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But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

 

Jeremiah 23:5-8
November 20, 2016
St Paul's Anglican Church

"The LORD Our Righteousness"

Today, we reach the end of another Liturgical Year!  And next Sunday we cross the threshold into yet another new Liturgical Year (2017)!  The older we get, the more we can appreciate the deeply profound message which the Liturgical calendar conveys to us!
It is sad that Christians have largely forgotten that Christ’s Church has always had its own calendar... which, if we understand it, grew out of the Old Testament calendar which reminded God’s people of holy days of celebration and seasons of obligation!  Time was geared toward God... not man!
In the same manner, Christ’s people have forgotten that His Church across the centuries has had its own courts for the resolution of conflicts.  This, of course, forms the backdrop to the famous conflict between Thomas Beckett (Archbishop of Canterbury) and Henry II (king of England).  St. Paul told the churches of his day they were not to go into pagan courts to settle their disputes.  Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? he asked them.  Many do not like what the world has turned into, but are ignorant as to what they should do.  As one scholar has pointed out, if Christians were given the rule of the world, they would not know what to do with it!
The calendar of Christ’s Church begins first with Christ’s humble birth and our preparation for it… then the visit of the mysterious Magi who knew of His arrival through the appearance of a star... our Lord’s testing among the long shadows in the lonely wilderness… His suffering and crucifixion… His resurrection and ascension… His victory!  Then the victory He transmits to us by the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost… the life of courage and service He inspires… the long season of personal growth and development through the green Trinity Season!
The “weeping prophet” Jeremiah, God’s faithful prophet who had served the LORD in such a true and valiant manner, stood – just as we all stand – in the present, sandwiched between the past and the future!  It is as though he always knew where he was in his work for God, because he had one eye looking back into the past… and the other eye looking optimistically forward into the future.
In the text before us this morning, he proves this very point.  Up until his day, the reference point of history had been the great deliverance of God’s people from Egypt – the Exodus -- almost 900 years before his own day!
But he declared – looking forward – that another deliverance, a greater deliverance was approaching.  He could see it -- 600 years forward he could see the Royal Son of God saving Judah and Israel by means of a greater judgment and a much greater act of justice.  It would be worldwide in its scope—for he employs the phrase “in the earth.”
And think of it!  What Jeremiah saw included you and me!  What would be the name of this great Deliverer?  He would be a righteous branch (descendent) in the line of David – and He would be called THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS... the LORD God Who brings righteousness to us and deposits it into our overdrawn moral bank accounts by an act of His mercy!
THE LORD is a special term.  Yahweh.  Jehovah.  Immanuel, God with us!  The Creator come to us in the flesh!  And RIGHTEOUSNESS is another special term – wide in its scope and meanings!  Justice… perfection… deliverance… victory… prosperity!  But perhaps the most special term of all is the smallest!  The pronoun “OUR” (O…U...R)  THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.  It indicates a personal application!
I am reminded of the story of the grade school teacher who asked her students, ”What part of speech defines the word OUR in the phrase THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS?”  A little boy shot up his hand… and the teacher called upon him!  Wanting to say “possessive pronoun,” he accidentally blurted out: “It’s an I M P R E S S I V E pronoun.”
Perhaps that was the better answer!  An impressive pronoun, indeed!  Christ’s righteousness is made our own!
This beautiful name teaches us there is always the hope of a yet greater deliverance ahead of us through the LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS!  Draw near to Him and He will always draw near to you!
Just look and consider what He did during the short time of His visitation!  The world sat in darkness, but when He arrived, the world beheld a great light!  The world was bathed in a great piercing light!  And we who once walked in darkness have also seen a great light!  We have been summoned to be His “children of light.”  And His Name is called THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS! 
The righteousness of Christ covers the past... the present... and the future!  It erases the indelible penalty of our past sins.  It overcomes the power of our present temptations.  It guarantees our deliverance from the future presence of sin!
What challenges plagued you this past year?  What rigors did the Lord set in place before us this past year?  What growth did He design to come forth through our trials?   
According to this morning’s lesson, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS always brings greater deliverance and greater victory to His people than that of the past… The regathering of a greater “Israel of God” through Christ surpassed even the Exodus from Egypt!  
David’s victory over Goliath was fantastic, indeed!  But through THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS, our first century counterparts overcame the ten persecutions of Imperial Rome directed at Christ over the course of 250 years... making Rome a Christian land!
There are those in our day, even Christians, who say “all is lost” – evil has won!  We are doomed!  We might as well roll over and give up!  Not so!  This is a terribly uninformed and false worldview for a Christian -- and it is alien to Christianity.
Dwight L. Moody had it right!  He continually told others to ATTEMPT GREAT THINGS FOR GOD... and to EXPECT GREAT THINGS FROM GOD!
The best is always yet ahead in THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS!  And this is certainly why the Reformers included this passage from the Book of Jeremiah as the Epistle Lesson for the last day of this Church Year!  
Thy kingdom come, we are taught to pray!  Thy will be done, we are to taught to petition.   Seek ye first His kingdom and his righteousness, Jesus reminds us.
Every yea and amen finds its proper place in THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS!
This is the eternal Word of the Lord!  It is bright and it is glorious... and may it stand firm once more in our lives and in our own days!

Amen. 




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