Monday, March 31, 2014

Lent 4 of Series A (John 9:1-41)

“For judgment I came into the world, that those who do not see may see and those who see may become blind.” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for our sermon this morning is the Gospel lesson read a few moments ago, the account of the blind man from the Gospel according to Saint John, the ninth chapter. Dear friends in Christ: “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” This seems to be a good question. At any rate, it’s a natural one, one that we ask ourselves when we encounter suffering, and it does have a foundation in truth. Suffering and infirmity only occur because we are sinful and corrupted; yes, even from birth. If we didn’t have any sin, we wouldn’t get sick, we certainly wouldn’t have permanent loss of vision or hearing, in fact, we wouldn’t die. But can we tie specific sin to specific instances of suffering? “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Now, that’s not so easy. Sometimes, yes, certainly suffering comes directly from a sin. If you commit a crime, you’re going to jail, if you abuse the body God gave you, there’s probably going to be some consequences to your health. Our sin does result in some sort of suffering all the time. But can we turn it around? If my specific sins result in suffering, does my suffering always result from specific sins? What does Jesus say? “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

Jesus squashes any sort of speculation, any line of questioning, any investigation into this man’s sin or the sin of his parents, and brings forth another answer. You cannot make a judgment on the moral character of any person based on how much they suffer. You can certainly say he or she is a sinner, but that doesn’t make them any different than you or any other person on this planet. You cannot even say whether or not they are a Christian simply based on whether they suffer. As our prayer list makes abundantly clear, believers are afflicted with suffering, too. Jesus teaches us that God “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Your suffering, or the suffering of any other person, isn’t punishment for sin; that would deny the cross, that would mean that Christ died to no effect. No, instead suffering is where God works, it’s where He shows forth His glory. Does that mean that God caused the suffering, that He is the author of evil? Of course not—suffering comes from the Fall into sin, not from the Creator—but it does mean that God uses everything that happens in this world, good and evil, for His glory. The blind man dwelt in darkness so that Jesus could show Him the Light, He stumbled in blindness so that His eyes could see His Lord in faith.

Like the world, like you and me, the blind man lived in darkness, unable see the God who created him. He was blind from birth, just as we were given spiritual blindness and a nature corrupted by sin at the moment of our conception. But Jesus has come to open the eyes of the blind. He declares, “As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” He has come to bring light, to illuminate darkened hearts, to open the eyes of the blind, and He will start with this man right here. He could heal with a Word, but this time, Jesus uses physical means. He calls on the man to wash his blindness away, to go to the pool called sent, literally the pool of the Sent One, and through water to clear away the mud, and with it, his blindness. Imagine the moment that his eyes were opened; put yourself in His place. He hasn’t seen anything for his entire life, and then, when he washes the mud from his eyes, when his Baptism is complete, he sees for the first time. He sees the pool of the Sent One, where the miracle had taken place; he sees people and animals; he looks above him and sees the sun, the sky, clouds. He sees everything—but he doesn’t see Jesus. Not yet.

What he does see is a commotion, a sensation, caused by his bold proclamation: “I went and I washed and received my sight.” He is brought before the Pharisees, who can see clearly enough that this man isn’t blind. Their physical sight is just fine. What they don’t see is the miracle, what they don’t see is Jesus as the One doing the works of God. In His miraculous working in the midst of this man’s suffering, Jesus demonstrates that He is the Messiah, the very Son of God, as He Himself testified and Isaiah foretold: “I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground.” But these men, who put the healed one on trial, who doubt and question God’s working in the world through Jesus, are those described in our Old Testament lesson: “Who is blind but my servant or deaf as my messenger whom I send? Who is blind as my dedicated one, or blind as the servant of the Lord? He sees many things, but does not observe them; his ears are open, but he does not hear.”

