Herrenhuter readings for Saturday, the 5th March 2106.

The prophet recalls: „Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God.“ (Isaiah 49:4) Our Lord Jesus Christ explains in the gospel of St.Mark: „And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.“ (Mk 4:26-28)

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you +

Dear friends of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ + The great prophet of the Old Testament Isaiah puts into words the lament of the Lord’s servant about working in vain. It’s the penalty of sin and for our fallout with our God in the first place: „Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee … In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread…“ (cf Genesis 3). God’s messengers are not exempt from this fallout. They too suffer the pain and anguish of working in vain and labouring for nothing. It’s not just the prophet of old, but our Lord and master Jesus Christ himself cries outside Jerusalem: „O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!“ (Mt.23:37) and he wept over Jerusalem: „ And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.“ (Lk.19: 41f)

According to the principles of economics this would have been deemed a failure. Not worth pursuing and better get out sooner than later. Engineers would of course propose another plan – more elaborate, more efficient and practical: „Just do it!“ For every problem there is a solution even if we don’t know it yet. Conquering the world and being masters of the universe is just a question of getting it right. That’s a fallacy though. True wisdom knows that there are very real mishaps, failures and things that just don’t work out. Vanity, injury and loss speak volumes. Going mad and despairing are not the only consequence of human hubris to storm the heavens by their own worthiness and merit. The revolt of nature is very real (Marcuse). Yes, perhaps the time wasn’t ripe. Perhaps the means were not there to carry out the building of the tower or to cover the costs of going to war. However lastly God himself might have prevented it.

See, our boundaries and limitations are part of being human. We are not God. We can’t create out of nothing. All we do is but working and crafting and designing with what God has in his goodness and mercy provided all along. As soon as people think, they can just go about things as if there is no God, but themselves, then they are bound to fail. The history in this regard is endless. The tower in Babel. The Titanic. The socialist or fascist revolutions with its ongoing human design and social constructions. Frankenstein’s monsters are out of the bottle long ago – and nobody can get them under control again. So the wizard’s apprentice complaint is heard again and again: „I can’t get rid of the spirits that I called!“ 

Years ago the Afrikaner nationalists were bragging about their prowess compared with that of the rest of Africa. They were so assured of themselves that they alone could take care of this continent, feed it, manage it and transform it from the dark to the enlightened continent. They had hardly proclaimed this publicly that the drought struck this southern part of the continent and they had to import maize for the very first time. See, God does not bear impudence and pride and indolence lightly. We Germans say: „Hochmut kommt vor dem Fall!“ (Pride precedes falling.) Gene Veith wrote a telling story in this regard yesterday: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/geneveith/2016/03/thus-passes-the-glory-of-the-world/

The triune God does not want us to forget or disregard him ever. He want’s us to not trust so much in our prowess, but rather look up to him for help, rescue, life and salvation every single day of our life. It is he from whom all blessings flow. He is the creator, giver and preserver of all good things. If he would but withdraw his caring, loving and merciful hand, we would be like the morning dew in the harsh sun light – gone in a wink, nothing left, dead, out and condemned to nothingness. Yet he does not do that. Without any merit or worthiness on our side, he richly provides daily bread, keeps us in all situations and protects us from all evil too. In his hands we rest assured and nothing can tear us from him. He lets it rain over good and evil. He alternates the seasons for our best and for the flourishing even of the fallen world, which together with us moans and groans for salvation, but which still reflects his masterful and beautiful design and fatherly goodness and favour for his children.

Just as the dry and barren lands flower and bloom after summer rains and the desert landscapes become rolling fields of lushest green and many colours, so God let’s his word, which passes like those very summer rains, bring forth bountiful fruits of love, hope and faith when and where it pleases him in those, who hear the gospel. It’s a wonder to behold. It’s dependant entirely on God’s goodness and mercy. He’s the one, who does it all. He builds his church as he did in the past so also in future. No persecution can stop him doing this. The blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church. We don’t know how, but it is clear for all to see. The Church has covered the globe. There are christians everywhere. The faith has flourished even behind iron curtains, prison walls and in most dire circumstances.  And he said: „So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.“ Yes, heaven and earth will pass, but God’s Word remains in eternity. Those prophets of old and the most holy apostles, evangelists and martyrs of the church – they are not gone and missing, for nobody is put to shame, who trusts in the Lord! – no, they are gathered around the throne of the Lamb, dressed in the white garments of baptismal grace, washed with the very blood of the one on the throne, cleansed, sanctified and they behold, what they here hoped for: The Living God in all his glory and goodness, love and forgiving mercy! And they laud, praise, thank and worship him forever and ever. That’s where we’re going too by his gracious calling and doing. Therefore Praise be to him, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who lives and reigns now and forever. Amen. 

The peace of the Lord be with you always + Amen.

1.  Preach you the Word and plant it home
        To men who like or like it not,
     The Word that shall endure and stand
        When flow’rs and men shall be forgot.
2.  We know how hard, O Lord, the task
        Your servant bade us undertake:
     To preach Your Word and never ask
        What prideful profit it may make.
3.  The sower sows his reckless love
         Scatters abroad the goodly seed,
     Intent alone that all may have
        The wholesome loaves that all men need.
4.  Though some be snatched and some be scorched
         And some be choked and matted flat,
     The sower sows; his heart cries out,
        “Oh, what of that, and what of that?”
5.  Of all his scattered plenteousness
        One-fourth waves ripe on hill and flat,
     And bears a harvest hundredfold:
        “Ah, what of that, Lord, what of that!”
6.  Preach you the Word and plant it home
        And never faint; the Harvest Lord
     Who gave the sower seed to sow
        Will watch and tend His planted Word.
(Martin H. Franzmann 1907-1976)
At the Parent’s meeting of the Day-Care-Centre I spoke more about Mark 5:26-29. You can listen to that here: 

About Wilhelm Weber jr

Rector of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Tshwane
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