Tuesday, March 23, 2010

March 24 Lent Midweek Sermon

March 24, 2010 Lenten Midweek
“The Wound of Abandonment”
Matthew 27:35-50 (Jeremiah 30:10-24; Hebrews 11:32 - 12:3)

Betrayal, apathy, denial, mockery.
All our sins on Him were laid.
The betrayal of Judas, the apathy of the sleeping disciples, the denial of Peter, the mockery of the soldiers, and more. Much more.
All the sins of all the people of all the world of all times. All people who ever lived, who live now, and who have not yet even been born.
Your sins and my sins, laid on Jesus. Not one excepted.
The sins (as we confessed on Ash Wednesday) of our present and our past.
Sins of the soul and sins of the body.
The sins which we have done to please ourselves and the sins we have done to please others.
Our careless sins, our idle sins, our serious sins, our deliberate sins.
The sin we know, the sins we’ve forgotten about, and the sins we don’t even know we’ve committed.
Sins of thought, word, deed, and desire.

Jesus takes them all. They are given, or imputed, to Him, to be the fulfillment of the Old Testament scapegoat, driven into the desert with the sins of the people, never to return. To be the fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrificial lambs, who shed their blood for the atonement of sins - stand-ins, or substitutes, for the people whose blood it should have been.

And so is He wounded. Physically, yes. Spiritually, yes.
He hangs on the cross, suspended between heaven and earth, that He might bring heaven and earth back together again.
That by His wounds we might be healed.
Healed of our sin, our death, our captivity, and be sons of God.

Therefore this last, and greatest wound.
“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”
Jesus is abandoned, forsaken, by His Father.

For this is the end result of sin. Sin which says no to God. Sin which is cutting ourselves off from God. Sin which is a deliberate turning away from the truth, from goodness, from heaven. Sin which says, “Leave me alone, God! To go my own way, to do my own will. Let me be.”

We think that’s what we want, what would make us happy. But we have no idea how horrible that would be, should God leave us.

But Jesus knows. Bearing our sin, He gets what our sins demand and deserve. He is forsaken and abandoned. How this can be, we must admit, is a deep and profound mystery. But that it happened, we must confess . . . and rejoice.

That our Savior tasted hell for us; the utter and profound isolation and aloneness of sin. For that’s what sin does - it separates, it isolates. It is the very opposite of a God who is Triune.

And so folks who joke about hell and think it’s going to be a party with a lot of people who like to have fun - well, they’re dead wrong.
Hell is this utter aloneness and isolation.
Hell is hungering and thirsting for a human touch.
Hell has no one to share your misery; no one to relieve your aloneness.
Sin says “Leave me alone!” And hell is God leaving you alone. Forever.
Ponder that, and you will begin to plumb the depth’s of Jesus’ cry of forsakenness this night.
Ponder that, and you will bow in love before your Savior, whose love for you was so great, that He took this awful abandonment in your place, that you be set free from it. That you never have to be alone. Never.
And so by His wounds we have been healed.

Our sin atoned for, we have a gracious, merciful, and loving God, who will not leave us alone - even when that means discipline, correction, or training for us. Even when it seems as if God does not see, or know, or care - we have Jesus’ promise that He does.
That as He told Jeremiah: “I am with you to save you, declares the Lord.”
Or consider the example of the great cloud of witnesses we heard of in Hebrews - Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel - never alone.

And not just them, but a countless number of others, whose names we do not know, some who lived in the past and some who live even now - tortured, being mocked and flogged, in chains and in prison. Those who are stoned, beheaded, sawn in two, or killed with the sword. Those rejected by men, sent into exile, poor, whose homes have been taken away. They were not alone. Though all the world leave them, their Savior did not.

For He is the faithful Good Shepherd, who sees His flock through the valley of the shadow of death. Note that well: He doesn’t say He will lead us around it, but through it. Yet even though we “walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we fear no evil” - why? - “for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

What joy then is ours! That we will never have to know what Jesus went through for us in those darkest hours; in that forsakenness and abandonment.