The Pharisees refuse to see the Light when it shines in this world; they would rather dwell in darkness. Those who can see shut their eyes and make themselves blind; they will not see Jesus working in the midst of suffering. That is true blindness. Spiritual blindness is not seeing Jesus when He does the works He was sent to do. Spiritual blindness refuses to see Jesus working through suffering. The blind would rather live their comfortable lives without Jesus, without a need for Him, and therefore they only see suffering as an evil. The blind see suffering as punishment for sin, they refuse to see Jesus working in the midst of suffering, knocking away self-made crutches, clearing out all the earthly distractions that keep us from relying solely on Him. The blind don’t see Jesus at work in their suffering, they cannot see what good he could possibly bring from this, and so they don’t believe that He will. Spiritual blindness sees Jesus as a fraud. The blind see suffering as a sign that God doesn’t exist, or if He does, He doesn’t care enough to heal. The blind follow the advice of Job’s wife when suffering enters their lives: “Curse God and die.” As they tell the formerly blind man, “Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.” And spiritual blindness is anything but tolerant. “They answered him, ‘You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?’ And they cast him out.”

The Pharisees, whose physical eyes work just fine, show themselves to be the blind ones, and they refuse to see God working in Christ, they refuse to see Christ working in suffering. They become more and more blind as their investigation continues. The man who once was blind, on the other hand, sees more and more, and He is cast out from the Pharisees for confessing that Jesus is a prophet from God. Christ has worked through His physical suffering, His physical blindness, to bring forth spiritual sight. This man, like you, like me, dwelt in utter darkness, the darkness of sin, a darkness more deep and more terrible than any physical blindness. This darkness covered the earth, it blinded all people, and it still does. Those who can see all else cannot see their Creator, for He is hidden to them, shrouded in the darkness.

Into that darkness, into that blindness, Jesus shines the Light. “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Jesus has come to open blind eyes, to heal the sick, to comfort the suffering with His presence. As He says through Isaiah, “These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.” When we suffer, we have no one to cling to but Christ, all our other self-made crutches and idols have been knocked away by the evil that has entered our lives. Yes, suffering is an evil; if suffering weren’t evil, then Jesus wouldn’t have healed the blind man, or anyone else for that matter. God’s intention was never for you to suffer anything in His perfect creation. But now that this creation has fallen, now that bad things happen to believer and non-believer alike, Jesus works through suffering, and He does His best work when we see what this world is: sinful and corrupted, in need of a Savior. And only eyes opened by Jesus can see Him as that Savior. He asked the formerly blind man, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The man answered, “And who is He, sir, that I may believe in Him?” His physical eyes could see Jesus, but the greater miracle was about to happen. “Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen Him, and it is He who is speaking to you.’ He said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshipped Him.”

Spiritual eyes see Jesus as the Savior. Spiritual eyes see that while suffering is an evil caused by sin, it is not only an evil. Through suffering God works His greatest good. The question asked by the disciples in Jerusalem that day could’ve been asked at the foot of the cross on Good Friday. “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or His parents, that He suffers so?” And the answer would’ve been the same: “It was not that this man sinned, or His parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in Him.” Who sinned, that Jesus hangs upon the cross? You did. I did. That is why He hangs there, that is why He suffers so. He did not sin, but yet He suffers, yet He dies, so that the works of God might be displayed in Him. The cross declares to the world, it declares to you and me, that God works through suffering, and He works through suffering to bring salvation. You and I were the ones who sinned, but we do not suffer the penalty; that penalty fell upon Christ. Nothing that you suffer in this world is punishment for your sin; yes, there are consequences for our sins, but the punishment, the penalty is no more. With the eyes of faith, blinded eyes opened by washing at the pool of the Sent One—the baptismal font—you see Christ in your place, bearing your penalty, suffering on your behalf. Your opened eyes see a future where suffering is no more, where no one will ever be ‘blind from birth’ ever again. He has destroyed suffering through His suffering, and He has brought life through His resurrection. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. In the Name of Jesus, who brings sight to the blind, Amen.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Lent 3 of Series A (Exodus 17:1-7)

“You shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for our sermon this morning is the Old Testament lesson read a few moments ago from the seventeenth chapter of the book of Exodus. Dear friends in Christ, the people of God moved out into the wilderness of sin, the wilderness of death, the wilderness of need. They had been given so much by their God; in fact, He was Himself the source of their every good. He created them, you see, in the first seven days of history, and every child that came forth from the womb ever since was His doing as well. The sun shone because of Him, the rains came because of Him, food was placed on their tables and a roof over their heads only because of His gracious provision. But more than that, He had given them new birth through Baptism; He had brought them through water from death to life. Their enemies? Drowned and destroyed, washed away by the waters. His rich grace and mighty deliverance were the only reason they were in the wilderness in the first place. God had given them everything, but it wasn’t enough. They thirsted. They thirsted for success, they thirsted for money. They thirsted for companionship, they thirsted for health. Their mouths were so parched by what they didn’t have that they forgot what God had given them. Their memories were short, and so they raised a complaint to their God, they grumbled against Him, they quarreled with Him.

