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[ED. NOTE:  Changed the date on this - well, for purely selfish reasons (the calendar there to the right is looking a little bare). Done, because I'm Venomous and I can. (grin)]

The following is the sermon preached this morning at St Luke Lutheran Church. Before posting the actual sermon, a comment is in order. Do not, in any way assume that I am calling for there to be no punishment for these mass murderers. Breaking the law brings with it consequences. The guilty individual in Newtown escaped temporal legal consequences by killing himself.

Here is this morning’s sermon:

Sermon 16 December 2012

David Hartung

Zephaniah 3:14-20

Advent 3c


Grace, mercy and Peace be unto you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

After getting caught up on the news the past several days, and seeing the comments by some of the parents and loved ones from the school shooting Friday in Connecticut, I felt a need to address the situation, and hopefully, by the time this is done, I will have tied it to the Sermon text for today, and to our advent preparation.

What happened Friday is beyond any doubt, a tragedy. There are twenty children who will not grow up to live full and fruitful lives. There are twenty eight families who will never again spend time with their loved ones.

Yes, there is no doubt that this was a tragedy. When this sort of tragedy happens, we go all out trying to figure out why it happened, and what we can to to prevent it from happening again. The pundits look around for someone, or something to blame, and the politicians look for someway to reap a political benefit. In the end, we all get past it, move on with our lives, but those who lost their loved ones still have to pick up the pieces and try to put their lives back together.

The rest of the world does not believe us but we, you and I know the cause of the shooting. It is the same cause for every evil that has happened since Adam and Eve disobeyed God. The cause is sin. The cause is our inborn hatred for God and his will. Yes, it is a simplistic answer, but one which would explain why this sort of thing has been going on throughout recorded history. The questions for us today are simple.

Since this has been going on for all these years, why should we concern ourselves with yet another killing. After all, this was only twenty eight people. Just in Chicago this year there has been over four hundred murders, what is one ore?

As naive as it sounds, as God’s children we should always be concerned with the taking of innocent lives. This comes back to the fifth Commandment to not murder. God never intended us to run around killing one another. As God’s children, we should keep the families of the victims always before us in prayer. Of course Pastor, most people would say. We absolutely pray for the families of the victims.

At this point, I would like to suggest something a little bit more radical. In an murder, there is often another murder victim whom we often do not think about.

What about the killer? Might he not be a victim?

While we do not know what is in these people’s hearts, it is very likely that many killers were at one time a part of God’s kingdom, until something happened to murder their faith. Believe me, the murder of the faith of another is a crime even more heinous than just killing the body of another human being. To kill faith, has eternal consequences.

This is exactly why we should pray for those who do the killing, and for those who may have destroyed their faith. But, is this the end? And this is what brings us to our lesson for today.

You see, just as today the murder of faith was going on in Zephaniah’s day. The people had turned away from God, and were worshipping false gods. The words of the prophet do not tell us this directly, but it is entirely reasonable to conclude that parents were teaching their children the ways of the false gods, thus making them guilty of murder. Zephaniah prophesied during the rein of King Josiah, the same as Jeremiah, and God was also using him to proclaim to the people their sin.

I have another question for you.

Consider who you have known, and what you have said and done in your life. Have you been guilty of murdering the faith of another? Has the example you set, or the things you have said had the effect of killing faith in a fellow Child of God?

I can’t answer that question. Only you, with God’s help can give that answer.

That is the bad news, now comes the good news.

Zephaniah did not satisfy himself with just telling the people how bad they were, and that God was going to allow them to be defeated and carried off. God also used Zephaniah to remind the people that through them would come one who would bring them salvation. This salvation was not just for the good little Jews, but for all, including the victims of the Newtown shootings, but also for those who have committed crime which in our human lives are unforgivable.

The salvation pointed to by Zephaniah in today’s lesson was won for everyone, for you and me, for the children who died this week, who even though they were very young, were still sinners; for their parents and teachers, and also for the young man who killed them.

As we move forward, we as God’s children remember and pray for the families of those who suffer from violence in our imperfect world, and we look forward to the coming time when such horrific acts do not happen. However, we also give thanks that such acts are not common in our communities. We have been so successful in making our communities free from murder and other violence that when our children see it, they often do not know how to work through the experience. There are places in the world today where sch violence is so common that people become accustomed to it.

We are truly a blessed people. We are blessed because we do live where we live. We are blessed because God has given us skilled doctors, nurses and mental health professionals to help us get past this horrific event. Most of all, we are blessed to have one who has taken on himself the punishment for sin so that we might enjoy eternity with our Lord.

One last thing. The local LCMS pastor, who has members involved in this shooting, is a young man and was ordained just three months ago. Please include him in your prayers.

May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.


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