Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The people of Israel weren't sorry for their sins. They thought that having a temple meant they could just do whatever they wanted out in the world. After all, they could just cry, "The temple! I'm at the Temple!" And it's no different for Christians. You know the attitude: I can do whatever I want, live how I want, because it's all just forgiven in church anyway. You go out into the world and forget all about the Lord for the week and do whatever you feel like, despising your neighbor and doing whatever pleases you, and then stroll through these doors as if it's all magically gone. My brothers and sisters in Christ, you have the same problem God's people have always had: you are in danger of turning His grace into a joke. You are in danger of turning His church into a hideout for bandits. You turn showing up for church into the work that saves you. Jesus warns Jerusalem that, because that's the way they've received God's Word, the city would be wiped off the map. Tremble at the judgment of God that is in store for those who make His house into a wretched hive of scum and villainy.
But see then what our Lord Jesus does. Jesus comes to you. He comes to robbers and thieves who would make a hideout of His church. He comes, hidden in the flesh, that He might hide us from God's wrath and punishment for our sins. Like a common criminal they nail Him to the tree between two thieves. And there, on the cross, the Lord dies like a thief. He dies for the thieves. Jesus forgives both thieves. One of them hangs there and holds onto his sins, denying that Jesus is accomplishing His salvation. But the other thief beholds Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The man can do nothing on his own but plead for mercy. Jesus speaks to Him, declaring that He Himself is this thief's eternal refuge and shelter.
Here is the Good News of the Gospel: Christ's wounds are your hiding place, your refuge against all sin and evil. Christ dies on the cross and hides you in Himself so that sin, death, devil, hell, and even God's own wrath cannot touch you. And then, dead for your sins, Jesus is laid in a tomb. And on the Third Day He rises from the tomb, leaving behind your sins in the grave. His triumph over death and the devil means that His church, His Temple, is now the place where He dwells, and it is no longer a hideout; it is a shelter. It is no longer a place to "get away with” something; it is a place where our sins are paid for and covered up and taken away by Jesus' blood.
Christ's church is your shelter, your refuge, your place to flee from your sins. And what is given here? Here you receive the water of Holy Baptism to quench your thirst. Here you receive the body and blood of Jesus to nourish you. You receive forgiveness. Whatever you have done against God and your neighbor has been blotted out by the blood of the cross. Your sin against God and neighbor has been washed away at the font, declared null and void by the Absolution. Because these gifts are given by Christ, your sins truly are taken away. What was gained for you by the innocent suffering and death of Jesus is given to you in His church. You can flee here, to Christ's church, as a refuge and a shelter. When your sins overwhelm you, when the devil accuses you, when the troubles of this world rain down on you, then rest easy in your Lord's church, the place of safety and shelter.
Come to His church, not for a hideout but for refuge. Come to Christ's house, not as bandits trying to escape, but as sinners who are truly safe nowhere else. Here at the font, the altar, and the pulpit, Christ has all that you need for your peace: forgiveness, life, and salvation in Jesus. Here in Jesus and His gifts is your true and safest shelter. 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.