Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sermon for 2/26/17: Quinquagesima

Sorry for the delay. Life intervened.

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Mercy on the Road to Jerusalem

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

Last week, we came to know that, when it comes to the Kingdom of God, only the deaf will be able to hear. This week, the blind man sees what the Twelve cannot see. He sees that everything depends on the mercy of God. He sees that, whatever the Lord does—even the things that seem absurd to us, even the most painful things, even the things that feel so unmerciful—all things work together for good to those who love Him and hold to His mercy. And so the blind man sits by the road begging for Jesus, the Son of David, to have mercy on him.
His plea is the Church’s plea. His prayer is our prayer. So we join the blind man when we cry out at the beginning of the Divine Service, “Lord, have mercy!” We are headed to the grave and feel the weight of sin and death. Yet it’s not just our prayer. The saints of old and, indeed, the whole heavenly host, also sing the same prayer. After all, the Lord’s mercy brought the world and all life into existence. The Lord’s mercy sustains us amidst joys and sorrows. The Lord’s mercy gives us hope for the fullness of heaven. The Lord’s mercy is not simply His kindness, His favor, His goodwill and affection, for the Lord in mercy wills to have us live in Him with an intimacy that is exceeded only by the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity. In a word, the Lord’s mercy is communion—Him living within us, making His home in us, living His life through us, and, in turn, His creation made from the dust of His earth lives and dwells in Him.
So what is the blind man begging for? He wants to see—but not that he might have earthly sight. He wants to see and know that this Lord Jesus is truly the Father’s well-beloved Son who has come into the world to restore that intimacy and communion with God that was broken and severed by Adam. The blind man doesn’t just want to see so he can look at disease and suffering and death. The blind man wants to see Jesus. So he doesn’t first say, “Lord, let me see. Lord, heal me.” That might be our selfish prayer. But instead, the blind man cries out, “Lord, have mercy.” Restore to me the joy of Your salvation. Restore me to communion with You and Your Father.
For the blind man, that communion with God begins with Jesus opening his eyes. How can Our Lord restore our relationship with Him if He does not also restore us according to His original design? How can He restore our souls if He does not also renew our bodies? And how can He re-establish our participation in His holiness if He does not also release us from our bondage to sin and death? So He gives the blind man back His sight as a sign of what will be. He also heals the lame, cleanses lepers, gives hearing to the deaf, raises the dead, and preaches the Gospel to the poor—and all as a sign that His mercy reverses the evil and chaos that Satan planted.
That reversal doesn’t take place, however, with a few miracles. Where the curse is overturned and death undone; where the full restoration begins; where the prayers of heaven and earth are answered; where the Lord’s mercy is fully seen—this happens when the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners, when He is mocked and spit upon, when He is scourged and killed by them, and then rises on the third day. That Passion of the Christ is the fullness and gift of the Lord’s mercy. And the body and blood of that sacrificed and resurrected Jesus, given from the altar, is the restoration of the communion which our Father created us to have with Him.
So it is necessary for the Son of Man to go up to Jerusalem—but not to put a dramatic finishing touch on His life, nor merely to give an example of self-sacrifice and unselfish love. It is necessary to accomplish the Lord’s mercy with such finality that the devil and all hell cannot undo it. Our Lord Jesus does not shrink away. He set His face toward Jerusalem. And we go with Him, our eyes opened to see our Savior as He delivers true mercy to us. 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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