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What God Has Prepared for Those Who Love Him
1 Corinthians 2:9-10


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany—February 6, 2011

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Throughout human history, mankind has been obsessed with a relentless quest to discover the future.  The ancients called it divination. 

Certain signs in nature were said to portend certain events.  We still have a remnant of this in the old saying, “Red sky at morning, sailor take warning; red sky at night, sailor’s delight.”  It was to this ancient adage Jesus was referring when he said, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.’”

Astrology has also been used in an attempt to discover the future, from 25,000 year-old cave paintings with detailed star charts, to Nancy Reagan having a White House astrologer, whose predictions determined her husband’s schedule.  It is possible the Wise Men were referring to some astrological event when they said, “Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.”

One the most common, yet rather bizarre, forms of divination in ancient times is called “extispicy” which means “to inspect the entrails.”  Animals of various types would be slaughtered, and their entrails, in particular their livers, examined for certain signs.  Every beginning classical Greek student translates Xenophon’s Anabasis, detailing a famous ancient Greek military campaign.  One of the most striking and surprising things for a modern reader is how every battle is preceded by a slaughtering of animals and a report from the diviners, and every action these ancient warriors took was obsessively dictated by such omens.

In contrast to the prevailing customs in the rest of the ancient world, the Bible strictly forbids all such occultic practices: “Let no one be found among you . . . who practices divination, or sorcery, or interprets omens . . .  Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord.”  But, even in our modern, scientific society, many still try in vain to discover the future through such occultic means as horoscopes, palm reading, crystal balls, tarot cards. 

And, it’s not only such forbidden, occultic practices that modern man uses to try to discover the future.  We carefully follow weather forecasts, stock market predictions, economic projections, pundits’ prognostications.  Will the kids have any more snow days this year?  Are housing prices going up or down?  Is the stock market going to surge or plunge?  What will the unemployment and interest rates be next year?  Who will be running, and who will be elected, President in 2012?  And, of course, the most important question confronting us all today: Who is going to win the Superbowl?

The Apostle Paul writes about this mystery surrounding the future in today’s Epistle Reading: “As it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him,’ but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.”

Winston Churchill wisely observed that if we knew with certainty the future, it would make it impossible for us to function in the present.  Imagine if the players knew in advance who was going to win the game tonight.  It would make it impossible for them to play.  It is a blessing, Churchill said, that Providence has wisely drawn a veil for us over future events.  Jesus put it this way, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.”

But, there are some things God does reveal, does want you to know for certain about your future.  “As it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him,’ but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.”

The reason we humans are so apprehensive about the future is because we know what we all deserve on account of our sins.  “For the wages of sin is death,” Paul says in Romans.  We know that on account of our sins we deserve a future filled with doom, death, and damnation.  “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

That is the Good News, “God has revealed to us . . . by his Spirit.”  The Good News that God’s own Son paid the wages of sin for you, by his death on the cross.  The Good News that on account of his life, death, and resurrection, your sins are all forgiven.  The Good News that because of his Son’s sacrifice God has prepared for you not a future filled with doom, death, and damnation, but in Christ you have both a present and an eternal future filled with pardon, peace, and God’s blessings, both in this life and the world to come.  “As it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him,’ but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.”

Perhaps you’ve done the team-building exercise where you overcome your fears and let yourself fall back into the arms of another.  In the same way, you don’t have to fear the future, but instead trustingly commit your future to God, and fall back into the strong arms of your loving heavenly Father.  There’s an old saying that puts it this way: “I know not what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.” 

In Romans, Paul reassures you that you don’t need to fear your future in this life: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . .  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

And, at the Last Supper, Jesus reassures you that you also don’t need to fear your ultimate future in eternal life: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to be with me.”

There is a verse in Jeremiah that sums it up beautifully: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

God has prepared for you a future filled with pardon, peace, and his blessings, both in this life, and the world to come. “As it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him,’ but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.”

Amen.

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