The people of God put Him on trial, they placed themselves on the judge’s seat and disputed with Him. What He had done in the past was quickly forgotten; what mattered was what He was doing now. And right now they were thirsty. The lonely thirsted for relationship. The poor thirsted for money and possessions (the rich did, too). The sick thirsted for healing. The downtrodden thirsted for a better life. Those down on their luck thirsted for a break to go their way. God’s provision of all their needs, His gift of life itself, seemed worthless next to this thirst. What’s the use of having a God if He doesn’t make my life better? “Therefore the people of Israel quarreled with Moses and said, ‘Give us water to drink.’” But thirst isn’t the problem here. The problem is how God’s people seek to satisfy their thirst. They don’t pray to God, they don’t even cry out to Him in faith. They don’t wait patiently for Him to act, to make good on His promises. No, instead they quarrel, instead they grumble, instead they put Him to the test. “And Moses said to them, ‘Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?’” Moses has put his finger right on the problem. They are putting God to the test.

They put God to the test by demanding that He act as they want Him to, and if He doesn’t, they threaten rebellion. They put themselves in His place, and they tell Him how He should act on their behalf. They view their Creator as a servant, simply there to fulfill their needs whenever they ring the bell. And if He doesn’t show up and take care of their problems, then they will fire Him. “The people thirsted there for water, and the people grumbled against Moses and said, ‘Why did you bring us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?’” They are ready to go back into the bondage of sin; they want to stone Moses, to reject the Law He brings. They seek to satisfy thirst by living in sin. The lonely seek fulfillment in adultery or pornography. The poor seek fulfillment in stealing. The rich do the same, even though their ‘stealing’ is of a different kind. The downtrodden seek fulfillment in bringing others down, in destroying reputations and telling lies. The successful, thirsty for more success, are remarkably similar, casting away others to get what they want. The weak and outcast seek fulfillment in bullying. The sick threaten God, telling Him that if He doesn’t act, they will abandon Him. All try to satisfy their thirst by self-medication, whether by drugs, alcohol, and other vices, or by immersing themselves in other occupations to the neglect of God and family. They seek satisfy their thirst by trying anything and everything; like the woman at the well, they seek fulfillment again and again: “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband;’ for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.”

Moses sees where this is going. “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me!” The people of God are ready to overthrow the Law to satisfy their thirst, they are ready to stone Moses, for they have put God on trial and have found Him wanting. They are in rebellion against their Creator, in fact they have put themselves in His place, and they are providing for their thirst themselves. They have forgotten Isaiah’s warning: “Woe to him who strives with Him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’” Woe to Him who puts God to the test, for such a test, such a rebellion, will never satisfy thirst, in fact, it will deliver only the eternal thirst prepared for those who reject God. The thirst that the people of God feel in this world of sin can never be satisfied through more sin and rebellion. Sin always leaves people wanting more, it always leaves them still thirsty, in a cycle of thirst that never ends; something more is always needed to satisfy it. Moses rightly asks the Lord: “What shall I do with this people?” How will their thirst be satisfied?

