December 4, 2011
TEXTS: Mark 1:1-8/2 Peter 3:8-14/Isaiah 40:1-11
THE VOICE PROCLAIMS THE WORD MADE FLESH!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

Dear friends in Christ - through the righteousness of God and of our Savior Jesus Christ you have received a precious faith; Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord (adapted from 2 Peter 1: 1, 2).

The organ builders appeared! Just like that on Tuesday of this week they appeared! With a semi load of organ components, with a flurry of activity, they have been moving and leveling and building. Their waited for and welcome activity has sent us a different way to worship this morning. Their activity has caused a lot of activity by others as you can see by the use of our gym today!

On this Sunday of Advent we hear that John appeared!  Just like that he appeared! Shattering nearly four hundred years of silence from heaven – his voice cried out! Since the time of Malachi (the last of the Old Testament prophets) the Persians and the Greeks had come and gone – the Hasmoneans also! Now Rome ruled the land with puppets like Herod in local control.

John appeared! The four centuries of waiting before His appearance saw Jews dispersed throughout the world. They also saw worldwide transportation and communication from the busy hands of the Romans. In those four centuries the Old Testament was translated into Greek – the common voice of the world. That translation is called the Septuagint. The promises of the Old Testament were now ripe to be fulfilled!

December 4, 2011
TEXTS: Mark 1:1-8/2 Peter 3:8-14/Isaiah 40:1-11
THE VOICE PROCLAIMS THE WORD MADE FLESH!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

Dear friends in Christ - through the righteousness of God and of our Savior Jesus Christ you have received a precious faith; Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord (adapted from 2 Peter 1: 1, 2).

The organ builders appeared! Just like that on Tuesday of this week they appeared! With a semi load of organ components, with a flurry of activity, they have been moving and leveling and building. Their waited for and welcome activity has sent us a different way to worship this morning. Their activity has caused a lot of activity by others as you can see by the use of our gym today!

On this Sunday of Advent we hear that John appeared!  Just like that he appeared! Shattering nearly four hundred years of silence from heaven – his voice cried out! Since the time of Malachi (the last of the Old Testament prophets) the Persians and the Greeks had come and gone – the Hasmoneans also! Now Rome ruled the land with puppets like Herod in local control.

John appeared! The four centuries of waiting before His appearance saw Jews dispersed throughout the world. They also saw worldwide transportation and communication from the busy hands of the Romans. In those four centuries the Old Testament was translated into Greek – the common voice of the world. That translation is called the Septuagint. The promises of the Old Testament were now ripe to be fulfilled!

Then, just like that John appeared! He came with one foot in the Old Testament and one foot in the New Testament! He came to stir things up – especially human hearts! He appeared on the scene in the Jordan wilderness where God had taken Elijah off the scene. He wore a leather belt after the fashion of Elijah (2 Kings 1:8). He inherited the power and the poverty and the prophetic ministry of Elijah (Mark 9:9-13/Matthew 11:7-15). The waiting was over! The Messiah was at hand! Of necessity, so was His forerunner, set aside from before his birth! John appeared!

Behold, … the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” What a voice! The voice cries “…all flesh is grass and all its beauty is like the flower of the field…The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.
 
John was so stubbornly narrow in his focus! He was out of touch with society in dress and diet and desert surroundings! He didn’t mingle or socialize! He was intolerant of the politically correct and the religiously comfortable. He was not a union man nor a big business man nor a synodical executive. He called the elite of Jerusalem a bunch of snakes.

If you think your political persuasion or your earthly concerns and connections and compassion put you a cut above - on a higher level of goodness in this world – John’s voice should ring in your ears! “Repent” “Turn around”  “Turn completely around”! He made people downright uneasy! He was after the common man – the evil in each person! He came to stir things up – especially human hearts.

He was strange and serious and ultimately snubbed by the elite and by the religious leaders. Herod sought to silence his voice by imprisonment behind the walls of his fortress! Herodias sought to silence his troubling voice by the brutal severing of his head. But his message is not silenced! While John was the voice, Jesus Himself is the Divine Word – the mightier one – whom John proclaimed!

It was the Divine Word Himself who evaluated John’s life this way! I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John (Luke 7:28). Joseph, Prince of Egypt; Moses, parting the Red Sea; King Solomon clothed in finery; were not greater than this wilderness man wearing camel’s hair and eating locusts! Isaiah and Malachi and all the prophets were not greater than John. In fact, he is the crown of the Old Testament prophetic office seeing what they foretold and what they longed to see. With one foot in the Old Testament and one foot in the New Testament John not only foretold the coming Messiah he saw Him in the flesh.

