Today in chapel we were blessed to hear God’s Word preached by Rev. Steve Schave, Associate Executive Director of the Office of International Mission. His sermon made the text very real and the Gospel message so wonderful to hear.
A Father’s Wise Instruction – Proverbs 4:10-23
If a father’s wise instruction be the safe path of uprightness then you will find me on the shortcut through bristle and thorn. If a father’s wise words are a lady to hold onto, then I have forsaken her and forgotten her; not guarding her as I should, but turned away. If there’s an off ramp to evil, I’ve taken that exit rather than pass on by. If they serve the bread of wickedness and the wine of violence, then I’ve been to that diner. If the highway of wickedness leads to deep darkness, then I have crashed my car over the curb of instruction, careening in the dark with my head lights off. I haven’t been attentive to my father’s words, I haven’t filled my ears with them, I let them escape from my sight, and my heart has been filled with an empty substitute. I won’t rest until I have done evil and made someone trip over my own sins. Crooked speech and devious talk are always near to my heart if not my lips. My eyes are not on the road, my navigation is faulty, and I swerve right into the oncoming traffic of evil. My steps to heaven are hampered by all the muck I have stepped in, and when I go running, I stumble and fall flat on my face. And so it is with each us, for every person born sinful.
And when my father’s discipline comes to put me on the path, when I must die to myself or deny myself: I am the doubting Thomas, I am the denying Peter. I am the persistent widow, who cries “injustice” to the judge, for my suffering at the pain of a hangnail being pulled, kicking and screaming all the way to the cross. Ah, the unfairness of it all! For surely in my eyes, I am a knight in shining armor, the man of steel, I discipline my body to not sin, I am the fireman rescuing the kitten, the boy scout helping the elderly woman across the street, the heroic father up late last night at the hospital with my daughter. I am the Good Samaritan who helps the one in need whom all else ignored… all to the honor of men and wise all unto myself. That is until this twisted stick is held up to the perfectly straight ruler and I see just how crooked I am. Until this little lamp is held up to the very glow of the Sun. My life compared to the Word and Instruction of my wise Father? How can it be that my years will be many, in keeping with His instruction, and the path will lead to the light, and not into utter darkness? It is terrifying for me to think upon the wise instruction of my Father and what a fool I’ve been in my life. And if God would be fair to give what I deserve, I shudder to think… and so should it be with you!
Because what kind of foolishness is this, the wise instruction of a Father who would send His only begotten Son to suffer and die. A Son who never forsook the teachings of His Father, whose heart held fast to every wise word, who kept each and every commandment, who took not one step outside the path of uprightness, who even in starvation refused to eat from the bread of wickedness, or in his persecution refused to drink from the wine of violence. Because He would not walk in the way of evil or enter the path of the wicked, but followed the blood stained road that would lead to torture, and suffering and death. The Lamb who goes uncomplaining forth without a word of protest. What kind of foolishness is this!? If this is what happens to the Holy One of God, what is to become of me? For surely Satan watches on at the foot of the cross, and says with wicked tongue, “Oh Holy One of God, how quickly they went from chanting your name to chants of crucify… they mock you, they spit on you, they jeer you: this is how they treat their king? Look at how they treat one another… they crucify each other and they crucify you! What are you waiting for, dying on that cross, each labored breath and word one closer to your last… you’d be a fool, Jesus, not to save yourself! Say the wise word, let them get what they deserve… curse them and live and leave them to me… don’t be a fool! ”
What foolish love is this upon the cross!? What foolish love is this!? Jesus Christ truly is the King of fools, of which I am the greatest – a poor miserable fool. Oh Father, what have you done! What have you done for me, your prodigal Son? But, listen, listen to those wise words from the cross, O sons and daughters, and hold them close to your heart! Those words of salvation, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” and then with his last when Christ pronounces, “It is finished. The debt has been paid.” These words are like a graceful garland placed upon your head, a beautiful crown bestowed upon you. Be attentive to these words of grace, don’t let them escape your sight, keep them in your heart unto eternal life. For these words are life to those who find them, and in them is the healing of your flesh. Because, to be sure, from a pierced side we see the vigilance of the Son’s heart, from which flows the very springs of life, as these Words are poured out upon you from the font. And with these words, He gives you the Bread of Holiness to eat, and the cup of Peace from which to drink. Bread and wine, filled with forgiveness, life and salvation – through these words.
And with these words that absolve all your sin, the Father places you back on the path of uprightness and the way of wisdom. So when you walk, your steps will not be hampered, and when you run, you will not stumble! For surely, the prodigal’s father comes running down the path, to embrace His foolish son brought to his senses. And the path of God’s righteousness is the light of a new dawn. And while the world grows darker and darker, Christ grows closer and closer, shining brighter and brighter until the full day when He returns again. He has promised to come again that you might eat His bread and drink His wine: and to fill your ear and eye and heart with His Words that last forever. Because, if there be wisdom it is Christ… if there be righteousness it is Christ… if there be life and healing… it is Christ! Those are the Promises of your wise Father, the words that you can cling to until you are crowned with eternal life. In Jesus name, Amen.
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