Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Bethany Bullet - January 5, 2010

How Sweet the Sound of Protection

Living in the city we are constantly bombarded by noise. The sounds of traffic, leaf blowers, and airliners taking off fill the air with noise. Even noises that are meant to get our attention sometimes go unheard in the city: the sound of a car alarm, the recorded message at the airport, “The white zone is for loading and unloading of passengers only, no parking”, and a cell phone ringing. I don’t know if you have stopped to think about the sounds of the city but there’s some that cause an emotional reaction: the sudden burst of a police siren behind you as you drive and the wailing of the fire engine as it speeds to a call. For some of us, these sounds bring fear and a rush of adrenaline, yet for others these are the sweet sound of protection.

I have been in the habit for the past few years of praying every time I hear a siren. I know that for someone, that sound brings hope and comfort. I also know that someone is not having a good day and is in need of prayer and protection.

Today, we remember the protection of God. In our Gospel reading from Sunday, we have the story of the Holy Family being sent to Egypt to protect the life of the Messiah.

The Magi had just left their gifts for the Christ child. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were still in Bethlehem and in a dream an angel tells Joseph to “get up” and “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt.” You see, they were in need of protection from King Herod who had been outwitted by the Magi. Herod had told the Magi he desired to worship the new king, which of course was a lie. In his selfishness, he desired to bring an end to the perceived threat to his throne. Jealousy, power and rage, consumed Herod. There could be no threats to his rule. Herod tried to protect what he thought was valuable, his kingdom.

Without any valuable information from the Magi, Herod resorted to killing all the boys in the area of Bethlehem who were two years old and under. This was a sad day. It is also a difficult part of the story to understand. Where is the protection of God for the babies of Bethlehem?

We know that God is in the business of protection. Not like a mob boss, but like a loving father.
  • After the fall of Adam and Eve, God’s providence and protection continued as he gave clothes to his children.
  • God protected Cain even after he took the life of his brother.
  • God protected Noah and his family in the ark.
  • God’s promise to Abraham provided protection for his family.
  • The family of Jacob was protected from famine in Egypt.
  • Even in the midst of slavery, God protected his people through the Passover, in the waters of the Red Sea, in manna from heaven.
  • God’s protection did not fail even after the people turned in unbelief and were sent into exile as God protected a remnant to return to the Promised Land.

What does humanity need protection from? The answer lies within us. The sinful nature that clings to us is at odds with God. We need to be protected from ourselves.

In many ways we are like Herod. We are comfortable in our lives as long as there are no threats to our Power, Position, Profit, or Pleasure. Like Herod we are filled with jealousy, and rage when threatened with something that would take away our power, cause us to lose our position or profit or make things un-pleasurable for us. Like Herod, our selfish desire for protection eventually leads to pain and sorrow.

Our sinful nature has convinced us that protection comes when we fight to preserve our own power and positions, when we seek profit at the sake of others, and when we give into the pleasures of this world.

You know what I am talking about, the half-truths told to keep a lid on your own behaviors; the words spoken that bring about pain to others…the list could go on and on. But in the midst of this, God is still in the business of protection.

For Jesus, protection comes as Joseph listens to the call of God. Our Heavenly father gives the protection of His Son to one who was in need of being saved. In His humiliation, Jesus was kept safe by one who was filled with sin.

God protected His own Son from Herod as He sent Him down to Egypt and in the end; those who were martyred by Herod are protected as well. You see, because they die, the Christ Child lives, and because He lives to die, they are ultimately protected and kept safe. Protection comes as one dies in the place of another, a precursor to an even greater event to come. Even after the sound of weeping and wailing was heard in Bethlehem—the children, and in fact all in Bethlehem were protected by what the Christ Child would do on the cross.

On the cross we hear the Sweet Sound of Protection as hammer strikes nail and the Christ child willingly gives up His life to bring protection to all. The Sweet Sound of Protection comes in the words “It is finished!” and is guaranteed by the sound of the stone being rolled away three days later.

You see, God is in the business of protection and that protection comes to you and to me as well. We need protection, not from a power hungry king, but from our own desire for power. In Christ we are protected from sin and the activity of the prince of this world.

The sound of protection comes to you, not in a siren, but in the words that were spoken over you at your baptism, in the words, “Broken and shed for you,” and in the words “Your sin is forgiven.”

God is in the business of protection. Don’t believe me? Hear these words of Jesus as He prayed for all of His followers at the end of His ministry recorded by John, “Father, the time has come…glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began."I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world…I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours…I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one. hile I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me…"I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them…My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message… May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me… "Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."

While Jesus was on earth, He prayed for your protection. He prayed for unity and that the world might know Him through His followers. Jesus is still seeking our protection as John reminds us in his epistle, “But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 John 2:1)

God’s business is protection. Martin Luther had it right when he penned the second verse of A Mighty Fortress is Our God:

With might of ours can naught be done,
Soon were our loss effected;
But for us fights the valiant One,
Whom God Himself elected.
Ask ye, Who is this?
Jesus Christ it is,
Of Sabaoth Lord,
And there’s none other God;
He holds the field forever.

Like Joseph, protection comes to us as we listen to the call of God. Ultimately, like the innocent children of Bethlehem protection comes as one dies in our place. Jesus Christ holds the field for us and fights for our protection today, and all days.

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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