Proper 28--Wednesday

Pentecost--The Last Day  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  27:31
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When Jesus Comes, It Is the Dawning of a New Day for His People.
Goal: That God’s people not dread or fear the Last Day and Jesus’ coming, but eagerly look forward to the dawning of that new day with confidence and joy.
A new day dawns every morning. The sun comes up whether you like it or not. And honestly, some mornings we like it, and some mornings we don’t, right? There’s the first day of vacation, and there’s the first day of school. There’s Christmas morning, and there’s the morning of your dentist appointment. There’s the morning of your wedding day, and there’s the morning of your loved one’s funeral. The sun comes up, whether you want it or not.
And whether you’re ready for it or not. Whether your work for school or your job is done or not. Whether you’re ready for the exam or not. Whether you’re ready to preach or not. The sun comes up, and a new day dawns, ready or not.
Thus said Malachi. For so he told the people of Israel: the sun of righteousness shall arise. And some will want it to, and some will not. Some will be ready, and some will not. For some, that day will be a day of joy, but for others it will be a day of dread. For the arrogant and the evildoers, the sun of righteousness shall arise, and they shall be set ablaze, Malachi says. But for those who fear the name of the Lord, the sun of righteousness will arise with healing in his wings, and they shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. Leaping at the joy of a new day.
When Jesus Comes, It Is the Dawning of a New Day for His People.

God sent Malachi to ready the people, but they weren’t ready. Are you?

The word of the Lord from Malachi: “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall” Malachi 4:1-2.
The sun of righteousness has arisen from heaven and come down to be our Savior, to become incarnate, to be enfleshed. Jesus is the sun of righteousness who, though swallowed up in the darkness of death, rose from the dead to defeat death. And he is the sun of righteousness who will arise once more on the Last Day, when he will also raise all the dead and give to you and to all who are abiding in Him eternal life.
Malachi seems to speak of all those sun rises. Living four hundred or so years before Jesus, of course, he is speaking of when the Son of God arose to be born a man. But he became man to die, and he died to rise, and he ascended to return. To speak of one is to speak of them all. They’re really all one big work. For you. And he wants all people to be ready and joyful. Not to dread that day, but to look forward to it in faith.
But the people were not ready. They should have been. It had not been that long since the nation had been defeated by the Babylonians and taken away as prisoners of war, exiled from their homeland. The Babylonians had leveled the city of Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. After seventy years, when the people returned, they rebuilt the city, the walls, and the temple . . . but it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t as strong. It wasn’t as glorious. A constant reminder of what happens when you turn away from God.
Yet turn away they did. Again. Things were up and running, but all was not well. The people doubted God’s love. They were despising his name. They weren’t offering to God sacrifices worthy of him, but ones they didn’t want—animals that were blemished and lame and blind. They weren’t paying their tithes. And maybe worst of all, with all this going on, they were accusing God of injustice! So God, in love, sent Malachi to them to call them to repentance. To repent of what they were doing. To repent of what they thought of him. And to remember: “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel” Malachi 4:4. Remember, or instead of that morning being one of leaping like calves in joy, they will be reduced to weeping piles of stubble and set ablaze.
Remembering the Law of Moses, though, didn’t just mean remembering the Ten Commandments, straightening up, and being good. It meant much more than that, because God gave Moses much more than that on Mount Sinai. After giving Moses the Commandments, God also gave Moses the instructions for the tabernacle—the place where God would dwell with his people for the forgiveness of their sins. With the tabernacle and the sacrifices, God was calling his people to straighten up, raise their heads, and look for the day their Savior would rise up. The Commandments would show them their sin; the tabernacle would show them their Savior. That they wait with eager hearts for his morning.
How about you? Do you have such an eager heart for Jesus to come again? for the Last Day? Are you ready for that day? It’s hard, isn’t it? There’s so much to do and so little time. Our lives are complicated, and money is short. There may even be times when you doubt God’s love because of what’s going on in your life and how things in this world perhaps seem so unjust.
Earlier in his book, Malachi challenged the people of his time in a couple key areas. First, they had become too enamored with money and possessions. Second, their worship life was in shambles.
Malachi could give his prophecy to us, couldn’t he? Money has become all too important in our society. So Malachi’s words of warning to his people apply just as much to us: you’re dangerously close to the wrong side of Judgment Day when money means that much to you.
Then he turned to the people’s worship life. He challenged them about halfhearted worship, showing up only part of the time, and giving leftovers instead of their best to the Lord. He could be speaking to us. Sometimes we stay up too late on Saturday night and barely get to church on time, or we’re too tired to pay attention. It could be that we come with expectations of having things done just a certain way. Then, if those expectations aren’t met, we start complaining about what went wrong in the service instead of praising and thanking the Lord for the opportunity to be in worship. Or we just go through the motions, not really singing or responding or listening. Perhaps the hold money has on us keeps us from giving generously, sacrificially, cheerfully, right off the top. Our offerings are scraps rather than deep expressions of love for our Lord.
So Malachi’s words of warning to his people apply just as much to us: you’re dangerously close to the wrong side of Judgment Day when worship is treated so poorly.
Like the people of Malachi’s day, it’s easy to give God short shrift, prioritize other things before him, and not really be all that eager for the sun to rise on the Last Day. Because we’re not who we should be. We are not abiding in Him. We should know better; the evidence of our need is all around us. But when the sun of righteousness arises, when Jesus comes back again, what will he think of me?

