Sermons

Archives - October 2018

Freedom

October 28, 2018
By Rev. David French

See the Weekly Bulletin

Freedom
John 8:31-36

At this time of year, despite the cobwebs and jack-o’-lanterns that fill our neighborhoods, we as Lutherans of course think about Martin Luther and the Reformation. And while Luther, as a faithful servant of God is rightly celebrated, if all we celebrate is a man, then we’re missing the point. While we recognize Luther as the founder of Lutheranism, it’s the light he and many others by God’s grace brought out of the darkness that we really celebrate.

You see, the Lutheran Reformation is really about freedom. And while at this particular time we may think about things like freedom from the tyranny of the Pope, more to the point, it’s freedom from what the Pope taught and still teaches that we don’t just remember, but by God’s grace, we live in and will continue to live in until the day Christ calls us to our heavenly home.

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my Word, you are truly my disciples. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Now understand, Jesus wasn’t speaking about political or social freedom. But as Paul writes to the Galatians, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” You see, the message of the Scriptures reintroduced by the Reformation is that we have been set free by faith in Christ; free from the guilt of our sin, free from the threat of death, and free from the power of satan. We are free to live in joy and peace in Christ and for others.

But understand, this freedom, like all good things in our lives, is not a result of what we’ve done, it also is a gift of God. In today’s reading, Jesus tells us just how it is that He offers that gift to us. But first, we consider the gift.

Jesus uses a word that’s difficult to translate, as you can see by it being translated differently in just about every translation you look at. Words like hold to, continue in, remain in, or abide in can all be found. In the Greek dictionary we find these options remain: sit down in, and rely on. Basically what it comes down to is … what we have to do to know this freedom in our lives … is believe it. In Christ you have simply been set free.

But know in your head and believe with your heart that it is God alone who works the faith in you which trusts those words, and God creates that faith through His Word alone as we read in Romans, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” You see, God not only creates faith in us through His Word of promise, but He also sustains that faith through that same Word; the Word we share week after week.

To be free from all fear of sin and death, the Word of God must be in us. But for the Word to be in us, we must be in the Word. Whether alone or connected to the waters of our baptism or the bread and wine of His Supper, it is the Word of God alone that creates and sustains the new life we claim and live in Christ.

Remember the words of Isaiah, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

Tell me, how do you imagine God’s Word returns to Him? Is it not from the lips of His children, from your lips? And to come from your lips, whether at home or in worship, does it not first come from your heart and mind, where that very Word is indeed accomplishing what God promised?

So, what was the response of those who first heard these words? “We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

How foolish, I mean all they had to do was lift up their eyes and look out over the wall of the temple and they would’ve seen a Roman tower sitting right next to the temple grounds. And on top of that tower would be Roman soldiers staring back at them - keeping an eye on them - a constant reminder that if anything got out of hand, Gentile soldiers would quickly defile the temple and bring a peace that was enforced by the sword.

But the real problem, the reason they wrongly understood Jesus, was because they didn’t see their need to be set free from sin. So they rejected Him and His Word, and by doing so, choose to remain in the worst kind of slavery; that is, the slavery to sin.

Now, before we judge those early believers to0 quickly, at least consider if you or someone you know may also not necessarily see the need for say ... Bible study. Why do you think that is? Perhaps we confuse Bible study and worship. While they can and often do overlap in what they accomplish, they’re not the same. Maybe they think they know all they need to know for salvation, but that’s not the same as all that God wants you to know.

That’s one of satan’s favorite tricks. He wants us to think that we really don’t need to hear everything God says, that we don’t need the full counsel of His word. Not to mention that if or when we think we have no need to study the Word of God we’re actually despising the Word of God. Not intentionally, but still, in reality. As Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin ….” In Romans we read, “... for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That is, we are all slaves to sin.

What a comfort it is to hear God’s Son saying, “… if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” The Son of God Himself is the truth who sets us free. He, who is the very Word of God incarnate.

The Scriptures are given to unfold the precious gifts God offers to us in Christ who was crucified for our sins and raised from the dead for our justification. The Scriptures are all about Jesus and what the Father offers to all through Him. It is His book, His words. His Spirit inerrantly inspired it from the first word of Genesis to the last amen of Revelation. This book brings into our hearts the truth who is Jesus, whose word of truth creates and sustains our faith.

Remember, when we say the truth that is Jesus, we mean the truth heard from a cross, the Word of forgiveness, and so, freedom. Jesus alone can truthfully speak these words, for He alone carried and paid for the sin of the world. Because of the innocent blood He shed, all sin has been forgiven.

