jump to navigation

Transferred in Blood November 20, 2016

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Colossians 1:13-20

Proper 29

November 20, 2016

 

Focus:  God transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.

Function:  That the hearers trust in their coming Savior.

Structure:  Following the Lectionary.

 

Transferred in Blood

 

There is no Law today.  Really, in our epistle reading from Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae, we see no law at all.  Nothing we’ve done wrong.  Nothing we must do.  Nothing.  It’s gospel from start to finish.  It talks about where we were apart from Christ, and shows us who we are in Christ, specifically, in the peacemaking blood of Christ.

So I want to do something a little different than we normally do.  I want to base this sermon on all three texts.  Let’s let the law come from Malachi, the response of God to that law from Luke, and then what that means for us from Colossians.

The whole letter of the prophet Malachi is essentially one very large accusation of God against the people of God.  And, being God, that accusation is justified, it’s true.  The Lord says, “Your words have been hard against Me.”  That is, we speak against God.  We speak harsh words of our King.  We speak blasphemy against our Maker.  We speak against His name each and every time we break His commands that He gave to us.  We speak against His name with every thought.

And yet our response, the response of the people is “How have we spoken against you?”  Well, there’s the ways I just gave, but we’ll let God speak for Himself:

You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the Lord of hosts?  And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.’

 

We are one and the same.  We wonder, we doubt serving God.  “What’s the point?” we ask of ourselves.  Why should I bother going to church?  Why is it that the more I read God’s Word, the more things seem to go wrong in my life? Shouldn’t they be better?  If I’m following God, why does it seem like I do nothing but mourn and grieve all the time?

We doubt.  We doubt ourselves to be His disciples.  We doubt that we’re really His children.  We doubt His promises that He’s made to us.  We doubt that He will actually bother to keep them.

And then we look around.  We see how the wicked prosper.  They cheat, they steal, and yet they win at life.  They have better homes, better jobs.  Bids for the highest offices of our land.  It doesn’t make sense, but it sure looks like God blesses the wicked for their wickedness.  And just like the teacher’s pet in school, they get away with whatever they want.

I don’t expect that you’ve had all of those thoughts.  But I would expect that all of you have at least had some of those thoughts.  That’s part of our brokenness, part of our sinful nature: that we doubt.  We doubt God.  We doubt His Word.  We doubt His promises to us.

And other parts of Malachi show that for those who transgress, who sin against God, the punishment will be swift and harsh.  God said in 3:5 –

“Then I will draw near to you for judgment.  I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me.”

 

But Malachi continues writing and says that for those who feared Yahweh, Yahweh heard them, “and a book of remembrance was written before Him of those who feared Yahweh and esteemed His name.”

And of them God said, “They shall be mine…in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them…Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.”

When does this come?  When will we see the distinction?  That’s actually the next two verses, which were the first two verses that we read last weekend.

For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble.  The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says Yahweh of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.  But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings.  You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.

 

The Day is coming.  And while ultimately that prophecy points to Judgment Day, it also points us to our reading from Luke today.  To Jesus, walking, bearing the cross upon His shoulders as He walks the streets to Golgotha, the place they called “The Skull.”

To the women following Him who were in tears, Jesus had pity on them.  “Do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”  A judgment was coming.  And Jesus knew it completely.  The judgment that the Jews and Romans handed Him that day did not compare to the judgment that God would bring upon them all in just a few decades time.

Christ continued to walk, and as He reached the place, they nailed His hands and feet to the cross, and raised it up for the world to see, and laugh, and mock this King of the Jews.  And yet, even in the midst of the beatings, the torture, the mockery, the crucifixion, Jesus hangs there and cries out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  Forgiving the very people who took His life.  A distinction between those who serve God and those who don’t.

A distinction we see in the two men crucified with Christ.  One who continues the taunt, but the other, who pleads that Jesus His Lord would forgive him and remember him when He comes into His eternal kingdom.  And to this man, Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

In the context in which Paul was writing to the Colossian church, there was heresy flying around.  People were teaching that Jesus was just one of any number of divine beings that we could worship.  And even those who worshipped Christ, struggled as they were told they must worship Caesar as god, or at the very least, semi-divine.  Some kind of demigod.

It is right into the midst of this tension, that Paul places this letter.  He begins by saying that “[God] has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

This is that gospel I was talking about.  This is the good news, the greatest news of all time.  That you, enslaved in this realm of darkness, stuck in your sins, lost in your transgressions, God has delivered you.  Think of that image.  Think of the dusty and battered box laying around in a dark, dank warehouse.  But the UPS guy picks it up and delivers it.  He takes the box out of the dark, delivers it to its destination, to the place where it belongs.

And it’s the same with the next word.  That He transferred us.  Think of the employee stuck in a job where they’re just spinning.  They can’t do the job right, the boss doesn’t like them.  Things are nothing short of awful.  Work is like death.  And then they’re transferred.  They’re given new life in a new position.