God sends his Elijah, John the Baptist, that we be ready.

Well, God does not want you to doubt, be unprepared for that day, or fear that day. So, ever merciful, he promises us a rooster, so to speak, who will herald the rising of the sun of righteousness. That we not only be ready but also joyful at his coming: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction” Malachi 4:5-6.
Malachi calls him Elijah. John the Baptist is the name he goes by in the New Testament. He will proclaim repentance, but even more than that, he will point to Jesus and say: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). Behold the sun of righteousness with healing in his wings. Healing for us who are sick with sin, weighed down by life, and in desperate need of forgiveness and joy.
John proclaims the dawning of salvation for us still today. For as he pointed to the Lamb of God at the Jordan, so, too, are we reminded of the Lamb who washes us clean in our fonts, and so, too, does he point to the Lamb of God who comes to us on the altar. For it is his words that sound forth as we sing “Lamb of God, You take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us” right before we receive the body and blood of Jesus. The body and blood of Jesus who stretched out his arms on the cross like wings for us to take refuge under, and where his healing forgiveness is found. His forgiveness proclaimed to us at the beginning of the Divine Service, his forgiveness washed over us, and his forgiveness placed into our mouths in his Supper answers the question: When the sun of righteousness arises, when Jesus comes back again, what will he think of me? It will be the same as he thinks of you now as he rises upon you now: You are forgiven. You are his.
That day really will be the dawning of a new day for you. A great and awesome day of joy.
We’ll sing of this sun of righteousness in just a few weeks as we rejoice in his first coming in the flesh with the celebration of Jesus’ nativity. For we’ll sing:
Hail, the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings. (LSB 380:3)
And as he is risen, so are you, already now. Each day, a new day in him. Each day dying to sin and rising in him to live a new life. A day to serve others, never growing weary of doing good.
After Malachi preached, it was another four hundred years or so until the sun of righteousness arose and the rooster named John crowed. How long will it be for you? But until that day comes for you, you can live in the confidence of his forgiveness and in joy, knowing that whenever that day comes, you are ready. It will be a morning unlike any other. Just as John leaped for joy in his mother’s womb when the still in utero Jesus came to visit him, so you, too, will leap for joy when Jesus comes for you—leaping right out of your grave!—and you will leap with John in the day that has no end. The day of heaven. The eternal day. When the sun of righteousness will shine forever.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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