Blessed Epiphany and New Year from President Harrison from VimeoLCMS on Vimeo.
LCMS President Rev. Matthew Harrison reminds us that no matter what challenges the new year brings, we can look ahead with one certainty – Jesus came for us!
The second post is a sermon I preached in chapel at the International Center today on Predestination based on Ephesians 1:3 - 14. Also reproduced below.
Chapel Sermon at the International Center Concerning Predestination
Ephesians 1:3-14; Responsive Prayer 2; LSB 686
4 January 2011
Dear Friends in Christ,
Do you remember waiting to hear your name called in school or on the playground to participate in an important event or to play on a team or in a game? Do you remember the agony of waiting to hear your name called? Do you remember the comfort and relief you felt when you heard, “I pick him.” “She was chosen to…” Imagine going to high school or college graduation not knowing if you would receive a diploma, but waiting in the audience to hear if your name would be called. As bad as these sorts of uncertainties are in our lives, how much worse it is to wonder and doubt if God has chosen you… how much worse to wonder if you are elect. Friends in Christ, your heavenly does not want you to be in doubt of your salvation. He wants you to have the comfort of knowing that he has called you by name in Holy Baptism. He wants you to know that you have been called, chosen, and elected from the foundation of the world to be his child.
The appointed text for today deals with the doctrine of Predestination. It seems that many people regard the topic of Predestination as mysterious, complicated, and perhaps frightening. Yet our Lord and Savior Jesus himself teaches about predestination in the Gospels, particularly when he said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” (John 15:16) In today’s reading, St. Paul writes to the Christians in Ephesus, “he chose you before the foundation of the world … in love he predestined us.” The teaching about Predestination is intended for our instruction and for our comfort as Christians. It is, as Dr. Walther, the founder of the Missouri Synod said, “the golden thread that runs throughout the Scriptures.”
Now I suspect that you have rarely or perhaps never heard a sermon about Predestination. When the people of God do not hear about the blessed doctrine of Predestination they are denied a couple of important truths. First, not hearing about the doctrine of Predestination creates the opportunity for our sinful flesh to arise and convince us that we somehow contributed to our salvation or chose to follow Jesus. As Jesus himself clearly told his disciples, “You did not choose me.” Yet we as sinful human beings, and particularly Americans who believe our destiny belongs to us, we do not like being confronted with the reality that we do not have free will in matters related to God. We do not have the free will to choose to follow Jesus. This teaching strikes against our pride and offends our reason. We want to think we can follow Jesus, rather than recognizing we are “lost and condemned creatures” who are dead in our sins. When you feel that you are more righteous or holy than another person, or when you think you are more deserving than another person, know that these thoughts are not from the Holy Spirit. Repent and seek forgiveness from your Savior.
Second, not hearing about the doctrine of Predestination denies us of the tremendous comfort our Lord Jesus wants us to have in Him. Listen to the text again, “he chose us before the foundation of the world.” In eternity, before the Lord God created the heavens and the earth through His Almighty Word, your heavenly father chose you. This is the ultimate indicator that we did nothing to contribute to our salvation. Before the heavens and the earth existed, before there were atoms, molecules, or cells from which to form your body, the Lord God chose you. This, my friends, is pure, undeserved grace. Your heavenly Father chose you in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world. In your Baptism, the Lord God put His Name upon you and made you His own.
There are many things in our lives that can make us doubt whether or not we have the favor of God. Perhaps, things are not unfolding in your life as you would hope. Perhaps, your life is riddled with sin and loneliness. You may be facing hardships and difficulties and wonder why you are afflicted with such things. Know that your Lord even predestined the sufferings and crosses in your life so that you may be conformed into the image of the crucified Son of God. Your Lord has promised to work all things for your good. In fact, even your hardships and sufferings are turned into a blessing for your ultimate good. You see, your Lord does not want you to doubt that he has chosen you when you face hardships. Know that He chose you and chose your sufferings for you so that nothing can ever take you from His hand.
When you face suffering in this life and doubt about the favor the Lord has for you, seek comfort in the cross of Jesus. Seek comfort in the forgiveness of sins. Seek comfort in knowing that you are baptized and that the Lord has put his Holy Name upon you. Know that your heavenly Father has chosen you before the foundation of the world in Christ Jesus.
Unlike waiting on the schoolyard playground, wondering if you will be chosen, if your name will be called. Your Lord Jesus has called you by Name and given you His Holy Spirit as the down payment, the guarantee of your inheritance in the Lord’s kingdom. Now we wait, not to find out if the Lord has chosen us, but we wait to realize what He has already given us in Christ Jesus. Take comfort in the promises of your Lord and in the forgiveness of your sins. Take comfort in the election and calling of your heavenly Father through Jesus Christ his Son.
Go in peace.
Walther’s Prayer, “Concerning Predestination,” Selected Sermons, CPH, 1981: 173.
“Lord Jesus, You Son of the living God. You have come into this world to save sinners. Thanks, praise, glory and honor be to You today, on the day of Your gracious and saving birth, that You not only came into the world to save us poor sinners, but also that You as the Good Shepherd followed us, who all like sheep have gone astray, called us to Yourself through the shepherd’s voice of Your sweet Gospel, brought us to faith in You, and also preserved us in the same until today. Oh, how in time and eternity can we sufficiently thank You for this? We did not seek You, but You sought us; we did not come to You, but You came to us. How have we deserved it that You had mercy upon us rather than millions of others? Ah, it is Your undeserved grace alone that we have to thank for this. You saw us lying in the blood of our sins, and behold, Your heart broke, and You said to us: ‘You shall live!’ Oh, Lord Jesus, You today once gave Yourself for us; today we give ourselves to You. Here is our heart. Take it, cleanse and adorn it for Yourself as Your dwelling and rule in it until our death. For this, with all angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim, thrones and dominions, with all blessed and chosen ones, we will in heaven give You thanks, glory, praise, and honor through all eternity. Amen.”