Praise with a Raised Horn
Rev. Kurt Lantz Proper 27 C Psalm 148
November 06, 2022 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Dear saints of the LORD,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,
What a joy and wonder it is for us praise the Lord. As we pass All Saints Day on the Church Calendar and move into the last Sundays of the Church Year, our thoughts are turned toward heaven and the unending praise that goes on there, led by the holy angels who are joined by the saints triumphant (those who have departed this life in the victory of Jesus). What a joy and wonder it must be to sing along with the angelic choir standing around the throne of God and of the Lamb, celebrating the feast of victory for our God.
I have sung in a number of church choirs. I have my mental struggles correctly interpreting what the music says and what the choir director is trying to get the choir members to do. On top of that I have physical impairments as my throat and mouth are not always able to produce the right sounds even when my brain is sending the right signals. On occasion I have had the exhilarating experience to participate with professional singers and musicians to produce a glorious musical presentation.
On the Last Day when Christ shall come with shouts of acclamation we who are left alive at the Lord’s coming will join with those who accompany Him (1 Thessalonians 4:17), like two great choirs coming together and finding perfect harmony and balance. All creation will then join in, having been released from the curse of sin upon the earth. What an unsurpassed experience that will be.
Those who haven’t participated all that much in music, might relate to another type of experience, such as being asked to join professional athletes in a team event. In the competitive small town volleyball league that I played in, we had two former members of the Polish Olympic team playing with us. Or you might relate to being part of a construction team that erects a magnificent building. I worked one summer for a framing company that did custom luxury homes, and although I was the one who drove the nails through my fingers and sliced my skin open on joist hangers and the like, it was quite exhilarating to be a part of those magnificent homes being put together.
Over the past several weeks we have been pleased to see the beautiful fall colours of the trees around us. It is a wonder to think of the sense of artistry and beauty that is an aspect of the nature of God shown in His creation of trees and majestic mountains and blue sky and sea. God’s Word tells us that the whole creation now groans under the pain of sin like a woman in childbirth (Romans 8:19-22) waiting for the time of deliverance.
We know that the fall colours we love so much are a result of the dying leaf losing its green chlorophyll. At the last day all of creation will be set free from its bondage to decay and give unrestrained praise to the name of the LORD. For the LORD created all things not to pass away under the decay and rot of sin. Rather, He has decreed that there should be an eternal habitation for the children of God (Psalm 148:5-6).
In this life, our praise is restrained by the effects of sin. The leaves of the trees die. We have mental blocks preventing our full understanding of artistic beauty. We have physical limitations that prevent us from performing with perfection. And yet there is opportunity to praise the one who created all things in perfection by His spoken Word (Genesis 1). Even in our fallen nature we praise Him for creation. We praise Him along with creation. But we do not worship creation.
Yesterday a great many families of our Lutheran churches were at Dundas Valley Conservation Area. We walked together in nature praising God for His wondrous work of creation. But we did not make the mistake that such a hike in the woods would be a fitting substitute for coming to church. In fact, Pastor Bledoff spoke to us about our walking together being a walk of faith in God’s gifts of grace which we receive in the preaching of His Word, and in our Baptism, and in Confessing our sins and receiving Absolution, and in kneeling at the communion rail to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus for our forgiveness.
Our true praise of God goes beyond praising Him for creation. He commanded by His all-powerful Word and all things were created out of nothing, but even that creation of His praises Him for something more. It praises Him because it will be released from the bondage of a sin-ravaged world on the last day. Even the sun and moon and stars and oceans and sea creatures and the great beasts of the earth praise the LORD for what He has done for us human beings.
They praise the name of the LORD that was revealed when God appeared in His creation. In a burning bush that did not burn up, God revealed His name to Moses so that His people would know who their Saviour is (Exodus 3). It was not the sun and moon and stars that the Egyptians worshipped which brought God’s people out of slavery in Egypt; and it will not be life on a distant planet that saves humanity on the last day. It was not the trees on the high hills that the pagan nations worshipped which led God’s people safely through the wilderness; and it will not be the Amazon Rain Forest that saves creation on the day of the Lord’s coming.
The name of the LORD is praised even by creatures in nature because “He has raised up a horn of salvation for His people” (Psalm 148:14). This is not a great rhinoceros horn or even that of an extinct dragon. It is not the horn of an extinct dinosaur or the tusks of elephant or the rack of antlers on some buck that will be shot this week. There is no salvation for us in those kinds of horns. But there is a mighty horn that has defeated the enemies which tried to bring creation to ruin and humanity to damnation.
God raised up a horn of salvation. The father of John the Baptist told us that it was a horn of salvation in the house of God’s servant David (Luke 1:69). The eternal Son of God was born a descendant of David through the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He suffered a life of homelessness and hunger in this fallen creation. He took upon Himself all of our diseases and our sins and He died the death of us all upon the tree of the cross. But raised up on that wood, Jesus was a mighty horn, a horn of power and might, a horn to gore Satan and to dispel death (enemies not just to us but to all of creation). In the death and resurrection of Jesus is the forgiveness of our sins and the triumph over those powers that have corrupted creation and held it captive.
There is a danger that when we think of praising the Lord it becomes an individualistic exercise in which we look to praise the name of the LORD the way that we want to, perhaps spending a nice Sunday out in the woods, or by the special skills that we have which not many other people have, achieving some athletic feat or construction marvel. Rather than seeking to join the choir immortal we look for opportunities to solo by ourselves or in a small group of people who make us look good.
God raised a horn of salvation for His people. That doesn’t mean that He has placed a brass instrument into your hands so that you can blast out a voluntary. The coming of this horn was the event for which Zechariah, the father of the John the Baptist praised the LORD when finally his mute mouth was unstopped. That horn was not the mighty voice of Zechariah or of his son, John the Baptist. The horn was the power and strength of God to defeat our enemies of sin, death, and the devil.
Christ is that mighty horn and we praise God through Him. We praise God through the One who in His death and resurrection has defeated our enemies and given an eager anticipation to all creation for His coming. We don’t play solo. We join with creation, with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven to praise the name of the LORD.
He is the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. The God of the living and not the dead, for all live to Him (Luke 20:38). Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob now live. They live in the presence of God and are immortal like the angels. Those we love who have died with faith in Jesus now live too, immortal like the angels. Yet they are not angels. They are not the hard-working servants that the angels are, who assist humanity and battle demons and guard us from the evil one. Our departed brothers and sisters are still themselves. They have not changed into another kind of creature, not a bird or a butterfly or even an angel. They live as Jesus clearly said to the Sadducees who deny that there is a resurrection. Since our God is the God of the living, they all live who have Him as their God.
That is why we look to Jesus for the future, and not to the stars. We praise the Creator and not any of His creatures. We set our minds on things above and lift up our hearts where Christ is. We go to Him for forgiveness, life, and salvation. Because we all have life in Him we all praise Him for the life that He has given, the life that He gives, and the life that is to come.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.