Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Sermon for 2/10/16: Ash Wednesday (Hymns Series)

RIGHT-CLICK HERE for audio recording.

Jesus, I Will Ponder Now

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

You’ve heard this account before. In fact, you heard it this past Christmas Eve: how Adam and Eve listened to the seductive, sibilant whispers of the satanic serpent; how they disregarded the Word and command of God; how they wanted to be as knowledgeable as their heavenly Father; how they partook of the forbidden fruit. People talk about points in human history and how they changed everything—the invention of the printing press; the colonization of the New World; the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria; the assassination of President Kennedy; the day two airplanes were intentionally crashed into the World Trade Center. These were all pivotal points in the history of the world. And yet none of these events can be considered to be as pivotal to humanity, as game-changing, as the fall of Adam and Eve into sin. Everything changed. Man, who was created sinless, had sinned. Man, who had walked naked and unafraid with God, now covered himself and hid from God. Man, who was created to live forever, was now going to suffer, sicken, and die.

Like Adam and Eve, that sentence is our reality. In the past couple months, our congregation has seen its share of death. We’ve had three funerals to this point. We’ve had numerous members who have undergone surgery. We have members in the nursing home, some dealing with the failure of their bodies while others deal with the deterioration of their minds. That is our lot as children and heirs of Adam and Eve, and it is our lot as those who ourselves sin. You know that. You feel it every day. We all have our aches and pains, our coughs and sniffles, our fears and doubts—all of which are symptoms of the death that hangs over our heads as sinners. God said to Adam, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”

You also know that God, in His great love and mercy, does not leave it at that. He had seen even before He had created the world, even from eternity, that the crown of His creation would fall into sin. He was prepared. He told His plan to the serpent, knowing there was nothing Satan could do to deny Him. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” It was simple. Satan had tempted and manipulated Eve; through Eve and her descendents—her Seed, the ultimate descendent, Jesus Christ—Satan would be overcome. The price of Adam and Eve’s sin, which was passed on to their children and all generations to follow, would be paid by a child of Eve. Sin would be overcome. Death would be defeated and would die. God’s children would not be called upon to pay the price of that sin. Though Adam and Eve have died, though their bodies have decayed, they will rise, nevermore to sin, nevermore to suffer, nevermore to die.

But what if those sins trouble you as you await the final fulfillment of that victory? Return again to the waters of Holy Baptism, where that victory on the cross, where that forgiveness, that life, that salvation have been given to you.

If my sins give me alarm
And my conscience grieve me,
Let Your cross my fear disarm;
Peace of conscience give me.
Help me see forgiveness won
By Your holy passion.
If for me He slays His Son,
God must have compassion!

Throughout the season of Lent, you will hear the account of the Seed of the woman. You will watch with the disciples as Jesus predicts His death. You will watch as those for whom Jesus has come will scheme and plot against Him. You will watch as He gives His body and blood to His disciples—and to us—for the forgiveness of sins. You will watch as He is betrayed into the hands of His enemies. You will watch as Jesus goes through a mockery of justice called a trial. You will watch and Jesus is nailed to the cross. You will watch as He suffers and dies. 

And you will ponder on these things. You will recall how Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Adam and Eve of a Savior to crush Satan’s head forever. You will remember how the spotless Lamb of God is sacrificed to be the Passover Feast for God’s people. You will see in Jesus the Suffering Servant, prophesied by Isaiah, who was “stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted,” paying our blood price. And you will rejoice in the great and gracious mercy and love of God, who gives you the gifts of forgiveness and salvation and eternal life, gifts which we do not deserve—gifts which He planned for you from before the foundation of the world, gifts which delights to give to you. As you rejoice in these gifts, let this be your prayer as you journey to the cross with Jesus:

Jesus, I will ponder now
On Your holy passion;
With Your Spirit me endow
For such meditation.
Grant that I in love and faith
May the image cherish
Of Your suff'ring, pain, and death,
That I may not perish.

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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