Sermon: “God is Faithful”             

LSB Series B; National Lutheran Schools Week Sunday

Third Sunday after the Epiphany; January 24, 2021

School Theme Verse 2020-2021: Lamentations 3:22-23

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).

You may recall that at the beginning of the year at our opening chapel, I shared that the word that we would be keying in for this year is ‘faithfulness’. It is a word that means “true to one’s word or true to one’s promises.” It means that there is always follow through. God is faithful.

Over the course of this year, in our chapel services, we have focused in on stories from the Bible of God’s faithfulness to His people. We looked at the story of God creating the heavens and earth. We saw how God preserved Noah and his family in the ark during the great flood. We heard of how God protected His people from the angel of death as it ‘passed over’ their houses with doors painted in the blood of the lamb as they ate the Passover. We listened as Goliath threatened God’s people with his size and arrogance, yet young, small David was given by God the ability to defeat the big, evil foe.

Again and again, among many other Bible stories, we have heard how God loves and cares for His people. We have heard that when God makes a promise, He always follows through. He never goes back on His Word. As it says in the book of Titus, chapter one, “God never lies.” No He doesn’t. God is faithful.

In our Old Testament reading, we heard another story of God’s faithfulness. It was the story of Jonah. You students may recall Mr. Baumann leading the chapel message on this very Bible reading right before we went on Christmas break.

Jonah had been directed by God to go to Nineveh, the very enemy of his people, and speak to them a message of repentance that they might turn from their sinful ways. Jonah didn’t want to go. Ever not want to do what you are told? Probably every day, right? Well, that is sinful.

So it was with Jonah. In sin, he ran from God. He got aboard a boat and fled hoping to escape God. But God is everywhere. You can’t run from God. So God caused a storm to toss the boat about. And Jonah came clean. He said that he was the cause of the storm. So they threw him overboard. And a giant fish swallowed him up. 

Inside that fish, Jonah prayed. Jonah repented. Jonah turned from his sinful ways. God forgave him and the fish vomited him up on land. Jonah went to Nineveh and spoke the message of repentance that God told him to speak. And wouldn’t you know it, they repented too. They put on sackcloth and ashes and lamented their sinful actions.

Sackcloth and ashes were put on as a way of grieving and mourning. We should lament as well, just as the people of Judah were directed to do in the book of Lamentations from where our theme verse comes. We should grieve the reality of our sin. Romans, chapter six says, “The wages of sin is death.” We are all doomed to die because of our sin. We are doomed to die because unlike God, we aren’t faithful.

We lie, we cheat, and we steal. We say one thing, and we do another. Students disobey their teachers. Kids disobey their parents. Teachers and parents get impatient with their students and kids and don’t always say things and address things the way that they should. We live in a sinful world. We live in a world of unfaithfulness.

Have we looked around and processed the fact that the reason there is this pestilence of a pandemic, the reason that there is all of this social and political unrest, all this violence and terror on all sides is actually because of us? It is not God’s doing, but ours. We are the unfaithful ones.

Going back to the beginning of the school year, we taught the kids in chapel about the fall from the Garden of Eden. There they were told about Adam and Eve. They were given one command. That command was not to eat the forbidden fruit. It was a command given to establish trust between God and His most prized creation. Unfortunately, that trust was broken. 

Desiring to be like God, they both bit into the fruit with reckless abandon with little care for the consequences. And at that very moment, life as they knew it all came to an end. Literally, at that very point, death entered into the world.

Right now, there is so much fear of death. We see the reports put in our faces again and again about how many people who have died because of the Coronavirus. The numbers are quite staggering, and there is good reason to be careful and cautious in an effort to care for the well-being of others. We give thanks for our School Administrator, teachers, staff, and school board for the great measures they have taken for our kids to learn in person all year in a safe environment. Thanks be to God! (Pause)

But it should also be noted, that no matter how hard we may try, we need to realize that we can’t avoid death. With all the fear of death that is out there because of the virus and those staggering numbers, have any of us considered the staggering numbers of sin? 

