Monday, June 8, 2015

Sermon for Pentecost 2: "Freedom"

+ Pentecost 2 – June 7th, 2015 +

Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series B: Genesis 3:8-15; 1 Corinthians 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20-35

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

Adam and Eve sowed their fig leaf fashion not simply because they were naked; yes their guilt was exposed – but because they were no longer free. The fig leaves were prison uniforms. They were captive to sin, death, and the devil. And so they hid.

Jesus’ own family wanted him to hide away as well. “He’s out of his mind. He’s crazy” they said. Words which revealed that they were just as enslaved to sin as Adam and Eve were.

The scribes, too, were so blinded by their slavery to sin that they didn’t see the contradiction of their claim: He is possessed by Beelzebul and by the prince of demons he casts out demons. It’s all twisted around. They claim that he who has the Holy Spirit was possessed by an unclean spirit.

Jesus wasn’t in league with Satan; rather, he came to bind the strong man, crush his head, and free us from slavery to sin.

For like the scribes, we are blinded by sin. And so the Holy Spirit works to show us our need for rescue by exposing our sin.

Like Adam and Eve, we attempt to hide our sin which is nothing but retreating further into captivity.

But this is all part of the devil’s great lie: “Go ahead. Do whatever you please, whatever is desirable, whatever feels right. After all, it won’t hurt you or anyone else; no one’s going to die. You’ll be like God.”

And yet the devil cannot deliver on his promise. It’s a lie. A farce. The devil promises freedom with one hand but only delivers slavery with the other.

And here’s the irony, the more we think we’re free to do as we desire or do whatever we feel is right, the more we’re enslaved to sin. Certainly we see this at work in the world around us: We’re told to tolerate and accept, even to glorify and celebrate sin...on magazine covers and in the courthouse.

But if we do not also see that we tolerate and accept and glorify our own sin, we remain in captivity.

For whoever commits sin is a slave to sin.

This is why Jesus came preaching, teaching, and casting out demons – not because he was in league with the devil. But because he is the Stronger man come to bind the strong man, and set you free. Because Jesus is the woman’s seed who has come to crush the serpent’s head, and reconcile you to the Father.

After all, Satan isn’t going to destroy his house from the inside. That would be absurd. How can Satan cast out Satan? A house divided against itself will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.

Indeed, in Jesus, the devil is finished. Satan met his match. Thought he could lead sinful men to betray. Lie. Mock. And crucify Jesus.

But Jesus’ death destroys death. Death has no dominion over you. Jesus’ death pays for our sin. You are no longer a slave, for the Son has set you free; and you are free indeed. And the devil is no longer your slave driver. He is undone.

For no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.

Jesus is our divine Burglar. He came to take back what is rightfully his. With every demon Jesus casts out, he binds the devil tighter and tighter, until the last cord is wrapped, tied, and knotted on the cross.

Jesus, the Stronger man, binds the strong man and sets you free. Jesus frees us from slavery by being enslaved in our sin. Jesus releases us from bondage to sin and death by dying in our place. Jesus releases us from prison by becoming the prisoner for us.

Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter

Jesus pours out his forgiveness in these words. The same words that fill the font with a blessed flood of salvation. The same words that fill our ears in the absolution with the blessed verdict: you are forgiven all your sins. The same words that make simple bread and wine Jesus’ body and blood.

All sins will be forgiven.

Mark’s word for forgiveness here is important; it means to loose, to release. Jesus forgives our sin. Jesus looses us from sin. Your chains are broken. You are released from captivity. You are no longer a slave to sin. You are free.

And here’s where our sinful flesh chimes in with Jesus’ family. He’s out of his mind.
All sins will be forgiven? Really? That’s outrageous. Maybe even a little crazy sounding.
Yes. All is forgiven. Who did Jesus die for? Everyone. How many sins of yours did Jesus die for? All of them. So, which of your sins aren’t paid for by the blood of Jesus? None.

All sins will be forgiven.

“But…but,” we protest. “What about the unforgiveable sin? Why does Jesus say, whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin? What is Jesus saying here?”

Remember who Jesus is talking to, the scribes. They were saying, he has an unclean spirit. To call Jesus and the Holy Spirit unclean – or the prince of demons – is to reject the very same Spirit and Son whom the Father sent to forgive sins. And to reject the Holy Spirit and Jesus who came to forgive all sin is to reject the one place where forgiveness is found.
Jesus is warning the scribes against continuing to insist on their rejection of him and the Holy Spirit – for he is the one who creates faith in Jesus as Savior.

They refused to receive what Jesus was giving them. That’s the sin against the Holy Spirit – knowing the work of Jesus and refusing to be forgiven anyway.

The unforgivable sin isn’t some particular thing you did on a Tuesday afternoon and suddenly you find yourself outside of God grace…it isn’t unforgivable because it’s so big and bad. Jesus paid for all our big and bad sin, and died for us big, bad sinners on the cross. The unforgivable sin is unforgivable because it wants no part of forgiveness. And that’s just downright foolish.

