January 1, 2017
St Paul’s Anglican Church
“Faith in the Balance”
Christian Faith always hangs in the balance. It always has. It always will.
Christian Faith is always “at risk” because it has real enemies! But it has the remarkable property of always seeking to prove itself victorious!
Christian Faith always hangs in the balance. It always has. It always will.
This was certainly true 3,400 years ago when God’s people were found encamped along the eastern shore of the Jordan River. The last page of their forty-year chapter – titled The Wilderness Wanderings – had just closed. And the first page of another new chapter in their history – titled Entry into the Promised Land – was just opening.
Roughly three million in number, these men… women… young people… and children… were poised and ready to follow the morning sun’s first golden rays across the Jordan into the land of milk and honey. But before taking a single step, the Almighty furnished them His final instructions – words recorded for our benefit in this Morning’s Old Testament Lesson!
They were entering the land of sevennations which He had personally judged and condemned – the Hittites… the Girgashites… the Amorites… the Canaanites… the Perizzites… the Hivites… the Jebusites…
His people would be tempted to adopt their vile ways… embrace their repugnant customs… worship their strange idols… frequent their detestable groves… seek the entertainment of their condemned culture.
They would also be susceptible to the ravages of pride – inheriting houses they did not build… lands they did not clear… fields they did not till – forgetting these to be a gift from their Father’s gracious Hand.
In a nutshell, their Faith hung in the balance. In order to avoid disaster, they would need to hear and to heed God’s Voice – remember His Words… internalize His Cautions… follow and obey His Precepts…
Some wrote His words on the doorposts of their houses. Others placed them on their walls – in the same way that many of you still display them on your walls… as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD, Joshua testifies. They endured and proved faithful…
Others, however – weaker… less careful… with undeveloped powers of discernment – forgot God’s Voice and were absorbed by the enticing calls of their degenerate neighbors! The downhill path is easy to travel, but exacts a dreadful price!
When in the fullness of time Jesus Christ was born over 1,400 years later, Christian Faith still hung in the balance – perhaps more at risk than ever… The Evangelists tell us the land was full of darkness… The Voice of God had all but disappeared…
The Greeks, under Alexander the Great, had conquered Palestine two centuries earlier… and their cultural voice definitely dominated the land. Many sons in Israel were no longer named after the great patriarchs and holy prophets… but rather after the conquering kings of Greece.
And the deafening voice of Rome had also entered the Promised Land… along with her tax collectors… merchants… procurators… tribunes… political puppets… imperial troops… her pantheon of gods! The Promised Land was dominated by spies… quislings… and moles.
Some sons of the Faith rebelled against the foreign occupation and paid the costly price of servitude, and sometimes gruesome death. Some daughters of the Faith entered mixed marriages… and found themselves sadly compromised…
This morning — despite all of the voices to the contrary — we see a beautiful picture! Here are Mary and Joseph quietly and consistently training Jesus in the old ways… bringing Him along in the proven ways… the ways belonging to the Ancient of Days… walking along His tried and worn paths… They taught the Son of God to hear His Father’s unchanging Voice!
In this morning’s Gospel Lesson, we thus read of Jesus’ circumcision on the eighth day and His entry into the Covenant of Faith – according to the Laws of God through Moses. We discover Mary’s observance of the Days of Purification – once again, according to the Laws God kindly gave.
Indeed, in Jesus Christ we discover the perfect Example of One Who kept the Faith… following it masterfully as an unfading Example for His followers… In Jesus Christ, we observe the Perfect One Who endured all the compromising voices and forces and currents of this world – visible and invisible – that would have unleashed their pernicious effects on the purity and continuation of the Christian Faith…
The final hours of 2016 expired last night. Its gates were closed and locked forever. This morning, we stand like God’s people of old on the threshold of a new year – the Year of our Lord 2017! Its expanse opens up before us full of wonderful possibilities… full of magnificent opportunities!
But the wisdom of the ages is still proclaimed in this morning’s Old Testament Lesson. Christian Faith always hangs in the balance…
This morning, we acknowledge together the disconcerting truth that there are those in this world who are intent upon removing God’s Name from it!
They are intent upon removing His Fingerprints from sacred history… intent upon removing His Voice from our ears and minds and hearts.
By way of example, consider the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. On the Pacific side of the memorial, are recorded the words which President Franklin Delano Roosevelt employed to announce the attack on Pearl Harbor. And I quote…
Yesterday, December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked. With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph.
But the memorial intentionally omitted his final four words! And what, pray tell, were those final four words?
…so help us God.
…we will gain the inevitable triumph…so help us God.
You see, the Jebusites of our day… the Canaanites of our day… the Hittites of our day have proclaimed God to be dead… non-existent… to be politically incorrect and therefore no longer relevant for the superstitious weaklings of the land… who call themselves ”God’s people.”
The Perizzites and the Girgashites of our day are busy at work to remove His Name from the coins of the realm… to keep the simple statement of His Government (“one nation under God”) from the pledge of allegiance with which we all grew up.
If the Hivites and the Amorites of our day have their way, you will never again mention the phrase “Creation” or “Intelligent Design.” And you will dutifully bow down – when told to do so – at their altar of Evolution…
There is very little in this world friendly to the Christian Faith. The media are not. Nor are those who promote and encourage that which God hates. The abortions industry is not!
Those who continue to engage in the dreadful practice of eugenics – or by its newer, friendlier sounding name – “population scientists” – are not!
Even inside Christ’s Church – where one should find his Holy Orders and sacred doctrines in place – one finds instead the most bitter opposition imaginable to His proven paths of old! When a Church ceases to call itself a House of Worship – instead terming itself a Center of Compassion – you know the shift is well along toward its ruinous conclusion…
Wherever the words of men are exalted above the words of the Almighty, there the great compromise has been initiated… Like a standing string of dominoes which begins to fall, there will be consequences. Woe to the wicked tenants who destroy the vineyard of our LORD.
The word of salvation, we are instructed, is not far from each of us… In the Providence of God, it is much closer than we are to ourselves…
To love the LORD our God… to walk in His ways… to keep His statutes of life… to love one another… all remain within reach…
The eternal Word has been spoken and preserved for our learning…
The Living Word Who was born and dwelt among us full of grace and truth… by His holy example lights our way…
This New Year’s Day, make it your objective to keep the Faith through 2017… but give it away, too! For Faith still hangs in the balance.
Remember the words of Ambrose, the great 4th century Bishop of Milan:
Christ with the Father ever one,
Spirit! the Father and the Son,
God over all, the mighty sway,
Shield us, great Trinity, we pray.