Thursday, February 27, 2020

Sermon for 2/26/2020: Ash Wednesday (UnChristian World Series)

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Christianity in an UnChristian World: Called

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

            Throughout the season of Lent, we will be looking at the life of the Christian in an Un-Christian world. In our Wednesday midweek services we will examine this life through the lens of the First Letter of St. Peter. Tonight we will look at the life of the Christian through the lens of our Epistle reading, which we find in the first chapter of the Second Letter of St. Peter. If you look at that reading, you see a whole list of ideals that are desirable for the life of a Christian. And any time you see a list of ideals—whether it’s this list, the list in I Timothy describing the life of a pastor, or any other such list—the list is intimidating.
            And what a list it is that Peter gives us to consider: “diligence,” “faith,” “virtue,” “knowledge,” “self-control,” “perseverance,” “godliness,” “brotherly kindness,” “love.” This is what we are called to as Christians. And if you consider the other readings appointed for Ash Wednesday and the ideals they include, that list is overwhelming. It is enough to make a person cry out in despair.
            Peter chooses a significant word to describe all this. He says that God in Christ has “called” you. He has called you to be faithful to His Word, faithful to His commands, faithful to Him. This Christian life stands opposed to the world. The world does not desire diligence, except to watch that a Christian does not impose his virtues on others. The world certainly does not crave self-control. In fact, the world is especially fond of self-indulgence: sexual promiscuity and its most ample fruit, abortion; gluttony; and instant gratification of the need for things. And the world has perverted love to include living together outside of marriage, homosexual marriage, open marriages, multiple spouses, and other abominations in the Lord’s sight.
            Pay attention to your life. Keep striving for love and knowledge of the truth. Work to increase your self-control and patience. Everyone has room for improvement in these things. Work on them diligently. Watch your life, and notice when you fail. If you do not notice any failures, then surely you are not diligently paying attention to these virtues as you should. When you notice your failures, come quickly to Christ for forgiveness. His door is always open to give you His grace. Your diligent striving for virtue will inevitably lead you to realize that you are guilty of much sin. So come, return to your Baptism through confession and absolution. Come to eat and drink His body and blood, given into death for your sin.
            This is what the life of a baptized Christian is about. We know that Baptizing with water “signifies that the Old Adam in us should, by daily contrition and repentance, be drowned and die with all sins and evil lusts.” This Baptism also shows that “a new man should daily come forth and rise, who shall live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” As St. Paul wrote in Romans chapter 6, “We were buried with Him by Baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” This is the great miracle of salvation: you have been rescued from the corruption of the world. The sinful desires in every sinful heart lead only to death and condemnation. Spiritual corruption leads to eternal damnation.
            Yet Christ has rescued you by covering you with Himself. In Baptism, you put on Christ. The image of the Son of God covers you forever. You share with Christ in everything that is in God: His righteousness, wisdom, eternal life, endless peace, blessedness, and everything good that can be named. You share His almighty power against your enemies: sin, death, Satan, and even your own flesh. It’s not that you can go around doing whatever miracle pops into your head. It is not that you are God. But you share in His nature, for Christ has made Himself one with you. God so closely dwells with you that you cannot be separated from Him.
            Luther said, “Whatever someone does to you, he must do to God, for whoever wants to crush a Christian must crush God.” And no one can crush God, as Good Friday and Easter clearly demonstrate. They killed the Son of God and put Him in a tomb, but He came forth more victorious than ever. And His life, His resurrection, and His victory, are also all yours. Sinners are called and equipped to be one with their glorious Savior! 
            As you strive to be a Christian in this unChristian world, the Holy Spirit will preserve you in repentance and faith. He will keep you steadfast so that you may rejoice in the incredible blessing you have received through His innocent sacrifice and precious Blood, so that you may cling ever tighter to His holy Word of grace, now and forevermore. 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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