November 28, 2021

The Righteous Branch

Passage: Jeremiah 33:14-17

Jeremiah 33:14-17 “The Righteous Branch” 11-28-21

[Prayer] “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to You, O’Lord my rock and redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).

They Will Know We are Christians by our Love

“We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord

And we pray that our unity will one day be restored

And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love

Yeah they'll know we are Christians by our love 

We will work with each other, we will work side by side

We will work with each other, we will work side by side

And we'll guard each man's dignity and save each man's pride

And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love

Yeah, they'll know we are Christians by our love.” Peter Scholtes

Picture it. Some time in the 80’s - the five hundred eighties; BC. That’s right; five hundred eighty some odd years before Jesus was born. The northern ten tribes have been carted off to the furthest reaches of the Assyrian Empire. The Assyrians have been conquered by the Babylonians. Now the Babylonians have come into the southern kingdom of Judah. The Babylonians have already laid siege to Jerusalem once and stolen all of the gold out of the Temple of the Lord to pay for the conquest. Judah and the city of Jerusalem are paying tribute to Babylon. However, Babylon is discovering something about the Jews God has known for a long time. The Jews are stiff necked, stubborn, and rebellious. (Pause) Don’t y’all start feeling superior, we’re just as bad. The Jews were in a treaty with Babylon. In treaties of the time there are often threats that say if you break the treaty with us we will make your name the word people use to describe a worthless, failed, and ruined country. That’s how people will know you after we kick your butt. Now, Jerusalem and all of Judah have rebelled by refusing to pay taxes to Babylon. The Babylonian army has come for a second time. The siege has begun. Babylon’s army is knocking at the door. Then comes the message from God through the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 43:10). Let. Them. In. (Pause) It was a tough time to be the prophet in Israel.

So how did Israel get into this mess anyway? (Pause) The short answer is they turned away from God. They played politics. They played politics with their religion. They forgot the mission. They forgot the call. Israel did what a lot of us do. Israel focused on today. They focused on their hurts. They focused on their problems. They focused on what felt good at the time. They quit focusing on the Lord. Way on back in Deuteronomy 6:5 God told them, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Israel; both the northern 10 tribes and the southern 2 tribes of Judah made this mistake. Then the curses God promised in Deutronomy 28:15-68 began to come true. The armies of Judah tried to defend themselves against Babylon, but were defeated (Deut 28:25). Judah’s sons and daughters were taken by the Babylonians (Deut 28:31-32). Judah’s crops were taken by their enemies (Deut 28:33-34). The Babylonians carted off the best and the brightest of Israel to Babylon just as the Lord said they would (Deut 28:36). And Israel, “became a horror, a proverb, and a byword among all the peoples (Deut 28:37).

In the midst of all of the destruction and woe, God sends this message through the prophet Jeremiah. (Reread Jeremiah 33:14-17)

God is sending a new king to Israel. This new king will have characteristics very similar to those of King David who was a man after God’s own heart. David was not perfect, but the one who is coming - the righteous Branch from David, will be perfect. The righteous Branch is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. God promised He is coming and Jesus will come. We celebrate Jesus’ birth on December 25th. Jesus is righteous. Through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross Jesus pays the price for all of our sins making it possible for us to be righteous before God and before one another. God’s grace leads us to seek justice. Justice is about balance and harmony. Justice is necessary if we are going to be in a right relationship before God, and our neighbors. Justice is necessary if we are going to be God’s Church in the community. Do we want our church to be known as the place of our way or the highway? Do we want our church to be known for politics and drama? (Pause) Justice; balance and harmony in Christ are necessary for us to bear witness to God in our community. Do you want our church to be focused on growing deeper in our love for Christ and devoted to serving others out of our love for God? (Pause) I think this is what the prophet is talking about. Those individuals and congregations who have become more focused on what they want and getting what they want will fall to the curses in Deuteronomy 28. Those who put their trust in the Lord, and work at being open to the pull of the Holy Spirit will grow closer to God. When we grow closer to God we are changed by God in ways we cannot be changed by one another. The more we are changed by God, the more we will look; act, and speak like God. Then the community will speak of this church as, “The Lord is our Righteousness.” We will move from arguing about what “we” want to being a congregation that brings more people to Jesus Christ. (Jeremiah 33:16).

My sisters and brothers, the King is coming. God has expectations of us. We have work to do? Jesus will come again. Are we ready? Have we set our hands to the work? (Pause) Or have we pushed for what we want instead of trying to figure out what God wants? My brothers and sisters, we are not perfect, but God is. This first Sunday in the season of Advent is the time to begin again. It is time to put God first in our lives again. It is time to rededicate our lives to Jesus Christ lest we become the byword for pain and misery in our community. Let us come together in Christ to become a beacon of hope in this community. Let’s decide together. Let’s make the decision for Christ together. Let’s be the congregation in this community that is known for the love of Christ shed abroad in our hearts. Through Christ let’s go out those doors and let the community know we are Christians by our love: our love for God, our love for one another, and our love for those in the community.

In the name of Jesus Christ,    Amen

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