That’s why we have a special Reformation service. Not just to remember something that happened way back in the sixteenth century, but so that we can celebrate the freedom we continue to live in to this very day.

We celebrate because, even though satan constantly works to pull us away from God’s Word, the Holy Spirit constantly works to preserve that Word and will work through it to keep us in the one true Christian faith.

We celebrate so that we might hear the Son say to us again, “Go in peace” for you are free from sin and the power of death to destroy you - free from the condemnation of our sin - free to live as a child of God.

Jesus says to all who believe in Him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Paul tells us, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” My friends, don’t starve your soul when a banquet has been set for you. Be in the Word of God because it is His word alone that brings to you true freedom and eternal life.

In His name, Amen

Nearly There

October 21, 2018
By Rev. Peter Heckert

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Nearly There
Mark 10:23-31

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation is from our Gospel lesson, specifically where Mark records, [T]he disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Here ends our text; dear Christian friends…

Nearly there. We are nearly to the culmination of this particular discourse in Mark’s Gospel account. It may have started only in the previous chapter, but so much has happened in that short amount of time. Since Jesus’s transfiguration, we have seen Him heal a boy with an unclean spirit, even as the boy’s father begs with Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!” We heard the dunderheaded disciples ask among themselves who the greatest was immediately after Jesus had told them, for the second time, that “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him.” We’ve heard the disciples complain to Jesus that some dude is casting out demons in His Name, and that since he’s not one of them, he should be stopped; Jesus makes short work of those complaints, telling them that “no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us.”  

We were uncomfortable as Jesus told us how sin is so serious, that if a body part causes us to sin, we ought to remove it; we were made to be even more uncomfortable as our Lord and Savior delivered some tough love to His hearers regarding divorce. Then, when His disciples wanted to dismiss approaching children as an annoyance, we saw Jesus rebuke them, and instead gather them into His arms and bless them. And just last week, we heard about a rich young man who walked away, sadly, from the Messiah because he wanted to do something to earn his salvation, and Jesus gave him a commandment that he couldn’t and wouldn’t be able to fulfill.

The theme in our texts over these past few weeks has been, essentially, the same. It’s been the same because, in case you didn’t notice, the disciples are portrayed as … well, they’re a little dense. They don’t get it, and neither do most of the people around them. They don’t understand what Jesus has been saying all this time, so they need to hear it time and time again: Salvation does not come to you by what you do because you are a lousy, rotten, no-good, stinkin’ sinner, and the best of your works are worthless toward your salvation. Over these last weeks, Jesus has been systematically tearing down the walls of self-righteousness and self-assurance that His hearers had built up around them, and now He’s got them where He wants them.

Immediately after the rich young man slinks away, Mark paints this dramatic picture: Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” This saying apparently throws the disciples for a loop, as Mark tells us how amazed they were that Jesus would say this. So Jesus reemphasizes His point – not just making mention of those who have wealth, who certainly have their own trials and temptations, but now speaking of everybody, He says, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Our response to this likely echoes what the disciples ask. See, they perceive what Jesus has done, how the cats have now been fully painted into the corner. There’s no wiggle-room here, no possible out, and so they ask Him in there utter astonishment, “Then who can be saved?”

Because this is what the sinful human being does. Not only do we try to weasel our way out of being in trouble, out of confessing our sins, but we also try to flip our sin on its head and call it righteousness. The sinful human being tries to save itself, to redeem itself, to show that it’s not so bad and thus not meriting eternal condemnation, but instead, deserving praise! Accolades! Honor! All because we haughtily and foolishly say with the rich young man, “All these commandments I’ve kept; I haven’t done anything wrong since my youth!”

Jesus puts an end to that nonsense tout-de-suite. To the rich young man, He gives a command that is impossible for anyone to keep: sell all that he has, give the earnings from those sales to the poor, and follow Him. Let me ask: let’s say, hypothetically, somehow the rich young man were able and willing to do this very thing. Do you think that, had the young man done this, he would have been saved for that reason? OF COURSE NOT. Sure, part of the rich young man’s problem was his attachment to his earthly goods, those temporal blessings and gifts that God had given into his possession. However, there was a bigger problem, a deeper issue that cannot and will not be solved simply by selling all that one has, giving the money to the poor, and supposedly devoting one’s life to God.

