Christ The King
November 24, 2019
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church
Last Sunday was one of the worst days in my life. Our Denver Broncos were beating one of the most detested teams in all of football – the Minnesota Vikings. At half we declared ourselves the victor because we were leading 20-0. But someone forgot to tell the Vikings to raise the white flag. They kept playing but we didn’t.
Late in the fourth quarter the hated Vikings took the lead. But with less than a minute to go we got inside their 5 yard-line. I knew we could win and once-and-for-all get Pastor Ginkel to burn his Viking illuminated sweater. All we had to do was to do an RPO. Do you know what that is? It stands for Run-Pass Option. Our quarterback gets the ball and sees what the Defensive End is doing. If he is rushing toward the middle, he fakes the run to the Running Back and either runs around the Defensive End or throws a pass to a wide-open Receiver. Or if the Defensive End is rushing to the outside, he hands it to the Running Back and he runs into the end zone. RPO. Run-Pass Option.
Easy Peezy. Everyone is happy except Ginkel and a few other Bronco haters. But the Bronco coaches didn’t use the play and we came in second…again.
Options are important. In football they are important. In real life they really matter. On this Sunday, using words from the final book written in the Old Testament, Malachi, I’m going to talk about options.
Today I’m going to ask you what you will choose to be. Today you have three choices. Brazen Ungodly. Bitter Godly. Blessed Redeemed.
Malachi is the final book in the Old Testament. It is the last word that God has before we read about the coming of Jesus. The people of Israel had been taken into foreign countries and now they were returning to their land. But they didn’t do it with as much faith and faithfulness as you would think they would. They had some options and made a number of bad choices.
The first option that people can make concerning their life is to be brazenly ungodly. God asks His people, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me? says the Lord Almighty.” (Malachi 1:6) When they brought sacrifices to God they brought the worst of gifts. “When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to the governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” (Malachi 1:8) They became brazenly ungodly. Even though God had brought them back from captivity and given them great prosperity back in Jerusalem, they lived without the response of faithfulness. God asks them, “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How do we rob you?’ In tithes and offerings.” (Malachi 3:8)
We all have an option, will we live in faith, or not. Israel answered it in the worst way. Paul, in the New Testament speaks of the option we are given, “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” (Galatians 5:17)
There is another option that they made, and we make as well. It is “Bitter Godly.” Those two words don’t sound like they should go together, but they can, and do. God is speaking back to Israel and says, “You have said harsh things against me…You have said, ‘It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out the requirements and going about like mourners before the Lord Almighty? But now we call the arrogant blessed. Certainly the evildoers prosper, and even those who challenge God escape.” (Malachi 3:14-15)
Does this religion stuff pay off? When do I see its blessings? When are the folks who are doing terrible things going to get theirs? When do I get to see it? When do I get to see all the good people rewarded? Do you know that account in the New Testament about Ananias and Sapphira? (Acts 5:1-11) That’s what we want to see. That couple lied to God and the next thing you know they were being carried out feet first (i.e. dead).
At times we simply want a God of justice who will act how we want Him to act. That was the option that the people in Jerusalem in Malachi’s day had requested. Bitter. Godly. They shouldn’t be spoken together, but they are.
So far the options don’t sound very good. Brazen Ungodly. Bitter Godly. There has to be something better (and there is).
On early morning TV this week I learned that Colorado might be looking for a new slogan. You’ve already heard me tell you about the slogan that Nebraska paid a company a million dollars to develop, right? They used to put on their welcome signs, “Nebraska, The Good Life.” Now their official slogan is “Nebraska: It’s Not For Everyone”. (I would have told them that for a lot less than a million bucks!!) But now South Dakota must have hired the same advertising firm. As part of their anti-drug program they have a new phrase, “Meth – We’re On It”. I don’t think that is a good thing to tell everybody. Some of the pot-heads in Colorado might move there.
So now Colorado is wondering is we need to change what we say. The Official State Motto for Colorado is Nil sine Numine. The Latin phrase means “Nothing without the Deity.” Isn’t that something? Our state, with all the goofy things we do and approve, officially recognizes that we are nothing without God. That is what our final option tells us.
The final option that Malachi presents is that we are the “Blessed Redeemed.” “Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the Lord and honored his name. ‘They will be mine,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.’” (Malachi 3:16-18)
Can you ever tire of seeing God’s heart? To a people who had been ungodly, and to a people who were arrogant and complaining, God calls them again to see that He wants them to be His own. God had not forgotten them. ‘A scroll of remembrance’ was written. When I think of the scroll I think of the Book of Life in the book of Revelation, “Nothing impure will ever enter it (heaven), nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:27) God chose us to put our name in that book. In all the options that are before us it is humbling to think that Christ opted to make us His own by dying for us and rising again and allowing us to be His. In the great book of Isaiah we have a picture that not only our names, but our very selves are etched into His hands. “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” (Isaiah 49:16a)
Faith treasures the option that Jesus made when He saved us, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)
God calls us His “Treasured Possession.” A treasured possession – that which is closest to His heart. A treasured possession – something that you can’t live without. And our God makes us His choice. It isn’t just folks in Colorado who have the motto, Nil sine Numine, (Nothing without the Deity). All people, everywhere, at all time, are nothing without God making this choice, his option, of making us His own.
I guess you have an option about what you will do with your life. You can see it quite plainly in the Book of Malachi. You can be Brazenly Ungodly. Many make that their way to live life. You can be Bitterly Godly. Many have that way about them. But I have a better option. How about being among the Blessed Redeemed?
On Thursday, Thanksgiving, humbly thank God that His option of full salvation through Jesus was the perfect one. Then, on Thursday, make your option of joy and gratitude, of being among the Blessed Redeemed, the best decision you’ve ever made. Amen!!