God’s answer is for Moses to take action. “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Pass on before the people, taking with you some of the elders of Israel, and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go.” This staff is the instrument which God has used to strike judgment upon His enemies, which has delivered His people in the past. It is the symbol of the Law of God, and Moses, the Law-giver, is the one who wields it. Where is Moses to go with the staff of the Law? “Behold I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb.” Moses is to go to a rock, but not just any rock, the rock that God points out to Him, the rock to which He has attached His promises. There are plenty of rocks in this world, but only one Rock which will provide the waters that can satisfy. A rock is enduring, a rock is permanent, a rock is a place of refuge and protection, it will not be moved. God pointed to this Rock as He stood in the river Jordan: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.” This Rock, Jesus Christ Himself, existed before time began, He is eternal, and He is a solid and steady shelter for the people of God. And from this Rock God has promised to satisfy the thirst of His people. Jesus Himself says it: “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Moses is sent to the Rock that God has indicated, that He pointed out with a star at His birth and with His voice at the Jordan and the Mountain of Transfiguration. That is the Rock to which he must go, that is the Rock he must strike. “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” God’s people deserved to be struck for their rebellion, for their grumbling and murmuring against their Creator. They deserved to be struck for putting Him to the test. But Moses is not commanded to raise his staff against the people; instead he is to strike the Rock. “And Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel.” The elders of Israel were witnesses to this striking; they watched as Jesus, the Rock, was struck by the staff of the Law. They saw He who had no sin struck for the sin of the people, stricken, smitten, and afflicted. They saw, for it was the elders of Israel who put the Rock on trial, who handed Him over to Pilate, who rejoiced to see Him scourged and nailed to the tree. But what they intended for evil God intended for the good of all, for the satisfying of all thirst forever. They watched as the staff of the Law struck the Rock, and the Rock broke open, pouring out life-giving water. “One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” From the broken Rock came the waters of life, the waters that satisfy, the waters promised by God Himself. “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee; Let the water and the blood, from thy riven side which flowed, be of sin the double cure: cleanse me from its guilt and power.”

Moses fulfilled His task, and the full fury of the Law fell upon the Rock; He was struck, not you, me, not any of God’s people. And the water that flowed from His riven side that day satisfies the thirst of God’s people forever. What nothing on this earth could satisfy, what no sin could ever fulfill, Christ has, for He is the struck Rock from which the living waters flow. With Him, thirst is no more, and it will be said of God’s people: “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation… They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” The lonely have a brother and friend in Christ, the poor and downtrodden have eternal riches and exaltation in heaven, the sick will be given perfect bodies at the resurrection. And in this world, as you struggle with thirst, you find that your every need is ultimately satisfied by Christ’s living waters, for He is all that you need. As you wander in this thirsty wilderness of sin, you cry out to the Lord, you ask for deliverance, you bring your thirst to Him, and while He may satisfy your thirst in this world through His gracious provision, He teaches you that it is He who satisfies your thirst with the gift of Himself, He satisfies your thirst with His living waters forever. Your thirst is satisfied by your Rock, by Jesus. The people asked, “Is the Lord among us or not?” Yes, He is among us in the midst of this thirsty world, and He gives us His living water, He is all we need. In the Name of Jesus, the Rock that was struck to give us living water, Amen.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lent 2 of Series A (Genesis 12:1-9)

“I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for our sermon this Second Sunday in Lent comes from the Old Testament lesson read a few moments ago from the twelfth chapter of the book of Genesis. Dear friends in Christ, Abram was an idol-worshipper, he was a pagan, he was a heathen. He and his family had fallen away from the true God and instead worshipped gods of their own making, gods of the sun and moon, wind and rain, gods made of wood and stone. Abram lived in constant and blatant violation of the First Commandment, given later to Moses, “You shall have no other Gods.” He certainly did not fear, love, and trust in the true God above all else. And so Abram, with his family and his nation, was condemned to eternal death. That is, until God called him. “Go from your country and your kindred, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” Salvation is only found in following the God who promised a Savior, and with these words, God declares that he has chosen Abram, poor, miserable, idol-worshipping Abram, to be a part of that promise.

God promises blessing; He promises to make Abram a great nation; He promises to protect him from harm. There’s only one problem—those blessings are only found by leaving behind what he sees with his eyes. Even though we don’t see him in our text, there is someone else whispering promises in Abram’s ear: the great deceiver, man’s first enemy, Satan. What Satan promises is right before his eyes. Satan promises safety and security in the things of this world, he promises that if we put our trust in money and possessions, if we rely on ourselves, we will be blessed. Our eyes see a comfortable life, our eyes see stability. What a ridiculous command, Satan says. “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.”? God wants you to leave all that you know behind, all that has so clearly prospered you, all that your eyes see, to follow His empty, invisible promises.

