Thursday, August 08, 2013

Sermon for 8/4/13--Trinity 10



The Day of Visitation

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

It is the image of irony. Thieves gathered in the Temple, the dwelling place of God on earth. Meanwhile, God in the flesh was on Skull Hill, where thieves were crucified. While the clergy of the Jerusalem made plans to destroy Him, Jesus spoke the judgment of God that Jerusalem would be destroyed. The people who need a Savior want to save themselves; the Savior gives His life for those who cannot save themselves. That's how it has always been. The Lord raises up the lowly and humbles those who exalt themselves. You will either be destroyed in your sin and unbelief or you will die with Jesus. Jesus only declares this judgment upon Jerusalem and clears out the temple because He wants to save sinners. You can't be saved if you refuse His Word, if you refuse Him, if you refuse His Father. Jesus weeps because He knows so many will be destroyed when He came for the sole purpose of saving them. We sinners hear this Gospel lesson and think, "Yeah, Jesus! You tell 'em!" and then go right on sinning and despising God's Word! We think it’s no big deal whether or not we show up for church, whether or not we send our children to Catechism instruction, whether or not we grow in God's Word. With that kind of thinking, there is nothing but "not one stone upon another.” It's all coming down.

The religious leaders of the Jews think that everything will be fine if they can just get rid of Jesus—and we think the same. Things can continue as they’ve always gone, and we can take comfort in our false prophets and false gods: the ones who preach that it doesn't matter what you believe, the ones who preach that Jesus just loves everyone without any mention of sin. Such sinners need to get rid of Jesus, to destroy Him. So He goes willingly to be destroyed—brought down, nailed to the cross, lifted up to be mocked and ridiculed. What a strange way for God to save people—but that’s precisely how it is! In fact, the only way for us to escape destruction is for the Son of God to die. He must bear our sins like a lamb and bleed out and die. He must be the one who is killed by His enemies: by you, the very sheep He came to shepherd. And that death is the death that saves you.

The destruction of Jerusalem is sad. But the truth is, the judgment of God is nothing else than giving unrepentant sinners what they want. They didn’t want Jesus? That’s fine. They don’t have to have Him. But that means they’re on their own. Christ was crucified for all sinners, and those who die with Him in Baptism and who daily kill their Old Adam in those waters through repentance and Confession are not destroyed but saved. They are lifted up by grace in the forgiveness of sins. Jesus died to save you. Jesus died so that sin, death, and the devil cannot destroy you. He died so that you will live.

The great sadness is that Jerusalem didn't recognize the day of her visitation, the arrival of God in the flesh. But you know exactly when and where the Lord shows up for you: at the font in your baptism; in His Church where His Word is preached and taught and you are forgiven of your sins; in the Supper where He is truly present in His body and blood to be with you and in you, to forgive you and give you life, to raise you from the dead and give you eternal life. There is no doubting where the Lord is: He is right here for you! Where these gifts are rejected and ignored and despised, God has nothing but judgment and destruction. But where those gifts are received in faith, there is nothing but grace and mercy and forgiveness and life. Here, in His Church, is the place of the Lord's visitation, where He is present among His people. And when He is present, it's always to save 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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