Those aren’t quite the words of Scripture, but they’re still neat illustrations to think through a little.  But Paul is going to spend the next paragraph eradicating this idea that Christ has competition in the delivery business.  So many terms, so many wonderful phrases that we could pick apart for days.  “Image of the invisible God” “Firstborn of all creation.” “By Him all things were created…[even] thrones or dominions or rulers” “in Him all things hold together.”  “He is the head of the body, the church.”  “the beginning,” “pre-eminent.”  “in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.”

But then we get the good news.  I mean, that’s all good stuff. It’s who God is and that’s wonderful.  But without this last verse today, it means nothing to us.  “[A]nd through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”

That book of remembrance, the Book of Life, our names are in there in the blood of the Lamb.  That distinction between those who fear Yahweh and those who don’t all points to Christ.  He has made peace, He has reconciled, He has delivered, He has transferred us out of the domain of darkness and into His kingdom that knows no end, through His blood.

Jesus has redeemed us.  He has paid the price for our sins, He has paid our debt in full, with His own precious blood.  He laid down His life that we might have a life.  And that redemption, that deliverance, that promise, that forgiveness is extended to everyone.  It’s not that in the water of baptism we re-crucify Christ so that now your sins are washed away, too.  It’s not that in the Lord’s Supper we re-crucify Christ so that your sins are now forgiven along with everyone else’s.

It’s already done.   Your sins, even the ones you don’t know about.  Even the one that is the disease that plagues you and brings death breathing down your neck.  Forgiven.  Gone.  Drowned. Done.  In the blood of Jesus Christ.  Shed on the cross for you for the forgiveness of your sins.  Imparted to you through His means of grace: baptism, the Lord’s Supper, Confession and Absolution.  You are forgiven, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

The forgiveness is yours.  The promise is yours.  Life is yours in this God-man, the image of the invisible God.

 

 

Advertisements

Blessings Bring Joy November 6, 2016

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Matthew 5:1-12

All Saints’ Day

November 6, 2016

 

Focus:  God blesses us through His Son.

Function:  That the hearers rejoice in the blessings of God.

Structure:  Walking through the text.

 

Blessings Bring Joy

 

You have a wonderful opportunity this week to spend a long, fall day with a good friend.  It might be with your spouse out doing some hiking in the woods.  It could with be an old friend out on the lake for a little more fishing.  Or with a close girl friend out doing some shopping.  Whatever it is that you’re imagining, you’ve spent the better part of the day together.  It’s been fun.  And right as you turn to them to discuss when you can do this again, they let out a loud sneeze.  And almost as if it’s a reflex you respond….bless you.

Do we even know what that means? I’ve heard that it was believed in the past that when you sneeze your heart skips a beat, and so we bless someone who just sneezed with ongoing life, that their heart returns to a normal rhythm.  I have no idea if that’s true or not.  But even if it is, who’s the one who’s actually doing the blessing?

We have other times we talk about the word “bless” or “blessing.”  Maybe we think of the way we might close a letter, “blessings.”  Sometimes we even use it to replace the word “good.”  “That’s such a blessing” is the same as saying “That’s a good thing.”  Some use it as another way to say the word “prayer.”  “It’s time to say the blessing.”   And then there’s that thing about giving someone your consent.  “You have my blessing,” like the man who grants permission for someone to become his future son-in-law.

But for as common a word as it is, I’m not sure we often think about what it actually means.  But we need to, because that’s vital to what Jesus preached in the most famous sermon ever recorded.

Our gospel text today is from the book of Matthew.  It’s the beginning of what we call the Sermon on the Mount.  And it’s the longest, single discourse we have recorded from Jesus, lasting from chapter five through chapter seven.  But unlike a typical Lutheran sermon that starts with the Law and ends with the Gospel, here Jesus does the opposite.  He begins with the greatness of the gospel message and then proceeds to share with us what we would call law as He tells us how to live as the people of God.

The gospel according to Matthew really does pick up with Advent themes, the coming Messiah, the coming of God’s kingdom.  And, more specifically, it identifies who that king is.  It’s Jesus.  He’s the King of the kingdom.  It’s His.  Not Herod’s as we see in the second chapter.  Not Satan’s as we see in the fourth chapter.  Christ is King.  And that’s going to go a long way in the sermon He preached.

As we begin chapter five, we see Jesus going up on a mountain to be alone with His disciples.  That’s the setting for the Sermon on the Mount.  Indeed, that’s where the name comes from.  And as He sits there with His disciples, He begins to teach them.

And what follows are nine blessings that we’ve come to call the Beatitudes.  But nobody sneezed, and nobody was asking Jesus’ consent for anything.  These blessings aren’t just words.  They’re oozing with gospel.  There’s a whole sermon in each one, but we’ll do as Jesus did today and keep it brief.

