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Worship Theme: Christians live by faith, thriving on the power of the Word
Sermon Theme: We are Watered by the Word of God
There’s something about spring in Wisconsin. The temperatures warm up, the snow melts, the tulips pop out of the ground, the grass turns green, the trees bud. But what happens to a lawn with no rain? It turns brown. What happens to an un-watered vegetable garden? No beans, no lettuce, no carrots. It’s sad to see things wilt and die. So, what does it take to make flowers, grass, and vegetables grow? Sunlight, nutrients in the soil, and water.
What does it take to make a Christian grow? It’s sad if I’m not or you’re not paying attention, and our spiritual life starts to wilt and die. More than sad! Our forever is at stake. That’s why I’m thrilled when I hear, “Pastor, I’d like to be more caring and less self-centered in my relationship with my friends.” “I’d like to be able to have the courage to increase my offerings.” “I’d like to have a stronger faith.” How does that happen? God himself answers that in today’s first reading from Isaiah chapter fifty-five with the wonderful news that “we are watered by the Word of God.”
His words are divine
The battle for the Bible began about one hundred fifty years ago. Scientists began to elevate human mind power to godlike status. They refused to believe in anything that could not be explained by scientific reasoning. There’s nothing wrong with scientific research. God created the universe and the human mind and invites us to explore. But here’s what happened in the late eighteen hundreds. “Scholars” applied scientific reasoning to the Bible. Out went the miracles, and in came cleverly invented guesswork, suggesting that portions of the Bible were pieced together from a variety of sources like jigsaw puzzle pieces from different puzzle boxes and that the Bible is made up of oral traditions, campfire stories, embellished over time and on the same level as Aesop’s fables, myths and legends to make you feel good about God but not really true. Once you start tossing out the Bible’s miracles, where do you stop? Eventually, out went Jesus’ rising from the dead, and the apostle Paul tells that if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then we’re all going to hell.
No! The Bible is not some pieced-together, edited, old literature, nor is it laced with made-up, feel-good myths and fables. It’s all true, it’s all real, and it’s all relevant because it’s divine, that is, from above. The Bible is unlike any other literature and any other book because the Bible is not humans’ best effort to capture what God might be like, but it is God’s own testimony about himself and his love for us. In a miraculous way God breathed into various writers at different times and in different places the thoughts and words he wanted them to record. How do we know? What other book is made up of sixty-six individual books written over a span of fifteen hundred years, and they all agree completely with each other with no contradictions or errors? What other book includes miracles that were not done in a closet or in private but were witnessed by hundreds, yes, thousands of people? What other book has over seven hundred predictions and all of them come true? – from promises like “Gideon, the Lord will give you victory in your next battle,” and he did, to the amazingly specific, “The Savior will be born in Bethlehem,” and he was. “He will grow up in Galilee.” He did. “He will be betrayed by a friend.” He was. “He will not have any bones broken.” They weren’t. All the way to the biggest prediction of all, “The LORD laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6) spoken seven hundred years before it happened, and he did. What other book proclaims a message so powerful and so clear about my own personal sin that it cuts into my heart, makes me shiver in fear, and dangles me on the rim of hell’s open pit, and then calms my fears, quiets my conscience, and eases me into the loving arms of a kind and merciful God? What other book presents the truths that fill my heart with joy because I have a substitute named Jesus who guarantees life with God now and forever? And he did all that for you, too!
Water can come from a well, from a hose, from a faucet. But before any of that can happen, water has to come from above. It’s the snow in winter and rain in spring, summer, and fall that water the earth. Granted some places of the earth feature bone-dry deserts, and some places of the earth are wetlands. But it’s water from above that counts. The people in Phoenix might enjoy life in their sunny climate, but they depend on rain and snow in the mountains surrounding their valley. Here in southeastern Wisconsin we get an average of thirty-four point eight inches of precipitation a year, some years more and some years less. But unless God makes rain and snow happen, things won’t grow.
Is your spiritual life drying up? Are you worried about being a little tongue-tied when you face God? As the rain and the snow come down from heaven … so is my word that goes out from my mouth. We are watered by the Word of God which is divine, coming from above. Since that is true, and since he himself tells us in his Word that we are forgiven, those words refresh our souls like a sprinkler can of water on thirsty day-lilies and geraniums, giving us confidence to stand before God.
His words are enduring
Some of you who’ve been on God’s earth for a while might recall the floods of June 1997 and August 1998, two once-in-a-hundred-years floods that occurred within fourteen months of each other. Eight inches of rain in four hours. Thirty-five million dollars in damages. Those two floods conjured up memories of the flood of August 1986 when the newspaper’s front page had a picture of County Stadium workers canoeing on top of the infield. Any flood will put Bible-reading people in mind of the one-time-only global flood described in Genesis. But do you recall what God told Noah after leaving the ark? “As long as the earth endure, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease” (Genesis 8:22). In other words, “Until the end comes on Judgment Day, I will take care of you and provide for you … and that includes watering the earth to make things grow.”
As the rain and the snow come down … Isaiah uses a word that indicates consistency. Water from above is consistent and enduring. So is my word that goes out from my mouth. I’m reminded of the statement Jesus himself made, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35).
Isn’t it comforting to know that God gives us the water of his Word not sporadically, not in a hit or miss fashion, not “Well, I hope this works,” but in a steady out-pouring of his message of love as reliable as spring showers that bring May flowers? We are watered by the Word of God, which is enduring. Since that is true, and since he tells us we are forgiven, we can count on that every day without fail.
His words are dynamic
How many times had Mom and Dad told him, “The living room is not a gymnasium”? But the little boy couldn’t resist practicing spinning the basketball on his finger when sure enough, “Crash!” There went the lamp right into the Christmas tree smashing three antique glass ornaments. Mom heard the crash and ran to the doorway. The hurt in her eyes brought tears to his. Then he heard the car in the garage. Dad just got home. He knew he was going to get it. More tears. But both Mom and Dad reached out, drew him close, hugged him, and said, “Don’t worry! You know you goofed, but we still love you and always will. We know you’ll never do it again. We’re still giving you your presents.” Now the little guy had tears of joy.
God’s words are not stale stories. They are not harmless myths or legends. God gives us real history, his real track record in dealing with real people, a real description of real love from the only real God there is. His words touch our heart and bring us to tears, first, tears of sadness and fear when he nails us with the reality of our sin, then, tears of joy as his words also convey the message of his eternal hug and his message, “Don’t worry! I still love you. You can see the proof of that love when you look at how my Son took the brunt of all the anger that should have been directed at you.” That message, those words from God, have dynamic power to change us from the inside out. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish … so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
We are watered by the Word of God, which is dynamic, powerful. Since that is true, and since he tells us we are forgiven, we are changed on the inside, giving us power to live for him and others.
I know you want to grow as a Christian. So do I. Why is that? Because of the curveballs coming our way each day, the taps on the side of the head to wake us up from apathy and indifference, the constant reminders that this world is not our permanent home. There’s no such thing as remaining neutral or on hold with God. If we are not growing, our trust in the Lord, our connection to him, is shrinking, shriveling, drying up, and ready for burning in the compost heap of hell. Stand in the gentle shower of his mercy. Drink in his goodness. Celebrate the fact that you are watered by the Word of God, and you will grow. Amen.
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