The Light to the Nations - Epiphany Sermon / Wednesday January 6, 2016 / Guest Pastor David Haberstock of Grace Lutheran Church - Regina
Epiphany Service for WASCANA Circuit of Central District of Lutheran Church-Canada Wednesday January 6, 2016 / Preacher: Guest Pr. David Haberstock of Grace Lutheran Church in Regina Saskatchewan. Isaiah 60:1-6, Psalm 72:1-11, Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12
Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the LORD will arise upon you,
and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.
Lift up your eyes all around, and see;
they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from afar,
and your daughters shall be carried on the hip.
Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and exult,
because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
A multitude of camels shall cover you,
the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall bring good news, the praises of the LORD.
(Isaiah 60:1-6 ESV)
Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to the royal son!
May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice!
Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness!
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the children of the needy,
and crush the oppressor!
May they fear you while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations!
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth!
In his days may the righteous flourish,
and peace abound, till the moon be no more!
May he have dominion from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth!
May desert tribes bow down before him,
and his enemies lick the dust!
May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands
render him tribute;
may the kings of Sheba and Seba
May all kings fall down before him,
all nations serve him!
(Psalm 72:1-11 ESV)
For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.
(Ephesians 3:1-12 ESV)
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
(Matthew 2:1-12 ESV)
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
From eternity the visiting of the wisemen was planned by our heavenly Father. Thus it was prophesied over and over again—just we heard in Psalm 72 and Isaiah 60—that kings of the East and Africa and even Europe (Tarshish and the islands) would come to visit the Saviour when His day dawned. And now it has happened. For the longest time I thought it was just a godly church tradition that art of the wisemen coming to worship Jesus usually depicted a European, a middle eastern, and an African magi. But upon examining the Old Testament reading and the Psalm for today it was not merely a godly depiction of the nations descending from the three sons of Noah (as outlined in Genesis10) but it was actually prophesied in numerous places. And now it has happened.
It happened when the Word of God became flesh. When all things that had been planned from eternity aligned and were fulfilled. Just ponder the mystery of our God gathering the dispersed remnants of His children scattered by their sin, by their pride and fear, to His Son in faith. He had planned this all along. From before He scattered them with languages at Babel He knew that He would reunite them by faith in Jesus. He knew before the Fall into sin, even before creation that this was what He was going to do—that He would glorify His Son by bringing Him the riches of the nations.
And they literally brought their riches. The prophesied gold and incense. Rich gifts. Gifts fit for a king. And for a priest. But those magi also brought a third gift. For 3 is always the number of God’s saving action in the Bible. The third gift fleshed out how He would save them. Myrrh. A burial spice. For He would save them from sin and death by His death. By His death He would ascend with His holy precious blood into the heavenly temple and pour the blood of salvation on the altar appeasing the Father’s wrath against sin. Winning for all humanity the Father’s grace and favour. Our Father had planned all this in order to satisfy His justice so that He might be all gracious to you and me, and everyone.
So it had been prophesied. The riches of the nations would be brought to Him. But that’s not all. He would be given dominion from sea to sea. From the River Euphrates—where that sinful city of Babel was founded—all the way to the ends of the earth. For He is our king. He rules world in truth and grace. That means the riches of the nations are not merely their wealth but their children. Their souls. For not merely Israel, but every nation of earth would bring their sons and daughters to Him. For Him to lay His hands on them and bless them by water and His Word. So that all nations will serve Him in faith.
And that’s good news in a world of darkness. That is Gospel to you and me. For we are of those nations. We are not the chosen family through whom the Father brought forth His only begotten Son. We are those extended families of earth. Those who through the sins of our ancient fathers in their rebellion cut themselves off from knowledge of God at the tower of Babel or before. We would have perished in our sin had not the Gospel of Jesus Christ arisen and shone on you through men like St. Paul appointed to preach to we Gentiles.
Good, good news. The light of the world has arisen and shone on us! We are saved! But we who live here below who still struggle with our flesh get smug about these gifts we’ve received. Like so many good German Lutherans we might say, “Well, my forebears have been Lutheran right back to the Reformation.” And we wear the name Christian or Lutheran like a boy scout merit badge as though being gifted God’s grace were our doing. As though a godly heritage of salvation passed from one generation to another was not the amazing grace of God poured out on a broken sinner like you.
So that like the Jews of Our Lord’s day we think God’s promises to us are our birth rite. Ours by virtue of who we are and what we have done. And with that pride in our passing “glory” we think we are owed something by God. So that when a threat comes against those things we get scared.
Pride and fear go hand and hand in humans. We Christians are not immune. And we who have had the Gospel of Jesus graciously handed from one generation to the next are afraid that in our generation it will all come crashing down around us. Will our churches survive unto the next generation? Will Canada be the same blessed place we experienced it to be? What about that flood of refugees coming from the East? They with their different religion, different cultural practices. Isn’t it all too much, too fast? What will happen to all the good things that we have known and cherished? They will change. And we are afraid.
For in our pride we look to ourselves and not to the Lord, the source of all our gifts. Then looking to ourselves we naturally fear. For anything good is not maintained long by human effort alone. The Church certainly hasn’t lasted on earth by human effort alone. If not for the power of the Holy Spirit this good confession of faith would've been wiped out long ago by its enemies who persecute it, and by our own sinful hearts who wish to twist it into something more palatable to us.
Repent. Stop looking to yourself. For your Light has come! Christ is in the world. And he does the unexpected. He brings the nations unto Himself. By His being lifted on a cross He has drawn all peoples in faith to Him. He has always done this by the preaching of Christ and Him crucified. For instance, did you know that as the tide of humanity rises in Europe, as people flee the oppression of middle eastern regimes and gospel-less religions that in Berlin and other parts of Germany there is a veritable pentecost going on? Did you know that one of our sister churches in Berlin is baptizing some 15 former muslims from Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq each month? For the last 3 years? Did you know that in the midst of the (so-called) “Islamic State’s” reign of terror some of the persecutors slaying Christians are being converted to faith in the saviour who bled for their sins? Can you imagine the suffering and horror of sin that refugees coming here have witnessed and experienced? What a colossal opportunity? These hurting souls need the balm that only He who planned their salvation from the foundation of the world can give!
And by a mass resettlement of 1000s of suffering souls into this country those whom we could once never have hoped to meet and tell of Jesus will be in close proximity to us! So on this Epiphany when the Light of World has shone forth and wisemen of the East believed and came and worshipped Him what does Scripture give to us to do? Arise. Shine. For your light has come. And pray. Pray for our world. Pray for your own loved ones ensnared by the cares of the world and the deceitfulness and pursuit of worldly gain. And pray for these folks who are coming to Canada from foreign lands. For just as Lord appointed Paul and many others to proclaim the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name to Gentiles so that you are saved, now there are new ears to hear. So pray for voices to speak to those ears who would hear. For the wealth of the nations comes unto our Lord. Just as we ourselves have been carried to Him and granted this mysterious grace planned from foundation of world.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen. —Pastor David Haberstock
Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church Regina, SK