Satan promises his own blessings, blessings Abram can see. He promises wealth, he promises honor, he promises power and influence. “I will bless you and make your name great,” God says? Well, I can make your name great right here and right now, and my methods have none of the inconveniences that will surely come from blindly following God. Study greatness, Satan says, and you will see that while some pay lip service to God, those who are truly great in this world are those who are ambitious, those who trust no one but themselves, those who know their goals and go after them with tenacity. The honor that your eyes see is achieved not by abandoning the things of this world, but by using them to your advantage. This world is your home, this is where you belong, and only by realizing that will you find success.

On the other hand, if we put our trust in God’s promises, Satan promises suffering and hardship. Our eyes see persecution, our eyes see death. God promised, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse.” That’s God’s promise, but what do our eyes see? Are those who dishonor the Church, who dishonor Christians, cursed? No, it seems more likely that they are praised, they are celebrated, they have all the glory. Open your eyes, Christians—your religion is waning, it’s loosing influence, and soon churches are going to be closing and persecution will be coming. You had better quit fighting against gay marriage—can’t you see the polls, it’s a losing game. Your bible, your morals, your antiquated teachings are mocked, they have no currency in your world anymore. It’s time to get off the boat, because it’s sinking. Christianity is done, its influence is over. No one’s listening anymore, and your congregations are shrinking. Those who dishonor the Church are on the winning side, and that’s all that matters, not some invisible promises of an invisible God.

Satan points to what your eyes see all around you. Do those who bless Christians, who trust in God’s promises, receive blessing? Our eyes tell us that much more often they are cursed instead. Your prayer list keeps growing, Satan says, and what’s on it? Cancer, afflicting young and old, Alzheimer’s, ALS, even children suffering disease and complications. And these are just a few of the many afflictions that attack God’s ‘blessed’ people. Christians lose their jobs, they need surgeries, they get into accidents, their homes burn down. And your Savior? He’s nailed to a cross. Does it look like those who follow this God of yours receive blessing? Don’t ask me, look at your own bulletin, look at that crucifix at your altar. What do your eyes see?

Our eyes do see suffering, our eyes do see hardship, our eyes do see the visible blessings that come when we put our trust in ourselves. Satan is right—to our eyes, those who curse us are blessed, and those who bless us are cursed. God’s promise was to make of Abram a great nation, to give him blessings and make him a blessing for this entire world. Satan’s promise was that if he stayed at home, he could continue his comfortable life, enjoying safety, security, and prosperity. One promise was seen, right there in front of him. One promise was unseen, out there in a vague future. To our human reason, to the judgment of this world, the answer is clear: trust your eyes!

But Abram didn’t. His eyes saw all that Satan promised, good and bad, but his faith, given by the Holy Spirit, saw the promises of God, and that faith clung to God’s Word. “So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him.” He left behind his family, his home, and most importantly his gods, and he became a sojourner, an alien, a wanderer in a land that God had promised him, but he never actually possessed. God told Abram, “To your offspring I will give this land.” What God didn’t tell him, at least not at that moment, was how long it would take for this promise to be fulfilled. His eyes never saw the fulfilment of God’s promises, but yet Abram trusted. He saw not with his natural eyes, but with the eyes of faith. Martin Luther writes, “Faith apprehends the things that are not present and, contrary to reason, regards them as being present.” By faith, Abram saw another home; not the one he was leaving, or even the one his offspring would live in, but his heavenly dwellings. He would dwell in tents the rest of his life, but he saw a homeland that would endure, even more firm than the land of promise.

What Abram saw with the eyes of faith was Christ. God promised him, “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Satan promises earthly, visible blessings. God’s promise is of blessings that endure, that stand, even when this earth passes away. God’s promise is Jesus Christ, the heir of Abram’s line. The One who blesses all the families of this earth is an offspring of Abram, He is true man. But He is much more than a man, this offspring delivers the offspring of Abram, this offspring is also true God. He comes to be a blessing by delivering all people from the bondage of sin and death. Satan wants us to be satisfied with worldly wealth and prosperity; what God has in store for us is heavenly treasure. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Our eyes see a man hanging dead upon a cross. Do you call that blessing? Satan asks. But what the eyes of faith see is the fulfillment of all the promises, for in the death of Jesus all the families of the earth are blessed. The promise to Abram comes to its fulfillment in Christ, who is given into death so that whoever believes in Him, as Abram did, should not perish, but have eternal life. God loved Abram because He loved the world, and One from the line of Abram would be the One to reverse the curse, to crush the serpent’s head, and to bring eternal blessings. He rises on the third day as the sign and seal that this promise is rock solid and true. Abram received this promise, still almost two thousand years in the future, and he believed. He received these invisible things as if he were holding them in his hands. That is what Satan misunderstands: through faith, we hold the promise already, even if we cannot see it.