This deeper issue here – one which we all have to deal with, by the way – is the desire, the need of the sinful flesh to try and self-justify, to stand before God and say, “I’m good, and I deserve salvation! It’s what I have earned by my good deeds!” It’s this mentality, this false theology, that has spawned every man-made religion across the globe – whether in Islam, Buddhism, Wicca, or whatever, it’s always you and what you do to get in good with God or Allah or Shiva or whoever. You’re working your way into the deity’s good graces. You’re doing something to earn nirvana or enlightenment or heaven. Indeed, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

The disciples ask of Jesus, “Then who can be saved?” They are, surprisingly, exactly right in their exclamation. They’re feeling the squeeze, recognizing that there’s no way out. Essentially, Jesus responds: “EXACTLY. THAT’S the point!” He says, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

Once again, this point is made, and it’s repeated here in this sermon because, like the disciples, it’s a message that we need to hear over and over again! We need to hear it because our sinful flesh wants to reject it! “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” He is the only One who can save, to do for us what is impossible for us to do for ourselves!

And we’re nearly there; in the context of our reading, we are nearly to the point where God will do the impossible. A little later in this same chapter, Jesus tells His disciples what must happen to Him in order to make it so everyone can be saved: “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” THAT is how God does this impossible! THAT is how sinners, wretched and miserable as we are, can be saved! Jesus is condemned, delivered to unbelievers, mocked, beaten, spat upon, flogged, crucified, and killed – all while He is, at the same time, truly God and yet made to become the embodiment of sin. THAT, my friends, is how God does the impossible!

Because of this impossible work that Jesus accomplished perfectly, flawlessly, those who believe that this was done for them will have it done to them as they believe. At the end of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus makes a point of saying, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Am I a sinner? Are you? Are our best works, our most righteous deeds, as Isaiah puts it, like a polluted garment, a filthy rag? Yes we are, and yes they are. We cannot save ourselves, but thanks to Jesus’s sacrifice on our behalf, we are given the promise of sins forgiven and the seal of life everlasting. He is coming soon, my friends. We are nearly there.

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

Maybe?

October 14, 2018
By Rev. Peter Heckert

See the Weekly Bulletin

Maybe?
Amos 5:6-15

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation is from our Old Testament lesson, specifically where Amos writes, “Seek good, and not evil that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said. Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.” Here ends our text; dear Christian friends…

“Maybe.” There are few words as frustrating as the lukewarm, so-so, wishy-washy “maybe.” Will you be home for dinner? Maybe. Did you have anything to do with the broken vase? Maybe. Would you like to go out on a date with me? Maybe. When all we want is a clear “Yes” or “No,” maybe can be absolutely infuriating

“Maybe” can also be downright terrifying. Maybe we’ll have enough money to make payroll. Maybe we’ll work through this rough patch in our marriage. Maybe my loved one will pull through this and live. Uncertainty of this caliber can be torturous. We don’t want to hear maybe. We want certainty, confidence, and assurance – usually that things will work out in our favor  – which is part of the reason why that phrase at the tail-end of our Old Testament text is so unsettling – “it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.”

But before we talk about that, we need to remember the context of this text. Amos, from the southern kingdom of Judah, has been called by YHWH his God to prophesy to the northern kingdom of Israel, a place that was a paradise for some, but a deathtrap for many others. We see why elsewhere in Amos’s prophecy, as he calls the Israelites to task for their deplorable treatment of their neighbor, especially their neighbor who was in need – the poor, the slave, the weak. He’s prophesying against those who have [sold] the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals—those who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth and turn aside the way of the afflicted. These are a people who wouldn’t bat an eye when a man and his father [would] go in to the same girl, so that [God’s] holy name is profaned; they lay themselves down beside every altar on garments taken in pledge, and in the house of their God they drink the wine of those who have been fined.

Where did this appalling behavior come from? These are supposed to be the chosen people! This is supposed to be the nation from whom the Messiah of the world was going to come; how could they treat their neighbor so shamefully? Their behavior was worse than that of the surrounding pagan peoples! Well, the conduct of the rich against the poor was intrinsically tied to their abandonment of true worship of the true God in the northern kingdom. They would worship YHWH, but they would also worship the gods of the peoples surrounding them – Baal, Molech, Asherah, and the like. These gods didn’t say anything like, “You shall not murder” or “You shall not commit adultery.” They didn’t require that their worshippers treat their neighbor as they would like to be treated; instead, they were advocates for egocentrism. Get yours while the getting is good, and to hell with anyone else. These spiritually adulterous people were not living as the people of the one true God ought to live – either in their service (or lack thereof) or in their worship. Their foul living necessitated the sending of prophets, including Amos, to declare to the people that they must repent of their wicked ways, and turn back to serving the one true God, to return to loving their neighbor … or else.

