Sermon for Sunday, November 28th, 2021
In the New Jerusalem, on that day when people see God’s promises fulfilled, and the empty promises of men swept away, people will finally fully realize then that God is their true and only righteousness. People will know then, that the promises that truly matter, are God’s promises.
The prophet Jeremiah had predicted that the kingdoms of Israel and Judah would be destroyed and that the great city of Jerusalem would be laid waste.
You don’t get that part in our Old Testament reading this morning, you just get the sugar, you just get the promises, but before Jeremiah offers people those words of hope, first he has to inform them that there are hard times coming. Hard times doesn’t even begin to describe it. Jerusalem will fall, its walls will be torn down, its temple will be destroyed. The broken promises of men will be brought into full view.
After Jeremiah shares that harsh message, then he shares the passage that you heard this morning, telling of how God is going to fulfill his promises, raise up a new king with a new kingdom, and there will be a new Jerusalem too, only Jeremiah gives it a new name. He says the city is going to be called “The Lord is our righteousness.”
That’s kind of a long name for a city. I mean, it’s shorter than those Welsh towns that people make fun of, but you wouldn’t want to have to write it many times on an envelope. But that is what Jeremiah says the new Jerusalem is going to be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”
Because in the New Jerusalem, when people see God’s promises fulfilled, and the empty promises of men swept away, people will finally fully realize that God is their righteousness. Their only righteousness. Not their good works. Not their money. Not their intellect. Not their looks. Not their correct opinions. Not their promises. None of that stuff will mean anything in the presence of God. None of that has anything to do with true righteousness. God determines what is right and what is wrong, so true righteousness can only come from God alone. God is the author of it.
Think about that for a second. We say things like: this is right and that is wrong all the time. We appeal to right and wrong all the time, but where does that notion of right and wrong ultimately come from? It comes from God. We forget that. We get this foolish notion that we can be righteous apart from God. We think that righteousness exists apart from God, but it doesn’t. In the New Jerusalem, according to Jeremiah, we will know that the Lord is our righteousness. We will know that God is our only hope and salvation.
If that is true, if the Lord is our only source of true righteousness, then wouldn’t we welcome his presence among us? Wouldn’t we eagerly look for it? We don’t have to wait until that future day comes to look to God for our salvation, in fact, we dare not. We need to look for it now. That is what Jesus wanted his disciples to understand: God’s promises are being fulfilled right in front of you, if you only had the power to recognize it and see it. God’s promises need to be on your mind at all times, because the Kingdom of God is not as far away as you might think. God’s promises shouldn’t be words that sit on a dusty bookshelf somewhere. They should be words that are a part of our daily lives. We should look to God’s promises more often than we look to the promises of men. They are more reliable.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent. Last week we proclaimed Christ as our King; this week we look for his coming again in power and glory. The Second Coming of Christ is often talked about or depicted as something to be feared, but if Jeremiah was right, if the Lord really is our righteousness; if God is our fountain of goodness and the well of water that leads to eternal life, if God keeps his promises, then we shouldn’t fear his coming. We should welcome it. We should long for it.
For some of our young Christians sitting in the front today, this isn’t just the beginning of a new church season, today marks the beginning of what we hope will be a lifelong relationship with our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. Whenever you come forward to receive, my young brothers and sisters, you should remember that this act too is a promise of God. Jesus has promised us that he will be present with us whenever we gather for communion. He has promised to feed us with his very own life. This is a promise that you can trust. Kids, not everyone you meet in life can be trusted, but God can be. Never forget that. God keeps his promises and communion is an important reminder of that.
This world is a mess. It has been for a very, very long time. If you think the news is depressing, go and read the first 30 chapters or so of Jeremiah. Jeremiah had no expectation that humans would ever keep their promises, but he knew that God would. That was Jeremiah’s hope: that God would keep his promises. That is our hope too. We don’t need to be weighed down by the sins of this world; we don’t need to be shocked or surprised by them. It is so easy to be so distracted by the broken promises of men, that we miss all the evidence of God keeping his promises. That is what Advent really proclaims, both in the coming of Christ in the manger and the coming of Christ in the clouds, Advent proclaims that God keeps his promises. Fear not, but watch and wait. God keeps his promises.