Whatever we are going through in this life - whatever suffering, or pain, or loneliness, or separation, or desolation, or disaster - we face nothing alone.
For hell is undone, death is destroyed, our sin is forgiven, in Jesus.
Yes, by His wounds - by this wound - we are healed and restored as sons of God in the Son of God. We who were far off have been brought near. The darkness has become the light. The arms once stretched wide on the wood of the cross have become the gate to heaven.

In the Name of the Father, and of the  Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Daily Readings March 21 - 27, 2010

Daily Lectionary
Fifth Sunday in Lent Exodus 1:1-22; Mark 14:12-3
March 22 Exodus 2:1-22; Mark 14:32-52
March 23 Exodus 2:23-3:22; Mark 14:53-72
March 24 Exodus 4:1-18; Mark 15:1-15
March 25 Exodus 4:19-31; Mark 15:16-32
March 26 Exodus 5:1-6:1; Mark 15:33-47
March 27 Exodus 7:1-25; Mark 16:1-20

Next Weeks Lessons: PALMARUM—Palm Sunday

“Behold, your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9–12; Matthew 21:1–9) Our Lord rides in this humble fashion because He is entering Jerusalem to humble Himself even to the point of death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5–11) His kingly crown will not be made of gold but of thorns, the sign of sin’s curse. For His royal reign is displayed in bearing this curse for His people, saving us from our enemies by sacrificing His own life. The sinless One takes the place of the sinner so that the sinner can be freed and bear the name “Barabbas,” “son of the Father.” (Matthew 26 and 27) It is at the name of this exalted Savior, Jesus, that we bow in humble faith. With the centurion who declared, “Truly this was the Son of God!” we are given to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Processional Gospel: Matthew 21:1–9 [Triumphal Entry]

Collect for the Palm Sunday Procession
Most merciful God, our heavenly Father, as the crowd at the gate of Jerusalem with gathered palms in their hands to greet Your dearly beloved Son when He came into His holy city, cause us ever to hail Him as the Son of David who comes in the name of the Lord and follow Him in the way that leads to eternal life, that when He comes again we may go forth to greet Him with faithful and steadfast hearts; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who sent Your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon Him our flesh and to suffer death upon the cross that all mankind should follow the example of His great humility, mercifully grant that we may both be guided by His patience in this life and also be made partakers of His resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

Old Testament: Zechariah 9:9–12 [Behold, your King]
Epistle: Philippians 2:5–11 [Jesus humbled himself unto death]
Holy Gospel: Matthew 27:11–54 [St. Matthew’s Passion]

March 20-21, 2010 Lent 5

(March 20-21, 2010)
John 8:42-59
“Where’s the Lamb?”

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The wood is on Isaac’s back. The fire and the knife are in Abraham’s hand. But where is the lamb? If there is no lamb then Isaac must die. He must die for his sins. For this miracle child born to an old barren woman, this laughing bundle of joy provided in Abraham’s old age, is a sinner. The wages of sin is death. The wages must be paid. If there is no lamb then Isaac must die. But there is a Lamb. God provides. In the last instant the knife is stayed. The ram is caught in the thicket. He is bound to the Altar and his blood pours forth instead of Isaac’s. Isaac lives and goes free. The ram died in his place. The innocent for the guilty.

That ram, and all the Old Testament sacrifices, point to the Sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus Christ, whose death has made atonement for all the sins of all men. Through the sacrifice of that ram, by faith, Abraham saw the Day of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In the bloody sacrifice of that ram, Abraham saw the Day that the Lord has made, the Day that the builders rejected the Stone that God made the chief Cornerstone. He saw it and rejoiced in it. For by faith, Abraham saw Good Friday. He saw God substitute His only Son for Isaac. He saw the Innocent die for the guilty; the wrath of the Father appeased in a perfect sacrifice, a Son for a son. And on that mountain, in the death of that ram, He saw Easter morning, where death, hell, and the devil were defeated for him, for Isaac, and for us all. His son was returned to him from certain death. Both were spared the fair torments of Hell.

