Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
If you will forgive me for saying so, it is a rather motley bunch that gathers here each week: hard businessman counting their pennies; youth of unshakeable confidence, counting their friends; theologians and academics, bent on fame and fortune, counting their books and degrees; money grubbers all around, counting their change, afraid the preacher will point out their greed and the needs of others; pastors counting heads; all of us, skilled sinners all! The world notices. Week after week we come.
The world sees that we come to this place built by our fathers each week, to pulpit and to Altar, to kneel in confession, to pray, and to sing. But the world does not see that we come mainly to listen, to eat and to drink, to commune with the Holy Trinity in the forgiveness of sins and the redemption of our souls. The world doesn’t realize that we come week after week to this rest stop on the road to Jerusalem for the Word and for the Sacrament. Week after week, our cries echo those of blind Bartimaeus: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy!” And no one can silence us, because Jesus is our Lord. He calls us to Himself in this sacred space, to the places He has promised to be: in water, in Word, in bread and wine. He picks us up, dusts us off, embraces us as His brothers and sisters, and removes again and again the scabs that have grown over their eyes. Week after week, until all prophecies, tongues, and knowledge cease, Love is made manifest in Christ in these gifts from above: the Word, Baptism, Holy Absolution, the Lord’s Supper, the liturgy, hymns, and on and on in all the things that God has given to us, that we might know and receive grace from Him.
The world certainly notices that, despite all this grace, we don’t really seem to improve much from week to week. We commit the same selfish sins over and over again. The only thing we seem to learn from our mistakes is how to better hide them. We are weak. We do not live as we should. Our love is shallow. We are not afraid to tell our co-workers what we think of hunting or the Cardinals or President Obama. But we don’t warn them when they are headed for Hell. After all, we don’t want to offend them. Repent.
The world has rightly noticed our problem. We are sinners to the core. We are not basically good people who sometimes do bad things or make mistakes or lose our keys. We are bad people, self-centered and absorbed people, who are very good at covering it up and fooling the masses. The world’s view of us is not completely false. We know hypocrisy. So again, I urge you: repent. Repent…but do not despair.
Motley you may be, but God loves you. It doesn’t even matter why you are here. You are in the right place. You have come back again to the One who truly loves and cares for you, who does not abuse you, deceive you, or betray you. He is faithful and kind, merciful and gracious. He does not check to see how good or how bad you are. He is good enough for Himself and for you! He went to Jerusalem. He allowed them to do to Him all they should have done to you. He was betrayed, handed over, unjustly tried, scourged, beaten, and executed. And by those stripes you are healed! The prophets words of grace are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Your sins are removed and forgotten. They do not count. With Adam and Eve and all the saints you walk back into paradise.
Here is the love of God shown to all men. Here He draws all men unto Himself. The Messiah is not seen so much in the miracles as He is in the Sacrifice, lifted up on the cross: the emblem of Love, the banner of Peace. There in agony, punishment, and torments of Hell is our God in our Flesh as our Substitute. God be praised! Here is Love that does not fail; does not envy; does not parade itself; is not puffed up; does not behave rudely; does not seek its own; is not provoked. In the midst of evil, He thinks no evil. In the midst of sin, He resists temptation and remains pure. He never fails. All this He does so that you would know the holy three: faith, hope, and love. He abides, for He rose on the third day; death has lost its sting. In Him, you will not die. You, too, will abide. You will abide in Love. Blind Bartimaeus has taught us to pray: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy!” And that is why He has brought you here: because He has mercy for you—over and over again in an endless supply. 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.