The first four blessings go together.  They’re a common theme. They’re not things that we have to do, but they’re who we are.  In Matthew chapter four, the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, He’s going around preaching to the people, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” – Matthew 4:17

Some people mistakenly read the Beatitudes as law.  Blessed are the poor in spirit means we have to make ourselves poor in spirit.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, well we have to strive for perfection.  If that’s how you read the Beatitudes, then the Sermon on the Mount is nothing but Law, and in the end, there’s no hope here.  Because no matter how hard I try, I can’t do it.  No matter how much I might want to be perfect, I can’t do it.  No matter how much I want to be comforted, I can’t make myself mourn.

These things are simply who we are.  We remember who Jesus is talking to.  The disciples and the crowds who’ve come out to hear Him.  They’re the ones who’ve repented; they heard the message that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, and they listened, they believed.  And so verses 3-6 aren’t something they do, these verses simply describe who they are.  Who we are.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  We aren’t talking about the impoverished, the starving.  This isn’t about being money poor.  Think of it instead like the Apostle Paul, bemoaning himself as the chief of sinners.  We are downtrodden, we have nothing, we bring nothing before God.  We are empty, we are poor.  And yet, this is the good news, Christ the King fills us. He gives us His kingdom.  We didn’t earn it, He just gives it.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  This is something we all do.  We beat our chests over sin and death.  We mourn the tragedy that has befallen creation, every time we see it.  As we mark All Saints’ Day this weekend, we think of this specifically.  We’ve lost, we grieve over our loved ones who faced death.  And yet the Scriptures promise that we will be comforted, more than that, they promise a place where there will be no more tears.  This place is for all the saints, those past and present.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”  Meek, it means quiet, submissive.  If you call someone meek, you’re basically calling them a pushover.  They let the boss walk all over them, they let the bully have his way.  They won’t stand up for themselves.  They aren’t the powerful, and yet they get the earth.  They inherit the earth.  Christ the King gives it to them.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”  This isn’t about the rumblings of your tummy.  It’s about a longing, about a hope that we would be made right with God.  That we would be saved.  And Christ the King responds, they’ll have it.  In faith, we receive the free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ.

For the people of faith, for us who repent of our sins, these verses aren’t law.  They’re sweet, sweet gospel.  That in the cross of Jesus Christ, and in His resurrection, and in His Word, and in His Sacrament, we receive all of these things.  They aren’t mere words, they’re not even just promises.  These blessings are everlasting gifts.

And even at that, these gifts are so profound, they’re so abundant and overflowing that even though we’ve yet to receive them, we’ve yet to touch them in their fullness, they still cause us to rejoice.  The Beatitudes are us, they are our faith.  That in Christ, the kingdom is yours, in Christ, comfort is yours, in Christ, the earth is yours, in Christ, salvation is yours.  Good, great, blessed gospel!

There is a shift here.  The first four blessings were simply about who we are as the people of God.  The next few will be about what we do.  “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

These three call us into the life of Christ.  To live in this manner.  You might even argue that these things are letting the rest of the sermon play out.  That we hear the rest of chapters 5-7 and we take them to heart.  Even these aren’t our doing, we only live them out as gifts that Christ has given us.  Read them today when you go home.  Finish the sermon of Christ and digest His teaching.  That’s part of what it means to be a disciple.  We have the gift of learning from the King of creation Himself.  And that’s a gift to treasure.

And lastly, I think verses 11-12 actually describe verse 10.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 

This gets back to being disciples of Christ, to simply being.  This isn’t about doing, it’s just who we are.  When our identity is fixed in Christ, we will do these things.  We will see persecution for the sake of the gospel.  We will be reviled, and have all kinds of evil done to us and spoken against us.  And Jesus looks at that and says: “Blessed are those…for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Do you see how that’s come full circle?  The Beatitudes introduction of the sermon begins and ends at the same place, that in Christ, you have all these things.  These words, these promises, these gifts are yours.  They’re yours right now.  And while you may not have experienced them in their fullness, while you may not have tasted them in their completeness, they are just as sweet.

We bring nothing to the table.  We are poor and meek.  We mourn our sin, we long for righteousness, we endure the attacks of Satan and his kingdom as they let out the final battle cries of a dying world.  And Jesus blesses us and all the saints before us with everything He has to give.  He gives us His own life in place of our own.

These blessings abound within us, they well up within us causing us to burst in joy.  And I don’t mean be happy all the time, but rather, joy is treasuring our salvation from God.  One of the analogies for joy the Bible uses is that of a woman in labor.  That despite all the pain, it all changes when she holds her child for the first time.  Pain and agony turn to joy.  She treasures the gift of life God has given her.  She rejoices and gives thanks to the Lord for her child.  This is joy.  We treasure the gift of life and salvation that Christ has blessed us with, and we give thanks.