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Mal 3,1-5 Love invites Repentance

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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?”

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?”

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?

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…”

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…

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?

For sure!

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

       And Electicity,

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…

But rather,

its about making our hearts ready

to respond to the infinite love of God in the Christ child.

Preparation means,

       To come to God with all that that we are

       Messed up,

       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 –

       And smile.

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.

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