Sunday, March 13, 2016

Sermon for 3/13/16: Fifth Sunday in Lent

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Keeping the Word

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

Jesus said, “Whoever is of God hears God’s words.” You may also recall Jesus saying to the Devil, “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God.” It’s simple. Either a person is a hearer and keeper of God's Word and therefore belongs to God, or they are despisers of God's Word and children of the devil. Either our words are what matters most—our thoughts, our notions, whatever the devil, world and flesh teach us—or else we are rescued by the Lord who gives us His Word, which rescues us from our sins and delivers Jesus to us so that we are saved.

When Jesus is throwing fighting words at these Jews, eternal life is at stake! You see, the Jews said that one is righteous and holy by keeping the commandments and laws faithfully. If one does good, God will give a reward. Jesus, on the other hand, teaches that your only hope with God is that His Son has come into this world to save sinners. The self-righteousness of the Jews breeds hatred and evil. Rather than rejoice that Jesus has come to save them, they call Him names and despise His Word. So Jesus does what He always does: He preaches God's Word, calling sinners to repentance. But they don't want it! They flatter themselves thinking they are God's children, but in truth they are the devil's children. They are so upset to be called murderers that they pick up stones to try and kill Jesus.

This account is recorded to warn us not to be children of the devil, but children of God by hearing and believing and keeping the Words of God delivered to us through Jesus. Here you are called to repentance. If you are children of God, you would love Jesus and keep His Words. Do you? Is your life centered on the Word of God? Is your highest joy in this life to hear and learn what the Holy Scriptures teach? Do you spring from you bed on Sunday morning because you have the glorious opportunity to hear His Word being read and preached and sung? Do you have such a joy from God's Word that you teach it to your children and share it with those around you? Or is the Word of God not such a big deal to you? My brothers and sisters, don't be like the Jews. Don’t be like those who want their name in the church directory but never darken the door where God's Word is preached. Don't come to hear God's Word in worship and then forget what it's all about before your wheels have even left the parking lot! Repent of such despising of God's Word. Rejoice with Abraham that you have seen Christ's Day!

Repent indeed of despising God's Word. It's a hard thing to do. But rejoice that our salvation isn't in how faithful WE are. Our salvation is in Jesus, who came to deliver God's Word and do the work His Father sent Him to do. He came to fulfill God's Word which Abraham spoke. “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” The Lord will see to it. And so God does indeed provide the lamb for the offering. And it won’t be just any lamb, but the Lamb: the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The Lord would never require us to sacrifice our sons to cover our sins. But that same Lord freely sends His own Son, and the Son freely obeys His Father and comes to be the once-for-all sacrifice for sins. Here the Lord does not spare the knife. The Father pierces the Son for our sins and sheds His blood for our salvation.

This is all delivered and given to you in His Word, which is why His words are so important. The Words of the Holy Scriptures preached; the Word in the water at the font; the words of Holy Absolution; the Word made flesh given you to eat and drink: this is the life-giving Word. And what does Jesus say about His Word? “If anyone keeps my Word, he shall not see death.” That doesn't mean you won't die, but it does mean that death will be a sleep, softened by the hope and comfort of Christ's Word which promises that we will be raised on the Last Day.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, it doesn’t matter how much or how little you know about God's Word. Know this: there is always more the Lord has to give in His Word. Only the children of the devil will despise it and not come to hear and learn it. But you, children of God in the waters of Holy Baptism, come and hear the Word, for by that Word you have been delivered from your sins, and by that Word you will not see death; you will be raised to eternal life. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

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