Reformation 1: Isaiah 55:10-13, 1 Peter 1:22-25, John 1:1-5, 14: The Word

The Word became Flesh (610x352)“Now, if I told you once, I told you a thousand times.”  A dressing-down entwines itself in those words.  Often, we scold children through this warning, with an explanation trailing behind.  “Don’t play in the street.”  “Do your homework before turning on the TV.”  The overstatement of “1,000” clatters out the parent’s frustration.

From afar, the exaggeration staggers with irrationality, announcing to all the futile interaction with your kids.  For they aren’t responding, not as you expect.  So, you crank up the volume, repeat yourself, or lash out with this over-the-top phrase.  Other times, you may say something, not meant to hurt, but the other person becomes upset.  How strange.  Feeble words at one time; at another, words packed with too much potency, with an unintended force you did not foresee.

The words of God also come with power.  Often more than we might realize.  Consider this—you trust in Jesus for life never-ending.  Such faith can only exist because of the life-granting gift carried and contained in words, which bring to birth a belief in Christ.  “For faith comes from hearing, but hearing the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

Didn’t Isaiah tell us as much?  The Lord’s Word comes with the strength to accomplish what He desires.  Long ago, beyond what any of our minds can recollect, the almighty Creator called the cosmos into existence from nothing.  How?  Through words.

The Old Testament proclaims this.  “In the beginning, God said” (Genesis 1).  Later, “Gaze at the heavens and earth and what is in them.  Recognize God made them out of nothing” (2 Maccabees 7:28).  The book of Hebrews teaches the same.  “By faith, we understand the Word of God created the universe” (Hebrews 11:3).

An artist must use something preexisting to produce, like paint or canvas.  Not so with God.  “Be light,” and brightness broke into the darkness!  The origin of day and night, the creation of time, the first day.  Soon, the dry land appeared, and the waters formed into oceans brought about by words from God.

Don’t miss the wordplay.  Through words (plural), God created, but also with His Word (singular).  The words and the Word.  Both intertwine themselves in the Almighty’s creational commotion, with God calling into being what did not exist moments earlier.

The first reading for today described God’s Word to be like rain or snow.  The rain falls and soaks the earth, as God intends, and the crops grow.  The wet droplets do what they are meant to do—what God sends them to do.  Such is His Word, fulfilling His purposes.

Let’s not forget the One who came, in His humanity, by spoken words—Jesus!  Not by any man’s might or seed did the virgin mother conceive.  The angel’s word, with the Spirit’s power, gave to Mary her Child, her flower.  The Word did the doing, as Mary’s response reveals.  “Let everything be according to your Word” (Luke 1:38).

So, Jesus formed in His mother’s womb, developing, awaiting His birth.  The Son, who is God, grows into a man, whom the Father sent to carry out His will.  The enfleshed One from all glory did what He came to do, take our brokenness into Himself to provide us a permanent restoration.  The Lord’s Word did not return to the Father empty.

In the one paradise, which flourished on earth, our first parents chose the lie over the truth and ate of the forbidden tree.  Now death is no more a stranger because of what we inherited from Adam, after the fall into sin (Genesis 2:17).  “By nature, we are destined for wrath” and “the wages of sin are death” (Ephesians 2:3, Romans 6:23).

Inside each of us is a broken disposition, which contaminates everything we do.  Ponder the Messiah’s words.  “From the heart [from what originates within us], come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, and slander” (Matthew 5:19).  Those wounding words we speak, the juicy tidbits of gossip, every evil thought and action, the hate, envy, and greed all arise from our fallen nature.

So, Jesus bent down to bear all those injustices in His body on the cross.  For the God in bone and of blood will not go back empty-handed.  No, He will bring us wayward mortals in tow behind Him, “so we too can walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

The Father’s words and the Word, Jesus, are inseparable.  So, based on the plans of God, Jesus arose from death.  The grave is now dust and ashes, stripped of its might because of Christ’s victory.  What our Lord did, and does, carries on.  For He didn’t only rescue us as a man but also as God, which is why the Word prevails evermore.

The Word of God still comes with authority, doing what God sends Him out to do.  For the Incarnate Word didn’t descend from heaven, to wear our robe of physical flesh, to redeem you by His death, to disappear.  An absent God does not deliver.  No, but since He perseveres forever, He can still come to visit His people and save them.  The alternative is to try saving ourselves, which is impossible and will never last!

