Sunday, November 16, 2008

November 16, 2008 2nd Last Sunday of the Church Year Psalm 90

Lord, a refuge You have been to us in generations and generations. Before the mountains were given birth and You caused the beginning of the earth and the world; and from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. You return man back to dust; and You say, "Return, sons of Adam". For a thousand years in Your sight–as a day just passed, as it passes by; and a watch in the night. You stop life–they sleep; they will be, in the morning, like grass vanishing. In the morning it blossoms, yet it vanishes; in the evening it is cut off, it is dried up. We are consumed in Your anger; and in Your wrath we are terrified. You place our iniquities in Your presence; our secrets in the light of Your face. For all our days pass away in Your anger; we finish our years with a groan. The days of our years, in them--seventy years; and if in strength–eighty years. And their pride–labor and trouble; for it is cut off in haste and we fled away. Who knows the strength of Your anger; and according to the fear of You, Your wrath? To number our days, rightly teach us; and we may gain a heart of wisdom. Return, Yahweh–how long? and have mercy on Your servants. Satisfy us in the morning with Your loving-kindness; and we will sing for joy and rejoice in all our days. Gladden us according to the days You humbled us; the years we saw evil. Let appear, to Your servants, Your work; and Your splendor upon their children. Let Your kindness, Lord God, be upon us; and the work of our hands You establish upon us; and the work of our hands, You establish.

With these words, Moses composes, in this psalm, the biblical teaching of the works of the kingdom of heaven. The line is clear. All wrong works of sin and iniquity belong to man, who returns to the dust of death as his proper punishment. But all good works among God's people belong to God. They are His to establish & accomplish for us, in us and through us. Or as I teach my confirmands, if there is anything done right, then praise God; but if there is anything done which is wrong, then blame me!

In the parable today, Jesus teaches of the works of the kingdom of heaven also. But He is not teaching anything about the works of *our* talented-ness, since no skills or qualities of the slaves themselves are mentioned. The *talent* of the story is a sum of money as valuable as a million dollars, given to each slave. No human skill is worth so much. But God's grace is. It is this priceless grace of God which is given to the Christian church for its servants–its ministers to put to work.

So it is not so much about man's sanctified good works which follow salvation. It is about God's saving works of justification by which He produces more offspring in His church. Notice that the word translated *interest* is actually the term for God's creatures being fruitful & multiplying offspring. We in the church are given the blessed task of adding to the kingdom of God by storing up treasures in heaven. Each saved soul is someone you and I will treasure forevermore in the paradise above.

How is God's grace the priceless purchase price to increase God's offspring? It comes about by Jesus' willingness to take your place under God's Law. He knew that you deserved to be consumed by God's anger. He Himself was terrified of that cup of wrath as He prayed in Gethsemane. But He willingly took your iniquities upon Himself, becoming sin–your sin, at the +. There, not millions in silver & gold, but His holy precious blood & innocent suffering and death bought you as His Own.

OK, but that was some 2000 years ago. How can the grace Jesus purchased long ago come to you? Well, it is good that for God, a thousand years is nothing, like a day. Time is no matter for Jesus. In fact, He can take you back in time through your baptism all the way to Calvary. There, sinful you was crucified with Jesus, and buried by baptism into His death. But just as He didn't stay dead, so to in your baptism did new you rise up to everlasting & glorious life as Jesus rose up Easter Sunday.

Not only that, but Jesus can take Himself forward in time from the cross as well for you today. He takes His body once given, and His blood once shed, and brings them to you in the simple bread & in the cup of the Lord's Supper. Here at the Lord's Table, appears to you the Work of your Lord Jesus, His splendor manifest to you by faith which recognizes Jesus' Own body & blood in the Sacrament. There you eat & drink the forgiveness He purchased & won for you at the Cross of Calvary long ago.

What appears to the naked eye as only human act of water washing, and people eating & drinking, is actually the work of God Himself, works He establishes to forgive your sins, to save your soul, to strengthen your faith, and to give to you life eternal. Be satisfied in the works of His loving-kindness.

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