So if you’re concerned whether or not you’ve committed the unforgiveable sin, fear not. You haven’t. Anyone who’s concerned about the unforgiveable sin hasn’t committed it. When you’re concerned about your sin, that means the Holy Spirit is working to show your sin and your need for a Savior.

The Savior who declares to you: All sin is forgiven. Your sin is forgiven.

So don’t spend your time trying to metric your sins – or others' for that matter. Don’t bother trying to calculate who deserves forgiveness or not. You can’t metric the Gospel either. Be glad and rejoice in this: All sin is forgiven.

And rejoice all the more because you know where your sins are forgiven. Here in our Baptism, where our unclean spirit is cast out and the Holy Spirit is sent in. Here in the Word where we hear that our eternal weight of sin has been replaced with an eternal weight of glory in Jesus dying and rising for us. Here in the Lord’s house on the Lord’s Day in the Lord’s Supper, where all our sins are forgiven, just as Jesus promised you.

You are free. You are no longer a slave but a son, and an heir, a member of God’s family. You are reconciled with the Father. You are no longer at enmity with God. You are at enmity with Satan, and that’s a good thing. That means you belong to Jesus. Yes, Satan is going to fight like hell to get you back. But he’s going to have to go through Jesus’ dead and risen body first before he can get to you.

For Jesus, the stronger man has bound the strong man and sets you free.

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

Monday, June 1, 2015

Sermon for Trinity Sunday

+ Feast of the Holy Trinity +
Confirmation Sunday
Redeemer Lutheran, HB
Series B: Isaiah 6:1-8; Acts 2: 14-36; John 3:1-17
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 Holy Trinity Sunday is a day for confessing.
 Along with the prophet Isaiah we confess: Woe is me. I am lost! I am a man of unclean lips; and I live among a people of unclean lips.
 This is good and right. We confess our sins on Sunday and every day. But it is not the only confession we make today.
We confess the object of our Christian faith -  the Triune God revealed in Scripture. And we confess the content of our faith - what God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - has done for us men and for our salvation. We confess who we believe in, and what we believe in.
 And so today we confess the Athanasian Creed, a rich, beautiful, and thorough confession of the Holy Trinity. Whoever desires to be saved must, above all, hold the catholic faith...And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance.
As an aside, we need not squirm at confessing the word catholic in the creeds. It’s in the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds as well: we believe in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. It simply means universal, whole, or the Church at all times and in all places.
 And yet the Athanasian Creed can seem daunting at first, as Dorothy Sayers once said, “The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, the Holy Spirit...the whole thing incomprehensible.”
 And yet for our sakes, the incomprehensible God became known, The infinite God took on finite human flesh for us. The uncreated God was born a creature to save creation.
 As Jesus teaches Nicodemus: God loved the world in this way, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
 In the Creeds we begin to confess the “who, what, where, when, and why” of the Christian faith. We answer Jesus’ question to his disciples: Who do you say that I am?
 There’s a repetitive phrase which runs throughout our Lutheran Confessions. This we believe, teach, and confess.
 This is what we’re called to do as students of God’s Word. After all, the Christian life is a daily catechism class.
 We believe, teach, and confess that the 10 commandments are God’s Law, given to reveal our sin and our need for a Savior.
 We believe, teach, and confess the Apostles’ Creed, that it is God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit  - who is active and working for our creation, redemption, and sanctification.
 We believe, teach, and confess the Lord’s Prayer as we say back to God what he has taught us in his Word.
 We believe, teach, and confess Holy Baptism, where God clothes us in Christ, buries and raises us with Jesus, gives us new birth from above, works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to us.
 We believe, teach, and confess that we confess our sins and receive absolution from the pastor as from God himself.
 We believe, teach, and confess that the Lord’s Supper is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is my body, given for you. This is my blood, shed for you. For the forgiveness of your sins.
 Today Jerry, Catherine, and Grace confess this Christian faith. It is the faith given to us all in Baptism.

So, whether you were confirmed as a youth or an adult, today or decades ago, we believe, teach, and confess.
 …that the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, drawn from the Scriptures is faithful and true.
 … that we intend to hear the word of God and receive the Lord’s Supper faithfully.
 … that we intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it.
 And we do so by the grace of God.
 And perhaps the seriousness of the vows we've made causes us to repent, as well it should. But we repent of our sins knowing that there is someone whose confession is greater than ours.
 We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one.
 We are saved by grace through faith alone, but in the Christian faith you are never alone. The Church is no army of one. We are a house, a bride, a holy nation, a body. And Christ is our cornerstone, our bridegroom, our king, and our head.
 And so, every day is a day for confession. We believe, teach, and confess.
 A blessed Trinity Sunday to each of you...
 In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.