Date: Dec 10, 2006 Where: SHMC
Sermon Title: Love invites Repentance
Text: Malachi 3:1-5
W. L: Dietrich Klassen
Sharing: Max Kehler
The topic of repentance makes me uneasy…
How many times have you looked at
An undesirable behaviour in your life
And you said to yourself,
“I really want to change… but…
But What if I fail again?”
o Ill.: A farmer owned a very beautiful horse of which he was very proud. One day he drove him into town and carefully tied the animal to the hitching post in front of the General Store. Two thieves, passing through the town, spied the handsome horse and decided to steal it. They also decided on a clever strategy to carry out their plan. One of them untied the horse and rode swiftly away. The other remained by the post. When the farmer emerged from the store and saw that his horse was gone, he was about to shout for help when the conspirator walked up to him. In a soft, low tone he said, "Sir, I am your horse. Years ago I sinned and for my sins I was punished. In order to atone for my guilt I was changed into a horse. Today my sentence is over, and I can be released if you will be so kind." The farmer was dumbfounded, yet touched by the story. So he sent the man away wishing him luck in his new life. Several weeks later the farmer went to a fair in a neighboring town. Great was his surprise to see his own horse for sale there. After gazing long at the animal to make sure that his eyes did not deceive him, he walked over and whispered in the horse's ear, "So -- you've sinned again!"
And sometimes we wonder “What if I repent of repenting
in the middle of repenting?”
o Ill.: Two men were adrift in an open boat and it looked bad for them. Finally one of them, frightened, began to pray: "O Lord, I've broken most of the commandments. I've got some pretty bad habits -- I drink a lot, I curse most of the time, I steal things from work, I treat people like dirt. But if my life is spared now I promise you that I will change, that I will never again curse, that I will never again steal, that I . . ." Suddenly his friend cried out to him: "Wait a second, Jack. Don't go too far. I think I see land."
And What if we are so set in our ways
that no matter how serious we are about repentance
our old life just follows us around?
o Ill.: There was a man with a problem that he couldn't keep to himself anymore. So he went to the priest to confess that for years he had been stealing building supplies from the lumberyard where he worked. His pastor asked him to explain the kinds of things he had taken. He laid it all out, "Enough to build my own house and enough for my son's house. And houses for our two daughters. And our cottage at the lake." The priest frowned and thought about this, finally commented, "This is very serious, I shall have to think of a far-reaching penance. Have you ever done a retreat?" The man quickly replied, "No, Father, I haven't, but if you can get the plans, I can get the lumber."
You know how you sometimes lay awake at night
And you feel something strange…
The other night I was trying to sleep
and I couldn’t fall asleep.
And as I lay there I suddenly felt
a rush of guilt flooding over me.
I was trying to remember if I had offended anyone
Or said something that wasn’t nice…
And after a long search within myself,
I realized that,
“Hey, I’m a Mennonite!
I’m supposed to feel guilty…
Now I’m feeling guilty for not feeling guilty…”
o Ill.: An honest letter was sent to the Internal Revenue Service. It stated: "To whom it may concern: I cannot sleep at night. Last year, when I filed my income tax return, I deliberately misrepresented my income. Now I cannot sleep. Enclosed is a check for $150.00 for taxes. If I still cannot sleep, I will send you the rest!"
And, Sometimes when we really have something that we should repent off, it seems just too hard…
o Ill.: Many of us are like the little boy who had broken the glass of a street lamp. Greatly disturbed, he asked his father, "What shall I do?" "Do?" exclaimed his father, "Why we must report it and ask what you must pay, then go and settle it." This practical way of dealing with the matter was not what the boy was looking for, and he whimpered, "I -- I -- thought all I had to do was ask God to forgive me."
As we chuckle about these silly jokes,
we ask ourselves:
“Seriously, is there still a need today for true repentance?”
Or can we already explain all our sin away
By some reasonable explanation?
Do people still experience a deep conviction
that what they have done,
or thought or said is really wrong in God’s eyes?
Do people still turn around?
Confess their sins?
And start over?
Human as we are,
We are at our very best
a band of stumbling fool,
who are in desperate need of the grace of God
to transform our lives
and to make us new.
The Prophet Malachi is a good book to read during Advent.
It is the last book of the Old Testament…
Malachi describes a time of restless waiting
in the history of the people of Judah.
The exile was over.
The people were returning to their homeland,
and the temple had been rebuilt.
The priests were serving in the temple
and doing their busy-work
to try to connect the people with their God –
similar to what we so often try to accomplish as pastors
in our church.
But, there was still no sign of the glory of God
returning to fill the temple.
We know very little about the prophet Malachi,
whose name means, ‘my messenger.’
Like the other prophets,
he was given a word from the Lord
to speak in a particular time.
And this word is relevant for us even today
as we struggle with our own inadequacies and sins.
Let me read from Malachi 3:1-5;
1 "Behold, I will send my messenger,
who will prepare the way before me.
Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking
will come to his temple;
the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire,
will come," says the LORD Almighty.
2 But who can endure the day of his coming?
Who can stand when he appears?
For he will be like a refiner's fire
or a launderer's soap.
3 He will sit as a refiner
and purifier of silver;
he will purify the Levites
and refine them like gold and silver.