So, this day, the Word sounds forth, “I baptize you,” “I absolve you,” “Eat and drink, for this is my Body and Blood.”  The risen Word calls belief into being by the breath of the Spirit.  The Gospel brings life like a spring shower germinates the seed and gives bloom to the blossom.  By what Jesus still does, He liberates us from what we deserve—everlasting damnation.

The Word never ceases, containing the vigor to do what He speaks.  So, baptism saves, being born anew, through the Word of God, by Jesus and His saving work.  With His Word, God pardons and acquits you.  Through the preached Word, which is Jesus voiced into your ears, God the Father, in the Holy Spirit, creates and sustains faith.  The pastor’s words, “I forgive you,” can only be true because our Savior fills them with His power.

The Lord speaks, and sins vanish.  Now flung far away, forever from the Father, they sink into the sea of forgetfulness.  Divine words move molecules of air, from breath, en-Spirited to do the doing.  The words can only do what they say because Christ Jesus conveys His authority in them.  For if you or I don’t speak what our Lord gives us to say, we only breathe out hot air and exhausted vapor.

Like Jacob wrestling with God at the Jabbok River, five centuries ago, a German monk also grappled with the Word.  What does Scripture mean by “the righteousness of God”?  In his scuffle with the written Word, Luther came to understand the holiness of God came from God, gifted to the unrighteous sinner.  All heaven now opened as he sat on the cloaca, the outhouse, next to the tower.  The life with God comes in grace, given to you.  To search for anything else will only fail you and forsake you.

Such blessed righteousness is a gift from God because of His Son.  The Father’s Son, the Word, is the embodiment of sinlessness, which He exchanges to us in His death for all.  So what—I can’t run to where Jesus died to retrieve what He grants to us!

Listen to what Jesus told the Pharisees, “You search the scriptures.  For you think you will find eternal life in them.  No, they testify of me” (John 5:39).  The Bible, which we call “the Word of God,” is the Word because Jesus is residing in those words.  Without Jesus, the sacred text becomes meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

The sermon is nothing but a vehicle to carry Christ, which, as Jesus says, is to bring someone into the forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:27).  Otherwise, the pastor is being unfaithful and preaching something else.

Don’t fumble around trying to find Jesus inside yourself, for you will uncover a sinful creature.  Thank the Lord you don’t need to.  For Jesus tells you where to find Him—where the Word, Jesus, touches your eardrums and feeds you with Himself in His Supper.  Go anywhere else, and you are left unsure and doubting.

The Reformation’s legacy continues only because the Word of the Lord is eternal.  So, when you receive Jesus, where He pledges to come to you, you take in what He gives—life and salvation, which takes you into eternity.

Though now famous, Luther refused to take credit for what took place or bringing back to mind the gift of our redemption.  With a singular focus on the Word, he spurned the spotlight, for only Christ mattered.  Listen to Luther’s quip.  “With Philip Melanchthon or Amsdorf, I slept or drank beer.  The Word of God did everything, and I did nothing.”

The Word of God did everything—500 years ago and also today.  Trust Jesus, the Word of God, for He is eternal, which means what He does is also eternal.  Trust the enlivening Word, who promises mercy and life because He is the Word made flesh, who doesn’t return to heaven barren and unfulfilled.

Words from our epistle reading became a slogan during the Reformation.  The Latin is Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum.  The initials spell out, “VDMA.”  In the 1500s, people sewed those letters on clothing, flags, and banners, etching them on swords and the armor of war horses.  So what do those words mean?  “The Word of the Lord endures forever.”

So, who or what is this Word?  The Apostle Peter answers.  “This Word is the Gospel, which we proclaimed to you.”  The spoken word is to deliver the Word, Jesus.

The Word of Jesus, from Jesus, does the doing.  The mighty Word of God cleaves the gloom of our corruption and death, speaking our righteousness into being.  “Fear not,” our Lord declares.  “All your sins are gone, washed away by the water and Word.  Though the heavens and earth perish, not one letter of my Word ever will.  Remember, as I am eternal, so will you one day be.”  Amen.