PENTECOST 8, A, 2017

SCRIPTURES – Ps. 105; Deut. 7:6-9; Rom. 8:28-39; Matthew 13:44-52 

      Know that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations. Deut. 7:9

 

I remember when I was a kid in Cincinnati, kids in my neighborhood and at school would sometimes ask, “What is your church like?” They knew nothing about Lutherans. We were all Christians, but most were Catholic; a few were Baptists or Methodists, or some other Protestant.

 Things are very different today. Within just a few miles of our church there is a Hindu temple, a Sikh temple, and a Moslem mosque, as well as a Jehovah’s Witnesses church and a Mormon church. Today you might be asked, “What is your God like?” How will you answer? “I’ll have my Pastor call you” is not an acceptable response!

 Telling people about your God is far more than an obligation. It is an opportunity. Psalm 105:2 even calls it praise: “Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; tell of all His wondrous works!” You are praising God when you speak of Him!

 “Know the Lord your God,” says our reading from Deuteronomy. He is:

I.              A LOVING GOD WHO GLADLY TAKES US AS HIS OWN.

 He doesn’t do so because He has to or is obligated to you. He is God! If He did not want to be your God and have you as His child, you could not force Him to do so! Moses told the people of Israel, “The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers.” What he said of Israel then is true of you now. You are no better than others. God did not choose you because you had fewer sins in His eyes and were more desirable in His estimation. We are all unworthy of Him! And yet, you can call the almighty God, the Creator and ruler of heaven and earth, your God because, despite all of your failings, He gladly took you to be His child!

 This is the God we worship: a God whose love is freely given; a God who takes us as His own before there is any reason for Him to do so, before we have begun to do any good. “The Lord your God is the faithful God,” Scripture says. The Hebrew word “amen,” translated here as “faithful,” was used of the strong arms of a parent holding and supporting a helpless infant. Faithfully holding and supporting – this is our loving God. He loves us and takes us and holds us as His own, as parents do their newborn child who hasn’t yet done anything to please them or gain their love. Don’t ever think you have earned His love, or think that He is obligated to you because of your goodness and decency. This would belittle His love! Confess your sinfulness and unworthiness, and magnify His love in taking you and holding you anyway!

II.            A GOD WHO IS STRONG TO SAVE YOU FROM YOUR SINS.

 And, how personally He gets involved! Jesus both teaches and shows this. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found… the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls…” Our God in His searching came down here among us, into this world of sin and sorrow, of rebellion and unbelief. God the Son came in the weakness of our human flesh, but in the strength of an unwavering trust in His Father and an unfailing love for us. He came to us sinners, weak and oppressed by our sins and the sorrows of this fallen world, to rescue us and make us God’s beautiful treasures. To do this, He was willing to pay the greatest price. “He goes and he sells all that he has” to have the treasure, Jesus says.

 We all make sacrifices to have something we want. You work extra hours for money for a vacation. You sacrifice your time and desires to help your kids (or nieces or nephews or grandchildren) and provide for them. You pay for the expensive item your child broke at the store. Well, would you go to prison for a crime your child commits? Would you go to the electric chair, or receive a lethal injection? Jesus did! This is your God. He gave all that He had, even His own righteousness and life, that the evil of your sins might be forgiven; that their threatened judgment of eternal imprisonment and punishment might not be laid upon you; that you might be God’s precious possession!

 Keep especially this in your mind and heart, for the trials and sorrows and evils of this life can make it seem as if you are not precious to God. “Where is your God now?” some will say then. Why does He not notice or care? Why is He not strong for you? Take to heart what St. Paul says in Romans 8:

“What shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

Jesus is the answer! In Him, whom God sent to give His life for you, you have a loving God who is strong to save you from your sins. And, in Him you will see that your God is

III.           A GOD OF JOY WHO REJOICES OVER YOU.

 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up,” Jesus says. “Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” In His joy. Our God doesn’t have to be coerced into loving us and helping us. Think again of the Hebrew word “amen,” “faithful.” Picture a loving mother, receiving and holding in her arms her newborn baby. Do you see her with a frown on her face? Must her baby, whose birth caused her so much pain and suffering, be forced upon her? Eagerly, with great love and joy, she holds out her arms! Such is the joy of your God and Savior over you in Jesus!

 It is hard for us to realize this because His joy is an eternal joy, the joy of seeing what He will make of you at the end when He delivers you from this vail of tears. Right now we live in the midst of labor and many pains. But, this will all be set aside and quickly forgotten at the resurrection on the Last Day, when you are received into the loving arms of your God. How He has yearned and labored for this! He is still doing so. “Christ Jesus, who died and was raised, is at the right hand of God and is interceding for us,” Holy Scripture says (Rom. 8). Jesus is speaking of you and for you before His Father constantly!

What is your God like? This is your God in Jesus: a God who loves you with an eternal love; a God who is strong to save you from your sins; and a God who rejoices over you and in you. He is “the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.” (Deut. 7:9) “Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; tell of all His wondrous works!” (Ps. 105:2) In the name of our great God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.