A New Prophet
Rorate Coeli, the Fourth Sunday in Advent – 12/24/2023
Rev. Christopher W. Brademeyer
That portion from God’s holy Word for consideration this morning is our Old Testament lesson from Deuteronomy chapter 18 which reads as follows:
“’The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— 16 just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17 And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.’”
Thus far the Scriptures.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Little kids are always listening. Some of us have to learn this only after social mishaps where little Suzy or Timmy repeats something embarrassing that he or she overheard mom and dad talking about at the wrong time or in the wrong place. There is a bit of conventional wisdom that is often underappreciated by new parents: do not talk about stuff that you do not want the kids to tell everyone around town if the kids are at home and awake.
But it is not just kids who listen. We listen as well. In fact, everyone does. Everyone listens to someone. And here I am not just talking about picking up potentially embarrassing things about the family to blurt out when grocery shopping. No, here I mean that everyone has at least one authority that they really listen to. And this authority then orders their lives. Listening, in this sense, is more than the mere receiving of information, it is the listening that we all want our children to do, that is, to hear and act accordingly. As I said previously, we all have at least one someone or something that we listen to in this way. And certainly we have a number of options to find these sorts of authorities.
Now if you are thinking about this, you probably have noticed that this is one of those, “well, duh, pastor,” kind of observations. And you probably think this sounds familiar. After all, this observation is the one made in our Small Catechism about the First Commandment. We all listen to something or someone, maybe some number of some things or someones, but we all listen and obey our god, whatever that may be. It is the case that those authorities that we listen to and obey without question or thinking about it reveals to us where the faith and devotion in our deepest self lies; it reveals to us our idols or devotion to the true and living God.
And so, what do we listen to? The media? The experts? The government? Our parents? The school? Our pastors? The inner self? Our hearts? Some post I read on Facebook that sounded nice but may or may not actually make any actual sense?
Whatever the thing we listen to, it will also order how we act. What we have heard and believe affects how we go about our lives. Our basic ideas about what it means to be a human being affect how we view things like morality, justice, relationships, families, and the like. Our basic ideas of God influence how we see the purpose of our existence and whether or not we have any real meaning. In other words, whether we want to or not, what we listen to and believe will have repercussions in those things we do in our work, voting, care for others, and so on.
This flies in the face of much of what our culture tries to say about religion and spiritual things. Religion deals with these basic questions of who we are, who God is, and the like. And because it deals with these things, it cannot be a private matter only in the recesses of my own thoughts and minds. It is, by definition, going to affect how I act and think about other issues that come from these basic things. And make no mistake, religion, in this sense, is the beliefs that come from those things we listen to, for good or for ill.
The question raised for us by the prophet Moses today in the great book of the Law, Deuteronomy, is about listening and to whom we listen. We will inevitably listen to someone or something. Perhaps even more than one someone or something. But we will listen and then we will act according to what we have heard. So, then, who should we listen to? Who or what should be at that foundational place in our hearts and minds? Let us run through the options.
Should I listen to my heart or feelings or whatever I want to call myself? Are my feelings and intuitions infallible? Are they always right? Do they always match the real world outside of myself? The answer here is an obvious, “no.” Furthermore, what results from this? Has our society’s fascination with internal, subjective truth led to good things? I am sure you have noticed all the peace and security around us, free from strife and hatred. I bet you have enjoyed the polite, substantial discussions on social media and in the news. Of course you have not. When we make our inner self, whatever we label it, the prime litmus test for truth and trust, we end up as the most entitled and self-absorbed people we can be. Clearly this has not and does not work.
How about the various secular powers-that-be, whether media, governmental, academic, or anything like these? They so often contradict and backpedal. They certainly have not been free from mistakes. There is a reason that so many of these institutions have historically low trust ratings in polls: they are not infallible and when they purport to be, they end up revealing themselves as the very imperfect human institutions that they are.
What about religious authorities? If you have not heard, Pope Francis has caused a media kerfuffle with his confusing permission about blessings and same sex marriages. And while Catholic theologians will tell you that their church still adheres to the biblical understanding of marriage as between one man and one woman, a number of liberal catholic clergy are using his pronouncement to promote and celebrate gay marriage and are doing so without being reprimanded by the Pope. This pope serves as a stark reminder of why we Lutherans believe that the very office of the papacy is against Christ and His Church, not because Catholics worship the devil or anything like that, but that ridiculous and ungodly things happen when a man presumes to stand in the place of Christ in the Christian Church.
But the Pope is not the only problem here: far too many of our people listen to false preachers like Joel Osteen or Pastor Salem and read books dripping with false teaching. Even if the pastor is a godly man who teaches the truth, it is still possible to get overly attached to him and to wrap up one’s religious identity with a particular pastor. Someday Pastor Brademeyer will be gone and anyone who joins or leaves our church because of that reality is someone who listens to the wrong thing.
Because, at the end of the day, we need to listen to the prophet foretold by Moses here, the one who will be great and who will speak with His own authority, Jesus Christ. He and He alone should have our ears. And because of this, everything in the church must be built on Him and lead back to Him. Everything else is at best a distraction, at worst, idolatry. This is for a very simple reason: we need a mediator to intercede for us, that is, plead to God on our behalf. On Mount Sinai, also known as Mount Horeb as in our reading today, the people of God realized that they needed a mediator, someone to shield us from God’s overwhelming glory and to plead for our forgiveness. And while Moses was granted to do this for a time, he was far from perfect. But now we have a perfect, everlasting Mediator. The eternal Prophet, Jesus Christ. And our Father simply bids us to listen to Him. And if we did not get the point here, the Father speaks the same way when our Lord is transfigured, “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him!”
And listening can be hard, especially when we do not want to hear. When I was in college, I took a class in which the professor encouraged active listening. It took me a long time to figure out that active listening is not active. The activity in it is to quiet the mind, so to keep focus on the message being heard. Similarly with the body, to keep it still and focus on what I am listening to. In other words, the hard part of listening is not to do something, but to keep myself from doing something else. Listening, at a its root is passive. And precisely because of this passive quality, this is how God has chosen to give His salvation, so that it would be clear that all things pertaining to salvation depend on Him and Him alone. And from this hearing, come works. Good works, the Scriptures say, proceed from faith.
So, dear friends, we must pay attention and listen to the right things. Not only in lesser things such as politics and philosophies of men, but above all in the greatest things, those things of God, who is our great teacher and Savior.
In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
 Luke 9:35
 Hebrews 11:6