So Amos, like the other prophets, pleads with the people to do just that! “Seek the Lord and live,” begs the prophet from Tekoa, “lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and it devour, with none to quench it for Bethel, O you who turn justice to wormwood and cast down righteousness to the earth!” Amos is pleading because YHWH is pleading. As God would later speak through the later prophet Ezekiel, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?” So also YHWH pleads with Israel through Amos, Seek good, and not evil that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said. Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

So what kind of “maybe” is this? Is this a hopeful “maybe,” a maybe where someone can read a “yes, it will be so” into the subtext? Or is this a maybe of hopelessness, a maybe that says, “It might happen, but I wouldn’t count on it”? Which one is it? Well, here in this text, I would argue it’s the latter – remember, the people to whom Amos is speaking are stiff-necked. These are the people who look to the likes of Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, for peace and comfort – the same Amaziah who will later say to Amos, “O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel ….” These are a people who love their sin and hate being called out on it. These are a people who confess their God with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. This is a people who have become indistinguishable from the heathens and pagans around them; they were unbelievers. Tragically, their unbelief, their rejection of YHWH’s warnings and pleadings and exhortations, would result in a reckoning and reaping of horrific proportions a few decades later. Israel had, to put it in Pauline terms, made a shipwreck of the faith that YHWH their God had given them, and in 722 BC, they pay the price for their spiritual adultery as Shalmaneser V, king of Assyria, captures Samaria and deports the population of the northern kingdom, scattering them to the four winds. It was a day of darkness, and not of light, a Day of YHWH, as He executed judgment on sin and sinners.

The “maybe” Amos spoke to Israel was not a “maybe” that God would turn back His wrath. It wasn’t a “maybe” that God would hold back a bit. This “maybe” is a reminder that there is no guarantee of YHWH voiding of His judgment, even if faithless Israel should repent. Any compassion He shows is not the result of Israel’s repentance forcing His hand; no, He shows His compassion to whomever He wills, as He told Moses centuries before, “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.”

The beautiful reality is that, in a way, Amos’s “maybe” was YHWH being gracious to the remnant of Joseph. After the southern kingdom would likewise be destroyed, the people wouldn’t be completely cut off. Of His mercy, He allowed a portion of His people to survive and be the people from whom the Messiah would come. This is a marvelous reminder for us as well. We are sinners, too – no better than faithless Israel, and certainly meriting God’s righteous indignation and wrath. But there is no “maybe” for us, as we have been given God’s promise that His wrath has been satisfied, that the penalty for our sin was taken by Another. Because of Christ, because of the sacrifice that He made on a far more agonizing Day of YHWH, because of the punishment and pain that He endured in bearing our sins – indeed, in becoming sin, He secured for you and me the promise of eternal life and the pledge of sins forgiven, of atonement made. We need not fear the final Day of YHWH, for we know what awaits us on the other side!

For those to whom the Holy Spirit has given faith in the waters of Holy Baptism, there is no such thing as “maybe.” In His high priestly prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed to His Father, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” While we are sinners, worthy of condemnation, we can rest safely in the pierced hands of our Savior. He has given us a promise, and He is faithful to bring the work that He started to completion. No, there is no maybe for those who fear and trust the one true God; those who trust in the promises that are given in Christ, there is simply and only, “Amen. Let it be so.

Amen.”

The Elephant in the Room

October 07, 2018
By Rev. Peter Heckert

See the Weekly Bulletin

The Elephant in the Room
Mark 10:2-16

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation is from our Gospel reading, specifically where Mark records Jesus’s words, “Because of your hardness of heart [Moses] wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”’ Here ends our text; dear Christian friends…

The Pharisees have approached Jesus to trap Him in His words. To do so, they ask Him a question that was  ... uncomfortable – uncomfortable then, uncomfortable now. Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife? Unimpressed by their attempted trap, Jesus flips on them. He asks, What did Moses command you? Now, such a question ought to have been a warning to those stiff-necked Pharisees that, unless they were there, they should really tread lightly, but that’s not what they do. Instead, these teachers of the Law boastfully reply, Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.

Again, Jesus is less than impressed. He replies, "Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Jesus is saying, “You – y’all standing in front of Me right now, and the whole of humanity throughout history – because of your hard-heartedness, Moses begrudgingly acquiesced. He allowed it; that doesn’t make divorce a good thing. Quite to the contrary, it is never a good thing. A man and a woman who are joined together in the bonds of holy matrimony are supposed to cleave to each other, not separate. Therefore, anyone who does so … sins!”

Now apparently, the disciples take some exception to this teaching. You can imagine their sheepishness as they ask Jesus about it; Mark doesn’t even record their words, only that they asked the question. But there’s no wiggle-room in their Rabbi’s reply: Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery. This is a hard text – not because its meaning is obscure or seemingly incoherent to our broken minds. This is a hard text because its message is crystal clear: divorce is sinful, regardless of the circumstances.