Dear Advent hearers of the Word made flesh; the message of John’s voice still reaches into the wilderness places of your heart today – those dry places of doubt and uncertainty – those canyons of lacking contentment – those rocky places of personal pride – those uneven places of worry and fear. The human heart is an amazing thing – capable of deep emotion and compassion for others; yet also curved inward in self seeking and misspent anxiety. Jesus said, “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.” (Matthew 15:19)  What comes out of our hearts is what defiles us!

That’s why our hearts and minds must continually be prepared for the Lord who comes in mercy. Hills of pride and self-trust must be scraped down. Twisted curves of impure thinking must be made straight. Pot holes of compromise with the world must be filled in. Hazards of sinful hate and sinful anger must be lifted away. I am not in need of a little improvement this Advent season. I am a rebel – always angling toward my way. I am in need of a new beginning – a clean heart and mind. The voice still cries out “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight!”  We cry out in response, Restore us, O God! Stir up our hearts…to serve you with pure minds!

Oh to serve God with a pure mind and holy desires! Oh to serve God with a pure mind day in and day out – no scheming – no worrying – no pretending - no doubting His love! Oh to have a pure mind in this season of Advent as we study or work at home or in the office, as we converse with others, as we drive here and there, as we buy gifts and celebrate. Oh to have a stirred up heart along with a pure mind – a heart seeking first the kingdom of God – hungering and thirsting for His righteousness – a heart never dull to God’s holy will.

That’s why John is the greatest born of women. It’s not because he gives these things but because his life was used up as a voice pointing to Him who does give these things. John preached, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. It is not enough to know about John. It is enough to know in faith the Mightier One!

All flesh is like grass. The grass withers. The flowers fade.
Your flesh is like grass – so frail and temporary on this passing earth. How quickly the flower of youth wears the mantle of age. How suddenly life can be snuffed out here by accident, by infection, by health crisis at any age. The Day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.  Left to ourselves we would die in this wilderness of wanting to be our own gods. Left to ourselves we would pursue our own way all the way to the grave.

As we stand at the beginning of another church year this Advent, it is vital to hear John’s voice in the wilderness of this life. For His voice not only speaks judgment it also speaks mercy. He was the very forerunner of Jesus! His voice announced the perfect baptism to come – baptism depending on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. John also said of Him – Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Dear Christians, here is the foundation for serving God with a pure mind! God who is the supreme terror for us dying sinners is also the abiding comfort for us dying sinners. Repentance is not trying a little harder to tidy up a bit. Repentance is not saying – yes, I still have a few problems to work on. Repentance is knowledge that I am the problem before God’s holiness. Repentance is being called back to God in total dismay of ourselves and yet in trusting confidence that He provides all we need. The Lord…is patient toward us not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
 
That’s why the prophet’s voice also cries out Comfort, comfort my people says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.

The word “comfort” means to cause someone to breathe deeply and easily. The phrase “speak tenderly” means to speak to her heart. In Christ Jesus, God speaks such tender mercies to your hearts that you can breathe deeply and easily before Him.

The Mightier One has come with might! As Isaiah prophesied, His arm rules for Him - by forgiving us. The sandals that John was not worthy to untie were taken off by others as Jesus was lifted up for our iniquities. Not even a leather belt was allowed to gird His waist as He died to forgive the sins of the world! The breath of the Lord’s wrath blew on Him and He withered like grass. The flower of life faded from Him who formed the earth out of water and who blotted out every living thing but those on the ark at the time of the flood. The grass withers, the flower fades - but the word of our God will stand forever.

This is the Word of our God in the flesh – mightier even than death! Though crucified, dead and buried He stands forever. That’s why the crucified one was no longer dead and buried on the morning of the third day! The way of the Lord, the straight path that He would travel went down into the valley of the shadow of our death. But He who is the way is also the life and it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him! On Easter morning His voice cried out in the wilderness of this life – “Peace be with you!”  It is peace purchased by the blood of His cross.

This is the reason Peter could write “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these things (that is…Jesus’ Second Coming and the new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells) be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.

That is how God finds you today in Christ! It is the very work He came to do and comes even now to do – for you! There is nothing left to pay! Your uneven ground is made level by Him. Behold, His reward is with Him – He tends to you, his flock, like a Shepherd.

In the Name of Jesus, Amen.   


Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a