We know, with absolute certainty, that Christ is coming on the Last Day in victory, and all of our enemies, all that threatens us, all that afflicts us in this world of sin, will be destroyed. With this promise, we can face each of the various maladies that attack us. Christ knows each affliction by name, and He will destroy each one when He takes you to Himself or on the Day of His return. On the Last Day, the promise to Abram will be fulfilled: “I will bless those who bless you, and Him who dishonors you I will curse.” Therefore, Christians live in this world as Abram did, in tents, not permanent housing, because we know that this is not our final home. We dwell in this world as strangers and exiles, conducting our business, serving our neighbor, but knowing who we are and knowing what this world is. This world is an inn, it is temporary housing; we know that in Christ we have a permanent homeland, we have eternal mansions prepared. 

This promise is invisible—you can’t see the forgiveness of sins, after all!—but it’s more real than anything your eyes see, because this promise endures for eternity. Abram was called out of sin and idolatry by the grace of God, He was given a new birth to a new life; he was a wanderer who knew his true homeland. We are called out of sin and death by the washing of Baptism, we are given a new birth to a new life; we are wanderers who know the homeland that awaits us. In the waters of Baptism, you are made an exile in this world with a Promised Land ahead of you; you are given a homeland and a mansion in the new heavens and the new earth. You receive the blessing that God first promised to Abram, for God is faithful to His promises, even if we cannot see them. We live by faith, not by sight, and the eyes of faith see Jesus alone. In His Name, Amen.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Lent 1 of Series A (Romans 5:12-19)

Adam. Christ. Death. Life. Sin. Grace. Trespass. Free Gift. Judgment. Justification. Through one, all are sinners. Through one, all are righteous. Adam. Christ. Death. Life. One at the beginning. One at the end. One the lesser. One the greater. One the type. One the fulfillement. Both are human. Both are tempted. One was disobedient. One was obedient. “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” One man is overcome by a tree. One man overcomes by a tree. One man listens to the serpent. One man crushes him. One man hears the prophecy. One man is the fulfillment. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Adam died as the penalty for his own sin. Christ died as the penalty for all sin. Through Adam death comes into the world. Through Christ death is overcome by life. “If, because of the one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.”

Adam. Christ. Death. Life. Adam was disobedient. Christ was obedient. Satan tempted Adam’s desires. “The tree was good for food, and…it was a delight to the eyes.” Satan tempted Christ’s desires. “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” Adam was disobedient. “She also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Christ was obedient. “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Adam gave into desire, letting his cravings rule over the Word of God. Christ lets the Word of God rule over all else. Adam falls. Christ stands. Adam brings death. Christ brings life. 

Death rules in all humanity because all have sinned, because you have sinned following Adam’s example and pattern. Life rules in all believers because they have been given it, because you have been shown grace in the death and resurrection of Christ. You die because you are sinful. You live forever because of the free gift of grace. “But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.” You die because you have inherited a corrupted nature from your parents. You live because you have inherited a new nature from Christ. Adam. Christ. One is lesser. One is greater. You die in the pattern of Adam. You live in the pattern of Christ. Death entered this world through Adam’s sin. Life enters again through Christ’s grace. From Adam’s sin comes cancer, heart disease, stroke, car accidents, and war; aging, colds, flus, birth defects, disabilities, and finally death. From Christ’s free gift of grace comes the destruction of all disease and all corruption, and a life that never ends. Death reigns in this world. Life reigns in eternity.