Then the LORD will have men
who will bring offerings in righteousness,
4 and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem
will be acceptable to the LORD,
as in days gone by, as in former years.
5 "So I will come near to you for judgment.
I will be quick to testify against sorcerers,
adulterers and perjurers,
against those who defraud laborers
of their wages,
who oppress the widows and the fatherless,
and deprive aliens of justice,
but do not fear me,"
says the LORD Almighty.
The time of Advent
Is a time when we pay attention
to the forerunner of the Messiah,
who tells us to prepare the way…
to get ready for the Messiah to come.
We listen to the fiery message of the prophet
as he calls us to turn away from our sinful ways…
to stop lying to ourselves and pretending before others.
We pay attention when he calls us
to turn our hearts to our children and our spouse…
when he tells us to think twice
about ripping off our employees…
and to be kind and generous to the widows and orphans… We take notice when the messenger accuses us
of depriving our immigrants of justice,
and taking advantage of the most vulnerable in our society.
This passage gives us the promises of a day
when all things will be set right.
God promises a messenger of the covenant
to prepare the Lord’s way,
and to herald the coming of justice.
But this coming is not only good news.
It implies purification and judgment!
And we thought all we needed to do
is just to say sorry to God…
In the Messiah Oratorio,
Friedrich Handel sets this passage from Malachi to music,
and he emphasizes the refiner’s fire
that will purify the sons of Levi, the priests.
Through the prophet,
the Lord gives gracious warning.
The people had expected God’s blessing,
but it will come first through purification and pain.
‘Who can endure the day of his coming,
and who can stand when he appears?’
is the question posed,
reminding us that we stand under the judgment of God.
True repentance is hard work,
and turning around to make a new start is a difficult task.
God invites us in His great love to be reconciled to him,
by admitting that we have missed the mark,
by confessing our need for God
and cleaning up our act.
In the Old Testament
repentance is represented by two verbs:
שוב shuv (to return)
and נחם nicham (to feel sorrow).
In the New Testament,
the word translated as 'repentance'
is the Greek word μετάνοια (metanoia),
a composite word which means "after/thinking”.
This is where the word “afterthought” comes from –
'to think differently after'.
Metanoia implies a change of mind
accompanied by regret and change of conduct –
"a change of mind and heart".
One of the key descriptions of repentance in the New Testament
is the parable of the prodigal son found in Luke 15.
Malachi says that God takes great pains to purify us
and to make us fit to represent his Image to the world.
There’s an interesting image here
that I’d like to explore with you today.
3 He will sit as a refiner
and purifier of silver;
he will purify the Levites
and refine them like gold and silver.
I don’t know very much about silver,
so I did some research.
I found out that over 95% of the silver produced in a year
is used in photography, jewelry, silverware,
and industrial products.
The Kodak and Fuji companies
are the world's largest consumers of silver.
Silver is effective in treating burns by killing bacteria
and allowing the burn to heal more quickly.
Pure silver has the highest electrical and thermal conductivity
of all metals.
(I’m sure that Malachi knew all this…)
Silver was one of the earliest metals used to make coins.
The Romans used silver to make coins as early as 269 BC.
Well, maybe Malachi didn’t know about Kodak and Fuji
But he knew something about
the process of silver-purification.
And he says God is like a silversmith
When he purifies the silver.
When the silver-ores are smelted for purification
you have to be very careful not too overheat the silver
or to leave it over the flame too long.
If the purified silver is left over the fire just a minute too long
it looses its value.
The perfect time to remove the purified silver from the flame
is when the silversmith can see his own image in it.
That is also how God is involved
with total intensity and concentration
in the process of our purification.
When we come to Jesus in humble repentance,
He doesn’t slap us around to accuses and condemn us.
Rather, he takes a chair and sits down,
And listen to us intensely
As he watches the fire of His purifying love
Melt away the dirt and the grime from our soul.
Oh, that the Master Silversmith would soon see His image in us.
In the context of the Advent season,
this text is an encouragement for all of us
to examine our hearts in preparation for the Lord’s coming.
He comes to us in total purity and innocence…
In the little child in Bethlehem.
pouring out His infinite love on all mankind.
The image of the refiner’s fire
Gives us a deep sense of hope,
that even when we experience pain and judgment,
there may be a redemptive and purifying purpose at work. After the refining fire,
it holds out the hope that we may again be worthy
to worship God.
In this time of preparation for Christmas,
The Prophet Malachi reminds us
What the preparation is all about…
It’s not so much about preparing the best dinners,
And getting ready for the best programs…
And the getting the nicest gifts…
its about making our hearts ready
to respond to the infinite love of God in the Christ child.
To come to God with all that that we are
Hungry and thirsty for forgiveness,
Longing for a word of grace and affirmation and restoration.
Over the next few weeks,
As we hear again and again
the story of God’s love made flesh
let us come to Him to be made pure.
May the Master Silversmith
Truly see his image in us –
At the end of this service I want to mention
That next Sunday we will be leaving for Paraguay
to spend Christmas with our family.
If we don’t see you during this coming week
We wish you God’s blessing
And the Joy of Christmas
With your loved ones.
Please, pray for us on our trip,
As we will pray for you.