Not to bore you with the details of how preachers put a sermon together, but we have available to us in-depth commentaries by Bible scholars from those of ancient times to these days where we have so many commentaries on the web.
A pastor can easily google his selected text for his sermon and read an abundance of analyses. The commentaries provide deep insight into Hebrew and Greek translations and the understanding of the text in the context of Biblical times.
For me, I received my Master of Divinity degree from Concordia Seminary in St Louis, so I go on its web site that has resources for help with writing sermons.
These commentaries are written by current professors, and some of these professors are still there from when I was at seminary thirty years ago.
Since the lockdown, I have had a little more time to read and study these resources. Again, most of the help that goes into the texts are current from the last few years, but some go back a few decades.
As these helps work to apply the Biblical texts to current times, one of the things that I noticed is that the professors often talk about the “hard” news of the day.
In a commentary written in September of 2014, the professor wrote, “And then I read the headlines of the day and see how bad things are in this world,”
I googled the news of the month of September 2014. There was some news of terrorist acts in the Middle East, and Eric Holder resigned after six years as Attorney General in the Obama Administration.
Not to compare our news of today by saying how it is so much “harder” to bear than those of any other month of any year, but we do have to say that every month of 2020 has had “hard” news.
Every day has to be taken in the context of all that is happening. If my life is going very well on someday when I think I have the world on a string, I can stub my toe, and it can seem like the world is coming to an end.
When troubles come one right after another, humans have a way to adapt to all the pain and suffering. One more problem added to the piles of troubles that are already is just another day trying to make it.
A recent poll has found that people are thinking that they have made some improvements in themselves during the lockdown.
Of course, we do have to address those problems that keep adding up. We do have to mind the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Our synod has a monthly newspaper, and one article this month began with this, “With the uncertainty of all that the year 2020 is giving us.” This year of 2020 is giving us an unsettled feeling of uncertainty. With all of the “hard” news that is coming to us each day, we just don’t know what is going to happen next-do we?
We do have to say that we never really know what is going to happen next in this world or in our lives. We have our plans, but they often run askew.
And talking about that camel with a broken back with just one too many straws on it, a straw weighs hardly anything, but that one added straw to an already heavy load can cause all to collapse.
We have our breakdowns, meltdowns, and it seems that the world right down is having a tantrum with its acts of violence.
The world is stressful and can be overstimulating at times.
What are we to do with this “hard” news?
Are we to engage in it? If so, how? Should we try to fix it? Or do we just listen, try to empathize, say a prayer, and go about our business?
After all, don’t we have enough on our own plates to take care of? I’m doing the best that I can with what I have. Is it okay to ask, “World, can you just go on your own and solve your own problems?”
I want to look at the answers to these questions in a little bit, but, first, I want to look at a few other things.
The world and our lives can dish out some “hard” stuff at times. Another question, “Is it possible that the ‘hard’ news is calling us to something?”
Definitely, all of the events of this year have caught our attention. The first thing that any kind of news does is get our attention.
I think back to when we had to focus on all the news of the virus because it was causing such changes in our lives.
All of this was beginning during Lent.
In Lent, we focus on turning from our sins to God’s forgiveness. When the news of the lockdown hit, I was thinking that this is Lent on steroids. God really does want us to sit still to reflect on our turning to Him.
When it comes to turning to God, we do not need a certain season in the church year or for dramatic events to happen. Although, at times, we do need a good dose of something to happen to get our attention.
2020 seems to be a year of events that are bopping us on the head.
Ezekiel was a watchman during his time. As God’s prophet, he was to look for events that would call people to turn to God.
People were in “hard” times as the result of their own sins. Ezekiel was to tell people to turn from their sin to God and find His forgiveness.
In that forgiveness, they would find new meaning and purpose for their lives in the goodwill of God.
God was quite serious about Ezekiel to preach about His wrath over sin and the consequences of that sin. If Ezekiel didn’t warn people of God’s wrath, it would be Ezekiel that would die.
The responsibility to tell people to repent is the most important duty of a pastor. I am not sure God would strike me dead on the spot if I did not preach a fire and brimstone type of Law sermon this morning, but I would not be doing my job if I did not preach the Law.
Every sermon is to show our sins, but a preacher is also always to show our Savior.
Week after week, with whatever the headlines are, the pastor is to call people to repentance, so they can know God’s forgiveness by His grace and love in Christ.
The news of just about any week does give a preacher a lot of illustrations about how the world is not following the will of God.
And as we look at our own lives, we also have to admit that we have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God by what we have done and left undone.
The good reason to point out the sins of our fallen world is good-absolutely good. At first, the reason starts out with God’s anger over sin, and His judgment and how He will let “hard” things happen to this world.
So, this does not sound “good” at the start, but God wants us to turn from our sinful ways to His ways that are perfect and are meant for our well-being.
When we turn to God, we find that we have forgiveness of every sin. When we talk about turning, God has also turned from His anger and now gives us all of His forgiveness in Christ.
Everything is about the world knowing about the Gospel-Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins.
This news of what Jesus has done for us to bring us back to God by making atonement for our sins is the good news that is over the “hard” news of the world.
We have that forgiveness, and with that forgiveness, the assurance of eternal life.
Not to bore you again with the details of how I put a sermon together, but I was searching for something online, and I came across a site for a store that advertised, “Seriously, we got everything.”
I’m sure that store did have everything because we can order just about anything online and have it delivered to our doorstep.
I saw this advertisement about the same time when I was thinking of a title for this sermon.
Focusing on the Old Testament lesson for this day, the name Ezekiel means “Strengthen by God.”
As God’s children, we can say, “Seriously, we got it all.” We go about all of our days in the name of Christ, and in his name, we got it all.
I want to be careful here as we look at the “hard” times of this world and our lives and not to minimize them.
These days are bringing events and issues that we do need to address, but we have to be careful that they do not bring us down.
Getting back to some of the questions that I asked earlier about how we engage in this world, we need to see how we go about our lives in a world and maybe even in our lives that still have “hard” times.
Turning to God does not necessarily mean that the “hardness” of our lives go away.
But, in turning to God in true repentance, we have everything we need to take the next step-whatever that step is.
Faith does not move by the tone and mood of circumstances. We can be walking in what seems in a valley of the shadows of death that can give us fear.
But we move without fear, for our Lord is with us.
Going back to that commentary on today’s reading by the seminary professor, “And then I read the headlines and see how bad things are in this world.”
There is no getting around it, and you are all too smart for me to try to sugar-coat it all for you. You know what kind of world we live in a fallen world.
It would be wrong of me to try to paint a pretty picture.
We are to see the world as it is. It is a chaotic place caused by humans and their egos. Looking at the world as it is, we are to see how futile it is to pursue a life in this world without God.
With any headlines of “hard” news of any month of any year, we are to turn to God and see what we have in Christ.
And when we do, we can say, “Seriously, we got it all.”
We have all the power of heaven and earth, the love of God in Christ, the forgiveness of every sin, the assurance of eternal life, the Holy Spirit to guide every step on our way, and God’s grace and mercy every step of the way.
To have a life that has the peace of God and the love of God to have for ourselves and to share with others to have that and to do that we can say, “Seriously, we got it all.”