonian empire came crashing down on Israel. Under King Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon bulldozed Jerusalem, smashed her temple to smithereens, and reduced even the most wealthy of her citizens to prisoners and slaves. Like Lot’s wife, no doubt, Israel’s sons and daughters looked back upon the ruined, rubbled holy city with salty tears drenching their once happy faces. Off to Babylon they marched, and as they marched I imagine many of them remembered the words of the Lord that had gone unheeded for so long. Off they went to Babylon exiled, homeless, and yet, not hopeless.

 

Just as the Lord told Abraham how many years Israel would be stuck in Egypt, so too, he told his prophet Jeremiah how Israel would be in Babylon, living far from home and feeling home-sick. 70 years. No doubt it felt like an eternity to those enduring those 70 years. And yet it was not forever. For though the wages of sin were exile, the free gift of God is a homecoming. In God’s time and in God’s grace, he brought Israel home.

 

Eventually Persia became the world superpower. And through Cyrus, king of Persia, the Lord was working to bring his people home.

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:

 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem.  And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.”

One of those Israelites was Ezra, following in the footsteps of Moses, leading Israel back to the land flowing with milk and honey.

 

The book of Ezra is one of many examples of God’s long-suffering; that he is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. That is the kind of God Israel had. And so do you.

 

Unlike our moods that often change from day to day, he is same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. God gave Noah an ark for the salvation of his household. He brought Abraham out of exile. He took Jacob by the hand and brought him back to his fatherland. He led Israel out of Egypt and through the Red Sea. He pulled his people out of the quicksand of Babylon and onto the solid ground of Canaan. And he has done the same for us, no matter what Babylon we might find ourselves in.

 

Do you find yourself in the Babylon of addiction or selfishness or simply going through the motions, or guilt or shame or despair?

 

Whatever it is that has you feeling exiled, Jesus has delivered you. However big our sins are, the love of Jesus is always bigger. Not only has Jesus taken away your sins, he also fills you with life, his life.

 

Whatever your Babylon, whatever that place of captivity and exile, it cannot and will not keep you from Jesus who died for you. His cross is a sledgehammer that pounds away and smashes the walls that hold you captive. Just as Samson tore the gates of a city to earth and carried them high on a hill, so has Jesus the greater Samson wrecked the gates of each and every one of our Babylons. Jesus has brought forth his own resurrected body from the tomb and raises you to new life in his name.

 

You see, God is not the grumpy old man telling us to “get off my lawn”. He is not short-fused and hotheaded. God is slow to anger for you. Abounding in steadfast love for you. He is quick to forgive you. And that will never change. And because of that you need fear no Babylon. The Lord Jesus has conquered them all and brought you home in his death and resurrection.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful Savior

is a traditional Lutheran Church, faithful to God's Word and His Sacraments. We equip God's people to serve, love, and encourage one another as we grow in our personal relationship with Christ. We reach out to the community as beacons of light, sharing the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Savior.

Church Office Hours

Monday - Thursday 8:30am-3:30pm

Friday 8:30am-11:30am

The office is closed on Fridays during the summer months of June, July, and August.

Preschool Office Hours

August - May
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
8:30am-12:30pm

By appointment only June and July

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Address
2306 Milton Way
Milton, WA 98354
Phone
(253) 922-6977
Fax
(253) 922-6977
E-mail
staff@mybslc.com