The Lord is Our Righteousness
Spoiler alert: at the end of this sermon we are going to have an altar call.
We are going to have an opportunity for you to come forward, and through prayer and the laying on of hands, renew your commitment to living by faith into a New Year of God’s plan for your redemption.
Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! says the Lord. 2Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So, I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord.
As a minister of the Gospel, which by default makes me a shepherd of the flock; it is hard for me to get happy after reading these words from Jeremiah.
Warnings like this make you want to take off your dog-collar and join the congregation; where you can tuck your head down below God’s line of fire, take on a low profile and blend in with the sheep of God’s pasture.
If it weren’t for the promises we hear in the rest of our Jeremiah reading that is exactly what I would do; turn in my ecclesiastical papers and take my place amidst the flock.
Who could possibly want to be a shepherd of the flock in the face of these, “Thus sayeth the Lord” words from Jeremiah?
But fortunately, its not up to me.
As promised in Jeremiah, God has taken over his flock.
And further more God has appointed faithful shepherds for his flock.
Of which I pray I am one.
Thankfully it is God, not man, who prepares the way for his people to enter into his salvation.
For centuries God has been doing just that.
In the coming of the One whose name is, “The Lord is our righteousness”, God set the table of salvation, fulfilling the promises he made in verses 3 through 6 of Jeremiah 23.
Hear again these words of promise, which are fulfilled in the coming of the Christ of God:
3Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing, says the Lord.
5 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
In these words, God promises a time when he will raise up shepherds who will shepherd his flock.
And more importantly God promises a time when he will raise up The Shepherd a Righteous Branch for the house of David.
And this Righteous Branch will reign as king.
He will deal wisely, and execute justice and righteousness in the land.
Through this Righteous Branch, God will provide for his people, including his shepherds, a safe place, a place where we need not fear, be dismayed or go missing.
Scripture tells us that, even in the ancient days of the prophet Jeremiah, God had a plan for our gathering into him, for our salvation through the One who is named, “The Lord is our righteousness”.
Our reading from Luke talks about one step in this plan of God to establish his righteous Kingship over the nations.
At this time of year, each year, the church commemorates this step in God’s plan.
We do this by reading the scriptures that tell of the coming of the prophet known as John the Baptist, the one who would prepare the way for the coming of, “The Lord is our righteousness”.
God’s plan, promised in Jeremiah, brought closer in the birth of John the Baptist, came into fruition in the birth we celebrate at the end of the coming Advent season; the birth of, “The Lord is our righteousness”, Jesus Christ the King.
And we today are still living out God’s plan for taking his Kingly position of ruling in power and righteousness over the sin of this world.
When we repent of our sin - when we take Jesus as our King - when we accept the Lordship of Jesus over our hearts and lives - we take our place in the lived history of God’s plan for redeeming his flock.
When we invite “The Lord is our righteousness” into our hearts, God’s plan for redeeming his flock is lived out in our hearts, both in our lives and in the church year.
Today in the church year is Christ the King Sunday.
It is the last Sunday of the church year, the last Sunday before a new Advent season.
Today is the Sunday when we are about to enter into Advent; that time of year when we enter into a time of waiting for the advent, which means the coming, of the One, who is “The Lord is our righteousness”.
Advent signals the beginning of the church’s New Year.
So today we celebrate the end of one more year of living in, or maybe more correctly, of living out God’s plan for gathering and saving his flock.
Today we are celebrating the ending of a year in which Christ has reigned, in our hearts and in the living of our lives, reigning there as our King.
Today we celebrate the truth of Christ the King reigning in our hearts, thereby empowering us to live as those set free from being dealt with by God as our sinful natures deserve.
Today we celebrate Jesus Christ, who through the faith that is ours through the grace of repentance, is our Prophet, Priest and King.
Because by faith Jesus reigns - reigning in our hearts and in our lives - we are living today in God’s promised time of gathering and protection.
All the while looking forward to the day when Christ will come again in power to rule and reign over all of creation.
Today by the grace of God given to each of us who are God’s sheep through God’s long promised Branch of David, who is called, “The Lord is our righteousness” we are those set free from the second death.
The second death, which is the death to God and damnation from God of both our immortal souls and our life eternal.
Today, as we end a year of living in Christ’s saving grace.
And as we look forward to a New Year of living into God’s unfolding plan for our ultimate redemption.
It is a fitting time for us to renew our commitment to faithfully, living into the One who is “The Lord is our righteousness”.
If you would like to do just that.
If you feel called today to renew your commitment to living into God’s plan for your redemption through faith in “The Lord is our righteousness”.
Then I invite you to come forward now to receive a prayer of commitment by the laying on of hands and anointing with oil.