Pastor Aaron Steinbrenner delivers a sermon entitled “Words Matter” based on Jeremiah 23:28,29 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered on Sunday, October 13, 2019
Words matter. Just ask Nathaniel Pierce. One moment he was walking down the street minding his own business. The next moment he was being framed for a murder he didn’t commit. Ten witnesses pointed the finger at Nathaniel and claimed he was the shooter. Much later those witnesses would say they were coerced and that they lied. Ask Nathaniel, who spent 25 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, if the words of those witnesses mattered. Words matter. Telling the truth matters.
Do you remember Naboth from the Old Testament? King Ahab wanted his property so he hired false witnesses to tell lies about Naboth. Naboth lost his property and his life. Words matter. Telling the truth matters.
You wouldn’t want people telling lies about you. You wouldn’t want people misrepresenting you. You wouldn’t want people putting words into your mouth. Do you think God likes it when people lie about him?…when people misrepresent him?…when people put words into his mouth? God’s Words matter. Telling the truth matters. Especially when we stake our lives and our eternity on those words of God.
Wind the clock back about 2,600 years. Super quick history and geography lesson. God’s people had been divided into two kingdoms – the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. By this time…by the time and era of Jeremiah…the northern kingdom had already been carried off into captivity by Assyria. Why? Because they were unfaithful to the Lord. They exchanged the truth of God’s Word for lies. They bowed down to and worshipped false gods instead of their Creator and Savior God. So after many, many warnings, God taught them how serious their rebelliousness was.
Now, the southern kingdom of Judah was doing the exact same thing. They were turning away from the Lord. They were livin’ the good life and that life didn’t include thanking God, worshiping God, or living lives that honored God. So what does God do? He sends faithful prophets, like Jeremiah, to tell the people – “Hey, wake up. Repent. Get serious about your relationship with God. Otherwise there will come a time of judgment.”
And like smelling salts waved under the nose of a boxer, the people woke up, right? No. Not exactly. Because Jeremiah wasn’t the only prophet preaching. While Jeremiah was preaching the truth of God’s Word there many other voices misrepresenting God. Jeremiah: Repent. Get serious. Listen to God’s Word. Other voices: Relax. Be yourself. Do as you please. Find your own truth. You are God’s people and he will bless you no matter what. Does that sound at all familiar today? The truth of God’s Word has lots of competition. Which voices do we listen to?
- Do we find ourselves praying, “Lord, teach me your decrees and help me to walk according to your commands”… OR… do we catch ourselves looking for loopholes in God’s commands, trying to justify our sinful decisions, even complaining about how the church is so old fashioned and strict?
- Do we stand firm and even proud, wrapped up in the full armor of God as Paul suggests, even as the devil and this wicked world is ever on the attack…do we stand up for the sanctity of life…for the sanctity of marriage…for the sanctity of the marriage bed…for the proper roles of men and women…for the biblical teaching of church fellowship and real presence and close communion?…OR… are we apologetic and even somewhat ashamed because our church body seems so knit-picky about such little things?
- Could the average person recite the Ten Commandments…could the average person even share the reasons why we practice close communion or believe in real presence…or be able to have a loving, informed conversation about what God says regarding same-sex relationships or living together before marriage?…could the average person write down on a piece of paper right now reasons we are going to heaven?…OR…have a we lost a bit of our urgency and have we become a bit lazy?…have we become too worldly minded?…do we just put our air pods in and go for our jogs and drink our coffee and watch our Netflix and live our lives assuming everything will be ok?
My point? Jeremiah’s message wasn’t just for those people of Judah. It’s for us too. The Lord said: “Let the one who has my word speak it faithfully.” Why? So we can be the church bd that can tell everyone where they are wrong and we are right? So we can be the extra strict ones who can pretend we are always on higher ground? No. We speak God’s Word faithfully because his words matter…because his truth matters.
We speak God’s Word faithfully because there and only there will we learn how we have offended our holy God…how we have sinned and fallen short…how we stand under the ten commandments of God and instead of earning passing marks we have been smashed into pieces – Is not my word like a hammer that breaks a rock to pieces. We speak God’s Word faithfully because there and only there can we learn about what our God has done…how he has loved us…how he has given his Son…how he has cleansed us…and how he has ignited in us a living faith and love for Jesus – Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord.
We speak God’s Word faithfully because his words matter.
- Just ask the one who has been beaten down by life…the one who feels insignificant and forgotten…the one who feels defeated and guilty…and yet Jesus says, Come to me all who are weary and burdened…I will give you rest…Come, commune with me…take my body and my blood…your sins are forgiven. His words matter.
- Just ask the widow who still cries every day yet also manages a little smile when she recalls the words of Jesus: I am the resurrection and the Life, whoever believes in me will live even though he dies. His words matter.
- Just ask the missionary who has knocked on a thousand doors and received a thousand dirty looks, yet he keeps knocking because the Lord says, My word will not return to me empty.
Ask the single mom who struggles to get her kids ready for church and then she is self-conscious because those same little ones are a little squirrely in the pews…and then she remembers the words of Jesus: Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
You know, things couldn’t have looked good during Jeremiah’s day. He’d preach faithfully but the people just didn’t listen. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us to preach faithfully, but expect divisions and oppositions. And yet, we are here. We are here because God’s people throughout the generations spoke God’s Word faithfully, regardless of the results and regardless of the opposition. And the Words of God matter. Telling the truth matters. And so let us offer this prayer:
Watch over us, dear Lord, and uphold us…help us to handle your Word properly until you return…give us the courage to speak it faithfully so that your Word may make its home in the hearts of many others. Amen.