Sunday, March 11, 2012

March 10-11, 2012 Lent 3 Sermon

March 10-11, 2012      Oculi   Luke 11:14-28             “Seeing”

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

Lent is when the Church emphasizes spiritual warfare. The first Sunday recounts Our Lord's fasting and temptation by Satan in the desert. This Sunday has Him casting out a demon and being accused of being in league with Satan. The Pharisee's charge wasn't quite as far off base as it sounds. At least they recognized the supernatural. There are only two options: either Jesus was casting out demons by the finger of God or He was doing it by the power of the devil. The idea that He was simply a nice man, Tim Tebow-like, if a bit delusional or extreme, trying to show us a better way is right out. And what is true for Jesus in this regard is true of all prophets, all ministers, all religions. If they are not worshiping the Holy Trinity they are worshiping the devil. There are no other gods. There is only the true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Pharisees say "Beelzebub" which was the name of an idol. Jesus cuts to the chase and calls him "Satan." There are no other gods, no other ways. If you don't worship Jesus you worship the devil. So even though the Pharisees were wrong, even though they accused Jesus of casting out demons by Satan, at least they realized what was at stake, what the options were. In that, they were mostly ahead of us.

Repent. We have so often played the mild-mannered, timid Christian, more distressed about recycling than abortion, more worried about the honor of “Justin Allgaier” or “the Illini” than of our God we've nearly forgotten what is real and what matters. We've preferred the good opinion of our pagan neighbors to their salvation. But here is the truth: there is no neutral territory. You either belong to God or you belong to Satan. Those who think they sit on the fence, who choose the calm, middle way of moderation, are delusional. Christianity is a radical and extreme religion. It is not nice. Fence-riders belong to Satan. Jesus spits them out of His mouth. Repent.

You are not a fence-rider though you have been tempted that way. You belong to God. You are baptized. That is no small thing. Baptism casts out demons. It is not so much that Amelia, who had heard the Word of God in her mother's womb since conception, and whose parents and siblings have been fervently praying for her, was under the control of a demon or belonged to Satan, rather God's Word and Spirit cast demons away from her. They drove them out. Our Lord suffered demonic attacks in the desert and throughout His Ministry. Christians also suffer demonic attacks. Unlike Christ, we have invited them in. The demons come with all manner of sin, not merely with Ouija boards and horoscopes, but also with gossip, vanity, drunkenness, and lies. But the most direct portal for demons is pornography. I'd rather my children played with Ouija boards than look at x rated material. Opening or viewing pornography in your home is like inviting demons to sleep in your child's bedroom. This is no game. What you do effects your family. Demons need to be driven away not just from those about to be Baptized but from us all. Let us not forget that Satan entered one of the Twelve and Jesus was betrayed with a kiss. Be aware. Be careful. Repent.

But do not despair. Do not be afraid. Weak as we are, Jesus was weaker. He made Himself a perfect target for all of Hell's fury. He drew all their hatred, all their violence, all God's wrath into Himself. He was stronger than the strong man in weakness and poverty. He disarmed the strong man by suffering all the strong man's strength and attacks. He emptied him of poison and the devil has no strength left. He is spent. He used everything he had to kill Jesus on the cross. He has no more accusations. The demons are mute in heaven's courtroom. The blood of Jesus filled their mouths and damned them to Hell and they cannot complain. For whosoever drinks this Cup in an unworthy manner is guilty of the Body and Blood of Jesus. They have their reward. And you -- O defendant - you are declared innocent and holy. You are pardoned. You do not have to face the charges. There are no witnesses against you. God does not even remember your sins. You are forgiven and welcomed as the rightful heir and beloved of the Father.

The devil is still roaming about this earth seeking someone to devour. He is real and he is dangerous, but you are safe. You belong to God. His Name is upon you. His promise will not fail. You hear the Word of God. You eat the Body of Jesus. You drink His Blood. This miraculous eating and drinking do not consume Jesus for He is risen from the dead. Rather this eating and this drinking proclaims the glorious, life-giving death of Jesus. It proclaims the kind of death He died: a death to end death, a death that stands in our stead, a death that draws men unto Him, that destroys the gates of Hell, and shuts the devil's mouth. This death means that He will come again. He gives Himself as food and drink for your body and soul, to make you whole, to make you His. You eat and you drink and you are consumed. He joins you to Himself. It is a sign of His love for you and a foretaste of things to come.

Blessed is the womb that bore you and the one who nursed you; but more than that blessed are those who brought you to the font to offer you to God and placed your soul into the care of the Stronger Man. Demons cannot have you.

In + Jesus' Name. Amen.

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