Adam. Christ. Death. Life. One is disobedient. One is obedient. Adam heard God’s Word. “The tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for…you shall surely die.” Christ heard God’s Word. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Satan tempts Adam to doubt the Word. “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” Satan tempts Christ to doubt the Word. “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.” Satan wants Adam to question God’s command, to look for loopholes and grays where there is only black and white. Satan wants Christ to question what God has said about Him, to wonder whether He is truly God’s beloved Son. Satan twists God’s Word, molding it to His own purposes, making the clear unclear. Satan pulls a text out of context, using it to support His own agenda, rather than letting the Word speak for itself. Satan tempts Adam to doubt: “Did God actually say?” Satan tempts Christ to doubt: “If you are the Son of God.” 

Adam is disobedient. “She also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Christ is obedient. “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Adam brings condemnation to all, condemnation to you. Christ brings justification to all, justification to you. “And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.” In Adam, we are condemned to hell. In Christ, we are given heaven. In Adam, we deserve God’s wrath. In Christ, that wrath has been satisfied. Adam introduced condemnation. Christ suffered under it. “Therefore, as one trespass lead to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” Adam’s one act introduced death into the world. Christ’s one act—His life, death, and resurrection—brings life in the midst of death.

Adam. Christ. Death. Life. One is disobedient. One is obedient. Satan tempts Adam to seek after divinity. “You will be like God, knowing good and evil.’” Satan tempts Christ to grasp after worldly power. “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’” Satan offers Adam what we all want—to be our own god, to call our own shots, to be in charge of our lives. Satan offers to Christ what we all want—power and influence, authority over others, money and possessions. Satan lies to Adam: men cannot become our own gods, we do not have ultimate authority, we are creatures, not the Creator. Satan lies to Christ: the treasures of this world are not his to give.

Adam listens to Satan’s lies. Christ refuses to hear them. Adam seeks his own will, his own good. Christ seeks the will of the father, the good of the world, your good and mine. Adam is disobedient. “She also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Christ is obedient. “Be gone, Satan!” Adam let Satan talk and tempt, he allowed the serpent to spin his lies. Christ rebukes the foe and casts him away. Adam failed and death is the penalty. Christ triumphed and His death will be the final victory. In Adam we are declared by God to be sinners. In Christ, we are declared by God to be righteous. “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” Our conception in Adam’s line brings us sin and death. Our new birth in Christ through the water and the Word brings us righteousness and life. Our first birth condemns. Our second birth acquits. Our first birth brings judgment. Our second birth brings justification. Adam’s disobedience is our disobedience, because he has passed on his corrupt nature, we sin in his pattern. Christ’s obedience is our obedience, because He has given us His righteousness, we have life in His pattern. In Adam we are given the old man of sin. In Christ, we are given the new man of righteousness.

Adam. Christ. Death. Life. One was disobedient. One was obedient. Both dwell in you. As a child of Adam, you have a sinful nature. As a child of God in Christ, you have a righteous nature. You are at the same time saint and sinner. Adam’s nature, the old man, doesn’t leave you until you leave this earth. Christ’s nature, the new man, is in you through your Baptism, and it will be your identity for eternity. The contest between Adam and Christ is therefore waged within you. “[Baptism] indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” You carry the old Adam around your neck each and every day, and through him Satan entices you to follow your forefather into sin. But take heart, Christ has triumphed. Your sin is defeated, it is forgiven, the victory remains with Christ. “With might of ours can naught be done, soon were our loss effected; but for us fights the valiant One, whom God Himself elected. Ask ye, who is this? Jesus Christ it is. Of Sabaoth Lord, and there’s none other God; He holds the field forever.”

Adam failed, and we all suffer. Christ triumphed, and we all have life. Through Adam death came to all men. “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” Through Christ life comes to all who believe. “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” One act of disobedience brought us suffering and death. One act of obedience brings us life and salvation. Adam swallowed the fruit, and death entered this world. Christ swallowed death, and life came again. Because of Adam, we have tombs. Because of Christ, those tombs will one day be empty. In Adam, you stood condemned. In Christ you stand forgiven. Forgiveness robs the old man of his power, it defangs Satan; there is nothing he can do to you. “The free gift is not like the trespass.” It is better, it is greater, the free gift of God’s grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ overcomes every trespass, even the trespass that started it all. Adam. Christ. Death. Life. “Our victory has been won; the Kingdom ours remaineth.” In the name of Jesus, Amen.