Saturday, March 11, 2017

Sermon for 3/5/17: First Sunday in Lent

Sorry for the delay. Life intervened.

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“The Just Shall Live by Faith”

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

To live by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God is to live by faith. Faith is a painful and awkward thing. It is not at home in our flesh, for our flesh is weak. It wants its own way. It wants satisfaction. We like things that we think are strong. Our flesh prefers bread for our bellies to the Words of God’s mouth. But “the just shall live by faith.” It is in weakness that God’s strength is made perfect.
“The just shall live by faith,” but it will hurt every step of the way. On this side of glory, the just struggle with the old Adam. They are still attacked by the devil. Satan dislikes nothing so much as faith. His temptations lead us to the things he thinks are concrete: works and success; fame—things that can be measured, seen, heard, or felt. Satan would have us live by reason, experience, or even feelings—anything but faith. But “the just shall live by faith”…whether they like it or not.
Faith wants us to live now as we will live forever: by the Word of God, without concern for food or any bodily needs, and certainly without sin. On this side of glory, where Christ is, there the devil is also. That’s why Luther says, “Where God builds a Church, the devil builds a chapel.” Where the Lord gives faith, the devil does his most ardent work. That is why you face so many temptations. That is why the prophets were persecuted and the apostles were martyred; this is why Jesus was killed; this is why the world hates you. Satan doesn’t attack those he owns.
Satan has had the entire history of man to practice his craft. Logic, reason, works, tradition, history, and experience are of no help on their own. Only Christ, the Word of God made flesh, can come to our aid. Satan’s wisdom is thwarted by the statement, “The just shall live by faith.” God is for us in Jesus Christ, fighting the battle. The devil seeks to conquer by violence and threat. Christ defeats Him by submitting to violence. Satan’s power is not unlimited; but until the last day he is a formidable enemy. He attacks on every side. But Christ’s power is unlimited. It is wider than the world and longer than time. 
In Christ have an Advocate with the Father, a Hero and Champion who has destroyed your enemies. He has taken up your flesh, suffered for your transgressions, and has died and risen to redeem your soul. He gives you His Name. He places His Spirit upon you. He was tempted in every way, but He did not fail. He has even believed for you. He alone lived by faith. For your sake, He overcame the devil’s lies with His own Word.
When His trials in the desert had ended, angels ministered to Our Lord. In the same way they also minister to you.  That is not to say you won’t be tempted or suffer. God forgets our sins and casts them into the deepest part of the sea, removing them as far as the East is from the West. Still, our fallen minds and bodies remember. They still crave forbidden things. And our fallen spirits are timid. They are afraid to believe. But God does not break promises. His angels protect you and pray for you.
Stop trying to figure it out. Don't analyze it. Let God do all the work, even the thinking. Jesus died on purpose. He also rose again. He knows what He is doing. He has overcome all these things for you. You are forgiven, made clean, pure, holy, and righteous in these baptismal waters, and there you are given the faith by which the just live. This is true whether you feel it or not, whether or not it makes sense. Jesus died and rose. But He didn't just die and rise again. He died and rose again for you. “The just shall live by faith” in this death and resurrection. And that faith is our Lord’s gift to you. 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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