Thus Abraham believed that God would provide, that by Grace he would journey to a better country and that his sorrows and suffering would end. By that innocent death outside of Jerusalem, the sacrifice of that perfect Son, it is so. Neither Abraham nor Isaac died, nor any of the believing prophets. The Pharisees had it wrong. They passed through death to life. For they believed in the Messiah through God’s Word. They live, for Jesus lives. He is not a god of the dead. He is the living, life-giving God of the living.

Still, despite that great miracle of providing, Isaac’s sons had to learn this lesson for them, they had to learn that God provides. Jacob, the second born of Isaac, the chosen one, is a scoundrel of the first order. And Esau is a pagan. But God interferes in their lives. He shows His power unto them, and us, in mercy and grace. He calls them to faith. Still, in the same way, the sons of Jacob, the grandsons of Isaac, will have their trials. They will almost kill, and then exile their father’s best loved son, Joseph. But God will work that, too, for good. He will teach them forgiveness and compassion. Despite their sin, even through their violent betrayal, He will provide.

And on it goes. Each generation learns anew about the God who provides out of compassion, mercy, and grace. Then in the fullness of time the Holy Spirit overshadowed the Virgin. Our Kinsman-Redeemer was born. He grew, was baptized, was tempted, and began to preach this dangerous Gospel. So that in John chapter 8 we find He has been placed by His Father into thicket of the Temple, in the place where the sacrifices were made. There in the Temple made with hands stood our Brother born of Mary, our God without beginning, the Temple Stone cut without hands which crushes the kingdoms of men, which would be torn down by violent men but would rebuild itself in three days. The Lord of life stood there surrounded by the aroma of life-giving death, of sacrifice, of blood. And within a stone’s throw of the mercy seat, where God Himself promised to be as a shield that protects us from His own wrath, the descendants of Isaac reject Our Lord and pick up stones. They cannot convict Him of sin. They cannot find any error in His teaching. There is no deviance, no change from Moses and the prophets in anything that Jesus says. Nor do they dispute any of His miracles. But still, they reject Him. They know what He is saying. He is saying that He is the God of Abraham, that He is the cause and source of Abraham’s salvation and rejoicing. He is the reason Isaac lives. There is no legitimate reason not to believe Him. But despite the evidence, for the sake of their own callous greed, lust, pride, and rebellion they reject Him. They pick up stones to kill Him.

His time had not yet come. But it would. And when that illegal, kangaroo court convened in the hours of darkness before the dawn, Caiaphas brought this ridiculous, impossible charge against Him again: Blasphemy. Thus the King of the Jews, the Innocent, died for the guilty. They meant it for evil, but God meant it, and worked it, for the greatest good.

So it is still today. Men reject Him out of hand. We, ourselves, the spiritual descendants of Abraham, have the same self-absorbed bent as Isaac, Jacob, and Judah. We are the illegitimate children of violence with greedy hearts and dirty minds. The deceit and crimes of Jacob and Joseph’s brothers should be no scandal to us. Repent. We, too, must learn to live by faith, to trust that God provides for sinners. And He does. The Blood poured forth on Calvary, the Body laid in the borrowed tomb, has been raised up again to life. He lives. And in Him, we too, like Isaac before us, live, like the brothers of Joseph, we are forgiven, like Abraham, we believe! The stuff of that sacrifice, His Body and His Blood, which has been given and shed for you, is provided for you to eat and to drink, to unite you to Him and to your fathers in faith who have gone before you. This Blood cleanses your conscience from dead works to serve the living God by precisely by being poured from the Chalice, past your lips, and applied to your heart. This place, too, even more than the Mountain in Moriah, should be called, Yahweh-yireh, “The-LORD-will provide.”

I’ve yet to be driving through the cornfields of Illinois and stumble upon Yahweh-yireh, “The-LORD-will provide Lutheran Church.” But I hope to one day. There would be a Church that understood its connection Abraham and saw the Old Testament Christologically and Sacramentally! The Lord provides - always, the Lord. Yes, the Lord provides -here, for you, in His Word and Sacraments, as promised, as foretold, as we have witnessed. For the Lamb caught in the thicket of His Father’s love has been slain. But that Lamb lives. And so do you in Him. You will never see death.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.