Online Worship for Epiphany Two, Sunday January 15, 2023
Sermon for Epiphany Two – 1/18/15 – January 15, 2023
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
Haggai 2:6-7 (NKJV)
6 “For thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; 7 and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts. (NKJV)
In the Name of Jesus the Christ,
Who is Himself the Great Light,
Who is also the Desire of All Nations,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Blood –
What is it that makes a Church beautiful? Have you ever thought about it?
Where is the true beauty of a church to be found? Is it the building itself, the brick and the stone? I’ve seen some pretty impressive churches and cathedrals…but is the true glory of the church to be found in the brick and stone, in aesthetically pleasing architecture?
Is the true beauty of a church to be found in its furnishings? Is it the stained glass windows or beautiful wooden pews? What about the altar? I’ve seen some churches with plain altars, while others have ornate altars complete with paintings and statues. Is the true glory of the church to be found in its furnishings?
Is the true glory of the church to be found in its membership or programs? Should a church be measured based upon what its members do in the church and in the community? Is the beauty of a church to be found in its high profile members? Do we fall short of other churches because we don’t have their groups and programs? Is the true glory of the church to be found in its membership and programs?
Is the true glory of the church to be found in its message? There are doubtless thousands of churches in our country that are more ornate and aesthetically beautiful than our place of worship. There are thousands of churches that have more beautiful and expensive furnishings…altars, pews and organs.
There are surely churches who have a more active membership and who offer more programs and activities…but what message is being proclaimed in those churches…is it Christ Crucified, the only savior of sinners?
In the end…how a church looks and what programs it offers…matters nothing if its message does not focus on salvation accomplished in Christ and offered in Word and Sacrament. I’m not saying that it doesn’t matter how we live as Christians in the community…but the true spiritual health of a congregation is not determined by what the community says about us. We should be concerned about ourselves and whether or not we are being honest with ourselves, with one another and with the Lord Jesus. We should be concerned that what we do is in agreement with God’s Word and that what we do is done in faith, giving all glory to God.
Instead of comparing ourselves to other churches…we should search our hearts and compare all that we are, say and do to God’s Holy Word. Instead of being enamored with the external beauty of other churches we need to focus on Christ Himself, who is the true glory of the church.
In the Word of God before us this morning we find an important message for every Christian. We are reminded that Christ – who is also called the Desire of All Nations – is the true glory, the most beautiful thing about the Christian Church. Where Christ is proclaimed in truth and His Sacraments are used in accord with His Word…there Christ is still working and His glory still shines forth...even if the building is run down and the carpet in need of replacing.
May God the Holy Spirit bless us and lead us to remember that in Christ is the True Glory of the Church to be found. Amen.
The Prophet Haggai was sent by the LORD to light a fire under the people of Judah. After 67 years in exile in Babylon, the LORD God kept His promise and moved King Cyrus to allow the Jews to return to their homes.
They returned to their cities and villages and rebuilt. They rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. They rebuilt their homes. They rebuilt their communities.
They also picked up where they had left off…doing some of the very same things that led to their captivity. They married unbelieving neighbors and were in danger of resuming the worship of their false gods. When the Prophet Ezra saw what was going on he was so distressed that he pulled out the hair on his head and from his beard (Ezra 9:3) and sat dejected before the people.
The LORD God moved the people to repent of these sins. The LORD forgave their sins…but they remained sinful human beings. They continued to be self-centered and little concerned about the Lord’s House and worship. Eighteen years after returning their walls and homes were rebuilt and improved…but the temple of the LORD still lay in ruin! They had busied themselves with their own homes, with their own things…so the LORD sent the Prophet Haggai to chastise and warn them.
The LORD God led a man named Zerubbabel – a distant relative of King David – to spearhead the rebuilding of the House of the LORD. After two months of building, the LORD sent Haggai with another message. As they rebuilt the temple there were those who had seen and remembered the former temple built by Solomon (destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar). They were distressed that their new temple would never come close to rivaling the beauty and glory of the former temple. It had been inlaid with gold and silver and was beautiful to look upon.
The LORD spoke to them as if reading their minds and hearts…because He was (Haggai 2:3,8-9 NKJV):
3 ‘Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? In comparison with it, is this not in your eyes as nothing?... ‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the LORD of hosts. 9 ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the LORD of hosts.”
While the temple being rebuilt by Zerubbabel could not rival the former temple in precious metals; the LORD promised that its glory would surpass that of the former temple.
In fact, those who were distressed with its lack of beauty had forgotten that the true glory of the temple was in this – that the LORD God there met his people, extending His mercy and forgiveness to them by accepting their sacrifices for sin. It was the presence of the LORD that made their place of worship glorious. He promised to be there among His people when they called upon His Name in truth.
