Sunday, March 03, 2013

Sermon for 3/3/13--Lent III

The Finger of God

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

In Egypt, the magicians of Pharaoh used their magic tricks and satanic power to imitate some of Moses’ signs. But when the land filled with lice at the Lord’s command, they could not do likewise. They told Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” Centuries later, Jesus cast out demons. When He was accused of driving them out by Beelzebub, He said that He did it by the finger of God. So what exactly is the “finger of God?” It’s easy to imagine Hollywood special effects: the mighty, oversize hand Lord poking his finger and crushing evil beneath it. But in the Book of Exodus we hear that when the Lord gave Moses the stone tablets, the Law was written on them with the finger of God. Simply put, the finger of God is God’s Word. The Word of God has the power to swarm the land with lice or flies. It has the power to cast demons from those they possess. It has the power to topple Satan’s kingdom and drive him out.

And then the Word became flesh. The finger of God is literally Jesus. The Word drives out the devil. You see, the devil’s power over you is sin. As long as he can accuse you of sin, you’re his prisoner, his slave. But when Jesus gives His life into death on the cross for you, your sins are forgiven. The devil has no more power over you!

There is no neutral ground. Jesus says to those that are accusing Him that if you aren’t with Him you are against Him. If you don’t gather with Jesus, you’re scattering. There’s no in-between. Either you are in Satan’s kingdom or in Christ’s. You belong to  either the Lord or the devil. The world and the Old Adam don’t like to hear it, but that’s the way it is. Either you are redeemed in Christ or you are bound by the evil one. But Christ came into this world to save you. He came to throw down Satan’s kingdom, cast out demons, preach His Word—to save sinners. That Word spoken with the water in Holy Baptism is the Word that cast out demons. That word casts the devil out of you and fills you instead with the Holy Spirit. Where the words of Absolution are spoken, Satan runs away; his power is blunted. Your sins are forgiven. Where Christ is with us by His body and blood, we become raging lions in Christ who are able to drive off our enemies with that single word that knocks down the evil one; that word is the name of Jesus.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, there is a war on for you. You are the objective. Christ has thrown the devil out, but Satan will try to come back with seven more evil spirits to get back in. Don’t sweep out the Word of God! What will be your defense when you are attacked by the devil? Only the Word of God protects you from the assaults of Satan. It’s is Christ’s Word which declares what He has done for you and who you are and where you stand with the Lord. The devil brings lies and attacks to try to pull you away from Christ. This is why you need to be where Christ’s Word is: in church, in the Bible, in Sunday School and Bible class, in Catechism—wherever you have opportunity to hear God’s Word and keep it.

Lent is about Jesus putting the devil in His place. Lent shows us why the Word became flesh to dwell among us. Jesus came to living for you, to suffer and die for you, to rise for you. God in the flesh is waging war against the evil one for you. We have no power, no defenses, on our own. So God sends His Son to save us, to deliver us from the kingdom of darkness and sin and bring us into His kingdom of light, grace, mercy, forgiveness and life. Rejoice because the finger of God, His Word, Jesus in the flesh, casts down your enemies and saves you. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

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