Saturday, February 21, 2015

Ash Wednesday Sermon: "The Cross and the Commandments"

+ Ash Wednesday – February 18th, 2015 +

Redeemer Lutheran, HB
(Readings from Lenten Pulpit Exchange) Deuteronomy 6:4-7; Romans 3:9-24; Mark 12:28-34

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today, and throughout the 40 days of Lent, we hear and confess the severity of our sin. We hear and confess and behold the cost of our sin. The ashen cross upon our foreheads is a reminder of the just penalty of our sin. We crucified Jesus. The wages of our sin is death. It was our sin that put God’s only begotten Son to death on the cross.
Even the name - Ash Wednesday - declares what this day, this season of Lent is all about. Repentance. On Ash Wednesday, the curse of the garden stings our ears with that solemn and sobering sentence.
“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”
Yes, the cross of Ash Wednesday is a reminder of your sin, but also of your Savior. Jesus' cross is greater than your sin. Today we hear and confess that Jesus’ forgiveness is greater than the severity of our trespasses.  Today we hear and confess and behold the costly grace won for us by Jesus death on the cross. Jesus paid the penalty for our sin, in full. It is finished. Jesus became our sin to rescue, redeem, as restore us. The tree of Jesus’ cross overcomes the tree of Adam’s temptation.
This is why on Ash Wednesday and every Sunday, we confess our sins, that we would hear all the more clearly the joyous promise.
Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, who takes away your sin.
This is also why we’ll spend the Lenten midweek services hearing the proclamation of the cross in the Scriptures and Small Catechism. Tonight the cross in the 10 commandments.
When we turn to the 10 commandments in the Catechism we hear these words: As the head of the household should teach his family.
So fathers and husbands, this is for you. This is your calling in your household. Teach your children. Lead devotions. Read the Scriptures and Catechism with your family. Pray, praise, and give thanks. And if you need help or don’t know where to start, I’m here to teach you how.
Luther teaches us what Moses teaches us in Deuteronomy 6:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
Luther’s Small Catechism begins with the 10 commandments for the same reason we confess our sins weekly in service. Daily we die to sin. Daily we rise to new life in Christ.
The 10 commandments show us the severity or our sin, and our need for a Savior. The Christian questions and answers in the Small Catechism show us the same thing as we prepare for communion.
1.                   Do you believe that you are a sinner? Yes, I believe it. I am a sinner.
2.                  How do you know this? From the Ten Commandments, which I have not kept.

God’s Law isn’t the problem, we are. “…fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor – this is what repentance is. It means killing a part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death…” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p. 56-57).
Repent. For we have not feared, loved, and trust in God above all things.
We have not hallowed his name or called upon it in every trouble for prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.
We have not kept his Sabbath day holy by finding rest solely in his Word.
We have not honored our father and mother, or others in authority over us.
We have failed to help and support our neighbor in every physical need.
We have not led a sexually pure life in all we say and do. Husbands and wives have not loved and honored each other.
We have failed to protect our neighbor’s possessions and income. We’ve borne false witness against our neighbors, coveted, and desired their husband, wife, or other possessions.
What does it take keep these commands? Love. Love fulfills the Law.
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
And all of the commandments we’ve broken hang on Jesus. Jesus takes the two tables of the Law that hang around our neck like millstones, and places them onto his shoulders, and he is crushed for our iniquities. It is love that fulfills the Law. But not our love. God’s love for you in Christ. By his wounds you are healed. For the same God who gave the 10 commandments also sent his Son to be born of a woman, to be born under the Law to redeem us who are under the Law.
Jesus feared, loved and trusted in the Father above all things…for you.
Jesus bore the Name of God and called upon his Father’s name unceasingly…for you.
Jesus kept the Sabbath day holy by his proclaiming God’s Word…for you
Jesus honored father and mother…for you.
Jesus helped and supported his neighbor in every need everywhere he traveled and taught...for you
Jesus yearned for your salvation and so led a pure end decent life…for you.
Jesus forsook all earthly possessions in order to buy you back from sin and death.
Jesus testifies to the Father on your behalf with his holy, precious blood and his innocent suffering and death as the evidence that you are blameless and holy in Him.
Jesus only desire is to do the Father’s will and to redeem you and bring you into his kingdom.
All of our commandment breaking hangs on Jesus. Jesus’ love fulfills the Law for you. Jesus loves you, his neighbor, by laying down his life for you. Jesus loves the Father by being obedient unto death, even death on the cross for you.

Today the ashes point to our repentance. But also to Jesus’ sacrifice for us; the cross proclaims your redemption in Christ. And the cross is a fruit bearing tree. Jesus’ perfect life exchanged for your sin. Jesus’ death exchanged for your life. Jesus’ holy flesh to heal our sinful flesh. Jesus’ righteousness which covers our transgressions. Jesus’ cross which marks our foreheads and hearts. You are marked with the sign of Jesus’ redemption. Ashes, sin, and even death cannot scrub out or dry up the waters of your baptism. You are marked as one redeemed by Christ the crucified.      

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

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