Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sermon for 4/13/14--Palm Sunday/Confirmation


Is It I?

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

This is Holy Week, and it is here that we see the worst of man. All the dark secrets of our hearts are exposed this week. We are there in Judas' betrayal, in Peter's denial, in the hateful crowd that chose Barabbas, in the cowardice and expediency of Pilate, in the cruelty of the Roman guard. But do not avert your gaze for shame. Instead repent and rejoice, for the Son of Man was lifted up to draw you to Him. It is your salvation, your adoption into grace, the bestowal of your Name and inheritance.

Do not be afraid to ask that question the disciples ask in the upper room: “Is it I, Lord?” Instead learn to say: “It could be me. I could be Judas, driven by greed. I could be Peter, denying Jesus in fear. I am capable of these things and worse. Yes, it could be me. I could be Judas. I could be Peter. I could be Pilate. I could ask for Barabbas and yell, 'Crucify Him!' I could be overcome by bloodlust, anger, and hatred.” Make confession, lest your faith grow cold and your heart turn to stone. Examine yourself. Ask, “Is it I?” And then leave it there. Leave it all at the foot of the cross. Rejoice in the death of Jesus. And then rejoice in the coming Resurrection.

His goodness and faithfulness are not derived from your obedience or loyalty. You were not worthy of His love, but He loves you anyway. It was His will to suffer your betrayal and abuse so that you would be spared. You ask: “Is it I, Lord?” And He says, “No. It is not. You are innocent. You are righteous and well-pleasing to the Father. The burden of all your guilt has been carried to my cross and buried in my tomb. Your sins are gone. The guilt is all Mine. The thorns, the scourge, and the nails have bled them out of Me; you are clean. You are not accountable in heaven for sins on earth. You do not pay the debt of sin. I paid it all. There is no more. I welcome you back again. I love you. Be at peace.”

Alexis and Chandler…in teaching you the Small Catechism, I’ve taught you two main points. The first is that you are a sinner. That’s easy enough to believe, isn’t it? In all that time we spent digging into the Ten Commandments, the Lord has made it abundantly clear that your every thought, every word, every action and inaction—your every breath—is tainted by sin. But all that follows is meant to express the second point, which is that God has done everything necessary to remove that sin from you. God the Father loves you so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross, carrying your sins, and then to rise again to raise you to new life with Him. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to deliver that work to you in the waters of Holy Baptism, where the Father made you His child and forgave your sins. Jesus taught you to call upon His Father as your Father. And then He feeds you with word of Holy Absolution and with His own body and blood.

Is this too good to be true? To answer that, think on Barabbas, a man guilty of vile crimes of treachery and betrayal. Yet he went free, pardoned of his crimes. In hatred the mob chose a murderer like him over the Lord of Life who had healed their sick, driven off the demons, and given back their dead. But the Father was not sad. He would not have it any other way. What they chose in their hatred, what they meant for evil, He meant for good. In the end it is not they who chose Barabbas, but God. God rescued Barabbas from his guilt and death penalty. Jesus switched places with him. It could not be any other way. By the condemnation, bitter sufferings, and death of Our Lord, God made all things new—and that includes you.

This Holy Week, let Christ heal your soul, bind up your broken heart, and restore your courage and faith. Do not weep for your Lord. Rejoice instead; sing Hosanna. The will of the Father is seen on the cross. The Name of the Father is glorified there. The Passover is done. The New Testament in His Blood is begun. And you are His—now and eternally. Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord; His mercy endureth forever. 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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