Such a black-and-white declaration coming from our Lord and Savior hits us like a wrecking ball, and not surprisingly, it hurts. It hurts to hear Jesus say this because we know people … we love people who have gone through a divorce. We know how agonizing the process was, and we don’t want to make matters worse. We don’t want to make them feel bad about an already painful situation … so we gloss over it. We ignore it. We excuse it. We cite the divorce rate statistic as if it doing so makes it okay. “That’s life,” we say. “It happens,” we say. “It’s better that they be apart,” we say. We seek all different ways to tip-toe around the hard, cold fact of what Jesus says here in our text: divorce … is … sin. It is contrary to God’s will and purposes for human relationships. It hurts everyone involved – friends, family, (ex) spouses, and especially the children. It is sin because our marriages are meant to reflect Jesus’s relationship with His Bride, the Church, and thanks be to God that Jesus will never leave HIS Bride!

But why the squeamishness? This is, after all, God’s Word, from Jesus’s own lips, so why are we so afraid to address the elephant in the room? What’s the real reason why pastors are sweating bullets if they dare preach on this text? Why is it that those who do will inevitably catch flak for doing so? Because this is what we do as humans, and I think it’s the real reason why this text makes us so uncomfortable. As fallen human beings, we are experts in mental gymnastics. We explain away and excuse sin. “It’s not wrong, it’s just what happens,” we tell ourselves, and we launch into a defense of why it’s not that bad. After all, we had our reasons! We had pure motives … righteous intentions! THEY just took it the wrong way!

We do exactly what the Pharisees were doing: trying to find the loophole, trying to weasel our way out. This is what we do. We are professional manipulators, distorters of truth, twisters of reality. Like an animal caught in a trap, we are willing to go to any length to free ourselves from confessing our sin and guilt and shame. Our reaction to Jesus’s words regarding divorce is a litmus test, looking at how we really feel about sin. We want it to be okay. We don’t want to face the reality of sin – our own, or our neighbor’s. We’d rather look for a reason to explain away why we did what we did. But there is no wiggle-room. Jesus gives no berth to skirt around the issue. He calls it what it is, in no uncertain terms: it is sin. It is a raw, throbbing, painful reminder of the brokenness of our world. In this case, God has given us this wonderful gift … a lifelong relationship between a servant-leader and the one who helps and supports him, eliminating loneliness, providing support and satisfaction and direction … and in our sin, we allow it to be torn apart.

That’s hard to hear, but this is what Jesus does by using His good and perfect Law. He paints the cats into the corner, if you will; He wants to get you to the point where you realize it’s pointless to try and wiggle away. He wants you broken over your sin … so that He can pick you up and start rebuilding. The message of this text is the same as it has been over the last few weeks: we are all sinners. None of us is great … but Jesus is. This entire discourse is intended to point us to the reason why Jesus had to come in the first place: to save us truly hopeless sinners. It’s not surprising that, later in this same chapter, Jesus foretells of His death for the third and final time, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” All done … to save you … and me … from the right punishment for our sin – yes, including the sin of divorce, and the sin of cohabitation, and sex before marriage, and homosexuality, and abuse  and stealing and gossip and pride and greed and hate and all other manner of wickedness that proceeds from the heart of mortal man. We are sinners, and these are our sins. And the amazing, wonderful news is that it is all forgiven … it is all atoned for … by Jesus’s work on the cross. His righteousness is given to you. No longer does our Father see a manipulator, or adulterer, or hatemonger – He sees His Son, Who has clothed us in His righteousness.

I know this has probably hit a nerve, that some of you may be quite upset with me. And I get it – the Church, in general, has not done the best job of denouncing divorce in recent years, nor has She done a good job of upholding marriage, and helping husband and wife work through their struggles. And yes, I know that there are situations where divorce is all but inevitable, like instances of abuse or desertion. But we must call a thing what it is. God’s Word is clear: divorce is not a good thing. It is sin. But it is also clear that the broken and contrite heart of a divorcee will not be despised by our merciful and loving God. It is clear that this sin, like all others, is covered by the Blood of the Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world. It is clear that Jesus died for divorcees, as well. In Him, regardless of the sin we commit and confess, we are forgiven. I won’t apologize if you have felt the bitter sting of God’s Law convicting you of your sin. It’s a good thing – it has to hurt if it’s going to heal, so confess it! We are sinners, and we are not excused from our sin … no – far, far better than that, we are forgiven our sins in Christ!

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

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