The LORD Jesus Himself is what makes this place glorious. We want our places of worship to be clean, beautiful and well-kept as a testimony of our love for Him and as an expression of our thanks for His amazing grace. We can be assured that the true glory of the church is to be found here because we come here to call upon His Name in truth. Jesus the Christ is present with us, having promised to gather with those who in faith call upon Him. This place is beautiful because the Eternal Son is here as He promises us in His Word (Matthew 18:20, NKJV):
20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
Let us never forget this when we enter this building and do so honestly, in humility and in faith. God grant us grace that we come here to honestly confess our sins to the LORD and to listen to Him speak to us in His Word. Let this never be a place of dishonesty and falsehood.
God once promised Zerubbabel and the High Priest Joshua not to be discouraged because He was with them. The LORD also assures us of His presence with us through His Word. They were reminded that the LORD is not to be found in the stained wood and inlaid gold, but in His Word of promise to be with His people (Haggai 2:4-5):
4 Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ says the LORD; ‘and be strong, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; and be strong, all you people of the land,’ says the LORD, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ says the LORD of hosts. 5 ‘According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!’
It was then that the LORD revealed why the glory of this temple would be greater than the former. It was because the Desire of all Nations would shortly come to it.
6 “For thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; 7 and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts.
The Temple rebuilt by Zerubbabel and made more glorious by Herod the Great would achieve the greatest glory ever afforded a building when the LORD Himself, the Messiah came to it. When the Promised Savior – here called the Desire of All Nations – came to Jerusalem and graced the Temple of the LORD then was the true glory of the LORD revealed.
The LORD Christ first came to His Temple in flesh when Joseph brought the infant Jesus to be circumcised and named Jesus on the 8th Day after His Birth in Bethlehem. Few noticed that the Glory of the LORD had returned to His Temple. When Joseph returned to the Temple weeks later with Mary to offer the sacrifice of two doves in thanksgiving to God only Simeon and Anna noticed and gave praise to God.
The LORD Christ returned to His Temple twelve years later and the child Jesus asked questions and revealed knowledge of God’s Word enough to amaze the teachers of Israel. In His words to Joseph and Mary we see that He knew His very special relationship to the Heavenly Father.
The LORD Christ returned to His Temple at the age of 30, having taken up the work of Salvation. He chased from the temple those who did not give glory to God. He worshipped and taught in the temple once rebuilt by Zerubbabel and the temple of the LORD was filled with glory.
The LORD Christ stumbled through the streets of Jerusalem and to the hill called ‘place of a skull’ three years later and was nailed to a cross between two common criminals. He suffered and died while bearing the sins of every human being who has, does, and ever will live. When he breathed His last and died…the veil in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom revealing that peace with God had been forever established and sin taken out of the way by His death.
Peace between God and humankind has been established through Christ’s sinless life and willing death for sinners. The peace won by Christ is still offered when the Good News of what He accomplished is still proclaimed and offered in the words, “This is my body given for you; my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
Christ is the True Glory of the Church…still today…but who has heard the report? Where is this message still proclaimed today?
Christ is the True Glory of the Church…yet we are still impressed with the external trappings, the buildings erected and furnished by our hands. These things do not even begin to compare to the glory of His life, death and resurrection.
We don’t have what some churches have; we don’t offer what some churches offer. Our pews aren’t always overflowing; nor are our offering plates always full. We don’t have a sinless membership, neither are we visible and praised in our community.
It’s OK. It’s not about us. It’s all about Christ. So long as He is present with us to bless us through word and sacrament, the true glory of the Lord, the glory of the Church is here present…with all His grace and mercy.
It’s OK. We don’t need inlaid gold and silver. Christ rules here, within our hearts by faith. He through His Word assures our troubled hearts that His blood covers our sins, removes our guilt and has paid for our place eternal in the heavens. There is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. We have perfect peace with God.
The Hymn writer Nicolai Grundtvig says it well (TLH 4672,4,6):
Surely in temples made with hands,
God, the Most High, is not dwelling;
High above earth His temple stands,
All earthly temples excelling.
Yet he whom heav’ns cannot contain
Chose to abide on earth with men, built in our bodies His temple.
Now we may gather with our King,
E’en in the lowliest dwelling;
Praises to Him we there my bring,
His wondrous mercy forthtelling.
Jesus His grace to us accords;
Spirit and life are all His words;
His truth doth hallow the temple.
Here stands the font before our eyes
Telling how God did receive us;
Th’ altar recalls Christ’s sacrifice
And what His table doth give us;
Here sounds the Word that doth proclaim
Christ yesterday, today, the same,
Yea, and for aye our Redeemer! Amen.