Sin kills every time. The numbers are staggering, no, they are downright daunting. Everyone who has ever died has died because of sin. It has a 100% rate of deadliness. And no form of medical care, vaccine, protective wear or otherwise is going to keep you from getting infected by it.

The original sin that was committed by Adam and Eve has been passed down through every generation, through your grandparents, through your parents, and now to you. You have worse than a virus. You have sin in you, and it is deadly. And no matter how hard you may fight to rid yourself of it, there is nothing you can do to save yourselves. You are hopeless, because just like me, you have been faithless. Just like Adam and Eve, and Jonah when he ran from God, and everyone else before you, you have failed to be faithful.

Take a moment right now and consider your lack of faithfulness. Throughout this whole year, you have been reciting the Ten Commandments in chapel. You have been learning God’s Law by heart. Recite those with me now:

Ten Commandments

  1. You shall have no other gods.
  2. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
  3. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
  4. Honor your father and your mother.
  5. You shall not murder.
  6. You shall not commit adultery.
  7. You shall not steal.
  8. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
  9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.
  10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

How are you doing with God’s commandments? Not too well? Me either. When it comes to being faithless in following God’s commands, we need someone who will be faith-“ful” in every way. We need someone to serve as our substitute to do what we cannot. And God knew that. 

Right after the fall from creation, God promised that an offspring of Eve would come and crush the head of the serpent Satan and defeat him once and for all. We know that offspring to be none other than Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. He is God in the flesh. He is the One who is faithful. As it says in the book of 2nd Timothy: “If we are faithless, he remains faithful” (2nd Timothy 2:13).

Only Jesus can save us from the virus of sin that moves throughout our body. Only He can rid us of the sure and certain killer that was passed on to us from our parents and their parents before them.

And that is why God calls us to repent of our sins. In our Gospel reading we heard Jesus say: The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15).

Like parents that tell their kids to eat their vegetables for their own good, so repentance is God’s gift to us. Without it, we would be like those in the book of Lamentations who had ignored the need for daily confession and in doing so only doomed themselves to exile and death. 

But we know this from God’s Word: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. [But] If we confess our sins, he is “faithful” and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1st John 1:8-9).

This is the good news that parents have been given to pass on to their children. That even though we pass sin on to our kids, we also have been given the joy and privilege to share with them the faithful forgiveness of our God given in Christ Jesus.

It is the message of our theme verse: The steadfast love of our Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

We have been called upon by God to share the good news of great joy that is for all people. That in a world filled with the reality of fear and the sure and certain killer known as sin, there is yet hope. 

Hope not in vaccines or science or political parties or candidates. All those hopes will fade away. Hope is something much deeper than that as Christians. Hope comes in the love of our Lord who saw us in our deadly disease of sin doomed to death, and He did something about it.

For God so loved the world, He gave…He gave His only Son. That is what a steadfast love is all about. In fact, that Hebrew word for ‘steadfast love’ technically can’t even be translated into English. God’s love is far too great to even be translated. It is unfathomable. It is unending. And it is for you.

In steadfast love for you, God gave His Son. We can’t even begin to imagine giving up our child for another, and yet God did so with His one and only child. He did so willingly, voluntarily, lovingly…because that is what it took to save you and me.

We who failed to be faithful had the perfect substitute sent in our place. It’s no wonder that our theme verse says, his mercies never come to an end. It’s because they don’t.

Mercy is that word that means that God doesn’t give us what we do deserve. Instead of death, we get life. Instead of condemnation, we get salvation. Instead of rejection, we get forgiveness. Forgiveness of the very sins that make us unfaithful. 

See throughout this school year and throughout your whole life how God has been faithful to His promises. What a joy it has been to be able to continue in-person learning. What a blessing it has been to have been kept safe from outbreaks here in our place of learning. But as great as that is, it all pales in comparison to what God did for us on Calvary.

There on the cross we see the mercy of our God. There we see His steadfast love poured out for us. There we see the great sacrifice He was willing to make in our stead to save us. There we see that our God is, and always will be, faithful. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.