Sunday, October 06, 2013

Sermon for 10/6/12--Trinity 19



Your Sins Are Forgiven

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

The man was paralyzed—unable to move, unable to free himself from the shackles which bound him. But he had friends who were willing to go to great lengths to insure that this man got what he needed. The Gospel According to St. Mark tells us that they lowered this man through the roof to make sure that he got into the presence of Jesus, the great Healer of body and soul. Jesus, upon seeing their faith, said to the man, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” At first glance it is easy to think that Jesus missed the point. They hadn’t gone through so much work for Jesus just to say a few words over him! That’s how we might look at this. They brought this man to get something, and Jesus simply gives them words.

From our perspective, this forgiveness of sins is cheap. Those are just words, and anyone can say words. But it is far easier to heal the body than it is to heal the soul. Then again, Jesus is God Himself; so He does both. First He forgives the man his sins, and then He heals the man of his disease. First he does the hard thing of forgiveness, and then He does the easy thing: healing the body. In His mind, the two go together. Forgiveness leads to resurrection and new life.

We just don’t see things that way. Throughout the history of the world there has been a fascination and almost an obsession with healing the body. Doctors are held in very high regard in probably every culture in the world. When we think of police and firefighters and emergency services personnel, we rightly say that they are a gift from God Himself to be able to protect us and save the body. We should hold these people in very high regard. They are doing God’s work. For remember, Jesus is the Great Physician. It is God’s work to take care of our bodies, as we confess in the First Article of the Creed. But we often forget to look beyond the healing of the body. We obsess about the things of this life, and we forget the greater questions. We discard or count as unimportant how God heals both soul and body through the forgiveness of sins.

Forgiving sins is harder than healing the body. Those words, “I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” aren’t just words. They are words bought with a price—the very blood of Jesus. These words may seem cheap. They may be easy to take for granted; but those words are the most expensive words in the entire world. This is the treasure that God gives us through Word and Sacrament. The treasure is forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. The treasure is Jesus Christ Himself, and His work on the cross for you. This treasure is priceless, worth far more than health of the body, for with these words come healing—and not just healing for the moment. With these words come healing that reaches beyond the grave. With these words God heals your soul and body. With these words God gives you the greatest treasure of all.

That is the nature of God’s mercy. God comes down and gives beyond our wildest dreams. He gives His Son over to death, so that you might receive this great gift. In this house of God, things may not always seem as they really are. From the naked eye you may look out and see a band of sinners. You may see people you like and dislike. But we can truly say with Jacob, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it. How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven!” In this place, hidden behind simple words, hidden in water, hidden in bread and wine, the God of the Universe comes to you to forgive your sins. These are the hardest words in the world to say, but because of Christ’s work on the cross, God says them to you: “I forgive 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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